Monday, October 26, 2009

A Mediocre Debut

Don't let the title fool you; I had an excellent time playing my very first game of 40k.  I rolled into Endgame with my army packed inside a Space Hulk box, freshly assembled without even a drop of primer in sight.  I mistakenly set up on one side of the gaming area - directly opposite from all the actual 40k players - and started diligently studying my rulebook.

Once I realized my mistake, I approached a couple of players who were setting up a Space Marine vs. Chaos Daemon game on a table and asked if I could watch them play.  I explained that I had never played 40k before and was new to the hobby, and I was hoping I could get an idea of how the game plays by watching someone else.  They were very friendly and told me to pull up a chair, so I went to get my things.

On my way back over, I was intercepted by some folks painting around a table and I got offered a game of my own!  Of course I accepted, eager to start rolling dice and pushing plastic.  We settled on a points amount of 1250 based on what I had brought with me and sat down to get things together.  I explained that I would need a lot of hand-holding and help with the rules, but my opponent was a very gentlemanly sort who was eager to help a new player out.  A great start for me!

Our game ended up being Marines on Marines, Space Wolves facing off against the iconic Ultramarines.  I brought two squads of Grey Hunters along with some Long Fangs, a Land Raider Crusader stuffed with Terminators, and a Rune Priest leading the way.  I only had a single Rhino modeled at the time, but I was determined to put it to good use.  We each had a single Dreadnought.

Aren't these guys just begging for a frost axe in their smug little faces?

Rolling for mission type and deployment we came up with a two-objective pitched battle.  My opponent placed an objective in the north east (from my position) corner and I put mine closer to the middle of the board in the west.  When the time came to deploy, I let him go first so that I could observe and see how he positioned his forces.  I was pretty clueless on how to do this effectively and I thought I could get a decent idea by watching someone else.

The Ultramarines set up camp on their objective with a Tactical Squad and Vindicator.  Meanwhile, a pair of Rhinos containing more Tacs & his Dread made ready to charge my objective.

For my part, I set up with my Long Fangs atop a hill, behind cover and with a clear line of sight to the objective, ready to pop the incoming Rhinos with Lascannons and then open up with Heavy Bolters on the contents.  My first squad of Grey Hunters was foot-slogging their way towards the objective from the same hill, armed with the only special weapons I had modeled at the time - a pair of plasma guns.  The second went in my Rhino a bit further east, capable of reinforcing my objective if things went bad or turning towards my opponent's if I thought I had a chance to make it.  My Land Raider sat firmly between the two groups.

At the time of this writing the game was over three and a half weeks ago.  I had wanted to write about it but was so wrapped up in playing that I forgot to take detailed notes, so what follows is more of a rough summary than a genuine battle report.  Those will come later, hopefully with some illustration to make them more interesting.

On the first turn my opponent moved in on my objective with his Rhinos and Dread and stayed camped out on his own.  There wasn't much shooting to speak of, and so the turn passed to me and I got to make my first 40k moves.  I closed in on the objective with my Grey Hunters while my Long Fangs took shots at the Rhinos, immobilizing one and glancing off the other.  Our Dreadnoughts met in the middle and started swinging at one another, neither doing much damage.

Dramatic re-creation of our heated Dreadnought battle.

My Rhino inched toward the objective, but I didn't know the rules well enough to remember I could have moved a full 12" rather than just 6". 

My Land Raider moved closer to the objective to reinforce both squads of Grey Hunters, staying carefully out of range of the Ultramarine's Vindicator, but again I only moved 6".  At least I got to take some shots with the mounted multi-melta & cannon, missing the Rhinos by an embarrassingly wide margin.

Eventually I finished off his advance on my objective, though it cost me my Grey Hunters, my Rune Priest, my Rhino, a fair amount of my Wolf Guard Terminators, and my Dreadnought.  His walker got the best of mine, but my lascannon-wielding Long Fangs stepped up and took revenge mere seconds later.

When the battle for my objective was said and done, I had my Long Fangs, about a half-dozen Grey Hunters, my Land Raider, and three Wolf Guard Terminators.  When the battle started to turn my way, my opponent started to move his Vindicator up into the mix, forcing me to counter with my Land Raider.  After some disappointing shooting from my tank early, I was hoping to show that little snub-nosed bitch (the Vindicator, not my opponent!) what's up.

