Sisters of Battle

When I occasionally stray from my Eldar-obsessive nature and consider the possibility of trying to put together a different army, one of the two that catches my eye most is the Sisters of Battle (the other one is Tau). The Sisters Of Battle, also known as Witch Hunters, are a very tough, very gorgeous army of bolter and flamer-toting women who fight for the Imperium. These aren't very girly-girl models; they are covered in artifacts and armor and are pretty hardened. I have one squad of Sisters that I haven't started work on yet. They're assembled, but not primed.

I keep wanting to start on them, but every time I look closely at them I see the little Imperial Eagle on their uniforms and it makes me gag. I hate the Imperial storylines and I really have no interest in having anything to do with them. Isn't that childish?

Still... they sit here... gathering dust.


"Cheese" is a term that's used a fair amount in the Warhammer 40k gaming community, and I'm getting really sick of hearing it.

It's a term which is intended to describe a certain model or configuaration or tactic that unbalances the game and make it extremely difficult or impossible to beat. Warhammer 40,000 is a game that's constantly being tweaked and updated and balance issues are always being ironed out. The timeline for that to happen, however, is very slow. Often an imbalance can literally take years to address in the form of an errata or Chapter Approved update or what-have-you. Unlike a video game, where a downloaded patch can change game weight to be more balanced, Warhammer 40,000 has to be refined through very slow processes.

This means that there are going to be times when certain elements of the game can be manipulated in such a way as to gain an unfair advantage over an opponent. it's considered gentlemanly and good etiquette to avoid exploiting loopholes in order to unbalance the battle. Unfortunately, this is a soft science; there are no hard-and-fast rules for what makes something "cheesy". There are no "lines" that can be crossed or "standards" that can be transgressed. For instance, a player might decide to take three Wraithlords in a 1000 point game. God knows that in 1000 points it's nearly impossible to adequately knock off three Wraithlords in six turns, but it's still legal to field them because they fill the three heavy support slots and cost-wise you can still afford your HQ and two Troops. Yet, other players wouldn't necessarily be worried to see three Wraithlords on the table. For instance, a Ravenwing force playing Recon against three Wraithlords probably don't even have to worry about killing more than one - if that; their speed and numbers can easily win the game for them through points acquired in objectives. Therefore, is it okay to field those three Wraithlords? No matter how often a certain player would like to think that their own standards are self-evident and natural law, there really is no way someone can know for sure if they're crossing a line or not.

For my own purposes, I think of it in terms of hot and cold; if I feel myself getting a little warm, I turn down the heat. I can't say exactly what temperature that's always going to happen at, but when it starts occurring to me that I might be a little bit hot I assume it's time to pull back a bit on the thermostat. "Cheese" is the same to me; when I start asking myself "is this cheesy?" then it's time to consider trimming back a little. For instance, I won't take more than one Star Cannon for every 400 points. Some players think that's still too many, and others can't see why you'd have to limit them at all. In the end, however, it's about my contribution to a game that's fun to play for both people (handicapping myself is no better for the game than going cheese). When I start to fill up on Star Cannons, I feel like I'm overpowering my enemy in a way fromn which he or she can't recover, and so that arbitrary limit is one I use. I know that when I stick to it, I never have that "getting too warm" feeling.

Generally people don't use cheese in their armies and strategies all that often. I think of it in the same way I think about extraterrestrial life; I'm sure it's out there, but we don't see it nearly as often as everyone says we do. My perception is that the accusation of cheese outstrips its actual occurrance by a factor of a hundred to one.

I think about an example that came up recently. I sometimes field three War Walkers, each with two Bright Lances. At first glance, this looks formidable; they can bust a Predator or Land Raider a couple times over in one turn. There's no arguing that they clean up armored vehicles like few other things can, and I get accused of fielding cheese when they hit the table. I've had a finger or two pointed at my War Walkers and heard the name of a certain dairy product.

That usually gets a big, healthy "Go Fuck Yourself" in response.

