Monday, March 28, 2011

Scrying the future with Heretic

Hi again everyone, hope everything has been going well for you. I've been absent recently because I've been working on a portfolio for my university and a thesis so I can graduate. While these projects have taken a chunk out of my time to paint and play 40k, it has given me time to read far and wide around the internet and I've been contemplating how I'd rather play when I get the opportunity.

When I look at the armies I play I'd like to think there's some theme to them, my Techno Eldar with their DJ war walkers and my marines designed to bring in as much 'fire'-power as possible augmented by Vulcan, but my first consideration was their killing power more than their theme. Don't get me wrong these armies have served me well, I've won and lost my fair share of games with them, but I've played the same lists with these armies for long enough for even my leaky memory to hold them. I like how my armies work, I understand how they work and I've been able to get good mileage out of the eldar codex I think could really use an update, but I think I need to change a little of how I play and a lot of what I do play.

We've all got units we like because they are cool or they used to be great in the last edition of our codex, but just can't deliver like they used to, like they should in fifth edition for their points. Not having the gaming history that a lot of people do, I can't really say there are units that I played before fifth edition changed how the army worked. The closest I can come is the army I started out with and played for a year or two before bringing my eldar up to the 2000 points we play around Muncie.

Here's where I give you some hints to pad out this article before telling you what the army is. While I love what fluff there could be about this army, the best fluff there is isn't in the army's codex but in the tyranids': each side taking casualties and adapting to the other's tactics forcing a re-adaptation. They're the shining hope in the grim darkness of the far future as long as you don't mind being mind controlled ;). They're the most sci-fi of all the races bringing amazing technology to bare to compensate for their (significant) weaknesses: All Hail the Tau!

Yeah, Ishmael is our local Tau player and does well with them so I'll be encroaching on some of his territory, but the Muncie gaming club has been diversifying greatly since when I first came down to the Keep. It used to be that marine vs. marine games were the rule with xenos and guard being exceptions, but now some people play multiple armies and there isn't much overlap between armies. Ishmael and I (along with Meister Kai, Rionnay and others) regularly read Yes the Truth Hurts to get new ideas about how to play 40k competitively. Ishmael runs a list from YTTH quite well and while it's a good list it won't run without Ishmael behind the board moving the models from place to place. While the list won't save you, it can help or hurt you.

After wandering around it for a few screens here's the idea that binds all of this together: I will try to put to death the monobuild. If you're new to the term, a monobuild is when an army is old enough that only one archetype of list will still work for it in a competitive environment. For eldar that's Meister Kai and my armies that bring as much strength six shots to the table as possible. For tau the monobuild is Ishmael's army. I'll admit that his army will have more guns than mine will and is a better list overall, but I contend that it's not the only way to win.

There will be some similarities between our armies, as there are units that are better choices than their competitors for a force organization slot (you've got to feel bad for the skyrays and stealth suits), but there will also be differences. We'll both have three crisis teams but mine will differ between the teams while Ishmael has made the best choice thrice. I will try to bring a list that reflects the 'multicultural' nature of the Tau, but I'm not quite ready to go 100% fluffy bunny yet so there will be some teeth to the Tau. As much as I love my dark green color scheme, I may have to strip some of my fire warriors down to get the models for my new list and scheme. I'll try to post up models as I get them converted and painted and I hope you enjoy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Inferring from Tournaments, Warmachine Style

by Ishamael

Time to look at Privateer Press' notion of how a tournament should be done. I cannot even begin to talk about Warmachine without talking about PP's statement of purpose, Page 5. There are a few guidelines here talking about how to play Warmachine, but it reduces to this: give as good as you get, be aggressive, don't whine, and don't be a douche using Page 5 as an excuse. As far as mission statements go, this one is pretty sweet, although I would prefer some statement about experienced players being required to bring newer guys up to their level, in painting and the game. So, here we have the ground project of Privateer Press' approach to everything. What about their tournament structure?

Showing here.

