Starcannon Guilt

Regarding my recent USF games again Christian: I was feeling really rotten about filling up on Star Cannons. After a few days of thinking about it I'm not sure I do anymore.

See, USF is rife with disadvantages and brings only a few advantages to the table in return. You start with half your army off the table, even if the opponent doesn't. If a unit breaks you can never regroup. You cannot take Wave Serpents, Falcons, Fire Prisms, Wraithlords or Wraithguard. You must take a Seer Council whether you want to or not. You can't take more than one Aspect Warrior unit.

That's a lot of checks in the "Con" column. Those of you who know me will know that USF negates most of my most ubiquitous strategies. In fact, most Eldar in general would struggle under the abovementioned constraints.

The good things are: You get BS4 (or WS4) on all your Guardians, you can take an expensive and not-real-useful HQ unit called Spear of Khaine, and you can take the crappiest of the Phoenix Lords without your opponent's permission.

I don't really feel as though the checks in the "Pro" column match the checks in the "Con". Am I complaining? Hell, no. I like this army. I play it mainly for the fluff, but also for the challenge. Nothing tests your ability to adapt and create good strategies better than having your favorite tricks taken away. I'm really enjoying it.

That being said, I always feel as though I'm playing at a disadvantage when I'm doing USF. I always feel like it's playing with a handicap. There are many enemy tactics and, indeed, some armies altogether than USF simply can not counter, no matter what. Always you leave every battle bleeding and scraped up. Every other army I know could possibly tool up to at least get a nice, fair chance in any given situation against any other army. USF just doesn't have that.

As a result, I've decided not to beat myself up over loading up on Starcannons. I haven't got Banshees to carve up Power Armor. I haven't got a Falcon to flank and fire seven or more S6 shots a turn. I haven't got any Fire Dragons with which to pop Marines open with. I have got relatively little with which to hit the enemy where it hurts. I'm playing with one hand tied behind my back (granted: by choice) where the enemy has no such restrictions.

I will always build a nice, balanced army where I can, but... I've also decided that I have so little to work with that I'm going to use whatever I can to keep my army from taking a bee-line march to the dead pile.

We'll see if I still feel this way after a few games.


Golf Course Of Doom

My Ulthwe Strike Force against Christian's Necrons on my giant playing table that kinda looks like the Jack Nicholaus Open. 1500 points: First game was Seek & Destroy, and I won. Second was Recon, and I won that as well.

Trotted out the War Walkers and used them instead of Dark Reapers. I just wanted to try it. First game I loaded them with Bright Lances (though there was no Monolith, so that sucked) and the second game I loaded them up with Starcannons (and there was a Monolith, but it didn't suck because... hey, Starcannons).

I'm going to just go ahead and admit it: I cheesed out on the Starcannons. I didn't notice that I was doing it because it was a list I'd been tweaking for days and the little buggers just "crept" into the roster. Christian is a good sport and didn't give me any hassles, but maybe next time I won't take 11 Starcannons in a 1500 point list (I am a bad, bad man).

The real heroes of the day, however, were the Seer Council. I have really hit my stride with that particular unit and have gotten used to using them as the tip of my military spear. I really like them because not only will they pack a powerful punch in their own right, but having them on the tabel adds to other units' effectiveness and longevity. It's interesting to use a unit whose effectiveness, because of the psychic powers such as Guide and Fortune, isn't measured in how many points they kill in a game.

Watching the Seer Council slice open the Monolith was a thing of beauty, by the way.

Anyhow, here are some pics:

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By the way, when I finally get my Seer Council completely painted then pics like this are going to be just so much more striking. Don't you think?


More Dark Eldar

I'm continuing to work on this Dark Eldar army for which I have no concept of the rules whatsoever. I really must read the codex at some point.

I've come across some more bitz (as this army is one I make from spare parts; don't want to buy anything new if I can help it) and, as I've said before, bitz means Warriors. I've got a nice pile of little plastic pieces that I'm going to turn into Frankeneldar soon.

Just letting you know I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth or, even worse, left 40k for Heroclix or something.


Things that make me go "WTF?"

