Monday, March 20, 2017

Dark Eldar (or is that Ynnari) for the Doubles - Part 2

You'd be forgiven for thinking that I've not actually made any progress on these guys. Well, it doesn't really feel like I'm much further along. It's frustrating me how long these are taking which is counter-productive because I'm then struggling to motivate myself to make progress. I'm only putting in an hour or so each evening at the moment and clearly that isn't going to be enough to get that to-do list down to size.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased with the work I've done so far on these things. Well, to a point anyway, I still find painting difficult because I'm just not very good at it. I just don't seem to get the same results as other people do and they're doing it in half of the time. I'm not saying I should just be able to pick up a brush and win a Golden Demon but I don't even feel like I get the paint the right consistency or something. It's funny that I'm back to painting an army for a tournament again when I specifically said I was just going to paint whatever I fancied!

Anyway, I think the Reavers look good enough so let's have a quick look at what I actually have done:

After a discussion with friends I decided to repaint the seats in grey (Mechanicum Standard to be precise). Jamie made a good point that they look like leather but stand out too much, detracting from the rest of the model. Anyway, I decided to paint the armour on the riders in purple to match the carapace sections. Their suits underneath are still black though so I think that works well. I've also picked out the skin on those with bare arms and I'm reasonably happy with the result. There were two of the seven that hadn't got the controls painted in on the bikes too so they're now done. I've also painted all the little dots on the cluster caltrops not that anyone will ever notice!

Last but not least, the eagle-eyed amongst you might've noticed I've changed the faceplates to black in the end. I'm waiting for some paints to come into my FLGS but once they do the helmets will be gold I think which will help to tie them into the Scourges who have gold faceplates. I'll try and mute it down a bit with washes so it isn't bright shiny gold but I think it'll just add a little something. I'd considered purple or silver/steel for the helmets but I want to see how gold works out. Once that's done the facemasks will get a couple of coats of 'ardcoat to give a high shine. I'd like to maybe drybrush a bit of the cyan up the middle of their facemasks to give the impression that the blue is reflecting in them. Probably won't work out like I see it in my head though.

Whilst I wait for my order of paints to come in, I'll probably move onto the Venoms. I'm sure progress will be quicker with them since well, vehicles always go quicker. There's a couple of decisions to make there too though. For example, do I keep the flag/trophy poles or remove them. I've seen both and can't make my mind up. Removing them means less painting at least!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dark Eldar (or is that Ynnari) for the Doubles

My posting is pretty sporadic recently but I've been working towards getting my Dark Eldar ready for the 40K Doubles at Warhammer World in April. That's about six weeks away and I have an insane amount to paint between now and then. Matt and I have decided to take a Eldar/Dark Eldar army under the new Ynnari rules. Some of my stuff is at least partly painted but basically I need to paint:

  • 7 Reavers
  • 4 Venoms
  • 10 Scourges
  • 15 Kabalites
That's just stupid isn't it?! As I say, some of the stuff is at least started but it's going to take a pretty huge effort to get everything ready. We'll probably need to have a backup force in case I don't manage it but I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible!

Anyway, my efforts so far have mostly been directed at the Reavers. I've got the carapaces all done and I'm moving to work on the riders as a break from the highlighting I need to do on the bodies of the jetbikes. 

I don't have much time to blog about my progress but I'll try to throw up little updates like this from time to time over the next few weeks. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Do Formations Have A Place in 40K?

So, Nick over at The Burning Eye blog recently posted his thoughts on formation in 40K. I haven't really read many other peoples' thoughts on them but Nick is very much in favour of them. This post is intended as a counterpoint to his post. I'm almost completely against them but bear with me whilst I explain why.