The Vindicator's Siege Cannon:  Size Matters?

Unfortunately, the Vindicator had other plans.  A shot from my multi-melta missed yet again and then the Vindy fired back, exploding my Land Raider with a single siege shell.  I will forever live my life in fear of those bulldozer Saturday Night Specials on treads.

The game ended before I could slog my way close enough to contest his objective and secure the win.  Blowing up my LRC really screwed my plan over, but I suppose I only have myself to blame.  There were far more effective ways to maneuver my tank towards the objective, I simply chose the simplest and most direct route.

I went home feeling pretty good about getting a draw on my first game.  I met a lot of friendly folks and had a really good time actually playing the game, which is always important.  I also learned a lot about the game systems and how to make my army work.  I learned that points value does not always mean a unit can trump another, similar unit (260 point LRC vs. 125 point Vindicator) and that I need to be more careful in how I move around the board.

The rest of the night I spent trying to figure out ways I could have won the game.  I was hooked hard, and I couldn't wait to get in another game.  Isn't newbie enthusiasm adorable?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Space Wolves List #1 - 1500 Points.

Time to take a break in the story for a Space Wolf list!  I designed this list to be fun, capable of winning, and to include as many of my assembled toys as I could for the point cost.  Let's get right to it, shall we?

Rune Priest (100)
Living Lightning, Murderous Hurricane

Dreadnought (115)
Assault Cannon, Heavy Flamer

Wolf Guard Terminators x 5 (220)
Chainfist, Thunderhammer + Stormshield, Heavy Flamer, Wolf Claw

Blood Claws x 9 (208)
Wolf Guard w/ Power Fist, Flamer, Rhino

Grey Hunters x 9 (205)
Meltagun, Power Weapon, Mark of the Wulfen, Rhino

Grey Hunters x 9 (228)
Wolf Guard w/ Power Fist, Meltagun, Power Weapon, Rhino


Long Fangs x 6 (160)
Missle Launcher, Lascannon x 2, Heavy Bolter x 2

Land Raider Crusader (260)

Total : 1496

Now, some tweaks.  You could drop the Rune Priest (who attaches to the Grey Hunter squad without a Wolf Guard, obviously) and turn him into a Wolf Priest to accompany the Blood Claws and crank up their output.  I'm not in favor of this really, because you're losing out on all of the awesome Rune Priest psychic abilities.

Speaking of those, feel free to tweak them to your play style and opponent.  Jaws has been pretty fantastic for me on at least one occasion, so I will probably sub out Murderous Hurricane every once in a while.

Wargear on the Wolf Guard Terminators is for preference, really.  I always hesitate to take a TH + SS model, (because the points cost is almost that of another squad member!) but I also really like how they look.  I definitely welcome advice on how to kit out my Wolf Guard, as it's one thing I've really struggled with. 

All in all I'm pretty happy with the list.  I've got a few heavy flamer templates to throw down, some meltaguns & lascannons for the inevitable tank bustin', and a lot of cool Space Wolf toys.  It could use a good tweaking and some games under it's belt, but it looks good on paper!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Guardians of Asgard

Despite the allure of Space Hulk, it wasn't really until I was buying paints down at Endgame that I knew for a certainty that playing 40k was in my near future.  While asking for some advice with the paints, I noticed that they had a copy of the new Space Wolf codex behind the counter. 

I knew the Space Wolves from my previous experience with Dawn of War.  They're a color choice in the Army Painter, and even though I kind of loathed the color scheme that now graces this blog, I felt compelled to investigate them a bit.  I knew that they were the sons of Leman Russ, who was apparently some big fancypants in the 40k world, and that they liked having big, scary wolves along for their fightin'. 

Danzig approves of the Wolftime.

I never got much further than that, but they seemed like an okay lot for Space Marines.  Chaos and I were still holding hands and skipping merrily through the battlefield together, picking skulls for the skull throne, and nothing was going to ruin our love.

Then I saw the cover to the new Wolves codex up close.  Uhm, holy crap.

