Year in Review 2013


This year I had two major goals – qualify for the 40k GT national finals and try and get the blog noticed. It's been a good year!

CONCEPTS: Troops and Scoring




This CONCEPTS article looks at troops - why we need them, how to protect them and useful tools for hunting them down.

Food For Thought: Clear Writing

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/writing-well-part-1-sensibilities.html

I find writing really difficult. Yeah, I know, I have a blog! One of my problems is that I don't write very quickly as I tend to think about things too much. I get a lot of associated thoughts (which is why I like to add comments in brackets like this!), so expressing myself clearly without tripping over myself can be tricky. This goes for talking too, but hey, what can you do! Another problem is that I have a tendency to use complicated language over simple words. This can get in the way of getting my point across succinctly clearly.

I was over at Sirlin's website getting a link for Playing To Win and happened upon these posts on clear writing found these: 


I find this articles really inspiring. Not just in helping me to write better, but in helping me think more clearly. And being able to think and communicate more clearly when your under pressure (oh, say, at a tournament) is a good thing.

I also liked his point about only writing when you have something to say. I'm trying to take this approach with my posts do this, rather than feel obligated like I have to stick to a schedule (sheesh, this simple language thing is hard. Just as well I'm not adding in unnecessary commentary. Ah, wait...). I'm trying to write when I want to, and only about topics that really interest me. I think this is better in the long run to avoid burnout. Oh, and having an internet connection for my laptop again is kinda useful too!

So if you have a blog or just want some tips I recommend taking a look.

Food For Thought: FOC Swaps and Allies

 http://ritesofbattle.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/force-organization-in-40k.html

Thanks to Godfrey at Rites of Battle for putting up this interesting article discussing Force Organisation Chart (FOC) swaps in 40k.

The main question is whether or not they are a good thing. Personally, I love FOC swaps for the same reason I love allies - options. Anything that allows me to create different lists with loads of synergies and tactics makes me very happy (one of the reasons I also enjoy MTG). It also opens up a lot more variety and the possibility for characterful armies. The tricky thing is that more options makes balancing a game system harder and some companies are better than others at this!

I think that there will always be more powerful options than others and the competitive scene in any game system will always strive to seek out and use the best of these. It's the nature of competition and is to be expected in an environment where players are trying to win rather than play casually (neither is right or wrong). But this would be the case with or without extra options. I'd prefer to see more choice than less, as apart from anything else it allows more depth of options to choose from when looking for counters.

I don't think GW primarily introduced allies to help balance out weaknesses in the main codex. GW have repeatedly stated that they are a model company first, so I think it's more likely that the decision was made as it allows more models to be sold, enabling second/third/more armies to be build up incrementally. I welcome this, as starting a new army and getting it up to regular game size (1500-2000pts) is a huge undertaking. Being able to play with new stuff in larger battles straight away is a good thing!

I'm not saying the balance is or ever will be perfect (as much as I want it to), but I think 6th is a richer playing environment for casual and competitive play thanks to FOC swaps and allies.

List-Fu: Inquisition vs Marines

GW

I thought I'd post up a list that I've been working on since the rumours of Codex: Inquisition started to trickle in, but first a little bit of background...

Since the GT Heat in October I've been thinking a lot about marines in 6th. 'What marines in 6th?' you may well ask, and that's kind of the point. From what I've seen over the past year or so, many of the top performing lists have been devoid of any flavour of marine as a primary troop choice. Sure you get some examples that prove this isn't always the case, but if you look back I'd suggest that xenos and GEQ equivalent codexes have done really well. Necrons scythe/wraith wing, IG blobs and air support, Deamon Flying Circus and now screamer-star, any combination of Tau and Eldar, Chaos marines with helldrakes but cultists instead of marines... you get the idea.

Now this isn't any sort of complaint and I actually think it's great to see such a variety of armies doing well over a comparatively short space of time, compared to say half a year at a time of 'counts as' the latest marine codex. It's hard to say if this pace of change will continue and I'm not going to go into some of the theories about why GW are doing this, but at this time I guess most would agree that seeing large numbers of marines is fairly rare on the top tables at tournaments.

Coolminiornot - Helldrake (GW) - wingsmoothpainting

I think it's already been well documented that this is considered to be due to the increase of low AP cover ignoring weaponry kicking about in 6th. Baleflamers and markerlights are top contenders here, but there are a number of other ways of getting ignores cover, not least being the brilliant Perfect Timing in Divination. I think others reasons include the massive reduction in the use of mech and the resultant move towards plasma over melta. Again, not new ground here, but I've never found footslogging large groups of marines across the table to be particularly effective and I think drop pod lists leave you too exposed and static for my tastes.

So how does this relate to the recent Inquisition release and what I want to run in my lists? Henchmen. But perhaps not in the way you'd think.

Acolytes are crazy cheap at 14pts for a body and a special weapon. I'm used to having one special per 5 marines, so to be able to take 3 specials on three bodies at 42pts compared to 85pts for 5 grey hunters with a plasma gun is a massive increase in offensive potential and points efficiency. And yes I'll take the heavy bolter razorback with psybolt ammo, thank you very much. What has held me back until now is how squishy the 3 man acolyte unit is compared to a unit of 5 hunters, but as you may have guessed from the first few paragraphs, 5 power armoured dudes aren't as survivable as they used to be.

