Though I don’t have anything specific against Age of Sigmar I still prefer the regimental blocks and high-concept rules of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Something about huge blocks of troops and monsters crashing into each other and fighting in more linear combat than the modern, tactical squad-based war of 40k.
Having recently played Warhammer: Total War (which is a perfect marriage of concepts as far as I’m concerned) I returned to painting my poor fantasy armies.
I started the game with the Orc faction and decided to start with my orc army.
I picked up this metal Orc Warboss on a Wyvern at a friendly local game shop. The model seemed a little wonky but I liked the look of it and knew these weren’t exactly for sale everywhere any more. I’m glad I did.
I used all basing and dry-brushing techniques. These are my favorites and since I don’t have an airbrush tend to give me the best results for most of my models.
The wyvern is a bright green but I used a tan color for the wings instead of flat green.
It was a lot of layering, shading, and dry brushing, but I was really happy with the result.
The warboss was actually more fun than the wyvern.
I was particularly fond of how the squig on his shield turned out.
This was a terrifically fun model to paint (and Pacific Rim was the perfect movie to watch while painting). I ended up liking him a lot, even though, admittedly, I mostly wanted to paint this guy for practice since the one I really want to do is this guy. Azhag the Slaughterer!
This past month Games Workshop tore down the Old World and built in its place the Age of Sigmar. The venerable old fantasy game as we all knew and loved died, replaced by something a bit different and a bit less complex.
During the End Times range lots of fans got excited about the fresh content and the progress of the world. Let’s face it the old world had terrific lore and amazing depth but was based in the typical world of fantasy dwarfs, elves, ogres environment. Which isn’t bad, it’s classic for a reason, and certainly the old world took it to new places, but clearly the market was speaking against fantasy.
To start with I never intended to get involved with fantasy, but I ended up loving it. All the complex movement reminded me of Napoleonic warfare, with wheeling and marching. The battle resolution took some time to get used to but made for some close fights and satisfying combat even when on the losing end. But in a world where 40k rules the table, fantasy has a heavy bar of entrance. Especially when the number of models used to play it is factored in compared to GW’s sci-fi flagship.
So GW tore it down. And replaced it with Age of Sigmar a new game built on the remnants of the old world but infused with new rules and a new, faster, more simplistic game play style. I’ll start by saying I haven’t played an AoS game, just watched them being played. And then viewed the rabid hate from fans on forums and comments. And I have to say…I really don’t get it.
Before EndTimes what I saw the most on fantasy comments was a desire for updated rules. Even from Tomb King and High Elf players. Hell I started with Skaven and Beastmen, we’re still in softcover books with the Bretonnians! I saw a lot of complaints about balance, how it was broken, some factions were useless, some were absurdly overpowered. The convoluted systems and complex special rules. So many people begging for a revamp of the game. So GW completely revamps everything about the game and the comments are worse than ever before. It’s a game for kids, the new special rules have proven how stupid it is, it’s far too simple and far too dumbed down…
Age of Sigmar is a HUGE gamble. I’m currently building and painting Ultramarines so I can’t invest in the new factions…but here’s the thing… If I wanted to play AoS with my Skaven or Beastmen or Ogres I could. For free. All the army books have rules. The basic rules are posted. All on the site. All in PDF. All free. Strangely I’ve heard very little positive about that (maybe I’m visiting the wrong sites…) but there they are. I’ve already dl’d every ruleset I might ever want (and Queek is there!) in case I want to bust into the game at any time. But it’s accessible. That in itself is a big change for GW who has recently been pretty litigious about it’s IPs, which probably has more than a little to do with the world/faction reset in general.