Let us begin from the top. So, we start here with just a little something about how players should come to the event with all their gear to play the game. Oddly, it lacks some sort of penalty for being forgetful, but some things are easily replaced if someone forgets, like stat cards. Next, everyone brings a couple printouts of their army lists, and may bring up to 2 armies, subject to the same points restrictions, and not using the same warcaster/warlock. From here I will combine modeling, painting, and converting. In all cases, you can only use PP models in tournaments. While painted models look better, you don't ever have to paint a single model to play in these tournaments. Finally, conversions must be easily recognizable, and you must use the appropriate weapons on jacks and beasts. As for sportsmanship, I love that the TO does have the basic right to kick people if they are being belligerent. They deserve this power.

What's that? I call bullshit on GW immediately, but skim over PP's stuff? :3

Well, allow me to methodically go over every point in the above paragraph.

Everybody loves it when one's opponent comes fully prepared. Sometimes we forget things, and hopefully people will be willing to help out, maybe even let someone else use one's dice or tape measure. From here comes a huge beef I have with Warmachine and Privateer Press, which is how we are allowed to come to a tournament with two lists made up. Sure, they have to be from the same faction, but what does this option say about the design philosophy of PP? Let us look at what stems from some examples of different casters meeting. I take the Khador caster Old Witch (all you need to know is that she makes warjack shooting awesome). I bring a balanced list consisting of answers for heavy/light jacks, mass infantry, multi-wound infantry, even incorporeal things. I walk up to the table, and see that my opponent is using the Epic version of Kaya the Moonhunter. Her army is almost nothing but Warbeasts. So, we set up, I move forward and get ready to pew pew. Kaya moves up with her beasts, and casts Shadow Pack, which gives all her beasts Stealth, which makes any ranged attack outside of 5 inches automatically miss. Wait. So every single shooting element of my army is virtually useless? Then how can I stop the enemy from reaching my lines and wiping the floor with me? Kaya's beasts are all melee-based, and are virtually immune to any form of shooting! How can I ignore Stealth? Blasts can't directly hit, so they're useless, and any spray attacks I have don't have the power to scratch the paint on some bipedal wolf's crotch protector, and the only way I could possibly get around Stealth in Khador is to bring at least one Spriggan, which has flares. Or a specific warcaster. Fuck me running, did I lose this game before we even set up, even with a balanced approach to list building? Depending on the scenario, I may be able to eke out a victory, but her beasts are going to get to my line virtually unscratched, so I'm up pooper creek without a paddle. Man, if only I knew that my enemy was using Kaya beforehand, then I could have brought a Spriggan with shooting elements, or an army of flying warjacks with heavy cavalry support so I can get the charge. This is my issue with Warmachine, and it is a fundamental one. I has been confirmed by my asking experienced players, and it's utter bullshit. This game is based on matchups. Caster X trumps Z, but Z fails against Y. Really? This random warlock walks up, and, just because she has ONE specific spell, just neuters my army? Something I did not mention earlier is that the players choose their lists secretly before their opponents see them. What's the advantage of bringing 2 lists then? Why are we allowed to bring 2 lists?

Fix your game system, and then require only ONE list. Man up.

Warmachine is so fundamentally flawed it cannot even function as a competitive gaming system, let alone as a successful tournament one. In 40k, you bring a balanced list to a tournament to handle as many foes as possible, and you don't get "trumped" because someone else brought a specific HQ with a random spell, or even a specific army. This is my main beef with Privateer Press, and I will come back to it later.

To begin with modelling, only Privateer Press models may be used. Period. Oh, you can convert something and make a model for something that is in an army book, yet does not yet exist as a model, but it's gotta me mostly Privateer Press bits! People gripe and complain about how GW is a giant money-grubbing machine, yet PP is right here, telling us that we cannot make completely new models from scratch, even if we have it on the right base and our opponents know what they are. Bullshit. This is little more than a statement telling the player base to buy only their product. This also disenfranchises folks that like a particular unit, yet hate the model for it. I've seen scratch-built models made of mostly green stuff that have been allowed into Warhammer tournaments, and they look great. Doesn't GW have a standing policy that we don't have to use precisely only their models? Aren't utter proxies allowed when easily identified? Now for their lack of painting as a priority.