This got me thinking if there was a variation on my GT list based on acolytes rather than hunters, so I started to put together a few lists with GK primary with my fire and scoring support IG allies to see where it led. We'll get to the list in a minute, but essentially pre-Inquisition this combo offered a significant increase in quality fire power at the expense of (slightly?) more durable troops and losing battle brothers. I'm still going to have to try out the list to see if the durability is an issue or not, but I know that losing prescience on the thudds results in a serious drop in efficiency.

GW

Enter the Inquisition! Cheap access to divination, the ability to choose a generally more useable warlord table and two sweet, sweet pieces of wargear - servo skulls and the psyocculum. Being battle brothers with imperial forces opens up a lot of possibilities, particularly carpet bombing Imperial Guard. The scout/infiltrate denial is a big bonus for a shooting army if it can buy another turn to whittle down an aggressive force before they hit your lines but reducing scatter by 1d6 is a significant increase (even if it's only for a turn or two before they are chased away) for Guard.

The second item, the psyocculum, makes the bearer and their unit BS10 against units containing a psyker. Situational? Yes, but let's think about how often this situation crops up. A lot of the most powerful combinations in the game use some kind of buff-psychic powers, especially deathstars. Farseers, heralds and Tigerius are good examples. For the cost of a powerfist, adding this kind of increase in accuracy combined with, oh lets say, barrage sniping means that targeting and putting wounds on lynchpin models much more reliable. I find that with prescience up I average about 3 hits per template from the thudds. 4 is not that uncommon, especially against a slightly clumped up unit, but I usually assume 2 to be on the safe side. So that's ~36 S5 hits. That's a lot of Look Out Sir! rolls to pass. Otherwise the increase against units with brotherhood of psykers/sorcerers or even individual psykers such as deamon princes, dreadknights and tervigons can be really quite handy.

So for comparison, let me give you my GT Heats list and then the work in progress inquisition list:

1650pts Space Wolves and Imperial Guard 40kUK GT Heat 2 List
Rune Priest, Jaws, Living Lightning
(IG) Company Command Squad, Master of Ordinance

4x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), plasma gun
2x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), melta gun
(IG) Platoon;
Platoon Command Squad, 2x flamer
2x Infantry Squad
2x 1 Sabre Defence Platform, lascannon (IA 2 2nd Ed)

3x 2 Hyperios Missile Launchers (IA Aeronautica)
(IG) Vendetta [130pts]

(IG) Heavy Quad Launcher Battery (3 guns with 9 crew) (IA 2 2nd Ed)

1650pts

VS

1650pts Grey Knights, Imperial Guard and Inquisition WIP list
(GK) Coteaz
(IG) Company Command Squad, Master of Ordinance, mortar
(INQ) Ordos Hereticus Inquisitor, level 1 psyker, psyocculum, 3x servo skulls (warlord)

(GK) 3x 3 Acolytes, Razorback (Heavy Bolter with psybolt, searchlight), 3x plasma gun
(GK) 2x 3 Acolytes, Razorback (Heavy Bolter with psybolt, searchlight), 3x melta gun
(GK) 3 Servitors with plasma cannons, 2 Acolytes
(IG) Platoon;
Platoon Command Squad, 4x flamer
2x Infantry Squad, mortar
4x 1 Sabre Defence Platform, lascannon (IA 2 2nd Ed)
1x 3 Sabre Defence Platforms, each with lascannon, one with extra crewman (IA 2 2nd Ed)

(IG) Vendetta [130pts]

(IG) Heavy Quad Launcher Battery (3 guns with 9 crew) (IA 2 2nd Ed)

1650pts


Coteaz goes with the servitors and noble bullet catchers (surprise!). The inquisitor usually sits with the quads or occasionally the command squad if an accurate ordinance blast is needed vs psykers - even better with the Burner of Worlds (orbital large blast) or Witch Hunter (preferred enemy: psykers) warlord traits!

Pros
This list punches harder with lots more special weapons - an extra 5 plasma guns, 4 melta guns and 2 flamers. Plus S6 razorbacks, more las-sabres over hyperios launchers, 3 plasma cannons and 3 mortars. Throw in better warlord traits, scout/infiltrate lockdown, more accurate blasts and Coteaz and I'm very tempted by this build...

Cons
I'm not sure just how fragile the 3 man acolyte squads will be and if they are worth the gains in firepower. Possibly too glass hammer? Weaker scoring, but there are still a lot of units thanks to the MSU build and the sabres score too. I've also lost the rune priest's anti-psyker, but to be honest he's usually tucked in the back to avoid giving up warlord and only works 50% of the time, I don't think this is a big loss.


Play testing is required. I've only tried henchmen once, so I'm interested to see how they work out. Any thoughts welcome!

A rules question for you all before I sign off - How do you think multiple barrages work with orbital blasts like the Master of Ordinance or the Burner of Worlds warlord trait? Page 34 of the mini-rule book states that the closest blast is placed first, then the others flip off via a scatter dice. So say a mortar is placed first (ideally with BS10 using the psyocculum) and the others flip off. Does this circumvent the 'orbital' or equivalent rule which states that this blast always scatters (for example) the full 2d6? Answers with page numbers appreciated!

Food For Thought: How Far is Too Far?



40k War Zone


How far would you go to win a game? This is the excellent question that Spicerack asks over on 40k War Zone.

This is an easy one for me. Cheating is too far. Everything else with in the rules is fair game on one condition - that both players are truly playing to win based on the rules.

I enjoy 40k most when I'm trying to win, so I like competitive play. Sure, I enjoy those epic moments when something cinematic happens and I will never forget my first tournament playing with a fully painted army. But nothing beats crafting a list and pushing as hard as you can to win (this includes pre-game prep too). The winning bit doesn't actually matter to me as much, and placing in a tournament is a measure of my development as a competitive gamer. For me the fun bit is trying as hard as I can to see how good I can get.

