Monday, December 28, 2015

Review of 2015

Well it's been over a week (nearly two in fact) since I've posted for various reasons. A combination of frantically building models for my games with Matt last Monday (some thoughts on the new Tau and Betrayal at Calth were in the previous post), illness, Star Wars and general seasonal busyness have given me very little blogging time.

After a big year for From the Fang in 2014, this year was a comparative slump. I had 430,000 pageviews last year compared to 340,000 this year. That may not sound significant but before then I'd seen a year-on-year increase in hits. You can see from the graph that there's been a massive downturn. In fact, September 2015 was the worth month's viewing I've had since Feb 2013! It probably didn't help that I only posted 5 times in September mind you.

There have been some successful posts though, my Imperial Knight magnetisation tutorial has garnered over 2,000 views and the Harlequins posts got a huge chunk too with the first part of the review being read 3,000 times. Seems like I should've done a Skitarii codex review too since my post telling people to go read Jamie's reviews has 1,800 views!!

I wanted to scale back my blogging this year to give me more time for hobby related activities. I've only posted around 80 times this year which is about two thirds of the number of posts last year. You'd think that would translate into more painted models and generally more stuff done but it really hasn't but I'll get to that. I'm pretty comfortable with this kind of pace though. It still means I'm averaging more than 1.5 posts per week. I'd like to even that out a bit though so there aren't droughts followed by a flood of posts. Still, I wish I was getting more hobby content up on here for people as I think that's where I'd like the blog to go.

Hobby Progress
Well, another abysmal year really. I'm still not able to field a full army of "finished" models. I'm not even close. I had the idea of starting an IK army so that I could really go to town on a very small number of miniatures and produce something I'm happy with. I've not even finished the first one and the other three are all in boxes still.

I signed myself up for Dave Weston's Hobby Season but it hasn't been the motivator I hoped it would be. Ultimately I know what motivates me the most. Tournaments. If I know I've got to get an army finished in time for a particular date I make a concerted effort. Otherwise I do little bits here and there. My Tau got quite a bit of love thanks to our friendly mini-tournament at WHW. My Tau look much better for it but there's still work to be done. The problem with working towards an army in that fashion though is that I tend to work on multiple models at once like a production line. Base colours on all of them, followed by washes on all of them, etc. I think I should start focussing on a single model, get that completely finished and move onto the next. That way I actually feel like I'm getting somewhere rather than starting with 10 unfinished models and ending up with 10 slightly more finished models.

As usual, despite trying to avoid distractions I've ended up working on the Calth miniatures and my new Stormsurge in preference of finishing existing stuff. What I need are small weekly or monthly goals to help me structure my hobby time and not feel overwhelmed with the amount I've got to complete. More on that soon then.

This hasn't exactly been a bumper year for tournament play. I played in an Outpost event in January finishing in a respectable 9th. My next tournament was my first X-wing event in March where I placed bang on mid-table which I was pleased with considering how many scum squadrons I played despite not knowing anything about them! The rest of the year consisted of a single game at BW9 and three at BWX. That's it.

The question is, do I actually want to attend more next year? Matt and I have signed up for a doubles at the Outpost in March, there'll be Double Trouble in June (more in a minute) and finally Fluffageddon in November. The Outpost is getting its act together again though so maybe there'll be some more events I fancy in between. I just find the scene a little difficult right now with too many variables of FW, formations, super heavies, etc. I was never doing that well but at least I was enjoying the games and feeling like I was in with a shot of winning them most of the time. We'll see how I feel as the year progresses but at the moment I don't think tournaments (or playing in them at least) will be a big part of my plans.

Blog Wars and Double Trouble
From my perspective BW9 and BWX were the best events I've ever run. They both had nearly maximum attendance with 48 and 50 players respectively. That's awesome but more importantly the feedback I got was generally excellent. Nevertheless, I decided that the format was getting a bit tired and from my end it was growing stale. In 2016 I'll be doing things totally differently. Double Trouble will, as the name suggests, be my first ever doubles event and a departure from BW in a lot of ways. The atmosphere will remain the same theoretically but otherwise it'll be a very different event. I just hope I get the support that you've all given BW over the years. I'm sorry I haven't gotten round to releasing more details or getting tickets up for sale but I'll be doing so shortly after the new year.

