Posts Tagged Warhammer 40000

“Oh god, it’s so unnecessary!”

So, over the weekend the new sixth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was released for pre-order by Games Workshop.

My initial reaction was ‘nice cover art’, and then the rather major issue of the price tag intruded noisily into my consciousness.

Be fair, I’m surprised that GW didn’t just make the book £50, what with it being price-riding season again over in Lenton, but no, this weighty 452-page volume is a snip at a mere £45.

But the question must be asked, do we really want to pay forty-five of our Earth Pounds for a wargaming rulebook?

Admittedly, two years ago I shelled out the same amount of money for the eighth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, so I’m not judging anyone, but since the summer of 2010 two things have happened: 1) I became a father and as such now have only a pitiful allowance to support my plastic crack habit so that we might feed and clothe my infant daughter; and 2) I’ve encountered the products of quite a few other games, including their much, much, much cheaper rulebooks.

This isn’t a price rant, I have no sympathy for those who seem genuinely affronted that a large, international , publicly traded corporation should behave like the business it actually is. I know that this is an expensive hobby, but really, really, £45 just for the rulebook?

I’m sure that the book is exquisitely well produced, generously illustrated and presented in full colour throughout its 452 pages and from that point of view it is probably well worth the price tag. But are those really the attributes we want in a gaming rulebook? Don’t we just want something that will tell us the rules and that won’t drag us down when we are trudging through the snow to and from games?

Games Workshop have a justified reputation for pushing the envelope in terms of what it is possible to provide to the wargaming customer – usually in the form of ever larger and more elaborate kits for us to buy. But in this case I have to wonder if they are pushing the limits of the possible in an entirely inappropriate direction. I’m not sure there is anyone out there who genuinely decides what tabletop game to take up based on the sumptuousness of the rulebooks.

Given that future 40k Codices are probably going to follow the route taken by Warhammer Armies books and go all swanky and hardcover, WFB and 40k gamers are going to have a lot of weight to cart around, and very little of it will be all that relevant once to have minis on the table and the dice have started to clatter. Pretty pictures are all very well, but the primary purpose of a rule book is to tell us the rules, not to allow us to dazzle our friends and colleagues with the production values of said book.

In contrast, for the price of the new 40k rulebook I can purchase both the new Dropzone Commander rulebook from Hawk Wargames and the new edition of Firestorm Armada from Spartan Games, and still have some change left over to get some actual toys. Admittedly, neither book will be as elaborate as the 40k book, but I can be confident that they will tell me the rules of the respective games.

And again, I will have some spare cash left for toys, and surely that’s the point. Companies sell game rules as a means of encouraging us to buy miniatures. As if GW are now charging us so much for rules that there’s nothing left for the shiny then something has clearly gone wrong.

As for the Collector’s Edition, all I can do is echo the words of Homer J Simpson when confronted by a talking astrolabe in Tis the Fifteenth Season – “Oh god, it’s so unnecessary!” I’m sure it’s very spangly, but paying twice the price won’t make the rules any clearer, stop them becoming obsolete any quicker, or make the coffee and BBQ sauce stains disappear. And I doubt Fiona Bruce and the team from Antiques Roadshow will ever be clucking with barely contained excitement over a wargaming rulebook someone found in the attic. Of course, maybe this can be taken as a sign that gaming is becoming part of the mainstream, which has been using ‘collectors edition’ to mean something pointlessly ostentatious. I just hope the bragging rights are worth the extra forty quid.

Maybe this is all part of an attempt by GW to position themselves as being at the ‘prestige’ or ‘premium’ end of the market. Maybe they are trying to portray themselves as Marks and Spenser’s compared to Mantic’s Asda. Personally, I’ll stick with the mid-range Sainsbury’s of Spartan and Hawk.

I talked in my last blog post  about how I was taking the change in editions as an opportunity to finally break from 40k and GW in general, and seeing the book has not changed my view. It’s not simply the money, it’s that I no longer feel I get the return for my investment in terms of value and enjoyment. Other games just don’t make buying and collecting quite so much of a chore and don’t give the same sense of pressure to keep buying more and bigger stuff no matter what. I look forward to a life free from the frustration and anxiety of wondering when (if ever) my army’s codex will be redone.

