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Friday, 17 February 2017

Warhammer 40k - Building an Army - Formations and Detachments

This article is partially a response to Nick's discussion over at The Burning Eye and partially a continuation of the thoughts I expressed in my Better Know a Blogger article over at St Andrews Wargaming. As Nick correctly says, the use of formations in army construction is a very polarizing issue within the 40k community. They are kind of like the marmite of 40k with players either using them regularly or shunning them entirely; very few of us are sitting on the fence.

In particular I'd like to take a look at the Necron Decurion Detachment. The reason I'm choosing to look at this in detail is threefold. Firstly, it is a detachment that a lot of people are familiar with so the majority should be able to follow along with my reasoning. Secondly, it is one of the more complex methods of building an army, being a detachment that is made up of formations. Finally, it includes pretty much all of the problems that I have with formations.

Behold! The tome of many sins!
First off, let me say that I'm not opposed to the concept of formations, just the way Games Workshop has chosen to execute them. In my mind, a formation should be used to restrict a player into building a list with a certain background in mind. Offering a player certain rewards for cutting down their list choices and fielding an army with a particular character. This is something that a few (a very few) of the available formations and detachments have managed to do. The realspace raiders detachment from Codex: Dark Eldar for example forces you to take a fast attack choice is addition to the usual CAD and gives you some minor benefits for doing so. It's as though the author is saying "Ok, you're playing in character with the army, here's a little bonus." I have no problem with this kind of thing, it's forcing a player to field a more fluffy army and it doesn't provide any game breaking special rules that an unwary opponent will find frustrating. Furthermore, the restrictions and bonuses suit the character of the army. From a fluff perspective you're fielding a lightning fast raiding force attacking under cover of darkness. The rules reflect this, you're using additional fast attack and you get some minor cover bonuses in the early game.

Moving on to Codex: Necrons and the Decurion detachment. The first problem I have found is that players (particularly those new to the game) find the construction of a Decurion list confusing. More than once I have set up opposite a Necron player who has proudly announced "I'm fielding a Decurion!" and when the models are placed on the table it turns out to be a Reclamation Legion with a couple of random units bolted on the side. Or even worse, they have neglected the Reclamation Legion entirely and tried to make a Decurion out of different formations. I think the confusion here arises from the double stacking restrictions used in the Decurion ie. you must take certain units to make a formation and you must take certain different formations to form the detachment. This isn't my main problem with the Decurion, just something I've observed from across the table.

The main problem I have with the Decurion and the Necron formations in general is the special rules they offer for seemingly no reason. For example, the Reclamation Legion is potentially a very large formation (it has many non-compulsory choices) with comparatively few restrictions (you must take a few units of necrons, an HQ and some jetbikes). As a reward for adhering to this loose structure the entire formation gains relentless, move through cover and a bonus to reanimation protocols. The question I have to ask is why? Why are these rules given to this formation? Essentially the army is a standard CAD plus some jetbikes, why do they now have move through cover? Have their feet been replaced with hoverboards? (note: if somebody converted this I would be totally ok with them using this formation.) Are the jetbikes somehow magnetically towing the warriors through cover? They also have relentless, again, why? What makes them able to fire heavy weapons on the move? Or able to rapid fire and then charge? Personally I can see no narrative reason for these special rules to be granted. The army isn't particularly characterful, it's little more than a regular CAD (why the jetbikes are included I will never understand) so there is no fluffy reason for additional special rules to be granted.

This problem occurs time and time again in the various formations that make up a Decurion. The Canoptek Harvest has similar issues, plus some rather nasty additional bonuses. The Royal Court falls into the same boat as the above. But that aside, let's look at the Decurion as a whole. In order to field a Decurion you must include one Reclamation Legion (see rant above) and one other formation or unit from a choice of nine. For doing this, the army is granted yet more reanimation bonuses (above those already offered by the Reclamation Legion). The question once again is why? I can see the justification for the reanimation bonus within the Legion itself, you are fielding a powerful warlord whose abilities allow his warriors to rise from the grave time and again. Personally I think that's pretty cool, it fits from a fluff perspective (if you ignore the jetbikes, relentless and MTC). But why, oh why, should adding a single unit of flayed ones or deathmarks to the army suddenly increase their reanimation ability? What is that extra unit doing to justify the extra reanimation? Do the flayed ones have spanners and greasy overalls to rebuild their fallen comrades? Are the deathmarks somehow cobbling together additional warriors from battlefield salvage? I don't know, and it's questions like this that spoil my immersion in the game and ultimately become annoying.

I feel like I've rambled enough (kudos if you're still reading.) I know I've picked very specific examples above and there are several detachments and formations that don't have these failings. But there are a great many that seem to grant powerful special rules with only the flimsiest of pretexts.


Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I'm bound to have raised a few hackles with this (particularly amongst you Necron players) but it's an interesting topic for the community and one that provokes strong feelings on both sides.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

St Andrews Wargaming - Better Know a Blogger

This week I was lucky enough to be featured in the 'Better Know a Blogger' series run by Michael over at St Andrews Wargaming.

Insert random image!

For those that don't know, this is a fun series of articles that introduces wargaming bloggers from around the world and asks them a series of 'challenging' personal questions.

So, go read the article (and the others in the series) and learn more about yours truly.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Skitarii Vanguard - Squaduary progress week 2

So week 2 is over and yet more stellar progress has been made; I am proud to present, my first two completed Skitarii Vanguard! (Pause for rapturous applause)

Skitarii Alpha ready to lead the soldiers of the Omnissiah!
I'm delighted with the way these guys are turning out. In fact I like them a great deal more than the Skitarii Rangers which the kit also builds. When I first saw the models I thought the Rangers looked nicer but upon building and painting them, I think the Vanguard are a firm favourite. I know it's only a head and weapon swap but sometimes it's these little details that make all the difference.

The Legio Skitarii Needs You!
I know I'm not following the plan set out by Squaduary, but generally I prefer to paint a batch of models to a certain level (basecoats and maybe a basic wash) and then finish them all up individually. Doing this helps keep my motivation going as I get to admire a finished miniature every so often along the way. I have tried complete batch painting in the past and found it soul destroying (looking at you Hormagaunts!)

Plasma caliver!

Ok, I know a plasma caliver isn't the best armament for a Skitarii. Hugely expensive, enormously likely to kill the wielder, not particularly versatile etc etc. But I just love the idea of letting rip with three of these things, especially if the target is a monstrous creature or a group of terminators. Just imagine the look on your opponent's face as nine plasma shots batter away their 2+ saves!

Anything but a 1.....*rolls 3 ones*
Anyway, you can probably tell I'm delighted with how Squaduary is going so far. Many thanks to Rory for running it and motivating me to paint these guys; otherwise they'd probably still be languishing in their undercoat.

Stay tuned for the next update in a weeks time. If you want to read the start of my Squaduary exploits, you can find it here.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Skitarii Vanguard - Squaduary week 1 progress

Well, week 1 of the Squaduary (Squadary?) challenge is over and how have I done? I've done awesome!! Ok, they're only a five man squad and the photography is horrible but in just over a week I've got them built, undercoated, based and made a good start on the painting to boot!

Yeah, the photography could be better....
For those that haven't heard of Squaduary, it's a painting challenge (motivational tool?) run by Rory over at Stepping Between Games. The basic premise is to build and paint an infantry squad in February. It's supposed to be broken down into distinct weekly stages (building, undercoating, basing etc) but given the way things tend to get away from me I thought it best to make progress while I had the chance! After all, if I complete them well ahead of the deadline I can always add more to the squad.

Different stages of painting, the green glaze adds a bit of depth to the cloaks
Once again I'm struck with the quality of these Skitarii models, the detail is incredible and the parts fit together quickly and easily. My eventual plan is to have separate squads each armed with different special weapons but for some reason I've included an arc rifle and a plasma caliver within this batch. Horribly inefficient but oh well, I guess I'll make it work!

Tune in next week to see how much more progress I've made. Will it continue? Or will I slow to my usual glacial pace? I for one can't wait to find out!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Showcase: Adeptus Mechanicus - Tech Priest Dominus

Some of you may remember a while back I started an ill-advised foray into Skitarii starting with the Start Collecting box set. Well, I've finally made some progress with it and can proudly present the completed Magos Dominus!

Pause for applause!
I'm thrilled with the way the completed model looks, from his withered right hand to the jars of unidentifiable pink goo on his back. The miniature itself is incredibly detailed, so much so that I was discouraged from painting it for quite some time. That all changed recently when I picked up Belisarius Cawl from the triumvirate of the Imperium set, looking at them in comparison the Magos Dominus suddenly looked very easy to paint! 

Check out that axe!
I haven't had the chance to play too many games with my Skitarii but, so far, I have been impressed with the utility of the Dominus. He's tough enough to avoid that easy warlord kill with a 2+ save, toughness 5, feel no pain and a 5+ invulnerable. Not only that but most of his weapon options are worth taking. Personally I've gone for the eradication ray alongside the macrostubber. The eradication ray fires an ap3 blast at medium range which can be brutal against marines and most other infantry; at short range it changes to a strength 8 ap1 shot which can punch a hole in armoured vehicles. The macrostubber is mostly for fun as it fires five pistol shots, it adds a bit of anti-infantry firepower and can be hilarious on overwatch. He's no slouch in melee either at strength 7 with the power axe.