At it’s heart I have a feeling that those who hate GW do so because it’s popular to do so. Like all those people who announced they were boycotting Modern Warfare 2 then turned around and pre-ordered it, a lot of fans just like to complain. A company could give an individual everything they asked for and a part of the population will claim the company is pandering. I have no love for, nor feel the need to defend a multi-million dollar company. It’s more a desire for fans to act like fans and less like entitled kids. Especially when, in my experience, the GW company has been pretty good to work with. When my subscriptions had problems a simple email contact got new issues FEDEXED to me overnight. And they still sent the back issues they missed after the fact. When one of my kits (Marneus Calgar and Honour Guard, purchased at an independent retailer no less) was missing a part, they sent a replacement, and let me keep the duplicate parts (which included the champion figure); and when an accidental duplicate Sgt Harker was sent instead of Castellan Creed they Fed Exed the right figure and let me keep the dupe. Yes one could say that that’s actually three mistakes the company has made over the past 6 years of Warhammering, but I’d assert that is WAY more cooperation I’ve ever gotten from Microsoft, Sony, and god help me Comcast and I’ve had way more problems with them over that same timeframe.
Furthermore this is a game company. That makes a series of rules for fighting tiny battles with toy soldiers. Reading the goofier AoS rules I can’t help but feel a spirit of fun is being injected into Warhammer. Like a lot of board games, they are incorporating fully optional systems that allow a player to made a fool of themselves, give their mates a chuckle, and get a couple of bonuses if they act out, or dare I say role play, some of their characters. That’s NOT a bad thing. If players think it is that may be taking their toy soldiering a bit too seriously.
More than anything I’m the kind who doesn’t want to hate change because it’s change. The rules may be simpler and the battles smaller, but the biggest complaints about fantasy have been they cost barrier to entry and the difficult rules. It also seems these rules permit a scaling up, if you want to bigger battles. AND most importantly, no one from Nottingham came around to all our houses and took out WFB 8th edition books away. That’s right, you can still play your favorite version to your hearts content.
Once I have some cash I’d like to invest in AoS just to see the new factions. The models look like a bridge between 40k and fantasy, probably to lure the die hard sci-fi gamers who think fantasy is too la-dee-da for them. The factions are interesting to say the least (ogres “ogors” with orcs or “orrucks” whatever, yes please) and the new system is different from anything I’ve played so far.
So once again I think it works to appeal for calm and maybe focus more on the positives. Less game snobbery the better (let’s face it, we’re model wargamers…it’s a stretch to say that a slightly different kind of model wargame is “beneath” us). More inclusiveness the better. If you like the system, good for you enjoy. If you don’t, fine enjoy the games you do like. But let’s see where this goes, maybe it’ll be like New Coke and will result in an amazing return of the old world. Maybe it’ll supplant 40k in popularity (I doubt it but it is possible). Let’s not fear change, and let’s not hate those who adapt to it faster than we do. We’re gamers so I say we game. Tabletop games are special this way, as once you have them you can play them forever. Remember: no one can kill the games you love except for you!
Napoleon once said that genius was the mastering of luck. Anyone who plays miniature wargames knows just how difficult mastering luck is…
I played my first Warhammer Fantasy Battles games over the past weekend and saw just how difficult luck really is to master. As I said in the last post I prepared a small ogre army for an escalation league at my local Games Workshop store. I’d never before played Fantasy except for a few little games using the store sets of Island of Blood that weren’t designed to be competitive. My Games Workshop store is surprisingly fresh. A lot of new players are there so it was nice to go in to this without some of the more negative kinds of players (or the know-it-all, “hurr hurr, look at the noob” types) and it was a really positive experience. I invited friends to come watch me lose and I thought I’d share the experience.
I showed up on a Friday night and only a couple people were there. The other player present was also new, and he brought his Skaven army. The store manager got his rule book out and we played our tiny 250 point game. I used 8 ogres in two 4-group units, all with additional hand weapons. This put me at 248 points and lots of attacks. My opponent took a big block of clanrats with shields and spears, and two bases of rat swarms. He went first (whew….brought them closer into my charge range!) and I did as expected and charged right into those clanrats. Ogres on a charge are brutal, impact hits, sixteen attacks, and four stomps. It was a close round of combat but the ogres won through the weight of their charge. Because of his “strength in numbers” special rule he had a mighty leadership TEN. Now I should say I have a history and tendency to roll like crap (you’ll see that in my battle the next day) but I think my lack of luck was catching. He rolled two sixes! Failing his leadership test. He then proceeded to run away 5 inches. I chose to pursue, rolling a six, catching and eliminating the only viable unit on the field. I definitely did NOT out play him in my first game. With only 250 points very few tactical choices are there. But through pure luck the first game was a win. And a nice intro to the game mechanics.