A Little History
I may have this all wrong but to my mind at least, formations first appeared in general 40K (as opposed to Apocalypse) in the form of Spearhead which was released in White Dwarf in June 2010 and later published online. It's a bit shocking to me to find that this idea has been around so long. These formations were only available at an additional cost. For example, a Tank Hunter spearhead cost 60pts and gave 1-3 vehicles in the formation the Tank Hunters special rule (duh!).  The formations in spearhead were quite literally formations, in that the vehicles had to stay together to benefit from the special rule(s) and counted as a single unit. They also got the "Spearhead" special rule which was essential PotMS. In my experience, they were rarely ever used. The extra cost was probably the deterrent in most standard games.

Right, at this point I realised that Michael Corr has already written an excellent history of Formations and his thoughts on them so I don't see the point in rehashing what he's already done. You can read it here.

Read that? Great. Now onto what I think. Like Nick, I want to look at some of the popular attitudes to Formations and explore why I disagree.

What's wrong with the CAD anyway?
The CAD has been around for a very long time (back to 3rd edition). We never really knew it as that until recently though. Before then it was simply the Force Organisation Chart or FOC. The main issue that most people had with this was the so-called "Troop Tax" where you had to take two units of troops before you could add anything else. You also needed a HQ but most of the time you wanted one of these anyway.

The main problem I had with the Troop Tax was that you were basically fine if you codex had decent troops. For example, I had no issue taking Grey Hunters for my Space Wolves. For a long time they were considered the best troops in the game by a lot of people. Other armies weren't so lucky though so you'd often sunk a decent chunk of points into some near useless units before you could spend money on toys. To me though, it did at least mean the armies were reasonably fluffy. Rather than a Space Marine army composed entirely of dreadnoughts, you'd need a couple of tactical squads in there. We can argue about whether that's much different but it always felt like at least the armies weren't too outrageous.

The other issue with the CAD is that you were limited to just 3 of each of the special units. That meant you couldn't totally spam the insane units. I'm aware there's a little nostalgia going on here though. I still remember those Grey Knight armies in 5th edition with 12 psyfleman dreadnoughts and about 25 razorbacks (maybe an exaggeration). Still though, there was structure and you knew roughly what you were getting when you faced a particular army.

Looking back now, I don't think the Troop Tax is a problem. I mean, these days they get Objective Secured which can be very powerful in what are often Maelstrom missions. The other thing is that at least there's a drawback. Granted for some armies the points cost is low but you'd need to spend some on troops before you got what you really wanted.

Where are the "taxes" now?
Looking at the formations today there are still some which require you to take units that you wouldn't normally take. The Tau Optimised Stealth Cadre gives you a reason to take both Ghostkeels and Stealth Suits which outside of the formation are only of limited use. Where's the tax though? Yes you're taking units you wouldn't necessarily want to take but the pay off is so great that you don't care. In fact, I doubt anyone would run either unit outside of the formation. It's just that good. My issue is there's very little downside to it.

It's a criticism I have of 40K in general. Some armies seem to have been given powerful units but at a cost. For example, Thunderwolves are great but each model is a minimum of 40pts and with TH/SS is 85pts. That's a pretty hefty chunk for something with two T5 3++ wounds but those S10 AP2 attacks on a fast platform make it worthwhile. In other armies the downsides are different. A Dark Eldar Venom is pretty powerful, 65pts for 12 poisoned 4+ shots at BS4 on a fast skimmer is fairly awesome especially with a 5++ save. However, AV10 and two HPs mean that they're pretty straightforward to take down for most armies. So you're getting something powerful but flimsy. I think in general the Dark Eldar codex is pretty well balanced. If everything goes right and you play the army well it could be devastating. Well, that used to be the case, I think in the current game they're just too weak and unreliable. There are also certain units in there that are pretty much totally useless such as Wyches and Hellions.

Compare that to something like Tau where pretty much every unit in the book is useful. It's difficult to see how any formation based on the Tau codex could have something considered a tax.