It's easy to go out and buy models. It's bloody hard to get to painting all of them. While there exists something called a PP "Hardcore" tournament, in which everything must be painted, it's odd that their basic tournament structure doesn't entice anyone to paint a damn thing. What, is this so people just keep buying without ever worrying about finishing what they start? Isn't wargaming something called an avocation, one which entails painting? Does anyone want to be part of something that only marginally wants you to paint? Maybe, if you have absolutely no interest at all in painting. I paint so I can play, simple as that, yet this game system lacks any real motivation to even begin that arduous task.

Their conversion policy is OK. It's nice that everything needs to have its appropriate weapon on, otherwise someone's going to confuse an Ice Axe (ridiculously strong), for an Executioner's Axe (decently strong). It also lets me convert my Man-O-Wars into Bombardiers without much trouble. I should get ahold of some Guardsmen grenade launchers for laughs.

To move right along, it's nice that TOs need to have multiple copies of the scenario being played ready to hand out to players. Final standings in this are determined by wins, not points, and something called "strength of schedule." This is referred to when one has a tie, and the breaker goes to the guy that fought more guys with "wins" than his opponent. I really see no strong correlation between a win and opponent strength, but at least a tiebreaker exists. Admittedly, it's unclear to me exactly what these "control points" are, but I think it refers to something specific to each scenario that one controls.:P Another weakness of Warmachine is that, regardless of scenario, if you kill the enemy HQ, you win. If that were the case, I'd love to catch someone's HQ out in the open with a railgun. Punk!

I want to end this quick overview with a request to the community.

I have heard that bringing two lists to a Warmachine tournament is in the same vein as bringing a side deck for Magic the Gathering. Unfortunately, I cannot address this criticism, although I understand the rudiments of it. Some decks are simply more powerful and trump yours, so bring along cards that you can switch out in subsequent rounds to take care of that opponent. Funnily enough, Magic consists of multiple rounds against the same opponent, while Warmachine does not. Furthermore, since neither opponent knows his enemy's list beforehand, why are we able to bring multiple lists anyway? Game imbalance. What if someone walks around at the start of the tournament, and catalogues a bunch of peoples' lists, and brings his "better" list every time?

Something interesting that I have no experience with in Warmachine is their usage of a turn timer. In a 35 point game, they dictate that players only can have 10 minutes per turn, with a once-per-game extension of 5 minutes. This seems to favor smaller armies greatly, as a jack-heavy army will be easier to move and use than an infantry-based one. Never used it before in a game, but it helps guarantee that games end on time, and players get to have a minimum of so many turns, which is an issue in 40k games.

I want to end this with something I've been told, yet only realized while writing this. It has been claimed that people go to Warmachine because they dislike how GW approaches wargaming. GW wants pretty armies and favors a good time over a hard game, while PP wants no painting and encourages hard games. Go point by point, and PP just takes the opposite of GW. It really feels like this tournament system is tailored to appeal to people disenfranchised with GW.

Well, I have only one thing to say to people whom make the claim that Warmachine is superior:

Games Workshop has a flawed tournament system with a good game system that will only get better with their new approach. Privateer Press cannot even get the game system right, because their damn warcasters and warlocks vary greatly in power against one another. It's model euchre, and that's bad game design.

Playing both sides of the field,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the Pipeline

Hey folks, Ishamael here with a small update on some things I am working on.

To continue my analysis of the tournament structures of GW and PP, expect the Warmachine bit this Friday. To hint at what'll be in there, all I'm going to say now is that Warmachine has fundamental problems on the gaming level before one can even get to a tournament.