Praise the Omnissiah!
Painting up an HQ has given me some renewed interest in my Skitarii and I hope to be able to show off a small regiment of rangers soon.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Tyranid Hierophant Bio-titan - Painting progress

A few months ago (back in September I think!) the Hierophant Bio-titan I ordered finally arrived.

Cue rough progress photo
Just so we're clear, he didn't arrive in this state but was a brand new kit in need of much building. And what a task that turned out to be! Having read from several sources that these guys are notorious for bending/warping under their own weight I knew that I would have some work to do if I ever wanted to be able to use him on the battlefield.

To begin with, I had a look around online to see if there were any tutorials I could follow. As it turns out there are several, and, by cross referencing, I formulated a plan to construct my own Bio-titan. The main difficulty is the strength of the legs compared with the weight of the torso (a huge solid lump of resin); in an attempt to remedy this, I cut each leg into 3 pieces using a razor saw and then drilled and inserted 2mm steel pins. I also sawed the front claws in half and pinned them using paperclips.

After that was done (including bending one of the legs back into shape using a hairdryer) it became the usual task of building a resin model. All the usual cutting, bending, pinning etc. In the end, I went a bit pin happy with this thing, pinning all the limbs, the head, both mandibles and even some of the larger carapace spines!

Once the main build was complete I used plenty of green stuff and Apoxie Sculpt to fill the gaps and iron out any casting flaws and air bubbles. The Hierophant was surprisingly gappy when built (common with ball and socket joints) and I used up plenty of putty filling around the arms and legs.

After all of that it was time to build the base. For those that don't know, these models are too large to be supplied with a base so it is left to the intrepid hobbyist to make their own or go without. One look at the Hierophant should be enough to convince you that a base is very, very necessary. I have seen plenty of different examples online of people making large circular bases out of timber. Whilst this would work pretty well for a display piece, I was unconvinced of the ability to maneuver something like this on the battlefield. That and I'm not totally sure that the added weight of a hefty piece of mdf would do this model any favours. In the end I opted for two layers of thick plasticard, stuck together and cut to shape, this helped with the rigidity of the finished model and also allows it to maintain a reasonable footprint (for a titan!)

After the base was formed and the Hierophant was fixed down (cue more pins and glue) it was getting on for late October. Excessive amounts of Chaos Black spray were applied (Abaddon black?!) and then it was down to me and my big brush to get some colour on it. Unfortunately, at this point I encountered a minor snag. The recesses in the Hierophant's carapace are so deep and many that I found it virtually impossible to paint them with a normal brush. After a little trying and frustration, the project was shelved for a later date.

A couple of months later and in stepped the mighty Blazmo of Tabletop Apocalypse fame. Wielding his airbrush, he generously agreed to hit up the Hierophant with a coat of red paint (and as it turned out, a little white and some grey too!) So, on Christmas day we sat down in the bathroom with our respirators on and got down to business (now there's a sentence I never thought I'd write!)

Since then, I've carried on painting with great enthusiasm, finishing off the red basecoat by hand and then applying my usual black wash. At this point, I've almost finished the white basecoat to the chitinous areas which means that the model isn't too far from completion! Tune in for the next episode when I hope to be able to show off the finished article.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Horus Heresy - Night Lords Legion Showcase

A few of these models have been around the blog for a while, but, as I have some fancy new photos, I thought I'd post them up for your viewing pleasure.

Night Lords Tactical Squad - Lead by the legendary Bathinko! 
The above is one half of my tactical squad, as always, I'm thrilled with the way these guys turned out. It just goes to show what kitbashing can do to personalize your models and really bring out the feel of a Legion (or Chapter if you're into all that 40k shiz.) The models draw parts from a wide range of different sources: Space Wolves, Chaos Marines, Anvil Industries Exo-Lords and Forgeworld Legion parts to name but a few.

Another photo - I'm most pleased with the models  wielding a hand weapon and bolter.
Below are a few more photos of my Contemptor Dreadnought - Honoured Brother Mordo. Nothing fancy here, just the stock Forgeworld kit with a plasma cannon and plasma blaster. Can you say Gets Hot!?

Love this model!
I have a second Contemptor in the pipeline, this time armed with a Volkite Culverin and Kheres Assault Cannon. Hopefully it will bring some brutal firepower to the tabletop! Sadly, construction of this Contemptor will be postponed for a while whilst I work on some Mice & Mystics miniatures and my Sktarii! With any luck I can get all of that out of the way and return to the sons of Nostramo sometime soon!

Ave Dominus Nox!