So, I think it’s so long to 40k for me. A few books and toys I know I will never use have already gone on eBay. The Brazen Angels will probably end up being a cool painting project I will dip into now and then.

I have the rulebooks for Dropzone Commander and the new edition of Firestorm Armada on the way, plus I still have the new version of Dystopian Wars to get to grips with and I have managed to get hold of a full pdf of the Heavy Gear Blitz rules. I shall have plenty of cool gaming stuff to read without having to worry about the 40k rulebook.

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Screw this, I’m out of here!

So, the big buzz amongst my fellow Warmongers on Twitter today revolves around the latest GW news. First off, there are the leaked images of the forthcoming Space Marine, Ork and Necron aircraft for Warhammer 40,000. Most of the talk is about who does and does not like the new Storm Talon gunship for the Space Marines. I personally think it has some strengths, in this is clearly inspired more by helicopter gunships rather than fixed wing aircraft the way the Storm Raven is and it does look interestingly futuristic. That said, the weapons do look cumbersome and over sized and like they were bolted on as an after thought. I will wait until I can see a better image than a scan of a magazine page before I make final judgement.

The bigger news – in the eyes of many – is the news that price rises are imminent from GW. Details are sketchy at the moment, though some rumours suggest that some kits (like the aforementioned Storm Raven) could go up by as much as 25% – though the average price rise should be much less than that.

I’m not going to launch into a rant about Games Workshop and their pricing policy, for what would be the point? I know I’m not qualified to provide any kind of worthwhile analysis of the financial implications and I have no desire to throw my lot in with whiners and haters and the sort of people who seem to think it’s unreasonable for a business to act as such. But this still unwelcome news.

As mentioned in a relatively recent blog post, I have been becoming more well disposed to Games Workshop in recent months, after having been turned off them by last year’s price rises. I had started to paint up by Brazen Angels Space Marines again, and I even succumbed to temptation and splashed out on some of Forge World’s excellent MK IV Marines to use as a unit of Sternguard Veterans. I was even thinking of starting an additional army, to compliment my Brazen Angels, but that plan might now need a rethink.

This is a hard hobby sometimes, it requires us to balance our hobby against all our other commitments, work family and all our other interests, just to get our toys built and painted and read our rules, let alone to play any games. Paying over the odds is another thing to make the hobby just that bit more difficult.

My fellow Twitter Warmonger @TheBlueHeretic (aka Ryan) expressed it thusly:

I’m thinking this is the year GW prices itself out of my reach. Not Doom & Gloom, or rage quitting, just realization I’m not made of money. A price increase, plus a new edition of 40k (new rules, new models needed to counter new tactics), means unhappy wallet. Not going to decide on it right now, but it is a distinct possibility. Then again, its not like I play much anyways.

I had been drifting back to 40k. I had been won around by so many excellent Black Library books and some cool new model releases. I was even thinking of painting up another Space Marine army using some of the cool new Forgeworld Marines and Terminators and the new Storm Talon gunship. But Ryan’s words crystallized in my head all the reasons why this is not a good idea.

A new edition of 40k is imminent, it will probably be presented in a sumptuous rulebook that will have to be paid for in diamonds and platinum. Every player will then have to go through the traditional period of optimization when they have to tweak their army to gel with the new rules – maybe retiring some models in favour of other unit choices, maybe bringing a little-used troop type out of the depths of the cupboard. Then will come the march of the new codices, new troop types, new models, more changes. It’s a lot of work and potentially a lot of money.

And the thing is, I just don’t think it’s worth it.

Games Workshop are very good at making you want their stuff. Their models are arguably the best in the industry and their background is one of the most compelling – that’s how they were tempting me back. Spartan’s models are fantastic, but there’s something just a bit more visceral about toy soldiers compared to model ships. But the models cost, and so do the books, and more than any company, a GW army is never finished and as time goes on there will always be new models to be sandwiched in and rules changes that mean you have to recompose or enlarge your army. There’s little question that GW are aiming to have gamers playing ever larger battles so they can fit in the growing number of cool super-monsters, mega-tanks, aircraft and other super units. I have never felt the same pressure to buy toys for the other games I collect for that I have for GW games.

