Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Proof is in the Reading

Just a short post tonight, and if you can read this I assume my iffy Internet connection is holding up. You might have picked up that the four Forge World indexes are now out and in the hands of many gamers, including me. Unfortunately they are, to steal the words of Richard Garfield, buggier than a first-year FORTRAN class.

Now, I'm not talking buggy as in the odd minor misprint here or there, the sort of thing that will always tend to slip through the net. I'm talking massive, huge, stupid mistakes that should have been obvious to anyone. Mistakes like completely missing unit entries (e.g. the Medusa), nonsensical rules (Renegade transport flyers than can't transport Renegades) inconsistent rules (the Death Korps Memento Mori which has different rules for two models on the same page) missing options (Contemptor Mortis cyclone launchers, Fire Raptor autocannons) and missing rules for options (the Heavy Armour on the Land Raider Proteus). The warlord and Enforcers for Renegades don't even have the Character rule, for crying out loud.

Now this annoys me on two levels. Firstly, as the poor sap consumer who's just dropped £60 plus postage on four books which, at best, are going to have to have pages of errata and corrections stuffed into them. But more than that, it offends me personally.
You might have noticed I wrote a novel some time ago. Part of the reason for this blog is to help publicise it, and the link is right up there as the only ad on the entire thing. It took me something like two years to write, and it's over 160,000 words long. And I proof-read the whole thing, end to end, personally. It took me bloody ages. In preparation for a paperback release (which is coming soon) I've recently done it again, and I still noticed a few tiny mistakes. But I bothered to do it. My entire royalty take for those two years plus change of work is so far somewhere in the region of £20. So when I see a bunch of people who are supposed to be professionals make such a spectacularly half-baked job of checking their work that most gamers spot multiple errors on reading the things once and then having the brass balls to charge £15 a pop for the things, you bet I get cross.

So, as an aspiring writer, 25-year 40k veteran, and long-suffering consumer, I say to Forge World: Pull your fingers out. Check your work. Get someone else who doesn't already know what you mean to check it again. Then get someone else to check it. Then release the digital version so people can get a decent look at it. And then, and only then, can you commit that work to paper.

I will never- and I repeat, never, pre-order a Forge World book again, and I encourage anyone thinking of buying one of the FW Indexes to give it at least a month for them to fix the errors before even considering it.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Death Guard- Dead good or DOA?

So, with 8th Edition and the all-important Indexes finally in the grubby little paws/ tendrils/ digital manipulators/ tentacles of gamers all over the planet (except possibly North Korea, but I bet Kim the Young'un has got a set and is frantically painting his Primaris Marines as I type this) I thought it about time to have a look at the all new, if not exactly fresh, Death Guard. Hopefully without too many run-on-sentences. No promises.

With the Death Guard, GW seem at first blush to have if not dropped the ball, then at least fumbled it drawing a sharp intake of breath from the spectators. It doesn't help that the Traitor Legions book so recently finally gave the Legions some flavour and power, and it can feel like the Indexes have cruelly snatched it away again. We should remember, however, that even Loyalist Marines have lost Chapter Tactics and the poor little lambs suddenly have to take Morale tests like everyone else, so all supplicants are in some respects of equal height to this headsman.

Even allowing for that, though, the Death Guard are in a uniquely bad position. I'm not sure if the timing of their release was as GW intended, but at time of writing the 'true' Death Guard have a very limited roster of units, and worse, many models people thought were Death Guard a month or so ago now aren't. If, like me, you got excited by Relentless Death Guard Havoks or are one of the approximately 2/3 of all Chaos players to have Nurgle Obliterators, right now your nose is probably a little out of joint. Of course, since those units can still have the Mark of Nurgle and are still HERETIC ASTARTES you can still field them in the same Detachment, they just can't have the DEATH GUARD keyword for their <LEGION>.

Dammit, can't use these either!
Legionnaires' Disease

The <LEGION> keyword is a bit of an odd beast. Functionally, it works like most other secondary faction keywords, like <CHAPTER> or <ORDER>- in order to receive various buffs, your unit needs to be from the same <LEGION> as the buff-giver. The oddity is, though, that unlike Marine Chapters and Sororitas Orders, we know who all the Legions are, so it feels strange to insert your own or use the name of a known Nurgle warband like The Purge. On the other hand, Huron Blackheart uses the RED CORSAIRS keyword which seems to work as a <LEGION> so what's in a word, eh?

The bottom line, though is that for the moment at least, if you want to use things like Chaos Terminators, Havoks, Obliterators, Dark Apostles or Warpsmiths, to name but a few, you're going to need to put something else in that <LEGION> space. This hurts the synergies of the army, though it doesn't give any penalties beyond that. (As a side note, the new army composition system doesn't seem to care if the Factions of your detachments don't match. As far as I can see, you can play a Slaanesh Daemons Patrol with an Aeldari Battalion and no-one bats an eyelid.)