Formations aren't bad at higher points levels
I hear this argument quite a bit. I think for the most part it's probably true. The same can be said for certain units too. An Imperial Knight in a 1,000pt game could be devastating but a single Knight at 2,500pts probably isn't much of a problem. If that's the case, why not limit Formations (and superheavies for that matter) to Apocalypse games like they used to be. Obviously no one is forcing you to use formations in your games (and we rarely do) but there's a temptation there that means in tournaments it's hard to resist. You want the best army you can possibly put out there and that means formations most of the time.

The problem is that events have to restrict army selection to prevent people taking a shopping list of the best formations in their codex. Being told in great detail what you can and can't bring puts people off a tournament.

Are formations just part of a bigger problem?
To me, formations are just a symptom of what is already a bloated game. I used to be able to show up at a tournament, look across the table and have a pretty good idea what my opponent's army is capable of. I'd probably know most of the units, their rough statlines and their special rules. There was a time around 5th/6th where I genuinely felt I knew the rulebook and the vast majority of the codices inside out. This was partly because Matt and I owned most of the armies between us but also because I was running Blog Wars and had read through most of the rules for most of the armies and even the FAQs.

It was about the time that GW switched to a weekly release schedule that I started to struggle. I'd been doing codex reviews on this blog up until Skitarii hit. That was the first book I didn't really dig deep into and I still don't really know enough about the army today. There's the odd unit I've come across in tournaments that I'm more familiar with but generally speaking I know nothing about the army. The same is true for Genestealer Cults and Deathwatch.

The trouble is, I think it'd be nearly impossible for me to find the time to read and digest all the material that's out there now. In fact, when I'm playing my armies now it's already difficult to remember where the rules for a particular unit can be found.

Formations are probably the worst thing in this respect. Obviously there's a lot of them in their respective codices but there's also some from Start Collecting boxes, campaign books, White Dwarf, supplements, etc. There's even some that are only available direct from GW when you buy a particular bundle (although admittedly they seem to have stopped doing this).

Where on earth would a new player even start? Some of the books that these formations were published in aren't even in print any more. I used Wulfen for the first time at the weekend (battle report soon hopefully) and their rules are in Curse of the Wulfen which you can't get a copy of outside of an eBook. Fortunately Matt has a copy of the book itself but it's still frustrating.

I could say a lot more about this but I think I'm starting to ramble. My main issues with formations can be summarised as follows though:

  1. They're basically shopping lists to encourage sales of new units - I'm not naive, I know GW is in the business of selling models but some aren't even subtle.
  2. There's no real downside most of the time - units you would probably take anyway just get better for no really good reasons. Why not make the units themselves better instead?
  3. They over-complicate an already complex game - it's hard enough to remember the standard rules for yours and your opponent's units without remembering formation rules. How often do you forget your warlord trait for example?
  4. They don't actually add variety - they might mean you see some units you wouldn't normally see on the table but they fast become the norm. They're too auto-include for some armies. Would you consider writing a competitive list for your army without certain formations?
Ultimately I'm not a fan of the direction 40K is heading. It's all well and good saying that they're just giving you lots of options and you can play the way you like but it's getting out of hand now. When I'm considering running tournaments I'm put off by thinking about all the possible lists and whether some of them are too strong to permit. I hate telling people what they can't run but equally I hate the idea of someone having a miserable day at my event because they came up against something filthy. 

Again, I know this is GW trying to sell models but if people wanted to use Formations and Super-Heavies they could do some in Apocalypse. That means games over a certain points limit could include whatever they wanted. Apocalypse should be no holds barred 40K. 

Is it a case of don't hate the game, hate the players though? There's nothing new going on here. 40K players have always tried to find the most powerful stuff and spammed it. Taken the most filthy combinations and shoe-horned them into a legal army list. One the one hand it's impressive that people can find these combinations in this sea of rules but I can't help but wish for a simpler time. 

I'm planning on playing in the Doubles at Warhammer World in April where people can take pretty much whatever they want (including Unbound). It'll be five games against random opponents and will hopefully give me a chance to gauge just how bad the problem actually is. These events aren't normally overrun with power gamers so if the average players are using dirty combinations then I think it's safe to say it's a problem.


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