Once in a long while I hear something about complaints from enthusiastic Christians regarding the satanic imagery in Warhammer 40k (and I imagine Warhammer Fantasy as well). I think the idea is that certain Chaos or Dark Eldar armies wear skulls and other evil glyphs and include demons and so-on. Now, I'm not an enemy of Christians in general and I don't mean to beat down on anyone's religious beliefs, but here's the thing: The way I remember the Bible, it says you aren't allowed to worship graven images and idols. In that light it seems just plain weird to me that you should, however, fear them. In other words, don't worship them because they aren't an embodiment of God and, therefore, your worship is misdirected upon something unworthy. These same idols and graven images (which, incidentally, are not intended for religious or spiritual context) are, however, just fine vessels for Satan and demons? If an lovingly-crafted statue of Jesus Himself is not a suitable recipient of worship then an inch-tall painted chunk of plastic isn't a suitable lightning rod for superstitious fear.


If you wanna play this game

I've often considered writing a newbie's guide to Warhammer 40,000, as writing about games is what I do for a living and I'm obviously excited about this one. I've held off, though, because there are people out there with ten, twenty or even more years behind them as 40k (or Rogue Trader) players and with only about two years of experience behind me I think I may not be able to offer what more seasoned players could.

That having been said, I'm going to offer a little bit of advice. This advice is intended for those of you who are just getting started; you've made a couple army lists, played a few games but are still trying to get your feet as a 40k player.

If you wanna play this game, don't play the numbers. Play the story. This is not to say that you should not field smart armies and not balance all the stat lines of various units so you have forces that support each other on the battlefield -- you have to do that in order to get from point A to point B. This is not to say you shouldn't memorize the statistics, learn the odds of various dice rolls and spend your army list points carefully. Go ahead and let your brain become a calculator. There's nothing wrong with that.

Even so, let me repeat: Don't be a slave to the numbers. Don't just play the odds. Don't focus on the math. Play the story. Play the characters. Play the mythology. Let your armies develop not as a list of high numbers and macho stat-lines, but as a living, breathing force with personality and history and context. You don't have to write 100 page of fluff for your army or anything, but if you have a lot of one unit in your list and not many of another, come up with a story-related reason why. If you choose one sort of HQ over another, come up with a reason which has to do with something other than the stats. You don't have to write it down. Just know these things.

Don't pick an army because they're the best and hardest to beat. Pick the Eldar because they're mystical and weave psychic powers into their warfare. Pick the Imperial Guard because they're gritty dog-faced soldiers with the heaviest armor in the universe. Pick the Space Marines because they're the most hardened, elite warriors in the Imperium and are the tip of the Emperor's military spear. Pick Tyranids because they are a savage, teeming horde of killers that function on instinct instead of reason and do not understand what mercy or pity are. Pick your army because it's cool, not because it's tough. Pick your army because you're in love with what they are and what they do.

If you play the game as if it's math then one day soon you will get bored with it. The constant processing of numbers and statistics will eventually numb you, and the models will no longer appeal to you as anything other than simple place-holders.

So when you're looking at your army lists and trying to figure out how to make them more exciting, more interesting, more potent, don't fall into the trap of thinking that more Terminators, Carnifexes or Wraithlords will make the game more enjoyable for you. You might catch a quick rush from steamrolling your enemy for a couple games, but there's nowhere to go from there. Instead, create a mythology, a pantheon, a context and a history. Put choices in your army which make it lusher, more flavorful, more interesting.

The real appeal of this game didn't occur to me until I learned to see it as a craft as well as a mathematical challenge. Warhammer 40k is both an art and a science. Make sure it's something you play and not something you merely calculate.

Oh. And don't take Shining Spears. They suck.

Phoenix Lords

I've converted and modeled ten Dark Eldar warriors: Two Sibarites, three heavy weapon guys (with Splinter Cannons... can Warriors carry Splinter Cannons? I probably should have checked on that) and the rest are just basic Warriors. There's lots of painting left to do, but.. I'll be getting around to it.

Before I do, however, I may want to take a quick trip back to Regular Old Eldar and paint up some Phoenix Lords I bought today. I got Asurmen, Maugen Ra and Fuegan (and I already have Karandras). Though that's a fair amount of pewter to buy in one day, I sort of felt like I should do it ASAP, as the Phoenix Lords are now leaving the GW shelves and I want to make sure I have the models I want before they vanish altogether. While a lot of the older models in the 40k range don't do much for me, I really love those old Phoenix Lord models.

I chose Karandras because, when he's joined with a squad of Striking Scorpions, he is absolutely brutally dangerous to the enemy (he's also quite awesome when joined with a squad of Howling Banshees, by the way). Between his Suprise Assault ability (lending an extra attack on the charge) and his high leadership, he's a real monster.