So, yeah, I think I’m done. And if this cause me any anguish it’s because GW will always be what got me into this hobby and will always be one of my favourite fictional universes and dabbling with their games if like a familiar comfy coat, or a security blanket to ward of the frighten unknowns of the gaming world. Plus, as the market leader they do dominate the gaming scene and Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars will have to pick up a bit if I want to get a game in the local clubs.  Part of me wants to finish painting up the 2000 points of Brazen Angels I still have cluttering up the study, though that might be a futile endeavour. That said, painting is fun in itself and I like painting Marines. Otherwise, I will start getting my Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars stuff sorted. I have two fleet for each and only a fraction of them is painted.

Maybe, in the future, something will come along to scratch my 28/30mm itch – maybe Privateer Press will finally release their long promised sci-fi game. Maybe my fellow Warmongers will convince me of the virtues of Warmahordes yet. Or maybe I will turn to the ways of the 10mm game and give Dropzone Commander a try (though I’m buying an Odin Attack craft just to paint whatever happens).

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A Lasgun By Any Other Name.

Recently my eye was caught by the previews of the upcoming Corporation Marines for Mantic Games’ sci-fi wargame Warpath.

I’ve generally regarded Mantic miniatures as being okay quality wise, but nothing to write home about. But these new figures actually really impressed me. Nicely detailed and futuristic enough without going over the top.

Corporation Marines

That said, they won’t help with some people’s perception that Warpath is just a stripped-down version of Warhammer 40,000. There’s no denying that the Corporation Marines look quite a bit like Imperial Guard. The helmets in particular are very reminiscent of the Elysian Drop Troops. And there’s no ignoring the very ‘lasgun’ looking barrels on the rifle. That said, there are clearly other influences. I think we can be reasonably sure that when the headgear of the elite Rangers was being designed, someone had the Spartans from the Halo video games in mind.

Corporation Ranger

Of course that will be a good thing in the view of quite a few people. I’m sure that lots of people on seeing the previews immediately began thinking through the practicalities of doing a proxy Imperial Guard army for 40k using these models.

It wouldn’t be a perfect solution. Any such army would be quite restricted, at least until Mantic release more Corporation models (whenever that might be) An army built up this way would be limited to lascannon and autocannon for heavy weapons teams, power fists for sergeants and whichever of the three special weapons in the box most closely match the Imperial equivalents. Not crippling restrictions to be sure, but harder than some people will be happy with. On the plus side, there will be Ranger and Veteran kits that would be good for Storm Troopers or grenadiers and there is nothing about the figures that would clash with the standard Imperial vehicle kits. Though Scout Sentinels might need some conversion so that the pilots match the rest of your force.

Major General

That said. If you want to save money on your poor bloody infantry, you could certainly do that with these models. £24.99 for 20 figures comes in a fair what below the £36.00 that twenty Cadian Shock Troops would set you back. Meanwhile the Army Set gets you forty infantry and three weapon teams for £15 less than a Imperial Guard Battleforce box. That’s a lot of extra guys and you’re saving enough to buy the Sentinel separately if you want it.

Heavy Weapons Teams

Of course, a proxy armies will exclude you from some tournaments and most likely from playing in GW store. But that may be a price many players would be willing to play in order to make playing as the Imperial Guard more affordable.  And I’m sure a few people will just like the opportunity to do an army that isn’t Cadians or Catachans (or incredibly expensive collector-models). And you will always have the option of playing Warpath with the minis as well.

So some interesting stuff from Mantic and I’m sure a lot of us will be watching how the range develops.

 

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Making Peace

Caito recently posted an interesting article over on the Shell Case:

Scratching That Itch.

Apart from demonstrating the urgent need for an intervention to stop Caito collecting yet another Space Marine army, this article makes some good points.

There isn’t much point holding a grudge against Games Workshop. It won’t make anyone feel any better and it prevents you appreciating those things that they do well. Resenting price increases won’t magically undo them and I have no desire to throw my lot in with the sort of people who seem to resent the idea that a business should seek to make a profit, or the people who are convinced that all Games Workshop employees are secretly trying to sabotage destroy the company from within.