A War Walker is armor 10 all around. Unlike a Vyper (which is also armor 10), it can take no upgrades like holo-field or spirit stones. They do have the same force field that Wave Serpents use (which reduces all weapons greater than strength 8 to strength 8). That's not exactly a coup considering that a Lascannon reduced to strength 8 would still have to roll a one on the damage roll to escape harm. Why use a Lascannon, though? A squad of 10 bolters seems to be all you'd need, likely hitting 6 times, and likely damaging the armor with at least one of those hits. And can those War Walkers get out of the way before they're shot? Heck no. They move 6" a turn (even a Rhino can move 12") and because they're vehicles they can be targeted past any infantry that might block their way. Due to the very nature of what they do, however, War Walkers must come out into the open... so without indirect fire and the ability to stick-and-move, those models are eggshells on legs. All for the cheap price of 300 points for a squad of three. Fact is... I rarely take them becausem, despite their terrifying ability to fire on the enemy, I just find them to be too weak and easily killed, thus handing a bucket of victory points over to my opponent.

My point isn't that War Walkers are or are not viable. I only want to show that cheese is in the eye of the beholder. The bias of the opponent who can only see what he has to lose by what pops onto the table is going to flinch and call "cheese" when people often forget to take points cost into account. Sure, a Scorpion Mark II tank can put D3 shots of Str9, AP1 (Blast) onto the table per turn, but the freaking thing costs 650 points. In most games that's at least a third of the army. Again, using the War Walker example, I love the power of what some models/units have to offer, but the points cost is just way too high. If, however, the points are low and the power/resillience is high, that can become problematic. This is one reason why Wraithlords can be sometimes employed in questionable, possibly-cheesy ways.

Ok, this whole ramble is going on a little longer than it needs to, but my point is this: I don't like being called cheesy. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it gets my anger up. For every "cheesy" model I put on the table, I pay through the nose. In my 1000 point tournament list I had only four models to deploy. They were resilient, yes... they were fast, yes... they carried great weapons, yes... and that's why I could only manage to get four of them. Meanwhile I'm looking at the enemy's Devastator Squads, or units of Necron Destroyers, or big, fat Death Squad (or whatever they call them in Blood Angel language), or the carpet of Imperial Guard covering the table. Lascannons and missile launchers and plasma guns all over the place. Four vehicles are not hard to crack under those circumstances, and every time one went down I'd lose as much as 220 points and a ~150 point squad inside would either suffer casualties or remain pinned.

Nobody calls you cheesy when they crack open all your vehicles and pin the passengers. They only call you cheesy when they don't realize they can deep strike behind and pop the vehicles in the butt (armor 10, you know), or if they forget to shoot the vehicle that got stunned last turn (so you can get that penetrating hit instead of just the glance) or they fail to take any fast units of their own (Land Speeders with meltaguns are the bane of my army's existence), or... or... or...

Anyhow. I'm sure I was going somewhere with this. Maybe I'll finish the thought another time. Off to play...


The Book Of Lost Battle Reports

I had to cut a lot of the pictures out of this report because I'm moving about 100 MB of data every few hours and killing my server. Sorry, guys!

I am very, very far behind in reporting all I have to report in terms of battles and matches. I think I'm behind by about 10 games. Oops. Sorry, everyone.

I was at the Hall Of Heroes Warhammer 40,000 tournament where 22 players gathered at the St. Laurent Shopping Mall to play at the Games Workshop Battle Bunker on (I think it was) 11 tables. I knew most of the attendees and I have to say that they were all great guys and I enjoyed the entire thing.

First up at the tournament was my battle with a great guy named Dave Moser (I think his name is Dave). He had just started an Eldar Alaitoc army and painted it the night before the tournament. Talk about resolve. The guy is a machine. He wasn't a really experienced Eldar player (first game with his army was against me), so I kinda smoked him... but he got some great hits in and, man, he taught me some respect for scatter lasers. I'd always been rather down on them because I don't like the bad AP and the fact that you can easily roll a handful of snake-eyes... but Moser taught me that when you have six of them mounted on War Walkers that you can also roll really damn well.

(Errata: It's Chris Moser, not Dave Moser)

Next up was Brent (known on Deep Space as Tickron the Ancient). This was a great game. I had four vehicles on the table and within the first couple turns he cracked three of them. That was bad news and I really had to scrape to get back into some position of advantage. My Striking Scorpions earned their points back (and more) by crawling out of the Wave Serpent wreckage and kicking all ass. They slashed one unit down and then consolidated into the next. Meanwhile the Farseer and Banshees did their thing while my Falcon tore in the enemy deployment zone (it was a game of Recon). This is a game that ended in a Massacre (in my favor) but we didn't know until the last minute which way it would go. Hell of an adrenaline rush.