I then played the manager’s dark elves, him playing as an NPC. Though I smashed his witches (even though I’d received their crazy charge) but ran into a wall on his executioners. I did enough damage on them that even he said he got a bit nervous, but all their elf rules did me in.
The next day I returned for his zombie tarpit challenge. 80 zombies versus my 250 points of ogres. I chose to make one big unit and smashed into the zombies. I ended up taking them out in 5 turns, but only had three ogres left by the end. I realized I would have been smarter to leave them in two units, hitting the zombies on their flank with the second group. I would have had one extra attack per ogre. Four extra impact hits (at least…I COULD have rolled a 10+ on my charge) and four additional stomps. It may have been over in 3 turns…
Later that day I played a kid who had dwarves. A unit of warriors and a unit of longbeards. I needed an 8 to make my first charge against the warriors…and rolled two TWOS. So I received the charge instead. I made my charge against his longbeards, and surprisingly crushed them into flight. Here’s where I made tactical errors. There was only one longbeard left, his standard bearer. I chose to run them down, which I shouldn’t have done. I ran them down and moved 9 inches away from my beleaguered other unit. My other unit of ogres, having lost the combat with the dwarf warriors and fleeing, fled an epic 11 inches. Then failed their next leadership by rolling a TEN. My epic bad rolling coming to light again. His dwarf warriors turned to my unbroken unit and I chose to march them up a hill rather than reform. I really should’ve reformed, as his next turn would’ve brought them easily into charge range and probably a quick combat after all the impacts, attacks, and stomps. Since I moved them away, they had their backs to his dwarves and received a flank charge. Despite this I still killed four dwarves and received zero wounds.
Unfortunately for me, due to combat resolution math, we tied and his musician broke the tie. Once again I failed my leadership test (because I’m awesome like that) and fled only to be caught and destroyed! Him won a clean victory. All my dice throwing proving just how little of luck I had mastered… my inexperience and the good thinking of my opponents proving to be a deciding factor.
It was a blast to play, win or lose, and I learned some good lessons.
1) Ogres…don’t forget your fear check. I never had anyone roll for fear ever. It’s a long shot against elves or dwarves but better to try than not to try.
2) Don’t forget impact his and stomps. Even with only four ogres in the rank that’s at least four impact hits (D3 per ogre due to the ogre charge rule if you roll a natural 10+) and stomps are four additional attacks.
3) Ogres are attacking beasts and can soak up lots of damage. Even at speed six it’s best to try to get the ogres back into combat as soon as possible. Maneuvering with Skaven or Beastmen might be a good choice, but with just three ogres it is always best to try and get them back into doing damage. It’s what they do best!
I’ve heard that GW is planning to drastically change the landscape of Warhammer Fantasy Battles due to its flagging sales. Just getting into it now, this makes me quite sad. I love the complex simplicity of it. The small rules that turn into big results, and the great fun of throwing gobs of dice and taking off scores of models. As much as I love 40k, it’s a very different kind of wargame and I’m hoping, no matter the changes they make, the game play will always be welcome on gaming tables.
In a previous post I noted at the guys at Dreamlike (Now Slayer Gaming) piqued my interest in Warhammer Fantasy battles. I watched two battle reports, one was their very first one, where Tom’s Ogre army took on Dwarves in one and High Elves in another. Since then I have started both Skaven and Beatmen armies. I admit I really like Skaven, but both were begun because I was able to get near complete armies on and off the sprue at very cheap prices.