DT will be my only event next year know as Matt takes up the reins in November to run a singles event in the form of Fluffageddon. That means a great big chunk of time is freed up for me the second half of the year. I'll be helping Matt in any way I can as it's his first event but expect a similar feel to Blog Wars. Again, I hope we'll get similar numbers to Blog Wars.

Other Games
I'm not ruling out the possibility of more X-wing events in 2015 and in fact, I feel more enthusiastic about such tournaments than 40K ones. Having said that I really haven't been keeping up with the latest releases and we've barely played it recently. Matt got the big star destroyer for Christmas though so I expect we'll arrange something soon. With Matt now being a proud parent for a second time our gaming time is limited so I expect we'll have more evening gaming sessions instead of full days. That probably means smaller games like X-wing and some of the specialist GW games.

Speaking of which, we had a great first session of Betrayal at Calth. It had a lot more tactical depth than I expected with the simplistic rules and despite feeling like the odds were against my Ultramarines early on I finally managed to win a scenario at the end of the session. We'll hopefully finish the campaign soon and swap sides for another play through. I'm really happy to see GW continue to put out these standalone games and it's had the desired effect of tempting me into 30K miniatures. Whether I'll take more of a plunge though remains to be seen. Rumour has it GW is looking at specialist games again so I'd love to see new releases for Bloodbowl, Necromunda and Epic in 2016.

What's been frustrating is that X-wing hasn't drawn more of my friends into the hobby. Scott now has quite a collection of Rebel ships but Sam, Billy and Steve didn't succumb and buy anything. They all seem content to use our models for the occasional session rather than buying their own and making it a more regular occurrence.

My enthusiasm for the hobby (playing and painting alike) has been on a bit of a roller coaster this year. We really haven't gotten many games in at all this year. I hope this changes in 2016 but it's probably unlikely. It makes me question whether I can really justify having a whole room of my house dedicated to gaming or whether I should convert the room into a study where I can still paint models but make the table an occasional addition to our dining room (or even garage) instead. It'd only be a short term enterprise anyway as once my little boy is big enough, that'll be his room.

I'll talk about my hobby resolutions in the next post but it's going to be a period of consolidation rather than expansion I think.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

This Year in 40K

Well it's been over a week (nearly two in fact) since I've posted for various reasons. A combination of frantically building models for my games with Matt last Monday (some thoughts on the new Tau and Betrayal at Calth were in the previous post), illness, Star Wars and general seasonal busyness have given me very little blogging time.

It's been a funny old year for our game (again). By half way through the year we'd already had NINE new codices which meant 14 new books within the space of a year! The notable releases here were Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus which finally brought Ad Mech to the table top. I'm still sorely tempted to buy an Ad Mech army but as you'll read shortly I can't see that happening soon. We were also treated to a Harlequins book but with fairly limited options for using them I quickly abandoned my plans for a force to complement my Dark Eldar.

The other big deal was the introduction of a new style of army composition which started with the Necron Decurion. This has probably been my biggest complaint about the new books in that it feels like a shopping list rather than an army. It's a great way for GW to get you to buy some models you wouldn't have bothered with in exchange for some (in places) stupidly good rules. I wonder how many tomb blades they sold before compared with after the new book! Some of the other books had only been out for a year or two before being replaced and, whilst I don't want to go back to the 5 year wait, the Tau release felt particularly lazy.

The Necron codex was also the first in a line of books that didn't fit in with the reasonably balanced first round of 7th edition codices. Whilst the Orks, BA, SW, GK and DE books upset people with the loss of some special characters and general simplification, they did all feel reasonably balanced against each other (OK maybe DE didn't). We were all hoping that the Necron book would lose some of the nonsense such as Mindshackle Scarabs and Tesla snap shots. When we heard that these were being "fixed" I was optimistic. That was until the rules for RP surfaced amongst other things. Since then we've returned the power creep days with Eldar Wraithknights becoming gargantuan creatures etc. It's a shame that these things overshadow some of the more innovative rules GW have produced this year. The Ad Mech and Harlequins books had some great ideas in them for example. I can't help but feel like they're rushing things right now.