Turns out that the Space Wolves are more than just an ugly color scheme, they're motherfucking rune magic-slinging Space Vikings with huge goddamned axes and furs everywhere.

Now, I listen to an awful lot of metal, and some of my favorite bands either sing about vikings, dress like vikings, or both.  I've got a big beard, I wear t-shirts with the eldar futhark written all over em, and I listen to prodigious amounts of extreme music.  The Space Wolves and I, we're going to get along just fine.

If you're a Space Wolf player and you don't listen to Amon Amarth, you should probably kill yourself for doing it wrong so hard.

To prevent myself from doing anything stupid, I force myself out of the store without ordering anything and go home.  Unfortunately, the internet is at home, and the internet is full of pictures of the awesome new wolf kits.  Before I even know what's happening, I am on the Endgame forums putting in a preorder for a bunch of the new Space Wolf stuff.  So much for resolve, eh?

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I've got my first boxes in hand.  I start putting together some Grey Hunters and Blood Claws, along with a few Wolf Guards in Terminator Armor.  This is where I start to make rookie mistakes.  I don't really think about the weapon loadouts I'm giving my Wolf Guard.

If I could do it all over again, I'd take the time to get some magnets and put them inside the arms so that I could swap them out easily.  Oh well.  I was very excited to start modeling and playing, and my enthusiasm got the better of me.  Hopefully it won't happen again!

I also made a few mistakes and modeled some Blood Claws poorly.  I made one with a Plasma Pistol and Power Sword, a wargear combination that I don't think I will ever actually use in a list.  I ended up just breaking his arms off later on and replacing them, but I still wish I hadn't done it wrong the first time. 

Building my first army taught me to be patient.  It's really exciting to get your guys together and start playing with them or painting, but a little bit of research into weapon loadouts or a little bit of preparation for future flexibility goes a very long way.  Have a good idea of your list and unit makeup before you start putting these guys together; the amount of options can be pretty staggering!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dawn of Warhammer

I know that I'm playing up the whole "new guy" angle quite a bit, but I wasn't coming into the hobby completely blind.  Back when I lived in Milwaukee I had a couple of friends who frequented a now-defunct FLGS called Napoleon's.  They played 40k, Mordheim, and Necromunda, though I couldn't really say how often.  My buddy Andrew roped me into a Mordheim and Necromunda game apiece, and I had a decent enough time playing that I thought I might enjoy 40k. 

I picked up a box each of Fire Warriors & Pathfinders and put em together soon after.  Even started painting the little guys, though I did a pretty terrible job at it. 

The hobby didn't take that time around, though.  My early/middle twenties were a terrible time for anything that required a significant investment on my part, either in money or hours.  There were just too many other things that needed doing, too many other cities to visit and adventures to have.  Alas, my beloved Tau soon became the de facto property of Andrew after sitting in his house unloved for so long.  I wonder what ever happened to those guys!

Years pass and I pick up a copy of the original Dawn of War for my PC.  Games Workshop's licensing would see me return to the 40k universe for another crack at fandom.  This time I really enjoyed myself, though that's hardly surprising.  I've always been a big RTS fan, and Dawn of War was a well-designed and unique game that really took advantage of the setting.

I kept up with Dawn of War for as long as it was supported, buying each of the four (!) expansions and playing multiplayer games over Hamachi with some internet buddies for weeks at a time.  Eventually I'd get bored and stop playing for a while, but I always came back to DoW at one point or another.  There are very few games I've revisited as often, and that speaks volumes.

An oldie, but a goodie.

Dawn of War served as an excellent introduction to the armies and universe of Warhammer 40k.  I loved the Orks and their low-tech weapons, but Chaos was my jam from day one.  I favored the Tau once they came along in the Dark Crusade expansion, thanks to the loveable smashy Krootox and pewpew goodness of Fire Warriors.  When Soulstorm came out, the Sisters of Battle charmed me with their love for heavy flamers and creepy mechanized units.  Unfortunately, bugs and balance problems marred that particular expansion so fiercely that I never really got to enjoy my time with them.  Perhaps another time, Repentia!