There is a fantastic book by Sirlin called 'Playing to Win' (free on his own website). One of the fundamental points of the book asks players to look at what holds us back as gamers from playing by the game's rules, contrasting this against players who use a self imposed set of rules (e.g. I only play with X army, that would never happen in the fluff, claiming that something's not fair because they didn't make the effort to learn the rules properly, etc.) and then judging others for not following their definition of winning.

For me it's really important to agree what kind/style of game I'm going to play with my opponent before the game starts. If it's a relaxed, low-powered game than that's cool (although I still enjoy hardcore more!). If it's an experimental 'I don't know if this is good or terrible but I want to give it a go' game then great. My favourite is still a 'no-holds-barred no-mercy given none asked hardcore' game. I'll add here that all of these can be done in a polite and non-confrontational way!

I will play anything really (still a strong preference for hardcore), but I want to avoid a situation where players do not agree on what 'winning' is, resulting is neither player having a good time.

Competitive tournaments should be an environment where everyone has a common definition of winning (as defined by the basic game rules or tournament variations). In this situation we should be applauding anyone who earns their win fair and square. And then keep on trying to beat them next time!

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that nobody really wins if you're not playing the same game. So check first!

Food For Thought: How to Beat Tau on 3++

3++

Some of my favourite posts on other sites are the 'how to beat army X' articles. If you don't have access to players or clubs where the latest power builds are played, being able to read up on how they work and how to approach them gives you a much better chance of forming a plan on how you're going to tackle them.

For Tau, recognising their typical weaknesses, such as limited mobility outside of jump suits, general reliance on riptides or allies for contesting/scoring distant objectives, vulnerable ethereals giving up a potentially game changing VP (think Relic and Emperors Will) and relatively squishy troops, means that you can consider how best to place objective markers, deploy your army and set up your target priority through the game.

Matt-Shadowlord does a great job of discussing these points and more over on 3++ here and here. Well worth a look if you haven't already!

40kGT Heat 2 Results


Last weekend I attended my second tournament of the year, Heat 2 of the 40kGT in Brighton. Having managed to place in the top ten in July at another tournament at Brighton I was hoping that my refined list would help me into the top half to qualify for the national finals in March.

My list was:

1650pts Space Wolves and Imperial Guard 40kUK GT Heat 2 List

Rune Priest, Jaws, Living Lightning
(IG) Company Command Squad, Master of Ordinance

4x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), plasma gun
2x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), melta gun
(IG) Platoon;
Platoon Command Squad, 2x flamer
2x Infantry Squad
2x 1 Sabre Defence Platform, lascannon (IA 2 2nd Ed)

3x 2 Hyperios Missile Launchers (IA Aeronautica)
(IG) Vendetta [130pts]

(IG) Heavy Quad Launcher Battery (3 guns with 9 crew) (IA 2 2nd Ed)

1650pts

Further list analysis here.

DAY 1


Game 1: Crusade vs Daemons.

Screamers, beasts and drones were all over me on turn 2, but I was winning when we timed out. However, the TO came over and gave us extra time into lunch to get turn 5 in. Timing is critical when diving onto objectives, and I'd already sacrificed a turn of shooting to get into position because I could tell we weren't going to get turn 5 in within time. Result = loss. Quite frustrated at that, but there was really nothing I could do. Oh well!


Game 2: Relic vs IG & Ultramarines

Tigerius and his grav-toting biker friends accompanied a full commissar led blob which mostly hid under his skyshield shooting lascannons. I managed to take out 75% of the enemy with minimal significant loss. Anything of his that got close to the relic died. Manticore and 3 vendettas didn't last long either! Good game.


Game 3: Scouring vs Daemons & CSM

I made a big mistake keeping all my razors off the board. Then I messed up my psychic powers, positioning and target priority all game. Didn't play well at all, lost fair and square. I don't usually make that many mistakes, and I paid for it!


DAY 2

Well after a disappointing first day I wasn't holding out much hope for getting a top half finish to qualify for the finals. I needed two more wins and a draw to guarantee a place, but one of the games was killpoints (always a hard one with MSU lists) and I'd found out on Saturday that I'd be playing against Tau/Eldar in Emperor's Will next...


Game 4 Emperor's Will vs Tau & Eldar

Going second, I deployed out of range for most of the enemy and only lost a thudd first turn. I couldn't stop one of the riptides and broadside units contesting my objective, but he only had one troops choice left to claim his and I flamed the kroot off and then scored it for myself with the PCS.

Things got a bit difficult at this point, as he'd apparently asked if there was anything in the vendetta when it came on. Unfortunately I don't remember this at all (having declared the unit embarked at deployment), but came in on the extreme right flank out of range from the broadsides and the fusion gun, so only the single remaining riptide's ion cannon had the chance to shoot. I also took out the single skyray that turn, eliminating his only skyfire unit.

Could he have fired a load of shots from the two broadside units and bought it down? Sure. But that fire wouldn't have been going elsewhere, particularly the thudds, so it may have worked out that I'd have been able to kill the last unit of kroot anyway, drawing objectives but then winning by killing the ethereal (secondaries at the GT don't count towards the result, but instead contributed towards tournament points). Who knows, but it was unfortunate to have the misunderstanding spoil an otherwise mostly amicable game.