Several weeks ago, while cruising a used bookstore I found a pile of army books. Empire, Ogres, Tomb Kings, Orcs and Goblins, all “current” hardback. All ten dollars a piece. (They also had a stack of Forge World Imperial Armour books for 15 a piece…it was a good day at the used bookstore…)
Looking through the books I became very interested in one army in particular: Ogres. The very first army I ever saw played. They’re very different from any force I’ve seen, Monstrous Infantry, big brutes, no alignment, and a “SMASH and EAT” philosophy. Also relatively cheap to start.
My local Games Workshop store has started a Fantasy escalation league and, though I had Skaven and Beastmen armies, I decided to give Ogres a shot. I got the regiment starter box and away I went.
The league starts at a miniscule 250 points, which if I included even my cheapest general option left me only 150 points for troops.
Because of this point restriction, the standard troop structure is waived and only core units have to be fielded with extra points given for fully-painted armies. With that in mind (and being completely trapped in the house for days due to ice and snow) I started my Ogres. This was the result:
I went all ironfists, due to the extra save. They’ve already got 3 attacks plus impact hits and stomps, so I went for a parry/increased armor save instead of an additional weapon.
At the time I thought I had to have an HQ. I got the maneater on the right to proxy a bruiser or butcher since my actual models were on order.
These guys are a blast to build an paint, and the regiment box gives you so many bits, with some crafty purchases I was able to nearly double the number of ogre bulls I can field by spending about 25 dollars.
I’ll be playing my first escalation game this week and as I’ve never played a REAL game (only here’s how this works games) and never done anything with ogres I’m gonna lose. It’ll be a BLAST. I’m looking forward to it!
During my high school years I became fascinated with early 20th Century culture to such an extent that I used to check out from our local library recordings of 1920s radio broadcasts and shows. I loved the genre and it feels like something that has become lost as we’ve become a more screen-based society.
When I heard that Black Library produced audio dramas and audio books it immediately piqued my interest and I tried one.
The first one I bought was Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe as it was the most prominently displayed on the website at the time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d listened to audio books before where it is merely an author or a celebrity reading the text. In some cases, as with some Star Wars books the reading was accompanied by sound effects as well. In the case of the Black Library audio books and dramas it is far more like the radio shows I found as a teenager. They are acted rather than read, the sound effects are integral and take place during the performance as though you were listening to a film rather than watching it.
Since then I’ve obtained all of the audio dramas that sounded the least bit interesting and I’ve never heard a bad one. There have been one or two where the plot took a turn that made me less of a fan of it, but none have been poorly made, badly written, or subpar in performance or production. As last time I’ll list some of my favorites and/or favorite aspects of them, again in no particular order:
Chosen of Khorne by Anthony Reynolds: This one had such an impact I spent weeks drawing a picture related to it. Chris Fairbanks’ performance as Kharn is incredible, the story is tight, and the production is excellent. I’m a staunch 40K loyalist and even I loved this traitors’ story!
Trials of Azrael by CZ Dunn: As a Dark Angels fan I have a lot of options for audio dramas but this one has remained my favorite. While it has a few plot questions, the resolution and acting is so good I can ignore them and just enjoy it. Plus Dark Angels story + Chris Fairbanks as Kharn + Pandorax campaign make it extra appealing.
The Garro series by James Swallow: One of the best series and follows on from the Horus Heresy novels (Flight of the Eisenstein to be specific). Garro, former battle captain of the Death Guard now servant of Malcador the Sigillite has a number of excellent stories and some of the best-produced dramas I’ve experienced. Toby Longworth if by far my favorite voice talent in the Black Library audio drama pool and his Garro is tight, grizzled, and fiercely passionate about his cause, even when it runs counter to his masters’ goals. By all means listen to them in order but Sword of Truth remains my favorite.