Fast forward a bit to the release of Dawn of War 2 this last February.  A redesign from the ground up based on the Company of Heroes model for RTS gaming?  Intriguing!  I bought this game on day one, of course. 

Dawn of War 2 didn't really light my fire, but it did do some interesting things that kept me playing for a while.  Multiplayer was just too competitive and broken at launch for me to get really into it, and Warhammer 40k fell out of my world once again, only to return with the relaunch of Space Hulk.

Tomorrow:  Buying my first army!  Maybe even a bonus list, my very first published on the internet.  Exciting shit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Beginning of the End

At first glance, Warhammer 40,000 and I are not a very good match.  It's a science fiction setting; I generally prefer fantasy.  It has pretty high barriers to entry; (more about those in a second) and I think that accessibility is one of the most important traits a game can have.  There's a strong artistic element to the hobby; I can barely draw a stick figure, much less paint one.

So how the hell did I find myself spending hundreds of dollars on little plastic Space Marines?  It's kind of complicated, but it also makes a certain kind of sense.

When I was a little kid, I owned a copy of this board game called Space Hulk.  I didn't really know much about it, and I think I only managed to get my brother to play me in it once or twice.  I would have been about 13 at the most, and he would have been 10.  A lot of the finer points of turn-based tactical boardgaming were lost on us, but we couldn't care less.  We had power swords and heavy flamers and swarms of aliens at our command!

Those of you familiar with the game of course know that it's set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  I didn't realize this until this last year, when I read that Space Hulk would be re-released and a rush of childhood memories hit me like a chainfist.  I had to have a copy of that game again!

I found myself in Games of Berkeley, looking for a few D&D sourcebooks to help get my new campaign started and giving my new friend Tre a quick tour of gaming stores in the area.  Two other gentlemen of obvious nerd pedigree were standing nearby, talking about some game or another.  After a few lines of strained dialogue, I realized that they were talking about Space Hulk.  One of them uttered "You should probably buy it.  There's only three copies left."

Glancing over to where they were standing, I saw a copy perched on the shelf between them.  With the sudden alacrity of a fat cop going for the last doughnut, I darted into their midst and laid my mitts on the precious box.  "And now there's two!" I cackled.

(On an unrelated note, it was during this trip that I received the best service on any trip to Games of Berkeley.  Could it be that attending with a female friend who can clearly hold her own in RPG supplement-related discussion had some bearing on the way the staff treated me?  Shocking!)

Only once I got the box home and popped the lid open to play my inaugural game did I realize that there would be assembly required.  I should have known, of course, but I wasn't really prepared for it.  Back to the store I went to pick up some plastic cutters, glue, a knife, some files, oh and why the hell not?  I'll pick up some paints & brushes too.  If I'm going to do this thing, I'm going to do it right!

I settled on some P3 paints, because I had heard good things about them during a brief stint internet-flirting with Warmachine/Hordes a couple years ago.  I picked out some appropriately Space Hulk-y colors and some Reaper brushes, went back to my house, and got to work.

Roughly an hour into the assembly I knew I was in trouble.  I was putting together a Blood Angels Terminator, complete with a gigantic Thunder Hammer & Storm Shield when it hit me.  Not the Thunder Hammer, mind.

I was having more fun putting that little dude together than I had playing most other boardgames I'd touched in the last few months.  How fucking awesome is that?  It's a snap-together model, not even something that requires any posing or skill on my part, but the sheer attention to detail of the figure and the zen-like focus you get when cutting and filing all the tiny plastic bits really resonated with me.  That's when I knew I was bit, and I'd probably have to start looking into playing a real tabletop wargame.

Up next:  While My Wallet Softly Weeps - First Steps to 40K.

Hail and Kill!

Welcome to Sweeping Advance, a collection of sagas from a new Warhammer 40,000 "general".  And when I say "new", I really mean new.  I'm 28 and just getting started in the hobby, which is a bit of an oddity from what I've gathered, so I have lots to learn and write about.  Expect battle reports, stories about assembly and painting, army lists, 40k tidbits, and whatever else I can come up with.  

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, the Grey Hunters in the banner image were painted by Irondog Studios & used with permission, of course)
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