Like Caito I have been tempted to do another 40k army. Imperial Guard in my case, though the new Necron stuff is also very shiny. Thus far I’ve resisted because I have had ships to buy for Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars and I know that I only have so much cash to splash. I’ve now decided to hold a moratorium on buying new toys until I can reduce my backlog of unpainted models so there will be no new armies any time soon. But I do still have my Brazen Angel Space Marines to finish, and I would actually quite like to play at least a few games with them.

Of course by the time the army is painted. 6th edition may have come out and I will have to do a lot of thinking about whether to upgrade my rule book. It will probably depend on my financial situation at the time and wow likely I am to be able to get a game. Certainly, the idea of laying out what will probably be a not-inconsiderable sum for another back-breaking tome of rules and fluff does not thrill me. Perhaps it would be wiser to wait for the starter set and get the mini-book and sell on any unwanted minis. I’ve not paid much attention to the rumours about sixth edition as I have enough stress in my life without exposing my self to that level of internet fan-rage.

Of course. I am now quite happily invested with my toys from Spartan, but I’ve not found much else that grabbed me the way 40k did. Warmachine came closest but I just don’t like the models enough and there’s no faction that makes me want to buy and play them as much as some of the 40k, FA and DW ones did. Dust Tactics briefly held my interest but I’m not sure that’s for me either. I will keep an eye out for news of Level 7 from Privateer Press though asi t could be good.

It was not simply the prices that frustrated me about GW, but I felt that I wasn’t getting value of a kind that I wanted. Objectively, the £50 hardback rulebooks with their sumptuous colour illustrations and exhaustive background sections might broadly be worth the cost, but I do wonder if they are fit for purpose as a wargaming rule book that you have to cart around with you. Similarly,  I sometimes feel like a lot the price of a new plastic box set is going on kibble rather than important components. Games Workshop have always tried to push the envelope in terms of the quality of their products but I do feel a lot of the time that they are pushing it far beyond what a lot of gamers actually require. Or to put it another way, just because modern sculpting technology allows you to produce a model that looks like a John Blanche  sketch in 3D doesn’t mean you should (I’m looking at you Vampire Coven Throne).

So, while my hard line rejection has softened to a more open minded ‘never say never’ point of view for the time being I’ll stick with what I’ve got, but once I’ve caught up with my painting, if I feel that I have enough spaceships and steampunk warships I might feel tempted to venture back to the grim darkness of the far future. Perhaps with the Imperial Guard, or perhaps by then there will be shiny new Tau or Eldar Codexes to dazzle me with their Xenos hyper-technology. Alternatively, perhaps some other game will be unveiled that will make we want to buy a million shiny things from elsewhere.

But we shall see.

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Infinite Variety

The rumours about the upcoming Chaos Legions Codex for Warhammer 40,000 has got me thinking. As I observed in my previous post, the challenge with this codex will be to incorporate sufficient options into a single list to allow the different characteristics and distinct troop types of the nine original Traitor Legions to be fielded while still allowing a balanced and flexible list.

It remains to be see if this is an achievable goal, but I am currently hoping that the GW Studio can do it without having to resort too much to variant lists.

I have a deep dislike of variant lists, either within a Codex – such as those in the 3.5 edition Chaos Codex – or added in supplementary material – such as those included in the the ‘Index Astartes’ articles that GW published in White Dwarf about ten years ago. I have several objections to the use of variant lists. The first is simply that they are often not as well play-tested as the parent list as as such often not as well balanced – often resulting in overpowered builds.

More importantly though, I think variant lists are too often based on a fairly narrow interpretation of a sub-faction’s background and character. Often picking up on one characteristics and exaggerating it or being based on popular stereotypes about a certain faction. This has the effect of further reinforcing those stereotypes. The most obvious example is the ‘all bikes, all the time’ interpretation of the White Scars Space Marine Chapter. Until the 5th edition codex provided a timely reminded that the White Scars are in fact a Codex Chapter, comprising largely of Battle Companies they were widely regarded in the popular imagination as being an all-bike force and White Scar players who fielded bike-light forces were regarded as not following the fluff, when really they were showing respect for the full extent of the fluff beyond the lazy stereotype that had been encouraged. Similarly, the issue of whether it is ‘fluffy’ to include units other than Wraith Guard and Wraith Lords in an Iyanden Craftworld depends very much on how strongly the ‘only construct troops’ stereotype has been inculcated with you and your local gaming group.