No rules for you!

Down with the Sickness

Enough of this wittering. Let's take a look at what the Death Guard do get, and see if it makes up at all for what they lose out on.

Typhus looks pretty solid. He's very tough, with T5, 2+/ 4++ and, like all Death Guard, Disgustingly Resilient meaning it'll take a lot to strip all 6 of his Wounds. Notably, his Manreaper is a bit of a super-weapon, with S7, -3 AP, 3 Damage and a re-roll of 1s to wound, without any of the penalties usually associated with Power Fists or Daemon Weapons. His Destroyer Hive now works a lot better than it used to, and of course as a Pistol can be shot even when he's locked in combat. He buffs Poxwalkers, gives Death Guard units a deadly aura, and is a decent Psyker into the bargain. One annoyance is that his Cataphractii Armour slows him down for the 4++, despite many other characters getting that for no penalty and an Imperial Cataphractii Captain getting a 3++

Without going to the Points section, this looks like a first-class derp on GW's part. For the same Power, this guy does exactly the same as Typhus, only worse. His profile and saves are the same, his weapon is identical but for only being S6, he has no Destroyer Hive, doesn't buff Poxwalkers and isn't a psyker. On top of that, unless I'm spectacularly misreading the points system, in Matched Play he costs, er, more than Typhus. Unless you really, really want to spread Nurgle's Gift across a wide area, this poor chap looks set for shelf time. Hopefully GW will either give him his own rules or make him considerably cheaper when the Death Guard get their own book.

This fellow seems fine. He's as powerful as a stock Sorcerer as far as casting goes, is a point of Power cheaper, and causes Mortal Wounds to the enemy as a side-effect of casting. He's a bit less flexible, and slower, but like the rest of the Death Guard he's nice and tough. The Contagion Discipline is decently powerful, though given the slow speed of the Death Guard you might want a normal Sorcerer to get Warptime to move units about a bit faster.

I like these lads a lot, though they make me mourn my Poxwalker Hive Dark Apostle all the harder. For a pittance of Power, you get a nice solid blob of rot-brained morons who are immune to Morale and reinforce themselves by eating the enemy. Though they're only T3 and have that notorious 7+ save, Disgustingly Resilient makes them tougher than most chaff. Their Diseased Horde ability makes them vaguely competent in melee if there's more than 10 of them, which is 10 less than most similar abilities for units like Boyz, Daemonettes or Grots require. It's a little odd that 20 is the maximum unit size, but that's probably just to fit in with the new starter set. So long as you don't expect them to do much other than get in the enemy's way, eat Overwatch, and be generally annoying they compare well with Cultists, who are still available to Death Guard.

The signature Nurgle unit is in an odd place at the moment. Since Defensive Grenades are no longer a thing, their old trick of stuffing up units that needed Charge bonuses like Rage, Furious Charge, etc. no longer works, though on the plus side they no longer need to worry about Initiative. They retain their access to two Special Weapons, though Disgustingly Resilient is no help if a Plasma weapon blows up on them, sadly. Oddly, and probably to accommodate an older model, the Plague Champion can take a Plasma Gun/ Power Fist combo, which is nice since as previously lamented most Champions can't take a bolter or combi-weapon along with a special close combat weapon now. Another strange thing is the Blight Launcher, which seems to be some sort of poisonous Krak Grenade launcher but doesn't seem to have a model at the moment, suggesting a new kit is coming. Overall these guys are still pretty decent, if possibly not as impressive as they felt in 7th Ed, and you're going to be seeing them in Death Guard armies pretty much by default.

Not having had a chance to play Death Guard yet (there's only one weekend in a week, people) I find the Bloat Drone tricky to appraise. Its Power Rating puts it squarely in Dreadnought territory, but with only 3 Attacks it's not all that destructive in melee and will certainly struggle against other walkers. However, with T7, 10 Wounds, 3+/5++ and Disgustingly Resilient it's certainly quite tough, and with its two Plaguespitters will be putting out 2D6 automatic hits when shooting. Since it can Fly, that means it can Overwatch an assault unit and should it survive, back out of the fight and shoot them again, which coupled with a fast-for-Death-Guard speed of 10" makes it look like a handy unit. I'd have liked Nurgle units to be immune to damage from its Putrid Explosion, but hey.