Asurmen is an excellent choice because he's incredibly tough. When you're in base with him you can only hit him on a 6 and he has a 3+ invulnerable save and 3 wounds. In return he swings a mean Dire Sword and can tie up even the toughest units for a very long time.

I chose Fuegan because I have about 40 Fire Dragons that I will, in time, assemble into a single Biel Tan force and use him as the HQ. Seems like a logical choice, no?

Maugen Ra is also picked for his fluff, as I often play an Ulthwe Strike Force. As you may or may not know, an USF player can take Maugen Ra without his opponent's permission, and the Reaper-centric fluff makes that a good idea (fluff-wise). Thing is... Maugen Ra is one of the most useless HQ choices a guy can make. He fires a crappy gun with short range (even the base Dark Reaper has a much better chance of taking out power armor than this guy) and he's not so awesome in hand-to-hand that you'd want him around for that, either. He's definitely the scariest-looking model of the Phoenix Lords, but... the only reason I'd put him on the table is for the fluff.

Anyhow, here's hoping I get some good paint jobs out of these little buggers.


And So It Begins

Dark Elf meets Dark Eldar meets Eldar meets whatever other crap I can find. Not the best photos in the world, but hereyago:

Compare (just for interest) to the standard Games Workshop Dark Eldar Warrior that you get out of the box:

Anyhow, there'll be some more Dark Eldar coming out of my laboratory before long. I'm working on something kinda cool for the guy who carries the Splinter Cannon. I don't know how far I'm going to go with this, but I'll get photos up because, hey... that's what I do.


About converting Dark Eldar warriors

Get this: Guardian legs. Dark Elf torso head and left arm. Right arm of a guardian. Blade plucked off a Dark Elf lance. Old Eldar plastic fusion gun. Dire Avenger tabbard and four spikes taken off some dark elf weaponry.

Yeah. THAT'LL be really easy to make 20 of.

Dark Eldar

I played a game against Dark Eldar a while back and I found it to be a very educational experience. I already knew that if the Wytches touched down in the vicintity of my troops that said troops would get torn to shreds (btw: They did, and they did), but I learned a fair amount about what other models could do and gained a whole lot of respect for the savage beauty of that army. The problem, however, is that I'm not a fan of the models. I don't hate them outright, mind you, but they don't have the inspired look that you see in Eldar or Tau or Witch Hunters, etc. I don't think anyone would say that Dark Eldar are Games Workshop's proudest line of miniatures. I certainly wouldn't. On the other hand, I think the Dark Eldar Reaver Jetbike is a thing of gorgeousness. The photo doesn't do it justice, but when it's done right it's simply drop-dead beautiful.

I've decided to start a very low-key project of creating a Dark Eldar army. I've received a ton of cool bitz from various friends, including Dark Eldar bitz, Dark Elf bitz and old weapons like the old Eldar Fusion and Flamer Gun. I'm going to use these bits and pieces to create my own Dark Eldar army. See, I'm not really fond of Dark Eldar Warriors (the models, I mean), so I'm going to attempt to convert and bash together my own army.

I'll keep you updated, of course.

Autarch On Display

That Autarch I told you about is famous. He now lives in the conversion case at Games Workshop Bayshore, on display for all to see.

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm well aware that this doesn't make me the Michael Jordan of the Warhammer 40k world. I realize that this doesn't make me world class... or national class... or even one of the best in town. It was just a very nice nod to have my model sitting next to some truly inspired work (and paling in comparison to it, really). It made me feel good. That's all I really need to say about it. I'm honored by it and I wanted to say so.


Bring that turret, bitch

So we got a few photos here of the Firestorm turret I mentioned here. I need to put a magnet on the bottom so that I can affix it to any of the grav tanks I own, but otherwise it's close to or as good as done. Maybe a few highlights or something. Anyhow, this is my anti-aircraft mount and I kinda like it!

Firestorm 1
Firestorm 2
Firestorm 3
Firestorm 4
Firestorm 5
Firestorm 6
Firestorm 7

Basically, here's how I did it:
1. Take 8 scatter lasers to create a long-barreled gattling scatter laser turret (according to the VDR rules you have to model 4 of the guns for it to be considered "gattling" and, of course, they have to be long-barreled to count as long-barreled).
2. Cut them up and glue them together so they're 4 long scatter lasers instead of 8 short ones.
3. Take part of a Vyper jetbike and scrape out the intake/exhaust vents so you can slip the guns into those slots.
4. Notice that some guns are longer than others. Force yourself not to think about it.
5. Get the antenna from the Wave Serpent you're not using and glue it to the top.
6. Ditto with the crystal targeting matrix.
7. Base in black.
8. Paint stuff.
9. Curse self for not painting it before it was glued together.
10. ?????
11. Profit!!!