I said last year that I was optimistic that the game would become more balanced but with an ever increasing number of formations it's anything but. Not only that but it's an incredibly complicated system now. I can't help but wonder if that's GW's plan so that we're all begging them to simplify things like they did with Fantasy? I'm not for a second saying I want that but a happy medium would be nice.

Games Workshop continues to produce the best miniatures in the world, there's no question about that. I just wish they'd embrace the community a bit more and understand that we want a playable game in which to use those miniatures. Their lack of support of the third party tournament scene and third party suppliers continues to baffle me.

Why do GW have their own stores any more? They don't need to worry too much about the competition at the moment so why not cut their overheads and leave the independent retailers to sell their models. In my experience they do a better job of promoting the hobby anyway without coming across as pushy or weirdly over-friendly. I get that they don't like to have their products side by side with other stuff but this doesn't worry other manufacturers so why GW who, like I've said, make some of the nicest models anyway!

It may just be my perception but the tournament scene seems to be dwindling right now. A lot of the regular events have disappeared from the calendar and whilst I was getting record numbers (for me) at Blog Wars, I wonder if that's because there isn't much choice right now. A lot of people I've been speaking to have been put off by GW's Warhammer World events by the use of Unbound or crazy systems like Throne of Skulls uses. Why not support the independent events like FFG do with X-wing?

The trouble is, when all is said and done, I'm not going to be stopping collecting GW models or playing 40K any time soon. I love the deep background and no other games have the same scale to them. Nothing else grabs my attention like 40K does. I flirt with X-wing but I just don't feel the same immersion that I do with 40K, as dodgy as it is right now. It's basically an abusive relationship GW have created and we keep making excuses for them. Thing is, I don't want GW to fail as a company like others do. I'm not a GW hater. I'm just a frustrated fan.

Anyway, ramble/rant over. It's now time to look back at the my own personal experience of 2015 and make some plans to get my arse into gear in 2016 and tackle this mountain of unpainted models.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tau Stormsurge Tactics - Pulse Driver Cannon or Pulse Blastcannon?

I'll get to posting more about Double Trouble soon I promise. In the meantime I'm very busy building models up for my games against Matt next Monday. We're having a couple of games of 40K at Warhammer World followed by some Betrayal at Calth back at Matt's house. I've just finished building up all of the Calth models and I'm frustrated that I haven't gotten any paint on them yet. Hopefully I'll get chance to at least make them red and blue this weekend. Anyway, for the 40K games I'm going to be using my Tau so I've decided it's a great opportunity to field my brand new Stormsurge that was a gift from the Blog Wars players (thanks again guys).

I've built up all of the sub-assemblies and I'm currently trying to decide if I just got with the standard pose or clip off those pegs and create my own pose on a scenic base. It'll probably be the latter but that relies on me getting the time! The other problem I'm having though is trying to decide whether or not to magnetise the main gun. Obviously doing so would give me the option of either weapon but I find magnetising a pain in the arse and I'm sure I'll end up using the same gun every time. For example, I was going to magnetise the Riptide's main gun but haven't once thought about using the heavy burst cannon. Incidentally, I'm definitely paying the 5 pts to upgrade the flamer to an AFP. The flamer would see so little use and the AFP has the same profile but with better range and Barrage.

So then, which main gun should I go for? Well it's important to note that the pulse blastcannon (PBC) is 15 pts extra compared to the stock pulse driver cannon (PDC) which isn't an insignificant number of points on an already expensive model. Spending more points would make you think that you're getting a better gun though right? Well let's compare the two:

  • PDC - Heavy 2 always but: 10" SD AP1, 10-20" S10 AP3 Blast, 20-30" S9 AP5 Large Blast
  • PBC - 72" S10 AP2 Ordnance 1 Large Blast
First off, it's a nice touch for GW to specify that if it isn't clear what range you're in then the Tau player gets final say. I think the PBC is a great weapon, any S10 Ordnance weapon is going to pretty reliably hurt vehicles. The problem is that with AP2 and just one shot (when not anchored) you're only destroying the vehicle a third of the time. Of course, being a large blast there's a chance to hit two or even three vehicles but that's very situational. The other advantage of the large blast is that clustered troops of any kind will feel the pain, especially things like TWC thanks to S10. A great weapon like I say but the lack of AP1 and the single shot is a factor. 