I have wanted for some time to do a series of articles on Tau deployment, but I can't get VASSAL to work properly for me, so I'll be uploading pictures from a table here in the house. There'll be deployment thoughts, subsequent turns, and deploying for multiple gametypes.

Lastly, I've been wanting to write something on how gender is approached in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books. While many things are similar to own own cultures, the power structure of that world is such that it warrants a close look at the correlation on how saidin is tainted, and saidar safe to touch. It'll probably begin macroscopically, then microscopically.

Oh, and I need to be painting my damn Tau army. Nobody told me that 400 level classes are graduate-level work, and I'm taking 4!

pew pew,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Secret Project

Well folks, after spending some much needed time putting some more paint on my Templar army I can be proud of some newly finished models. Probably my favorite item that has moved to the "finally got it painted" list is my Land Raider Crusader. Along with this was the finished touches of another crusader squad (only the initiates so far :P) as well as the retinue of Cenobite Servitors that accompany Grimaldus. I am happy to report that I have been able to add a few odds and ends units here and there, including some Standard "Shooty" Terminators with Cyclones (thanks again to Corvus Sanguine for those). My army is still a ways away from being finished, but I'm still happy to report it is growing with the little surplus income I can use on them.

Recently another of our ranks has begun to increase their army as well. Mr. Perry of the Chaos Space Marine persuasion has begun his collection of models for his Chaos Undivided army. With Khorne Bezerkers and a few CSM units in his possession, he stepped out to grab some more of the cult troops. He was able to obtain a Thousand Son and Plague Marine squad, but GW's lack of support for the Noise Marines (without buying the Noise Marine box, and Upgrade box to finish said box...]) he was unfortunately unable to obtain them... yet. I had a fun thought on a simple yet sufficiently disgusting look for the "Plaguies." After a little bit we had one finished, and the rest started. He was kind enough to let me finish one, but the rest are his to make beautiful (a relative term here as they are Nurgle :P ).

But after some fun with the Nurgles, I had a difficult time looking back at my Black and White army. I love them to death, but anyone who has painted a black army knows it takes a lot to make black look decent... so I was off to find one more distraction before buckling down. I have found my new distraction. I won't tell you more, but I'll leave you with a clue.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Drinkin' Day

From the folks here at Rites of Battle, we wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day. With any luck we will be able to help convert our FLGS with a few updates to the items in stock.

Here's a little idea of what we have in mind :D

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Polish your Inquisitorial Boots

So with the release of the new pictures as well as the advance order of the new models, the players have a pretty decent look at where the the new Grey Knights are headed. While I won't fully follow the PDF codex leak that is floating around, it is apparently (according to some informed sources) close to the mark this time. I'll believe it when I see the codex :D.

But with this comes the rise (or rebirth really) of the "Elite Army." Now, this has nothing to do with the Elites section of the FoC. This has to do with the idea of there being less models on the table, but each model consists of pure awesome. Long ago (In a galaxy at war, not far far away) Space Marines were treated very similarly. They had very few models in comparison to every other faction and with the base S3 on most non-marines, they felt hard to kill. Hints the Elite army feel. With the evolution of the game, the Marines (while still great do not get me wrong) have lost a little of that advantage with the rise of new, more powerful units, more characters, better weapons (the new standard is S4 in most armies) as well as new army rules to help. Again, I still believe marines have a sufficient perk as the bolter is still pretty decent and no one can claim the 3+ armor is bad.

Now we see the Grey Knights once again as the rebirth of the codex draws near. The discussion boards and web pages across the vasty interwebz have talked about their unmatched power for a while now. However, with as much (or little) we supposedly know about them, could this be a viable Elites army once again? We have seen the Terminator army reborn in some ways, but this is something all it's own.

So the question I have today is how do we feel about the Grey Knights? While they host powers and abilities we have ever seen before... will it be enough to stop the onslaught of more enemies? I personally feel that as far as fluff and the idea of what Grey Knights are... I'll be excited to do battle with this new codex. What about you?