Game 5: Purge vs CSM & Daemons

After introducing myself I said that this would probably be my opponent's easiest win of the tournament, as my list offers a 'target rich' environment with over 20 killpoints available. Comparing this to the compact 10 offered by the 4 FMC, 2 helldrakes and handful of cultists, marines in a rhino and plaguebearers, it wasn't looking good. Throw in hammer and anvil deployment and a huge (10"+) LOS blocking terrain for the FMCs to hide behind and getting siezed, things went from grim to grimmer! Oh, and one daemon prince got warp tether...

A couple of key lucky dice rolls helped keep me in the fight early on though, when I exploded the first helldrake with a sabre lascannon and the rhino with a MoO barrage hit. By the end of the game I'd also killed the other 'drake and three of the daemon princes, but had somehow only managed to lose a hyperios unit, 3 razors and a hunter squad!

Best game of the weekend by far, laughing all the way through, with an unexpected win to boot!


Game 6: Big Guns vs Eldar

2 wraithknights, Eldrad and reapers in a bastion and 3 DAVU waveserpents. Joy! Fortress of redemption (ruin) in the middle for the wraithknights to hide behind? Yep. Piloted by an ETC player? Excellent. Bring it on!

My opponent had already qualified in Heat 1 and was standing in to even out the numbers. Had this not been the case he may have focused a little more but we ended up with a friendly game and a win to me. Result!


Conclusion

After a dire first day, I somehow managed to pull three wins out of the bag day 2, placing 8th out of 45 against some very strong competition. Really happy with the result, and managed to qualify which was my main goal this year. Thanks to all my opponents and the GT crew for their efforts. Good times!

Food For Thought: ETC Pairings Theory on Hive Fleet Hyenna


Pairings at team events like the ETC is a whole sub-game in itself and something that captains and players can spend a great deal of time and effort on. I'm not sure how other events work, but at the ETC each country's lists are published before the event, which allows teams to run the numbers and consider possible match-ups.

Erle over at Hive Fleet Hyenna has put together an interesting series of posts going into his theories as Team Belarus' Captain. If you're interested in this sort of thing or perhaps looking to spy on an opposing team, I recommend taking a look!

If this all seems like far too much effort, there's always Team Iceland vs Team Belgium's highly tactical method... Enjoy!

List-Fu: Space Wolves and Imperial Guard for 40kGT Heat 2

Do I need this?

So I've been analysing my games at Brighton and thinking more about the list. There is one particular unit that on further reflection I don't think I've betting the most out of – the plasma Company Command Squad (CCS) in the chimera. This unit fills the compulsory HQ slot, provides mobile high strength, low AP shooting and orders. The multi-laser and heavy flamer are really a bonus and the chimera adds to the light mech saturation.

What I've found is that I tend to use the CCS in a backfield role, keeping within 12” of my heavy quad launchers (aka thudd guns), usually giving them the Fire On My Target order and forcing successful cover saves to be re-rolled for the target enemy unit. I also like the option to try a Bring It Down for re-rolls to hit with the thudds if an MC or vehicle is sitting in the middle of a bunch of infantry when the rune priest is off using Perfect Timing elsewhere.

CCS (centre) between thudds (left) and where the fight will be (forward right)

However, I think that the unit is a bit conflicted in where it wants to be. With orders I want to hold back, but the plasmas and a transport mean that I want to push forward to get into rapid fire range. I don't think I'm really getting the most out of the unit in every game so I've started to think if there is a better way to spend the 100pts from the plasmas and chimera.

Hiding from Tau

So what do I need to add to the list?

Reviewing my games leading up to and at the tournament, I've noticed that in certain match-ups I want to be extremely defensive, at least for the first couple of turns before setting up late game objective grabs. For example, in my game against Sharon's extreme shooting Farsight Tau with Tau allies and my fourth game against Steve's Forge World Sisters and Imperial Guard I wanted to stay out of sight to minimise early casualties. In the face of an enemy that I know can out-shoot me I don't see this as a bad thing to do (especially if they get first turn), but I want to be able to do more damage whilst conserving my mobility and scoring units.

Tau castle sans bubblewrap

I also want to be able to punish anybody castling against me. In my last game at Brighton against Jeff's Tau, he deployed his vehicles in the extreme far corner behind a ruin and wisely kept all his squishy foot targets in reserve to avoid my thudds. I'd like to be able to threaten this sort of enemy deployment with a high strength pie-plate to force the decision between clumping to make the most of cover or spreading out to minimise blast casualties. I can already do this vs infantry with the horrendously efficient thudds, but I'd like to do the same against vehicles and multi-wound targets with T4 or below.

The answer is of course long range barrage, and I've started to dream of a second allied heavy support slot to allow me to take a manticore. This is not exactly breaking new ground, but with prescience these can be devastating. I suppose I could force myself to spend 50pts on the third thudd gun instead. Oh, well...

FW - Converting these guys for the Commander and MoO

But wait! Perhaps there is another way outside of the IG heavy support slot? Two options spring to mind – Marbo and the Master of Ordinance (MoO). I could fit in either with a bit of tweaking, and both provide a high strength, ordinance and barrage-like effect. I have considered the Pskyer Battle Squad (PBS), but I'm not sure that I want to rely on Ld9 psychic powers and deny the witch attempts on top of scatter and cover rolls.

Scratch-built las-sabres - not perfect but ok for now

So Marbo or the MoO+something else? I've said before that I'd like to add lascannon sabres at 1750 points and above for better punch vs AV13 at range. I could 'upgrade' a couple of hyperios for 30pts extra. I think this is a better deal than Marbo thanks to orders effecting the sabres and more turns shooting with the MoO (even if significantly less accurate), so I'll go with this and drop a couple of flamers from the Platoon Command Squad to cover the shortfall (still leaves them with two).