This.. thing.. is just plain weird. He feels like somewhere where all the ideas they had left over got put. The Blightbringer has a plasma pistol (why the Death Guard, lords of decay, seem addicted to the most high-maintenance weapon in 40k I don't know) a Cursed Bell for close combat that's pretty mediocre, and the usual mix of low speed and decent durability. However, he just might be an essential unit due to his support abilities (and hello Age of Sigmar, nice to see you visiting us again.) Not only does he make Death Guard a little faster when they Advance within 7", but he has a Leadership debuff with the same area- 1 for most units, 2 for Psykers. This is ok on it's own, but when combined with an Icon of Despair, which Plague Marines can take, might mean -2 or even -3 Leadership penalties for enemy units. That puts many units into territory where even a single casualty might well mean failed Morale tests, which against units with several Wounds and decent defences is very big news indeed. This fellow is the chocolate-covered salted pretzel of the Death Guard- it makes no sense, but it sort of works.

Post Mortem

So, that's yer Death Guard. Do the new units make up for the losses? Nope, at least not yet for me. If the full version of their Codex doesn't give me some way to use my Havoks, Apostle, Obliterators and Terminators without having to mess around with other Legions, I'm going to be a grumpy bunny. Does that mean I'll be dropping them? Hell no. What is here is pretty decent, with the very noteable exception of the Typhus vs Lord mess, and so long as GW get the lead out and fill out the army sooner rather than later I'm sure they'll be viable. But that's just my overly-long and yet insufficiently detailed take. I'd be interested to hear what I've missed!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Trying 8th: First Impressions

So, I finally got to try out 8th Edition! And it was.. well, a little frustrating. But we'll get to that.

Since I've also been playing Shadow War a bit, I decided to lug my Orks down to my FLGS and see if I could get a test game in. We ended up playing a 79 Power game (we were going to go with 75, but my first try at a list hit 75 dead  but wasn't practical for the Detachments, so we just added in the Weirdboy and moved up to 79). I ended up playing against Tau. I was using:

Kaptin Badrukk (with one Ammo Runt)
A Weirdboy
2 units of 20 Slugga/ Choppa Boyz led by Nobz with Power Klaws
1 unit of 20 Shoota Boyz with 2 big shootas, led by a Nob with Power Klaw
A Gorkanaut
10 Flash Gitz
A Battlewagon with 2 Big Shootas, 2 Rokkits, and a Killkannon
This used a Battalion detachment, IIRC, giving me 6 Command Points.

The opposing Tau were (to the best of my memory, yes kids it's another blogger who doesn't take notes)
Commander with two Fusion guns and a missile pod
Crisis Bodyguard team with 6 Flamers
Stealth team with 2 burst cannon and a fusion gun
3 Broadsides with heavy rail rifles and smart missiles
2 units of ten Fire Warriors
2 units of ten Kroot
Cadre Fireblade
2 units of Pathfinders with a mix of rail rifles and ion rifles in addition to Markerlights
This was also a Battalion detachment

Now firstly I should point out that we were still very much learning the rules, the store copies of both the rules and the Indexes were getting passed about all over the place and the terrain was more than a little improvised, so I'm not taking how things went as being all that representative, but it certainly brought up a few issues. I got the first turn, and identified the infiltrating Stealth team as a danger, so I moved up the Battlewagon full of flash gitz and Badrukk to deal with them. In hindsight this turned out to be the first of many mistakes borne of my unfamiliarity with the new rules, but as I said this was a learning process. Anyway, despite unloading 30 shots with the Gitz' Snazzguns, hitting on 4+ and re-rolling 1s due to Badrukk, plus Badrukk's own gun which is now basically a plasma caliver I was only able to take two out. This was due in no small part to the fact that the Stealth team not only forces -1 to hit against them, but also got +1 to their saves for being in cover. I even added the Battlewagon's firepower but to no effect.

I'm not going to do a tedious blow-by-blow of the entire thing, but suffice it to say that in the following Tau turn this happened:

Using the homing beacon carried by the Stealth team, the Crisis bodyguards dropped within flamer range of my supporting Boyz. Units with lots of flamers are going to pose real problems for armies like Orks and Daemons in 8th, because not only can they kill models which are out of their immediate range but they can then Overwatch repeatedly so long as they manage to stay out of combat. On the following Ork turn, the surviving Boyz (about 13) along with a couple of Flash Gitz and Badrukk were left with the problem of trying to assault the Crisis team through 6D6 automatic hits- not a new problem, but one made worse by the fact that using the two Gitz to ablate the Overwatch was no longer a viable tactic. (In the end the Boyz made it with about 6 of their number left, allowing the others to get in.) Overall I'm not a big fan of multiple Overwatch at all- it removes a tough decision people used to have to make and I don't think it makes much sense narratively- how is the unit supposed to be firing all its weapons at multiple charging units at once? It's not like they're standing there politely waiting their turn to charge.