Veil of Darkness by Nick Kyme: I’m not an Ultramarines fan nor am I a Cato Sicarius fan but this story is one of the best. Very well acted (Sicarius has a youthful arrogance to his voice that matches the character perfectly) and with one of the best single-stories I’ve heard it has been in my car’s CD player a number of times since I first gave it a listen.
Caiphas Cain – Dead in the Water & Caiphas Cain – The Devil you Know by Sandy Mitchell: Toby Longworth strikes again turning in a tremendous performance both as the elder Cain narrating his adventures and the youthful Cain experiencing them (as well as all kinds of characters in between) mixed with the great production, Sandy Mitchell’s wry writing style comes off perfectly and provides an excellent complement to the written character.
The Sigillite by Chris Wraight: This one is actually two parallel stories, one told in flashback the other taking place as the same character discovers the importance of his previous actions. Once again Longworth shines, this time as Malcador, giving him a voice full of power, age, weariness, fear, and awe. It’s a remarkable story.
Censure by Nick Kyme: A Horus Heresy story about Sergeant Aeonid Thiel and his experiences on his return to destruction-ravaged Calth. He faces not only the remnants of abandoned Word Bearers but the environment itself. His penal legion companion and he have an almost Lethal Weapon level of interaction.
Deathwatch: Mission Purge by Gav Thorpe: A wonderful single-story of a Deathwatch inspection led by Captain Artemis himself on a rogue trader’s ship. Of course everything goes wrong and the motley xenos hunters have to fight their way out of danger. It has a very unique feel and one of the best climactic music stings I’ve ever heard…
The Glorious Tomb by Guy Haley: A surprisingly moving story from the perspective of a fatally wounded Black Templar kept alive to continue his fight for centuries from inside a dreadnought. You hear his confusion over the passage of time, his distance from the outside world, his pain and mental anguish. It extremely potent and very well performed…you guessed it Toby Longworth is back to give one of the most powerful performances I’ve heard to date.
Warmaster: An amazing soliloquy. The now fallen Horus justifies his actions to a silent audience. If I had to do a reading for an acting class I’d choose this one.
Veritas Ferrum: a small story-driven by the main character of Durun Atticus as he navigates his strike cruiser Veritas Ferrum into the catastrophe as Isstvan V. The performances and productions shine again as wily tactics and loss of humanity take center stage.
The Eightfold Path: Chris Fairbanks as Kharn in the fighting pits. It’s Kharn narration for 13 minutes and as glorious as one would expect. Worth it just for his rueful bloody laugh if nothing else.
With Baited Breath: A Raven Guard captain finds a dying guardsman and listens to his story. Great deeds…
There are countless others that have been spun repeatedly in my various CD players and queued into a playlist on my various devices. If you’re a new 40k fan these stories are EXCELLENT for mood and storytelling; setting the tone for the Grim Dark in a way more accessible than some weird people may find the dense omnibuses or the numerous, long-running series. For established fans they are a great way to hear well-known stories brought to terrific life with care and thoughtfulness.
With a new year and the hope of my own creative wellspring finally pouring forth I thought I’d take the time to examine some of the sources for my creative inspiration. This week I’m starting with a humbling catalogue of the Grim Dark (and world of fantasy) that is the Black Library.
Named after a library of esoteric and powerful knowledge, Games Workshop’s publishing wing is a remarkably diverse and impressive publishing enterprise. From gothic sci fi, to rousing action, and from grim brutality, to raucous humor, the Black Library offers something for everyone, and indeed I was a fan of the stories prior to partaking in the table top game that spawned them, my first novel being the Assault on Black Reach which I purchased shortly after buying the starter set of the same name.
I find the worlds depicted by the Black Library authors to be deep and complete. Everything has layers upon layers and builds atop decades of history already put into the stories and characters within.
Some of the authors are terrific, some are quite good and the same can be said for the quality of the stories they tell, but I can honestly say I’ve never read a bad one. Merely some less impressive than others. I thought I’d give a breakdown of some of my favorites, broken down by broad type and in no particular order of superlative.