This leaves me with:

1650pts Space Wolves and Imperial Guard 40kUK GT Heat 2 List

Rune Priest, Jaws, Living Lightning
(IG) Company Command Squad, Master of Ordinance

4x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), plasma gun
2x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), melta gun
(IG) Platoon;
Platoon Command Squad, 2x flamer
2x Infantry Squad
2x 1 Sabre Defence Platform, lascannon, searchlight (IA Aeronautica)

3x 2 Hyperios Missile Launchers (IA Aeronautica)
(IG) Vendetta [130pts]

(IG) Heavy Quad Launcher Battery (3 guns with 9 crew) (IA 2 2nd Ed)

1650pts

So I've lost three plasma guns, a chimera, a couple of hyperios and a couple of flamers, but gained 4 more S5 AP5 barrage blasts, two scoring las-sabres and an unpredictable S9 AP3 ordinance barrage large blast. This gives me more threat and punch at range, while hiding if required, and judging on how I'm playing the lists, I think I'll get more use out of this than what I've lost.

I've moved the Hyperios back to Fast Attack, as the GT have ruled that as the IA Aeronautica and IA12 units have different names, they are actually different units and one does not replace the other. This is excellent news, and I can definitely see the logic (especially when it helps me out!).

Another one of these then! Note this was not an in-game shot...

I was going to wait until the new Space Marine codex dropped, but from the rumours (which pretty much turned out to be correct!) I couldn't spot anything that made me want to swap the puppies out for marines just yet (although Tigerius and the initial Tactical doctrine every turn got very close...). I've had a couple of games with the revised list (managed a win vs a serpent spam list in relic and a win vs an Iron Hand drop pod army with 4 ironclad dreads in a 3 objective Crusade) and it already seems better suited to how I want to play the army, so I'm happy so far. The heat is only three weeks away now, so we'll see if this list is up to scratch soon enough...

Any thoughts or comments welcome!

Food For Thought: Playing and Beating Bike Armies

Bear on CMON

With White Scar biker armies heralded as the next big thing, I thought I'd compile a few links covering playing with and against biker armies. As I'm expecting that there may be a few at the upcoming 40kGT, I'm very interested in knowing how to beat them too!

I'm also expecting a few players to avoid bringing MCs to the tournament thanks to how many grav guns might be kicking about, and if they happen to have a chaos army too, I wouldn't be surprised if they decide that the good old helldrakes need to get some fresh air.

So with that in mind, I thought these articles might be interesting to anyone playing with or against bikers (White Scars, Ravenwing or otherwise):

Ravenwing basics and tactics on Skuzzlebumm's Skuzzlebutt. Plenty of battle reports there too, including ETC games.

Discussion on counters to White Scars (and some counter-counters!) on 40k War Zone.

Some initial list ideas on the White Scars blog and Sons of Sanguinius. Sure they are plenty of others popping up too.

If you've got any ideas or suggestions for links please feel free to post them in the comments!

Food For Thought: Critical Mass on Craftworld Lansing

Craftworld Lansing

There is a brilliant discussion going on at Craftworld Lansing at the moment looking at defining critical mass in relation to list building. This relates heavily to a lot of what I'm trying to get to in my CONCEPTS: posts, including redundancy achieved though threat and target saturation with a little bit of duality thrown in for good measure. If this is your kind of thing, check it out and join in!

New Codex Space Marines released

Games Workshop

It has finally arrived! The new Codex Space Marines has been released and if you're interested in a peek, had over to Natfka's Faeit 212 for a good first impressions video. This focuses mainly on general content and artwork, which I have to say is looking fantastic. I think the chapter title page artwork is particularly cool, and the centurion image looks a lot better than the models!

I'm looking forward to the next few days as we get everyone's first impressions of the new rules. Assuming that the majority of the recent rumours are accurate, things that initially grab my interest are Tigerius, barrage thunderfire canons and Raven Guard massed scouting in dedicated transports. White Scars bike builds may turn out to be popular, but with the prevalence of high strength ignores cover weaponry around we'll have to wait and see on this one. As a MSU mech player, I'm not keen on the marine trend of increasing the base cost of a razorback! Doesn't bode well for my Wolves! More thoughts to come once I've had a good look at the codex.

Interestingly, there is no release day FAQ (yet), but any codex with servo arms gets a minor update. Convenient link for you here!

EDIT: The Voice has put together a very handy first impressions post over on Sons of Sanguinius here.

NOVA 2013 Results



Congrats to Justin Cook for powering his way through a tough field with 8 straight wins to take first place at this year's NOVA Open. Also to UK player Alex Harrison (aka Killswitch) for taking a very respectable second place. The prestigious Invitational was won by The Back 40k's Aaron Aleong (aka Spaguatyrine).

For more results and stats check out Torrent of Fire!

CONCEPTS: Spam


Hmmm... Spam...

Threat saturation, redundancy, target overload, cookie cutter, copy and paste – aka spam.

From what I've read around the mighty internet over the past few years, the use of the term of spam can differ from place to place. Extreme examples are easy to spot, but is seems particularly tricky to identify the line at which spam occurs (I never thought I'd write a sentence like that with a serious face...). What seems to be limited though is an explicit detailed discussion of whether spam is useful or not (any suggestions welcome!).
 
This CONCEPTS: article discusses the definition of spam, and then looks at the benefits and drawbacks of the most famous of all gaming foods (ok, maybe cheese should win this title).
 