In a big positive for Orks, though, the new Weirdboy is much improved. I took Da Jump as his power, and teleported the Shoota Boyz up into the corner of the board, ready to distract and hopefully charge the Tau flank. It didn't work for the shootas (despite their 'ere we go reroll) but on the subsequent turn the red sluggas tried it on the opposite flank with more success, and finally accounted for two Broadsides and a Fire Warrior squad on their own.

I was also quite impressed with the Gorkanaut. Though the Deffstorm mega-shoota still seems to continue the tradition of being less effective than the Big Shootas, being able to split its fire and charge something it didn't shoot, coupled with improved durability, makes it a lot more effective. In this game it blew great chunks out of the Tau, slaughtering an entire squad of Kroot in one turn and inflicting heavy casualties on several other squads before its rampage was brought to an end. With the way the Transport rules now work I think I'll definitely be using its ability to carry six models in future, with Burnas looking like a likely candidate.

The Battlewagon, on the other hand.. well, I think in this game I mishandled it due to still thinking in 7th Ed terms. With its toughness of 7 in the open-topped configuration and gaining little benefit from it for delivering assault troops, my Battlewagon in this game should have been trying to stay out of trouble and keeping the Gitz inside in 24" range of their target, rather than closing. Due to the Battlewagon's basic save being 4+, Tau small arms which mostly damage it on 5+ were a very serious threat to it, which coupled with the fact that Markerlight hits now persist for the entire turn spelt doom for the thing in short order, and subsequently for the Gitz inside.

Speaking of the Gitz, another big error I made with them was putting a KillKannon on their ride. This reduces the carrying capacity of the Battlewagon to 12, which meant that with Badrukk in there too I could only take one Ammo Runt since Runts now take up transport slots and have a profile. I really could have benefited from more re-rolls to hit and the KillKannon was somewhat useless anyway, I still think, however, that Flash Gitz and Lootas using the Battlewagon's Mobile Fortress rule to fire on the move looks like a solid combo, I just used it poorly here.

I was more than a little shocked at how poor Boyz were in assault, though we should remember that Battlesuits are an edge case. With the Klaw Nobz hitting on 4+, not gaining a bonus attack for charging, and only inflicting -3 save (meaning a 2+ save Broadside still gets a 5+) and then only inflicting D3 damage (on a 6 wound model) it took three rounds of combat for 17 Boyz and a Nob to kill one suit. Things were even worse against the Crisis team, which lost a grand total of one model to the charge of 7 Boyz and a Klaw Nob, two Flash Gitz, and Badrukk, before simply using their Fly rule to leave combat and shoot them again. With the new Morale rules there was no chance of them breaking due to losing combat whilst I was forced to burn two Command Points to stop my Orks fleeing due to the damage they'd taken from the Overwatch. At the moment, the 7th Ed version of Mob Rule feels much better to me given how easily Boyz mobs can take ten or more casualties in a turn.

In general- and this is I'm sure in part due to this being a tough match-up for Orks- my models felt very fragile. Since Ork Boyz can no longer get 'eavy armour (as far as I could see) and cover is now a bonus to your save, it was extremely rare for them to get any save at all against Tau shooting, even without markerlights. Meanwhile the Tau models would often have 3+ or 2+ saves against most Ork weapons outside of melee. It's telling that many of the Ork lists I'm seeing pop up at the moment are Kan Walls. Certainly at the moment- and I speak as someone who plays amongst others Daemons, Orks and Khorne Daemonkin and regards themself as a bit of an assault specialist- Assault based armies feel like they're going to be weaker than ever, especially those using Infantry. But I'm speaking without trying things like charging vehicles into melee first to stop Overwatch or using Kustom Force Fields, which with their bubble of 5++ look like they may be essential again, and for most of this game my dice were disgusting, so it's still early days yet!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

8th Edition SoB: Deny Denied

I thought I'd take a moment to point out something about the new Sisters of Battle list that's been bugging me, now that their Faction Focus has been done and it's not been mentioned.

Shield of Faith has always been one of those rules which was never quite as good as it was made out to be. We've all (those of us who play Sisters, anyway) got at least one tale of that time we made a clutch 6++ against a melta hit, but for the most part it tended to have little impact. In 8th Edition, however, with Celestine buffing it to a 5+ and Seraphim still getting their re-roll, it's become rather more impressive. However, there's an elephant in the room here, and that's psychic defence.

Shield of Faith used to have two layers of defence against psychic attacks. Firstly, Sisters were immune to the effects of Force weapons. That rule (which would presumably have taken the shape of Force weapons only doing Sisters 1 wound) is nowhere to be seen, but it's unlikely to be greatly missed. The other layer was Adamantium Will, allowing Sisters to Deny The Witch on a 5+. To be honest, this also worked pretty poorly unless you also brought some Witches of your own to give you some Warp Charge, but it was something. So what does the new version do?