The PDC on the other hand has less than half the maximum range of the PBC but brings the D if your target is within 10". That might not sound much but remember the suit can move 12" making that an effective 22" range with is a big ol' chunk of the board. If you can get some marker support for better BS then two shots should be enough to take down most vehicles including IKs if they're unlucky with their shield rolls. The other modes are reasonably useful, even S9 AP5 isn't bad since it can double out most troops and deny FNP even if they do get their regular saves. 

So, there are a few factors to consider more closely I think:
  1. Range - this is the big deal as it dictates how you're going to use your Stormsurge. Bear in mind the cluster rockets are 48" and destroyer missiles are 60". It's quite reasonable to go for the PBC and sit at the back between a couple of Riptides pumping out several low AP large blasts and plenty more besides. There's no doubt that the 10" range for destroyer mode on PDC means charges next turn. Do you want to put your big expensive suit into that position?
  2. Ballistic skill and marker support - BS3 on its own isn't great for a heavy 2 weapon. It's not a big deal for the blasts particularly though. The question is, if you're getting marker support would you rather use it to fire destroyer missiles than boost the main gun? Obviously BS boosting affects both but you start to need quite a few hits.
  3. Anchors - how often will this thing actually be in a position to anchor? It relies on you knowing where your opponent will be next turn. Obviously some stuff won't be fast enough to move away but realistically who's going to stay within 10". Even if you plan on charging next turn you could easily sit at 11", avoid the D and then give yourself a 5" charge range next turn. These are the things to playtest I suppose. With the anchors down though you're getting a double round of shooting. It's not totally clear whether you can shoot different targets though but I'd say you could since it's like getting a second shooting phase. Doubtless people will argue this though.
  4. Combat - the Stormsurge isn't exactly a combat monster, particularly if he's anchored. No Stomp is going to hurt you quite a lot. You're not going to be killing much with 2 S6 attacks either so if you plan on living to shoot again Stomp is the way forward.
I started writing this post with the intention of picking between the two main guns but it's ended up being more of a discussion about the role of the Stormsurge on the battlefield. That's a sensible question to ask though. If you're intending to use it as a midfield bullet magnet whilst the rest of your mobile force advances then strap on a shield generator and take the PDC. If it's part of a gunline then the PBC is probably the way to go. I'm still torn but I'm definitely leaning towards the PDC. Having a potential for 8 D shots in a turn is pretty exciting to me. That could decimate a good chunk of the opposition in a single shooting phase. The shorter range fits in well with my preferred mobile Tau army too. 

Screw it, I'll build it as a PDC to avoid the magnets and perhaps I'll just buy a second gun on eBay or from a bits store. Worst case I really hate the PDC and rip it apart to make the PBC. Maybe I'll use the glue sparingly in case!

What do you guys reckon though? What have you put on yours? Has anyone playtested them to know for certain?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Announcing Double Trouble - A Different Kind of Doubles Tournament

This comes as no surprise to those who attended BWX but, on Saturday June 11th 2016, I'll hopefully be hosting my first ever doubles event. I say "hopefully" because it's not your average doubles event and I hope people will be prepared to come with an open mind and trust that I'll make it into a fun day for everyone involved.

Before I go into what makes Double Trouble different I want to talk about why I'm keen to run an event like this. I look back on the five years of Blog Wars with great affection and I hope that many of you do to. I originally started the event as an attempt to show that you can have a friendly atmosphere at an event without losing the tournament aspect. I also wanted to show that, unlike the official GW events, you can offer excellent prize support without losing any money! I'm confident that anyone who came to any of the Blog Wars events will agree that I achieved the latter at least and I'd hope they'd agree about the atmosphere too. Whilst I want to try to keep the same atmosphere and prize support, I want to wipe the slate clean with regards to event format and do something new.