DEFINITION
As alluded to above, pinning down an exact definition of spam is potentially a contentious subject. For the purposes of this post I will use the following:
 
Spam – Taking an identical unit in multiples over and above what is commonly considered acceptable in casual games.
 
That's about as good as definition as I can get to. The real problem is not so much in defining the concept, but rather agreeing what counts as spam as this is appears to be highly subjective (as highlighted by Mercer's discussion on Imerius Dominatus here). Let's go into this in a little more detail to show you what I mean.

Units 
Easy ones first. Filling all available slots with the largest possible number of identical models automatically qualifies as spam. For example, taking three units of three broadsides (the maximum allowed per unit) with the same load out is definitely generally accepted as spam. On the other hand one unit, even with identical options on each model, is not spam. I don't think many would argue against this as a commonly accepted starting point. Now for the large grey area in the middle.
 
Two identical units is borderline in some people's opinion (personally I'd say two is definitely not spam), but what about two identical units and a third unit with a different load out? What about three units of largely similar but slightly different equipment? Or even better, three units with just one model, but all with the same equipment? In the broadside example, I think many would class three units of a single broadside as spam, but the exact same number in one unit would be fine. Good huh?

Weapons 
Then we have the repetition of similar weapons across different types of units. If taking 12 missiles in 3 squads of long fangs is spam, what about spreading the same number of missiles around more units? Does taking 2 units of long fangs with 2 missiles each (plus other different weapons), a couple of landspeeder typhoons (which have missiles) and a couple of cyclone missile launcher wolf guard still count? I'd guess that the latter wouldn't instantly trigger cries of spam, but it has the same number of missiles!

So given the above, I'm leaning towards the use of the term spam in relation to a combination of weapon types, rather than by unit type. So missile spam Space Wolves are in, but long fang spam is out because isn't precise enough. If a unit has only one common load out (with minor variations), then I would say using 'unit' spam ok as it is easily understandable, e.g. wave serpent spam.

Troops
So that's considering units and weapons typically the 0-3 FOC slots, but what about multiple troops choices? Would a Necron army with 4 units of 10 warriors trigger 'warrior spam'? Or maybe an army full of tactical marines should be considered 'bolter spam'? I would say no for the former but a technical yes for the latter. What about chess and it's terrible burden of 'pawn spam' (Google search this at your own risk!)?

I thought that the idea was that troops make up the majority of an armies fighting resources, and even though specialised or elite forces exist in the fluff, people seem to get offended when gamers take a large number of very common units for that army, especially when this includes multiple dedicated transports like razorbacks, venoms or night scythes.

Relative 
So as you can see, pinning down an exact definition of spam that everyone can agree on isn't easy. Personally, I'd suggest that spam is relative to the number of slots available and that troops and dedicated transports have a higher threshold before gaining spam status. So for 40k, I'd say that outside of troops 3 identical or very similar units qualifies as spam but anything lower isn't. For troops I'd say at least 5 units, with similar amount for dedicated transports.
 
The ultimate gaming food!
 
PROS
What's I've completely avoided in the definition is the question of whether it's beneficial to spam anything in the first place.

Redundancy
The primary benefit is of course redundancy, in terms of threats (offensive redundancy) or targets (defensive redundancy). I think a balanced competitive list will use the right amount of both offensive redundancy using multiple threat vectors and defensive redundancy through a focus on one aspect (e.g. light or heavy mech, infantry). I also prefer my threats to be diffused throughout the army rather than in discrete targetable units, but ideally have enough of a threat range (via weapons and mobility) to be able to concentrate on one area if I need to. This is easier said than done though!

Efficiency
If it's good and cheap, why not take lots? (see Cons below!)

Aesthetics/Theme
Some people like to take lots of something because they think it looks cool or is fluffy. Noteable examples include Deathwing and Ravenwing, but there are many more. Others might like to play a certain style afforded by spamming one aspect. When I was playing 40k at school in 2nd/3rd I always loved the idea of a mechanised space marine army because I really liked the idea of an independent strike force speeding around attacking the enemy. I didn't ever get this far but when I started playing again in 5th, vehicles had suddenly become usable and were actually really good so I was very happy! I think Mech still has a place in 6th, so I get to play with a style of army that I like in a competitive setting.
 
False economy
It's easy to spam something that really isn't that good! Imagine taking an army full of flamers and virtually nothing else. Even if they were massively discounted, they have limited range and are only really effective against certain targets. This example would be so severely hampered against most other armies that this would not be a good choice of weapon to spam. Mid-strength weapons with a decent range are a much better choice, as they can effect light vehicles and MCs, but usually come in enough numbers to have some use against infantry too. However...


TigerofMyth on DeviantArt

Too many spoons
Spam can limit your capacity to deal with a number of target types. Spamming strength 7 with good range may be a strong choice, but if it's all AP4 or worse your army will find AV13 or massed 2+ saves a challenge. Repetition can come at the cost of operational flexibility.

Predicable
Opponents won't have much difficulty working out your battle plan and can plan to play around your spam, potentially turning your strength into a weakness. For example, going first with an effective threat range of 36" will prompt most enemy generals to deploy out of range, wasting a whole turn of your shooting. Loads of static shooting units can be out-maneuvered by using cover or line of sight blocking terrain to limit your effectiveness and mobility to tackle sections of your army at a time. Being predictable isn't usually a benefit!

Opportunity Cost
If you're filling your slots and spending a large proportion of your points on the same thing, naturally there won't be the points or space to cover other important functions or tools. The basics still need to be covered if you're aiming for a balanced list.