A unit with Shield of Faith can now attempt to Deny The Witch as if it were a Psyker (wohoo!)... on 1D6 (awwww.) In case you might be labouring under the idea that this is in any way useful, bear in mind that you have to beat- not equal- the casting roll used to cast the power you wish to Deny, the casting test is made on 2D6, and many powers require a score of 6 or more to cast anyway. And no, unless my poor addled memory is playing tricks on me, a roll of 6 doesn't automatically succeed.

That, as far as psychic attacks are concerned, isn't a 'Shield of Faith'- it's barely a Chainmail Bikini of Faith. Now, it's important to remember that at the moment, psychics aren't as powerful as they were, so this may not be a serious problem, and I still think that Sisters are gaining more than they're losing in 8th Edition (I can see SoB armies with Celestine and a few Simulacrums being feared for the number of extra actions they'll be getting, for one thing) but it's a shame that GW still can't seem to figure out how to give them any psychic defence that actually works.

Could it be fixed? I think so. Other than the obvious (and probably OP for the points) option of  making the Deny a 2D6 roll, one possibility would be for multiple Sisters units to grant a bonus, so a unit might get +1 to the Deny roll for every unit with the Shield Of Faith rule within 12" of it, for example. Of course I've yet to try my Sisters in 8th, so it may be that there are more powers I can deny than I thought. We shall see.

On a related note, here's a wrinkle in the rules for one of the possible ways of dealing with the problem, the Sisters of Silence:

[In thoughmark] "I don't know what's coming, but it's probably heresy"
In a move that will have Thousand Sons Sorcerers polishing up their Doombo- er, Smites, in front of the mirror, the Null Maiden Rhino in the new Index has been stripped of the Psychic Abomination rule. Since the rule also doesn't work when a unit with it is embarked in a Transport, this means that SoS squads in their Rhinos are no safer from Witchfires and all the rest of it than anyone else is. How much impact this is going to have on the usefulness of the Sisters remains to be seen, but it's certainly not a buff.

Time will tell.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The long-awaited 8th Edition post

I've been deliberately holding off writing anything about the new edition until I'd actually seen the  new rules for myself, but with copies of the books and box set now at FLGS across the land, including my local, I finally think it's time to make a few comments.

Overall, I like the look of the new rules. The addition of the 'keyword' system as seen in AoS (arguably pioneered by Magic: TG) is very welcome and makes things seem a lot more elegant. There are some interesting wrinkles to the new rules, too, such as Airborne models (i.e. Flyers) being vulnerable to assault by units with the FLY keyword. Yes, finally Stormboyz can re-enact the beginning of the Space Marine videogame and attack those Valkyries. (Those Space Marines still aren't allowed to hitch a ride, though)

Actually the Space Marines in Valkyries thing does bring us to one of the things in the new Indexes that I thought odd- not only are transports still not able to transport models from other Factions, they can't even generally accept models from the same Faction if they're from a different sub-faction. For example if for some reason some of your Sisters of Battle are from a different Order to the others, they aren't allowed in the Rhinos. The Inquisition get the wonderful 'By The Authority of the Inquisition' rule which lets them ignore this restriction, but they then don't get any transports of their own, which is annoying.

The indexes in general are frustrating like this. One moment you find something really fun which inspires you, like the new Acts of Faith or the way Noise Marines make one last attack before they die, and then you run into an inexplicable restriction that seems to have eluded the playtesters completely. A notorious example is that both SoB and CSM now find that they can't equip their squad leaders with a bolter/ combi-weapon and a special close combat weapon. In the case of the Sisters, the Superiors can only replace their boltgun with a special CC weapon and their pistol with.. well, another pistol, which means the one leading this squad is out of luck:

..which is a little embarrassing since that's the squad currently for sale on the GW webstore.

With CSM, it's aggravating since the wording for the Champion's weapon options is almost exactly the same as it is for Marine Sergeants, just with a minor difference (the CSM version says 'alternatively take one of..' whereas the Marine one just says 'one of') which means you can't do it. CSM in general seem to have suffered in the Indexes, with the Thousand Sons and Death Guard ironically hardest hit- there's currently no Psychic Discipline for the Sons (meaning the Sorcerers have gone from a potential repertoire of some 30 spells to about four) and whilst the Death Guard have a Discipline, they've lost access to a huge chunk of the CSM list, like Obliterators, Multilators and Terminators. You can still take those models with the Mark of Nurgle, but it basically does nothing (no +1 T for you) and means they'll have the wrong Legion keyword. Obviously the Death Guard have new toys incoming but possessors of current DG armies with lots of lovingly converted models they suddenly can't use are coming down with a nasty case of Bloody Annoyance which GW is going to have to work pretty hard to cure.