The flip side of this is that parent lists are often inappropriately restricted in order to allow the variant lists to have some justification and identity. It is only since the 5th edition Codex for example that Space Marine Chapters other than the White Scars ever got to really use their bike companies. Similarly, in the previous Chaos Codex, only the Iron Warriors had access to the Vindicator, despite that having been a design in use since the Great Crusade.

I don’t want to be dismissive of the important distinctions of history, tradition and character that exist between different Chaos Legions, Ork Clans, Eldar Craftworld and Space Marine Chapters. But I think that quite often the question needs to be asked whether these differences translate into differences that are meaningful on the tabletop and genuinely demand a separate list, and whether appropriate rules can be allocated that reflect the background. For example, which the Imperial Fists have a long and illustrious history and a distinct character, but I’m not convinced that anything in that translates into anything that should set them apart on the tabletop from the Ultramarines, and I don’t think that giving them the ‘Tank Hunters’ rule appropriately reflects their tradition of expert siege craft.

So my position is basically that variant army lists should be avoided. If a sub-army is genuinely different enough it should be developed into a full Codex. Otherwise it should be reflected in the core army list.

Of course, at the moment the only variant armies that currently have their own Codexes are Space Marine Chapters. I know this is a controversial fact in some quarters. I understand the frustration of non-Imperial players that so much attention is lavished on the Space Marines, though it is a common aspect of all science fiction and fantasy literature that the human faction(s) are much more fully explored than the aliens – though that might be because the humans are more usually the protagonists.

To be fair, the Space Marines do lend themselves to breaking down into multiple Codexes, as in contrast to other factions at large in the grim darkness of the far future a Space Marine Chapter represents a relatively small, distinct, insular and rigidly organised force. In contrast, even the Imperial Guard represents a much more heterogeneous and diverse organisation and an army could even be a fusion of the remnants of several defunct regiments from several different worlds. Similarly an Eldar Craftworld probably commands significantly greater resources than a single Space Marine Chapter, but warhosts are probably assembled and organised in in much more ad hoc manner than the Astartes. So it is possible to create codex lists which define the resources of a specific Space Marine Chapter in a way that isn’t really possible for other forces as there is much more room for variation and exceptions in other factions.

The GW design studio have done a fairly good job in recent years in developing what makes ‘non-Codex’ chapters distinct and making sure that the army lists are genuinely different enough to make each Codex just about worth the extra £20 you have to shell out. The challenge of the next year or so will be to see if GW can develop a new Dark Angel Codex that is the equal of the recent Space Wolf and Blood Angel Codexes.

I know that some people have expressed the view that individual Chapters should not have their own Codexes and should be folded back into a single book. This seems like a backward step to me and I think this overlooks both the extent of the work done to differentiate the non-Codex Chapters, and exactly how long some of the varient rules have existed – many of them actually date back to First Edition.

I understand the frustration of players with armies other than Space Marines. There is, strictly speaking, nothing to stop GW developing – for example – specific Eldar Craftworld Codexes, but this would require quite a lot of distinctive background to be developed from whole cloth (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The difficulty will not be identifying what – again for example – a Biel Tan army should have, but why other Craftworlds can’t have the same things, and what Biel Tan cannot have to balance out their advantages. From a more practical point of view, it might also be logistically more difficult to supply the models for an alternative Eldar army as it would require more than a new set of specialised accessories to add to existing models.

Ork Clans could be approached in a similar way, though there is the additional complication that an Ork Waaaaagh tends to be made up of a mixture of Clans, which takes us back to a single list that can be used to represent either a single clan force or a mixture. The question ultimately would be if – for example – a Bad Moonz only army would have access to units that Bad Moonz would not deploy when fighting alongside other Clans.