Repetitive Gameplay and/or Aesthetics
This is the other side of the coin to aesthetics/theme. Whilst some people may love to model, paint and play a certain way, this could be torture for others. Not everyone is as motivated to spam a unit by the time they get to their 8th razorback or 100th kroot. Also, playing against the same style of army over and over can be a bit dull for opponents!
 
 
Irene Koehler on AlmostSavvy
 
COMP
Composition scoring (aka comp) deserves a special mention here. Not to repeat myself as I've already covered this in some depth, comp typically seeks to restrict spam, as some TOs see as spoiling the fun in the game (and of course everyone agrees with the TO's version of fun, right?).

If the most efficient choice is, say, 4 fliers but the comp limits the choice to 3, I'd suggest that there's a good chance there will be a lot of armies with 3 fliers. Players will just push to the limit of what's allowed. Added to this, some armies are better placed to get around traditional comp and still spam certain effective elements thanks to a better range of choices to select from.

I think that comp aiming to restrict spam just changes the strongest builds available, and I've yet to see it restrict all players equally due to the differences between armies.
 
 
 

EAT MY S***

 
 
 
SPAM - A FOUR LETTER WORD
I don't mind the term spam when it's used accurately, and see it as more of a description than an insult. However, I've seen or heard it used so many times as a derogatory term by players who don't like repetition, often under the guise of fluff, sportsmanship, or maybe their own made up version of the rules. I would like to respectfully point out three things.

1) Many armies, in both real life and in the gaming universe, take an efficient unit or weapon and use it in multiples because they think it gives them the best possible chance of winning the battle. Fluffy and competitive, no?

2) Using spam as an insult is deeply unfair on themed armies, as they often seek to repeat an aspect as the driving narrative behind their army (e.g. Deathwing = terminator spam, any mech army, you get the idea...).
 
3) Spam is entirely legal and supported by the rules. GW, or whoever wrote the game, have specifically stated how much of a certain unit an army can contain. GW in particular are well known for their aversion to competitive gaming in preference of forging a narrative (selling models is apparently mutually exclusive from good tight rules and random is supposedly fun too...), and could very easily have further restricted the available options. 

If players wish to introduce house rules or comp to control spam, that's completely ok and their choice, but this is not standard gameplay and everyone else should not be expected to play a different version of the game to suit another's preferences by default. As I've mentioned before, I politely suggest finding like-minded gamers and enjoying the type of game you prefer, rather than trying to impose your own expectations on others (this applies to both casual and competitive games alike!).


WikiHow

CONCLUSION
Spam can be effective when units/weapons are taken that provide offensive redundancy and/or target saturation whilst being points efficient and still covering all the required tools/battlefield roles. However, spam can also be limiting by reducing an armies capacity to deal with a wide range of threats and by being predictable.

I don't have a problem with spam, either on competitive or fluff grounds, but I understand that not everybody feels the same. However, there can be a lot of factors to consider when choosing what to spam, taking into account the pros and cons discussed above.

Now I need to go and have a snack...


Further Reading
What is Spam? on Imperius Dominatus
Ideas For Army List Restrictions at Blog Wars 6 on From the Fang
CONCEPTS: Redundancy and Reliability
CONCEPTS: Comp

Food For Thought: Path of the Autarch on Craftworld Lansing

Craftworld Lansing


This week I suggest checking out this excellent 5 part series on Mobility on Craftworld Lansing. I love global strategy articles which look at the how and why, the really high level thinking that can go on in a game.

This series looks at the different stages in the game (list building, start, middle and end) and how to use a mobile army in each of these. What I also liked was that the stages are approached differently depending on whether you are winning, losing or fighting tooth and nail.

Good reading for generals playing and fighting against mobile armies. More please!

Food For Thought: Keeping It Legal

sxc
It's always good to know that you're blog isn't stepping on anyone's intellectual property rights toes, so thanks to Bryce963 on Dissenting Dice for this helpful post on keeping the right side of GW's legal team!

On a similar note, for anyone looking for free stock photos, I can recommend stock.xchng. No need to sign up and its very easy to follow their minimal rules.

Happy blogging!

ETC 2013 Results


Just found the results! Congrats to Team Germany for the win, and Team Ireland in 5th, Team England in 6th, Team Wales in 16th, Team Scotland in 19th, and Team Northern Ireland in 29th.


Blogs: Death or Glory

Death or Glory

I've enjoyed the Death or Glory blog and podcast for a while now, which offers an insight into the thoughts of some of the UK's top 40k players and some great hobby inspiration. They have also started running their own tournaments, and with their first 40 player event selling out rapidly and high demand for more spaces, they have their sights set on a 128 place event next time.

I had the chance to meet and play against the guys at the recent Brighton Singles Tournament, and was delighted when they asked if I would contribute to their blog. One definite 'yes' and a few emails later, I'm now an author on the Death or Glory blog!

Never fear though loyal (or even occasional!) readers, Total Immersion Wargaming will continue to see business as usual. We haven't decided what my posts on Death or Glory will cover just yet, so we will have to see how things work out. In the meantime, if you're interested head over to the blog and have a look!

Food For Thought: Firebase deployment on Tau of War

Tau of War

Some advice never goes out of date and the articles linked below are good examples of this. There are a number of armies that make use of firebases, so this advice on Tau of War offers some very handy advice on how to deploy and protect your guns to best effect. Bubblewrap and blocking units are key to this, and I especially like point 8 of the last article that states "A good Tau army is like an onion, it has lots of layers and makes people cry". Brilliant!