Overall, the Indexes to me feel somewhat slapdash. As a writer myself, I understand how hard proof-reading can be, but if these books were play-tested the testers clearly weren't paying attention, because the things I mention here jumped out on me in a few hours of looking casually through the books. Another howlingly bad example is the entry for a Traitor Knight, which comes stock in the Gallant configuration (fist+ reaper chainsword) with a single Stubber. There are options to replace the Stubber with a Melta, but no options for more Stubbers, meaning that as soon as you try to add the Rapid-Fire Battlecannon with its additional Stubber, or the gatling with its Heavy Flamer, you can't do it. Derp.

Fortunately, the points system comes to our rescue a little here. Since GW have taken the approach of pointing up models separately to their weapons, we can still add those missing options and pay the appropriate points (or ignore the problem completely if using Power Levels) so long as everyone is cool with it.

I'll mention a few other things that jumped out at me. Orks seem to have done well out of the Indexes, with Mek Guns seemingly getting even better (!) and the Battlewagon having a nice combination of rules allowing Lootas to fire out of it on the move without penalty, not to mention the Combi-weapon changes making Meganobz with Kombi-Skorchas pretty terrifying. The aversion to options is a bit jarring here, though, with most Characters having an entirely different entry just to ride a Warbike and the Nob with a Waaagh! banner now being a separate option to the Biker Nobz, meaning there's no way he can keep up with them since apparently he's not allowed a bike.

It's odd in general that some models seem to have had a lot of thought and attention lavished on them- the Ork 'Nauts and the Chaos Land Raider both got the sort of rules they've been crying out for for years- whilst others have been handled very poorly. The Slaanesh 'lawnmower' chariots, which used to dish out bucketloads of dice in Impact hits on the charge, have now been reduced to the terrible rule from AoS where they inflict a single Mortal Wound on a model with 1" on a 6 (or 5+ for the Exalted Chariot) which as anyone who's tried them in Fantasy will tell you is dire. (On the plus side, they at least don't die after taking a single Wound in assault any more). Particularly odd is the way that the Exalted chariot degrades when damaged when the basic one doesn't, and the fact the Hellflayer gets to make attacks with its blades whereas the Seeker Chariots, which have just as many if not more blades, don't, The Soul Grinder has also been horribly treated, losing both Warp Gaze and its Torrent weapon in favour of a compulsory Phlegm Bombardment that you can't even leave off to save points.

I don't want to come over too negative. Overall, 8th Ed is looking like a much better, cleaner, and faster version of the rules and I'm really, really looking forward to playing it. The Indexes certainly will create issues, and a lot will hinge on both how GW handle them, and the tone they take whilst doing it. Hopefully, they'll proceed sensibly.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Dark Souls: Mr Smough's Embarrassing Problem

I've been working my way through the models in the Dark Souls board game, and as we can see Mr Smough here has a.. problem. We shall call it Hammer Droopitis.

Put it in the Big Book! Actually don't. Also (c) Disney because I don't need that sort of heat.
 It seems that the plastic poor Mr Smough is made of isn't quite capable of dealing with the weight of the massive hammer head, because an initial treatment with hot water only fixed the problem for a couple of days before The Droop returned. So stronger measures were required.

Sadly Mr Smough's 'partner', Mr Ornstein, was not supportive.
The first thing I did was to apply the hot water again and get the hammer shaft as straight as I could again. Once this had cooled and dried, I cut the hammer head off with a razor-saw as cleanly as possible:
Most of that flock is stuck to the mat, but I'll admit surgical hygiene left a bit to be desired 
The next step was to drill a hole as deep into both the hammer head and the shaft as possible. Into this I then pushed a suitable pin, for which I chose an old broken steel bit for the same drill since it wouldn't bend.

There's a hole in the head and a pin down the shaft and he's still standing. What intestinal fortitude!
Finally, after dry-fitting the whole thing and leaving it for a day or so to make sure The Droop had been banished, I glued the whole thing together again. Whilst due to the way Mr Smough is posed there's still a little curve, it seems quite a bit straighter and he seems much happier.

Is he smiling under there? I'm going to assume so.
To be fair to Steamforged, the Dark Souls models are meant to be good board game pieces as opposed to proper miniatures, so the somewhat soft material is understandable and makes them easier to transport. Just don't expect me to do this with those bendy arrows on the Silver Knights...

Monday, 17 April 2017

Lets talk about armour..