Like I don't have enough to do

I've decided to convert a Firestorm tank. There are a lot of people in the Ottawa area with flyers and I'm in need of something I can put on the battlefield that will take them out of commission. After getting pulverized by Bill's Hell Talon I've decided that I need something to hit back with. I'm not extremely crazy about the Forgeworld model because I like a lower, sleeker profile on the top of the Eldar Grav tanks, so I'm busy working on a conversion with four long-barreled Scatter Lasers and a Vyper that I'm taking apart to use as the turret. I've got a nice, sleek-looking turret that I think will look pretty good on the table and I can't wait to field it. I'm just waiting for some of the glue to dry and then we'll see what we can do about photos.

Meanwhile, if you live in the Ottawa area and you field a Flying machine in your army, I'm gonna be ready for you, you bastard.


Behold the Autarch

Crappy photo. Anyhow, for what it's worth:

Interesting. I just realized that his flag looks like acid-wash denim.


Sat down and did a little painting tonight.

I came up with three Fire Dragon schemes. Two of them rock. One of them sucks. Ok, so that's not a bad ratio. I must say that my freehand skills are really sharpening, which is cool.

Still stripping the Wraithguard and extra Dragons. Man, getting models *truly* cleaned up after they've been painted (badly) is a real headache. It's one reason I generally prefer to just buy them new if I can afford it.

I continued base-coating my Scorpion II. It was sprayed in white and now is washed in Space Wolves Grey, ready for the eight coats of white to follow. Then, it'll be officially primed and I can get to work on the actual painting!! *Grooaaannnnn...

What's really interesting is the little something I'm working on for Keith. I'm calling it an Autarch. Why is it an Autarch? Because I can't figure out what the heck else it could be. Made from the torso of a Shining Spear rider with the right arm of a Dark Elf holding a spear, the legs, right arm and grenades of a Defender Guardian, the backpack from an Anti-Grav Platform Crewman and a giant round toothpick in one hand which acts as a nice long flag pole (topped with a little sharp piece from the flag pole off a Jetbike). I've painted him in Keith's army colors (Alaitoc: Blue and yellow) and have really enjoyed painting Wraithbone for once (it looks lush and beautiful, to be honest). I've even given him a nice big flag. Made from paper, dappled in Shadow Grey, Enchanted and Regal Blue, carrying Alaitoc water transfers, I attached this flag to the flag pole and used layers of white glue to shape the thing so it looks as though it's hanging in curves and folds (instead of just a stiff square of paper). I'm obviously kinda proud of this... mainly because it's such an interesting mish-mash of elements that seemed to actually converge with some beauty.

I'll have photos soon enough.


Moving along...

I've been working on a few things at once lately.

I've got about 40 Fire Dragons I'm bringing along (very slowly, as you can tell). The main challenge with them is to paint them in interesting ways that don't drive me up the wall before I'm done. Thing is, I will likely paint them in four different schemes so they can be divided up into squads easily.

I've got 12 Dark Reapers that I'm pretty much finished with, but I have 3 more to do before I have the full compliment of 15 that are included in my Ulthwe Strike Force.

I've got one anti-grav platform and crew that I'll probably take a couple hours to finish off.

I have 9 Swooping Hawks that actually look really nice. The base coat is so lovely I don't even want to put anything else on top of it, but... I suppose I must. Basing them will be fun because I'm planning to put them on long stems so they are higher up than any other models (rather than the way Games Workshop has them set up where they look like they're standing on the ground, despite the fact they have these huge wings). I will either use the small flying bases or rig something up with wire. Not sure yet.

I'm slowly putting the finishing touches on my Seer Council; 4 Farseers, 4 Warlocks. It's mostly about making them gorgeous at this point, but it's a slow process and they're not really game ready until I get them there... so... plodding along.

I've got 10 Jetbikes that I'm working on, but they're a low priority for me. I'll probably do that when I'm out of other things to do.

I've got 9 Wraithguard that are stripped and waiting. Not sure what to do with them yet and, frankly, they're not my highest priority. I don't even have a really clever scheme thought up yet.

Lastly, I've got my Scorpion Mark II tank that I'm bringing along. It's primed, but barely touched otherwise. I'm less excited about working on it than you'd think.

Photos? Coming soon!