Horus Heresy by Various: Simply some of the best science fiction you’ll read anywhere. The series is vast and deep, providing a prequel view of some of the famed characters you may do battle with on the tabletop. The first four novels are sequential and could have been printed on pure gold leaf they are so ostentatiously brilliant. Want to know how the whole thing started? Here’s how. And if you don’t feel a pang of tragedy at Isstvan something is broken in your soul…
Caiphas Cain by Sandy Mitchell: Can the grim dark future be wry and funny? With a rakish and self-serving (at least according to him) hero like Commissar Cain you beter believe they can be. Sandy Mitchell (aka Alex Stewart) created a hero both likable and slightly devious. He’s altruistic and at the same time totally self-obsessed, told in the first person (with commentary footnotes from another reader, Inquisitor Amberley Vail) it’s marvelous at giving a personal obscured perspective on things. The series takes him from his humble beginnings seeking a quiet posting away from danger to all over the galaxy fighting every kind of enemy on every front. Each novel is different and each one spectacular. If you need a laugh and great adventure, pour yourself a glass of someone else’s best Amasec and open a Caiphas Cain book.
Last Chancers by Gav Thorpe: Gav Thorpe is my personal favorite Black Library author and his take on the penal conscript legion of Colonel Schaeffer one of his best works. I read the whole thing at night during a week-long trip to Chicago and loved every bit of it. The first novel is by far the best, but by the time you reach the third book’s rousing conclusion you really have a chance to look back and see how far these characters have come.
Favorite Short Stories/Novellas
Yarrick Chains of Golgotha by David Annandale: This novella/short story is simply stunning in its narrative. From the capture of the imposing Commissar Sebastian Yarrick by his arch nemesis to his exciting attempts at escape, this one has you hooked from the beginning. When you get to the end and see just HOW dangerous his infamous and nefarious captor really is to him and the Imperium it’s hard not to start the book over and read it all the way through again. I know I did. Very few books can make me say, “Ohh…whoa” out loud like this one did at its conclusion.
Survivor by Steve Parker: The tale of a young boy surviving in the ruins after an ork invasion. It’s a great story with a sharp narrative, but the reveal of the boy’s identity makes it even more powerful. A short read but one that definitely sticks with you.
Dark Vengeance by CZ Dunn: Some 40k players are all about the win. Others are all about the story. I’m in the latter category and this story is a great example of the game brought to narrative. Released to coincide with the 6th Edition starter set, Dark Vengeance tells the story of the characters and armies you get with that box. Not only that but you get a relatively realistic portrayal of how a battle between these two armies can usually play out on the table; who lives, who dies, who’s valuable and who’s just a pawn. A great place for beginners who are just getting into the game with the starter set!
Favorite One Offs/Unique
Fifteen Hours by Mitchel Scanlon: This one’s tagline got me: “Basic Training: Four Months. Planetary Transportation: Seven Weeks. Life Expectancy…Fifteen Hours.” I loved this book. Not only is it 40k World War I style, but it’s also 40k told small. Not great heroes or famous battles, just one of trillions of guardsmen and one of millions of battles. The story doesn’t revolve around our heroes and neither do the events. We merely see a vast war through their very small scope. It’s All Quiet on the Western Front with orks and lasguns and simply a terrific read.
Deff Skwadron by Gordon Rennie & Paul Jeacock : A 40k comic about ork fighter pilots. It’s as good as it sounds. Let’s face it orks are funny and brutal. Their single minded desire to fight and kill is highly entertaining and this comic captures that mood both in a great set up and magnificent orky-art. If you read no other 40k comic definitely check this one out.
Headtaker by David Guymer: It’s not ALL the grim dark! This fantasy story revolves around my favorite fantasy battles character. With all the betrayal and backstabbing you’d expect from skaven…Queek Headtaker leads his armies, fighting against his allies as much as his foes…and showing everyone who really is the most clever rat in the under empire.
Next week I’ll tackle the audio drama/audio book arm of Black Library which is definitely worth its own separate study!