With Double Trouble I'm going to try something which I hope is unique. Blog Wars was unique in that the army selection required a Special Character to be included and the missions and tournament in general were loosely themed around this central idea. My regular doubles partner Matt and I have been to several of the official GW doubles (now Battle Brothers) events and always enjoyed them. There's something about doubles that you just don't get with singles events. It's not only the chance to discuss tactics with your partner but also having four guys around the table instead of two makes for a better atmosphere from the start. Unfortunately the GW Battle Brothers events have dwindled in popularity thanks to a combination of insane ticket price (considering they own the venue and don't give out any prizes to speak of) and army selection criteria. By allowing Unbound and not insisting that players bring an equal share of the army it feels more like a singles event with extra people around. I want to restore the doubles spirit and give out a crapload of prizes whilst I'm at it.

What Makes Double Trouble Different?
Well, I've thought about running doubles events before but one of the things that's stopped me is that I know a lot of people coming to Blog Wars were either attending on their own or in odd numbered groups. Neither situation makes these players likely to come to a doubles event. I originally thought I'd let people buy tickets as either doubles teams or singles and then pair up any of the singles players before the event and let them come up with an army together. There are obvious issues with this so my next idea was to sell single tickets and then randomly pair people together at the start of the day. The problem with this is that you might get put with a total mismatched partner either in terms of your respective armies or just your personalities.

The solution I've come up with is to pair people randomly in every round. That way you'd have to be unlucky to get put with a bad partner in all three games. Obviously this format requires some time allowance for introducing yourself to your partner and deciding on strategy so I think 1,500pts is a sensible limit and I'll aim to keep to 2.5 hour games which is be plenty of time I reckon. That will mean 750pts per player which should be enough to give people a chance to play something they'll enjoy using and hopefully stop everyone bringing the same thing. In order for this to work I'll be throwing the allies chart out so it won't matter what you get paired with, there'll be no bonuses or penalties.

Having such a comparatively low points limit per player has other advantages though. Firstly I shouldn't need to implement so many army restrictions. This will hopefully mean players can bring whatever they want (provided it costs less than 750pts of course!). I'll announce more details about this when I put the Double Trouble page up and tickets go on sale but any suggestions are welcome. It'll also mean I'm checking 52 x 750pt lists rather than 50 x 1,850pt ones. That's a massive plus for me!

With regard to scenarios I'm considering having a two-tiered scenario in each mission with tactical objectives (from a custom deck) coupled with blood points. You'd then be scored based on both and I can offer prizes for Bloodiest General and Master Tactician for the player who scores the most in each category. Whilst the deployment would be randomised in each round (again from a custom selection), I'd be keeping the scenario the same. I think there'll be enough variety in the games with the change of table (and hence scenery), change of partner and change of deployment. Keeping the scenario the same avoids any delays in getting the games started too as everyone knows what's happening from the off.

The custom tactical objective cards will be heavily themed towards doubles play. For example, the card for securing an objective marker will be worth 1 VP if a unit from either half of the army controls it but 2 VPs if a unit from both does.

I'll be posting more details about Double Trouble in the run up to tickets being released but I'm keen to hear your thoughts at every stage. Obviously none of this is going to work if I don't sell any tickets so I want to know from you lot if there's something I've suggested so far that you think is daft or generally anything you think would make it more enjoyable. I really hope everyone will be as enthusiastic as I am about this new tournament and that it ends up being a success like I consider Blog Wars to be.

In the coming days I'll also be posting about the plans for the singles event that will take place in November so keep an eye out for that. I hope both events will get your support.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Blog Wars Feedback Roundup

Sorry, I intended this post to appear a lot sooner but I've been away for the weekend and my little boy has come back poorly so I've had other priorities recently. I want to draw all the feedback together tonight and then at the weekend I'll make the announcement of the new tournaments for 2016 so come back for that. I firmly believe that the key thing for Blog Wars was that I wasn't content to keep the format identical every time and I hope you guys felt that I responded to feedback and the event improved because of it. For that reason, let's tie everything together and look at what I should be thinking about for the new events.

Atmosphere and Format
It seems that for a lot of people this is the main reason to attend Blog Wars. That makes me really happy because that was the aim in the first place. I think it's been a lot easier than I thought to get a friendly atmosphere whilst still having a competition. It wasn't an instant thing but I believe that certainly in the last couple of BW I got it about right. There weren't many OTT lists and generally people enjoyed all three games outside of the odd unavoidable total mismatch.