Once again, as the latest Raging Heroes TGG models filter through into general release, the ongoing debate about armour, especially that worn (or indeed, not worn) by female models has popped up. There's actually quite a lot to chew on here, not all of it related to gender, so this may ramble about a little. Buckle up! (This post is a little long, and quite image-heavy)

Let's start with the one that irritates me most and is conveniently most easily dealt with. Take a look at this:


Now let's be honest, that would be pretty dumb, and there's certainly no shortage of outfits on female characters in comics and to a lesser extent games that would probably only stay attached by magic or the most advanced sticky-tape known to science. Let's take a look at another nice example before we get to the boring talky bit.

This one's a particularly good illustration of why 'bikini armour' annoys people. At its worst, it's presented as having the protective qualities of field plate whilst having the coverage of O2 in the Outer Hebrides, which is clearly daft. Games, be they tabletop or virtual, where the same suit of armour looks like an entire ironmonger's on one gender, and three bits of tinfoil held together by twine on the other, are certainly asking to be ridiculed and deserve every last bit of it. Heck, I've even been a bit guilty of that one myself in the past, using some of the older, bulkier Witch Elves as Chaos Warriors of Khorne in my Valkia army. WFB/ AoS gives you a bit of an out in the form of Chaos Armour that has grown into the body and gone under the skin, but still, a 3+ save for a bikini is a bit cheeky (potentially in more ways than one.)

The thing is, though, there seems to be the prevailing idea that this.. supposed to be the same thing as this...

..which is pretty odd, when you remember that Sonja was inspired by the writings of the same person who gave us this guy:

Now we can go round and round as to whether being basically naked as a male barbarian and being every bit as naked as a female warrior is the same thing or not, but one thing I think we can probably agree on is that neither is exactly 'armoured'. The thing is that there's a pretty simple reason for this- both characters are basically adventurers, not soldiers. Both of them have plenty of battlefield experience, sure, but you can bet that if they see a battle coming they usually take time out to grab any armour that's available, as you might remember from the end of the classic 'Conan The Barbarian' movie. Once the battle is done, however, they usually discard or sell the armour and move on, and by happy random chance that Sonja pic gives us one of the reasons why that is- she's wading through a river. Now you can actually do quite a lot by way of running, jumping and even doing cartwheels in battlefield plate armour, as seen in many Youtube videos like this one...

..but one thing you won't be doing is swimming. An old friend of mine still tells the story of when his veteran Runequest character, resplendent in enchanted runic plate-mail and tower-shield, decided an entire raiding party of over 100 Orcs was a tad rich for his blood and attempted to elude them by swimming a river. Needless to say this ended poorly for him. Of course you could always take your armour off before trying something like that, or carry it about in a sack and only put it on when danger threatened, but with the really solid stuff you'd want on the front-line of a battlefield that's not really an option, and of course if you're a thief like Conan sneaking into the Tower of the Elephant to make off with the valuables, you're planning to be carrying a heavy sack out, not carrying one in on the off chance you run into a guard.

Of course the other thing with battlefield armour, especially in fantastical settings like 40k or AoS, is that its protective value only takes you so far. As any Dark Souls player will tell you, the ability to take a few sword blows without dying is very handy, but should that same armour lead to the dreaded Fat Roll when you try to dodge the jaws of an irate dragon all you've done is give the thing some intestinal discomfort when nature eventually takes its course. In 40k, sure that power armour is very nice, but if the enemy are pointing Grav weapons and plasma guns at you you'll be envying those Wyches as they Fleet their way into cover.

Games in general, and video games are particularly bad for this, are not fond of reflecting the negative effects of armour. Most games that let you swim let you do so in full plate with no penalty and wear helmets with no effect on your hearing or vision. The visibilty thing is particularly interesting- I've talked to people who actually wear medieval helmets who don't think it's a major issue, but then there's this quote from an interview with Nicola Adams on winning her first pro boxing match:

"I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it," Adams told BT Sport. "You can see a lot more without the headguard. I loved it. I'm here to stay."

Now that's very interesting, given that the headgear worn by Olympic boxers is completely open in the front and is designed mostly to protect the forehead and temples. I've never yet seen a game in which the effect of a helm on the wearer's peripheral vision is represented, though of course any game in which you see from a first-person view does limit it anyway. (There's a related discussion there on why third-person is in some ways a more 'realistic' viewpoint but that's for another time)

On a related note, it always amuses me in RPGs when people ask for a 'hide helmet' option (and I'm one of them, much of the time) and others say something along the lines of "you can't have the protection and not accept the consequences" in a game where characters can drink healing potions apparently straight through a full-face helmet without even stopping to open the visor.