You'll also notice my little "Tournament Kit", consisting of my cell phone, coffee, dice, measuring tape and my booklet that included the printed fluff and my army list. Everyone told me it looked like a menu from a diner. Bastards.

After Tickron was the formidible Dave Yu, also known as Fallen Angel. This is an opponent I'm actually afraid of; he knows his rules, has tons of experience and is a very clear thinker on the battlefield. I played an extremely cautious game (which, for me, is very counter-intuitive) and spent the whole game staying out of the way of his terrifying Devastator Squad. I picked him off a bit at a time and did take a few casualties, but in the end I eked out a minor victory and, for me, that was much more than expect.

Last up was the game which, if I'd won, might have given me the Best General award (not that I mind not getting it... it went to Dave Yu, and he deserved it). It was me against Dennis, aka Matt Varnish. This is a guy who knows how to play and has painstakingly created an army of Squats (yes, Squats), thus setting the stage for the ultimate Dwarf vs. Elf grudge match.

Dennis is, by far, the most relaxed, easy-going player I've ever faced off against. Crisp enough to know how to keep it fun, but flexible in all the right ways.

Oh, and he beat me. Bad. And when I say "bad" I don't mean it as in "bad", but more like "whipped me with his belt until I cried like a bitch".

But what a great game. Good photos, too.

I've had several games aside from the tournament as well. I tested my list out a few times before the Hall Of Heroes day, and got some great tips from other experienced players. I played against Marty and Alex a few days before and learned several things (like ditch the jet bikes until the new codex). Here are some of the pics...

As usual, Marty played with attention and care, but I think the big chunk of terrain in the middle of the table put him at a disadvantage, so I ended up smoking him like salmon. Still, he gave me some great advice after on how to tweak my list and, even more importantly, stop worrying about doing it "right" and just make the list I like.

One way I managed to tell that my army was not, in fact, unbeatable was by playing Alex's Tau. He slapped the freaking taste out of my mouth and left me with my pants down for the entire game. What is interesting, though, is that we played 1000 points, six turns, in under 40 minutes. He knows his rules well, I know mine, and we're familiar with each other's... so we really toreass through the game. And it was a lot of fun (even though he whooped me). It did cement my decision to remove the bikes from my tournament list though.

I also got a chance to play against a really terrific guy, whose name is Dalton (aka Dman). He put his Space Marines up against my list and though I won it was a narrow victory. These games helped me to trust that my list was a fair one (one strong win, one strong loss and one narrow in was enough to convince me that anything could happen... which is what I wanted).

Before the tournament became a matter requiring my attention, I got a few interesting games in over the span of a few weeks. One of my favorites was against Bill (aka Quint'Aan) which happened, interestingly, on his 31st birthday. I did give him my shredded ass as a birthday present, btw, and he seemed to be happy to take it. Bill plays Chaos and I have faced off against him several times before, but... never against his Hell Talon - a Forgeworld Chaos flyer which, to put it briefly, rains a storm of flaming shit on everything in its way and makes you beg for mercy. That flyer really tore me to shreds. To be honest, I just couldn't get a foothold in this game. I did try, but lost several key elements early on, bad reserve rolls and dodgy deployment all accounted for a well-earned win on Bill's side.

I'll just have to make sure I play against him on MY birthday and see if he reciprocates.

I also got two decent mega-battles in recently. One was against Dave (Ravenblackwolf) and Stu (Stuby). It was sort of a last-minute thing, and I ended up being paired with Ryan (Manchester, who you might remember as the Thousand Sons player who pasted me a few months ago). We did win this game, Ryan and I, but a nod has to go to Ian (Shas'o Siur) who subbed for me in the last two turns when I had to take an important phone call, so he deserves some of the laurels as well. It was a great game... dig Stu's supercool Tau flyer (didn't tear me up as much as the Hell Talon did, but it was still scary).

Notice also what we called the Chaos Apple. I don't know how it ended up there, but whatever.

One last report involves me and Alex (the guy who whooped me, mentioned above) playing against Moser and Dennis (before Moser got his Eldar army). So it was Tau and Eldar vs. Squats and Imperial Guard (which work the same way). This was a killer of a game; every last win was hard-earned and even though I think we won this one (I don't recall) it could have gone either way. I like playing with and against all of the guys who were in this game, so I consider it a good one. Man, it was tough, though... I'll go after those Guard, particularly the Squats, with more care in the future.