When I've posed the question about full weekend events before it's always received a mixed response and it seems that's still the case. I'm not sure people would be prepared to commit to a full weekend for a casual event. I'm not sure I would for that matter! I think I'll be sticking to single day for now. There seems to be interest in something other than singles event though so we'll see what can be done for that.

As I've said before there are things I love about the NWGC. The location is reasonably convenient for most people. If two guys managed to get there from Germany the rest of you don't have an excuse! It's near to a train station and with a decent hotel (by all accounts) nearby it seems like a good fit. Darran the owner is a great guy to work with and couldn't be more helpful. Table service seems like a big plus for you all too!

That said, I agree with you that there are things that can be improved. The toilets aren't the best but I think that's reasonably easy to rectify. The venue used to be freezing in Winter and roasting in Summer but it seems to be better on both counts this year. I do think it needs a bit of TLC though. The tables are pretty good though and they've certainly put together a lot of scenery recently giving some really varied tables. I don't think there were many scenery complaints this time.

Subway seems to go down a treat so for the time being at least I'll be sticking with that for lunch unless I hear any strong objections. I think cold food is easier as then you aren't risking anyone getting there late and not enjoying it and Subway are pretty good at catering for dietary requirements which is a big plus I reckon.

I'll see what I can do about getting Element to stay open right until the end. I really can't promise anything on that front but I really think it's a missed opportunity for them. Perhaps they used to do it at events and found it wasn't worth their while. Can't hurt to ask though eh?

I think generally speaking people find them to be a good test for their army. There are comments that they favour faster armies but I think that's true of 40K in general at the moment. Obviously there are missions that people enjoy more than others but I think the overall consensus is that people like that the missions aren't too dissimilar from the rulebook ones but different enough to fix some of the problems. That was the aim all along so I'm pleased people think I'm on the right track at least.

I'll be talking more about it when I reveal the new events but I will be producing a new Maelstrom deck for one of them (despite how little fun it was cutting 300 cards out last time!). I think the objectives should have more emphasis so I'll be looking at ways of achieving that.

I think the new system worked pretty well. Looking through the results I don't see any glaring problems where people are woefully misplaced having done better or worse than it seems. Doesn't seem like any of you guys felt that either so let's stick to that system or something similar going forward.

I'm still a big fan of having all three rounds worth the same number of points (and it seems you lot are too) so I'd like to try and work that into the scenarios for the new events. Not getting maximum points for tabling is definitely staying too!

Points Limit and Timing
I think most people were managing to get at least a decent chunk of their games done in the time but I think it'd be sensible to drop the points limit to 1,750 or thereabouts to help keep things to time. If I'm ditching the special character comp I don't think it's a problem to reduce the points. Hopefully it'll make for more sociable games where people don't feel rushed.

There wasn't a huge surge of interest in smaller skirmish games. I'm not sure it's something that 40K lends itself to particularly well. I think it's best at 1500+ and anything below that becomes a bit samey. For next year at least, I don't think I'll bother with a skirmish event.

Painting Competition
The new format seems to have been favourably received. I think only allowing entry into one category is a good thing. It means you have a target to work towards and you aren't totally demoralised when someone scoops all the prizes.

There have been several comments about the timing of the judging. To my mind I don't think people actually were voting before all of the armies were out on display but obviously people felt that this was happening. Maybe I could set up something so people enter there votes straight onto a laptop. That way I don't have to spend time typing everything in and I could only give people access to vote once everyone had displayed their armies. I think I'd need to tweak the schedule to accommodate this but it should be doable.

Finally, everyone love the raffle but that is a no-brainer. Who doesn't like getting free stuff just for showing up? This will be something that definitely won't change in the new events and I want to look into more ways I can expand the prize support even further! I think the door prizes were well received and I'd like to find a way to keep that up. The tournament prize system works, in my opinion at least, in that it doesn't make people desperate to win at all costs but still rewards the winner. I'll be keeping things pretty similar on that score in the coming year.

Right, come back (hopefully) tomorrow when I'll be posting the details for the June event and shortly after that the November one. I'm hoping that both will appeal to the majority of you and that you'll give them the same support Blog Wars has received over the years.


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