So, I think we've covered why characters might wear little or no armour in games. How much skin that armour reveals is a matter of personal taste but if you're going to have barbarians in loincloths it stands to reason that their sisters-in-arms aren't going to be wearing a smock. Let's take a quick look at another common argument, the dreaded 'boobie armour'. 

Quite a few people have an issue with the look of Sisters of Battle, and the fact that, like most (but not all) armoured female miniatures, they have breasts on the armour:

To look at this firstly from a 40k perspective, the most common complaint is that this forms a Shot Trap, where a bullet or blast hitting the curved piece would deflect into a more vulnerable area. I've never been hugely convinced by this argument.

After all, if we look at this example, the shot would seem to be likely to be deflected right into the middle of the chest, where we would expect the protection to be thickest, or up towards the gorget and shoulder guards, or off to the side, or down to the legs, none of which have any big gaps. Interestingly, if we look at Astartes armour..

..we can see plenty of places where a shot can deflect off a curve into another part of the armour, most notably the curved chest plate which seems to want to guide a bullet under those chunky shoulder pads, or the inviting hollow at the gut. I was going to say at this point that the bottom line is that Power Armour will almost always have some shot traps and the breasts just move it a bit, but then I read this very interesting piece, where in the comments it's explained that in fact, the concept of a shot trap in modern tank armour is basically obsolete, since at the velocities the projectiles now travel at they either shatter on impact, lodge in place, or go straight through. Since power armour is basically tank armour on an infantryman (being made of Ceramite and providing a save against Autocannons, which are the closest thing in 40k to modern tank cannons) it seems we don't need to worry after all. As for how armour shape would effect weapons like Shuriken, las-blasts etc. your guess is as good as mine, but it seems to work better than Stormtrooper armour does. The bottom line seems to be that for good protection, everything needs to be covered in armour and both Astartes and SoB armour seem to have that, er, covered.

Of course everyone really, really should be wearing their helmets but the Emperor protects, and all that. (At least SoB hair looks like it would fit in the helmets, unlike the Sons of Russ...) 

So what about fantasy? What about this sort of thing?

Now, let's draw a very important distinction firstly, in that we're not talking about something like this:

That has obvious gaps all over the place and a blade sliding off it would go straight into something squishy. Interestingly that image comes from this article which raises a few relevant points and also illustrates that I don't have an editor and Kotaku does. No, what we're talking about here is whether an otherwise fine set of plate is compromised by boobie curves, which is a commonly made argument. In that Kotaku piece, the armour-smith says the design 'seems to guide a thrust straight to the heart' and we can certainly see that this is true. If you look at that other video so, so far above though, we see a sword-strike on a breastplate and it just bounces off- it doesn't deflect, it simply rebounds from the armour. If the armour is strong enough to resist a full-blooded impact from the attacking weapon, then it being 'guided' to centre body mass like this doesn't matter- in fact, you could reinforce that central area to compensate. Real plate armour, like this...

..was rarely defeated by the weapon puncturing the metal, but by it entering a join, which is why there are so many overlapping plates. The idea that a thrusting weapon like a Rapier or Estoc would be able to go straight through the breastplate simply because a 'trap' prevented it sliding off seems fanciful.

Now of course 'boobie armour' is not in any way historical. In the era when plate armour was common, women on the battlefield as warriors were basically unheard of, and one of the rare examples we do know of seems to have worn fairly standard armour:

Good old Joan of Arc there, who was also the inspiration for Bretonnia's Repanse de Lyonesse (and wears basically this armour on that model) Also, between the armour and the person it's protecting would usually be leather and/or a cloth gambeson, to absorb the impact of blows (and prevent chafing, especially if you had mail in there too), so whilst some adjustments might be needed for the comfort of the bustier lady (as seen with modern police stab-vests) you wouldn't necessarily actually need breasts on the armour. However, armour certainly was made to show off the... virility of the wearer:

That's Henry VIII's armour, on display in the Tower of London, and as we can see Henry Jr was provided with generous accommodations. It's certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that were a warrior queen to take to the battlefield in armour, it might have been similarly exaggerated, even if the breasts on the armour actually didn't have their fleshly counterparts in them at all.

What I'd like to find, and so far Youtube is coming up blank on this, is a proper test of such 'feminised' plate armour versus various weapons, compared to the performance of the more historically accurate stuff. The expense of making this sort of thing only to then wreck it is obviously a factor- I talked to a lady a year or so a ago who was having a suit made, and so far she had an arm and a gauntlet after a years saving.

So here's my bottom line, at least for now- ultimately everyone has their boundary for what's 'ridiculous'. You might find SoB armour silly but have no problem with an Astartes with shoulder pads so big they'd crush his head if he shrugged, and that's fine. But it really comes down far more to your personal taste than to some slam-dunk of 'practicality'.