Rules of Engagement (Points 7 & 8 particularly)

List-Fu: Space Wolves and Imperial Guard 1650pts (Part 2)

Lining up for Best Painted just for the photo!

I thought I'd do a quick review the army (original list here) having played it up to and at the recent Brighton Singles tournament, plus throw in a few photos of my models for good measure. I may do a unit-by-unit breakdown in a later post too if I can find the time!

My 8 scratch built Hyperios Launchers
 
I had a bit of a nervous few days a couple of weeks before the event when I found out that Forge World had released alternative rules for the hyperios launchers in IA12. I've seen some FW units been nerfed to oblivion on a whim, and what made it worse was that I'd nearly finished scratch-building and painting 8 of the things! In the end, the TO ruled that only the latest issued rules for the hyperios should be used based on some Facebook evidence showing that FW had said the same thing. Fair enough, but this was a pity, as it removes twin-linking as standard and I did notice a slight drop in reliability over the course of the tournament. It could have been worse, however, as their FOC slot moved to heavy support! Thankfully I had all these slots free so it didn't matter and could just shift them across, but this could have royally messed up the list so I got away fairly lightly I think! I knew there was a risk in going for Forge World, and it's good to know I wasn't being paranoid...

Forge World Heavy Quad Launchers, Maxmini heads on Cadian bodies

So after IA12 adjustments and a very productive few weeks I was had the following all painted up to a reasonable standard, plus 6 custom objectives for extra soft scores!

4 of my 6 custom objectives. The other two are wolf claws from the Canis model
 
1650pts Space Wolves and Imperial Guard

100pts Rune Priest, Jaws, Living Lightning (Warlord)
150pts Company Command Squad, Chimera (Heavy Flamer), 3 plasma guns

4x 125pts 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), plasma gun
2x 120pts 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), melta gun
150pts Platoon; Platoon Command Squad, 4 flamers; 2x Infantry Squads (no upgrades)

130pts Vendetta (PCS goes here)

2x 105pts 3 Hyperios Missile Launchers (Forge World)
70pts 2 Hyperios Missile Launchers (Forge World)
100pts 2 Heavy Quad Launchers (Forge World)

1650pts

Company Command Chimera (I've since done the searchlight with lense-flare etc.)

Overall, the army is performing really well and has all the tools I think I need at 1650pts. I'm not looking to change anything and want to continue to practice with the army. Going to 1850pts I would still definitely add Forge World las-cannon sabres for more puch vs AV13 at range and additional anti-flier, maybe a third heavy quad launcher. I would also playtest an aegis defense line, as this offers good cover for my artillery and backfield units, but at the cost of limiting my transport's maneuverability and making deployment more predictable. With the increase of ignores cover weapons (see Tau and Eldar), I'm not sure that the aegis is as useful as it was!

Command and Platoon Squads. Cadian bodies with Maxmini heads again

Leading up to the weekend I'd played with the list against Iyanden twin-Wraithknight Eldar, wraithwing Necrons with triple anni-barges, new footdar Eldar and Imperial Fists mech with double vindicators. At the tournament I played Farsight Tau with Tau allies, Zandrek Necrons, Fateweaver Chaos Daemons, Forge World Sisters with Imperial Guard powerblob and las-sabre allies, venom-spam and beast-deathstar Dark Eldar with Eldar allies and pure Tau. That's a fair spread! That's 10 games, and I'm 6:3:1 (w/d/l) with the single loss against the new Tau in Purge the Alien, my toughest mission.

Vendetta. Bonus points if anyone can name the DVD in the background

That's doing pretty well, but I know there is room for improvement! I'm not using the vendetta to it's full potential yet, and I've made a couple of less-than-optimal decisions with my target priority/psychic power choice with the heavy quad launchers/rune priest (e.g. choosing juicy targets protected by multi-level ruins or going for ignores cover rather than prescience shooting behind an aegis). I'm usually pretty good at remembering not to block the hyperios' line of sight with razorbacks, but I still did this once at the tournament. I'm also trying to speed up my gameplay, as I think I could have turned two of the three draws into wins if we hadn't timed out. I'm getting there though, and this will come through getting more games in on the clock and getting to know the army better.

Another shot of my Hyperios, just because I can

I've yet to test the list against flier heavy armies, but with the 8 hyperios launchers and the vendetta I have a reasonable amount of anti-flier at 1650pts. I'm looking forward to testing this, as there are both scythewing and multiple helldrake lists kicking about at the club. Similarly, I'd like to get some games in against some proper hoard armies, like Orks and Tyranids. I've been really impressed with the heavy quad launchers so far, particularly with prescience or ignores cover. The damage output for 100pts is stupendous and in combination with the small arms, flamers and heavy bolters should cover anti-hoard reasonably well.

Still lots to do, but they're getting there

What I have found so far is that there are no easy wins against tournament level opponents with the list. Instead I think I have had a fighting chance against pretty much anything, and that's exactly what I want from a balanced list. Knowing how to fight my opponents is one of the big keys here, so for now it's more games and more recon!

Blogs: Whisky & 40k

Whisky & 40k and the Nova Open

Home of the creator and chief TO of the illustrious Nova tournament, Whisky & 40k is MVB's personal blog where he puts up army lists, battle reports and general musings on 40k. Given that MVB's regular gaming opponents include a number of the top ranking plays in the country, you can imagine that this is good quality stuff! The site also gives an insight into the huge amount of preparation that goes into running such an internationally renown tournament, and keeps up to date with the coming Nova events.