This is a tricky question that impacts on how GW develop their range of armies and army Codex books. At present I think they are proceeding on about the right course, sticking to a single Codex except where a sub-army is well developed enough to justify an whole separate Codex. I will be interested to see how GW handle things in the upcoming Chaos Legions book, and whether they will convince me that there is a third way between these approaches.

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40k Rumour Grumble

Check out Caito’s latest post about the rumours regarding an upcoming new edition of Warhammer 40,000.

40k Rumour Grumble.

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Wolves and Scorcerers

The Horus Heresy series from Black Library has been around for a good few years now. This series has delved into the history of the 40k universe and revealed details of events that have previously only been hinted at. I know that not all of it has gone down well with everyone. I know some people have complained that it contradicts existing canon, but existing cannon was ridden with contradictions anyway. And as with the Star Wars prequels I wonder how much of this because it contradicts canon or merely contradicts people’s interpretations of canon.

Two of the most interesting books in the series so far have been A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeil and Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett. These books were written in cooperation (though the release of Prospero Burns was delayed due to Dan Abnett’s unfortunate illness). Each is written from the point of view of one of the two sides of the Battle of Prospero, and delves into the motivations and mindset of those involved. They also cast an interesting new light on what led to the conflict.

The biggest thing to take away from A Thousand Sons is how Magnus and his legion were lead innocently into ever deeper extremes of psychic sorcery. The Emperors refusal to disclose knowledge of the Warp and Chaos to his Primarchs created the perfect environment for those same forces of Chaos to exploit the pride and naivety  of the Thousand Sons by leading them to study depths of warpcraft that the Imperium could never accept. It’s easy to understand the attitude of the Thousand Sons towards the suspicion they are held in, as they are being lulled into a false sense of security about their abilities and the potential consequences of employing them. Ultimately, it seems Legion is neither particularly traitorous or particularly corrupt until the machinations of Chaos are complete and they are confronted with the nature of what they have bound themselves to and forced over the moral event horizon.

In contrast Prospero Burns shows how the suspicion of Russ and the Space Wolves is in turn being stoked by Chaos in a series of complicated schemes and deceptions, helping ensure a final confrontation between the two legions. The most interesting revelation of the two books in how deep the machinations of Chaos run in paving the way to engineering the Horus Heresy and the destruction of the Imperium. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that beings living outside the normal rules of space and time should play the long game and it’s interesting to see the daemons of Chaos getting involved directly rather than the mortal followers of Chaos taking charge of masterminding the whole galactic conflagration.

I think it’s important to read both books, otherwise you might not appreciate the full effect and the extent to which a grand game of manipulation is being played out, aimed at having two of the Emperor’s Legions destroy each other. You need to read A Thousand Sons to understand the full tragedy of Magnus and his Legion and you need to read Prospero Burns to understand the Space Wolves and that they are more than savages and hypocrites.

A few commentators complained that the protagonist of Prospero Burns not being an Astartes, but I think that misses the whole point of the character, to provide an outsiders view point of the Space Wolves. Also the revelation of the extent that the character’s life has been manipulated by the ruinous powers for the purposes of in turn manipulating Russ simply wouldn’t work with an Astartes character.

There are some very powerful moments in both books. Magnus’ attempt to defy the trap he has fallen into and his willingness to sacrifice himself and his legion in penitence, which ultimately breaks down. Russ’ being deceived into thinking he had given Magnus every chance to surrender. The sequence in which Magnus inadvertently destroys the Emperor’s most secret project it also a gripping few pages. There are also the traditional cameos from characters familiar from mainstream 40k, in these cases Ahriman and Bjorn – a very rare case of a familiar character being a loyalist, rather than a traitor. There is also the unresolved mystery of the Thousand Sons’ fleet sent away by Magnus, the cryptic reference to a “raven of blood” and the open question of whether there are wolves on Fenris.

Overall, I would definitely recommend these two books, though as I said before, they should definitely be read together. The Thousand Sons ultimately do come across as tragic figures, but in a way, so do the Space Wolves.

If people like this brief review, I might take a look at some other books in the Horus Heresy series.

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