Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Forge World and the Horus Heresy, Is it for You?

Today I'm going to take some time to talk about all the fun stuff that Forge World has done with the Horus Heresy. In this article I'm going to go over the back ground of the heresy very briefly for those not familiar with the fluff and for those that may not be familiar with 40k at all but find themselves reading this. I'm also going to talk about the items that forge world has put out already for it and some of the things that they've openly discussed are coming in the pipeline. Lastly, and these items are in no particular order, I'm going to talk about some of the common misconceptions I've heard from people about how the game plays and other points I've had brought up to me.

So lets start with the "fluff" or back ground of the heresy. The game we lovingly call Warhammer 40,000 or 40k for short, really has its origins in approximately the year 30,000 give or take a couple hundred years. The events that went on in 30k were really what sets the tone for the grim dark future we call 40k. In 30k the emperor of mankind is very much fully alive and essentially kicking the butts of everyone. He decides to make these 20 beings called primarchs. Primarchs are super humans that the emperor creates in a lab in order to lead humanity on a grand crusade through all of known space in order to reclaim all the lost worlds of humanity, and in order to pretty much wipe out any species that isn't human. Something strange happens and these 20 primarchs get snatched away before they are fully matured in the lab, and they get spread throughout space as infants. The emperor then creates the space marines from the incomplete genetic remains of the now disappeared primarchs. The space marines are no where near as powerful as the primarchs, yet the remaining primarch DNA still makes the marines far stronger, faster, and tougher than a normal human being. Long story short, the emperor creates 20 legions of these space marines, each legion based on the genetic code of a single primarch, then goes searching for his lost primarchs/sons. The emperor eventually finds each of the primarchs and lets each primarch take command of his own legion in order to go stomping around the galaxy to rescue lost human worlds and kill all the aliens they can find.

At some point roughly half of the now 18 legions (2 primarchs and their legions were destroyed for unspecified reasons) end up deciding they don't like the emperor anymore and turn traitor. The leader of the traitor primarchs and legions is called Horus and thus you get the "Horus Heresy." Forge World in its Horus Heresy stuff is allowing players to recreate the awesome battles that took place between the traitor primarchs/space marine legions, and the emperors with his loyal primarchs/space marine legions. For those that don't know in the end Horus gets killed, the traitors run away into warp space and become the chaos marines we all know and love in 40k. The emperor almost gets killed in the civil war and put into the golden throne to pretty much end up as some kind of soul eating zombie that can't ever leave the throne. Thus the heresy pretty much leads to the stagnation and slow crawl to death of the imperium of mankind that we find in 40k.

Obviously that is the briefest summary I can give you and I have left out literally tons of information for the sake of simplicity. You can grasp the significance of the heresy though and the spiral of events it causes later. Without 30k you have no 40k. Feel free to check out any of the Horus Heresy novels by the Black Library for thousands of pages of additional information on the heresy back ground. I think they've surpassed 20 novels in the series at this point. Also 40k lexicanum, I believe I have that right, has a ton of stuff on it as well if you google search their page.

So what has Forge World done to bring this epic event to life for us on a table top near you? Well they're releasing a series of campaign books that go over the really pivotal moments and battles that took place during the heresy. Thus far they have 2 books out with a 3rd one coming this summer. You can think of these as your typical codex books with a ton of additional material. Instead of having rules for just 1 army each of these books gives you rules for several of the space marine legions as well as mechanicum forces. They also give you the detailed flow of the battles in them and give you rules and a campaign format to recreate them. Each pivotal moment or battle is going to be done in a trilogy of books, at least that's the plan that Forge World has for now. So the first 3 books, called Betrayal, Massacre, and Extermination each go over all the events that took place in the Istvann system. That's where the heresy kicks off. The first book goes over how the traitor legions had to cull their ranks of anyone that would try to remain loyal to the emperor. Massacre goes over the battles that took place when the emperor sends some of his "loyal" legions to destroy the "known" traitor legions while they're still in the Istvann system only to have some of the "loyal" legions also turn traitor. Extermination will detail the basic, well extermination, of several of the truly loyal space marine legions at the hands of the now reveiled traitor marines. These books do allow you to make some truly amazing space marine legions but we can get into that a little later.

So what else besides these truly amazing leather bound tomes has Forge World made? Well they obviously have a ton of heresy era space marine stuff they're made. Thus far they've come out with specific units for 6 of the 18 legions, special characters from 4 of the legions, and 5 of the primarchs. They also have a ton of vehicles and various marine units that you can paint in whatever legion colors you want to. They only have specific rules out for 8 of the legions currently but you can make a generic legion army for whatever legion you prefer. You just won't get any unique units specific to that legion. So for example Forge World has these death shroud terminators that are specific to the death guard legion. So if you want to play say raven guard you can't use those guys, only the death guard get them. You do however have access to all the generic units that every legion does. So for example everyone can take tactical squads or contemptor dreadnoughts. They will obviously cover all the legions/primarchs over time, it is just going to take a while to get there. The heresy is a truly massive civil war in scale.

They've also made the mechanicum as I mentioned before. These are essentially the guys that keep all the technology running in the imperium of man. They're also talked about how they do have their own armed forces but up until this point Games Workshop as a company has not given them an army. Since they were part of the heresy Forge World, thank God, has finally given them models and rules to play them. All the legions have access to them as allies or you can of course use them on their own. The models for these guys are pretty impressive. Lots of robots and guys with big guns for arms. The none robot models are kind of borg like except with robes added. So think cyborg priest with big guns. They have mechanicum tanks and all kinds of things planned for them in the future. Actually this week if you were subscribed to Forge World's email list, they showed a sneak peak of the first mechanicum only vehicle. Its a tank with a lightning cannon. The rules for the model will be available this summer, while the model itself will be available around the same time. Based of the little bit of back ground they gave on the tank in the email, I suspect the rules for it will be very similar to how necron vehicles work. Its armor is low but it has some kind of shields that will make the armor value functionally higher. I'm pretty sure it will also be open topped just like all the necron vehicles.

Now let's discuss the actual game play and some of the misconceptions I've heard people have. The game is mostly marine on marine crime, with the mechanicum thrown in. So if you've ever played a game of 40k with or against space marines its pretty much the same game. All of rules that apply in 40k apply in the Horus Heresy. In fact it says in the beginning of the books that you will need a copy of the warhammer 40,000 rule book in order to play. The only differences are that marines don't have "And they shall know no fear," and that the units are different in their size and equipment they can take. For instance, marines still have tactical squads but they can't combat squad, they come in squads of 10 to 20 and none of them get a heavy or special weapon. That's pretty much how all the squads work. In the heresy era the units all had very specialized rolls, so for example you still have devastator squads and they still have between 5 and 10 guys, but every single guy has a heavy weapon and they all have the same gun. So if you take a 10 man devastator squad with lascannons all 10 have a lascannon to include the Sergeant. That may sound awesome, and it is, but you have to pay for all those lascannons and you lose the flexibility that comes from being able to handle multiple types of targets with one squad. Instead your marines are going to have very defined roles and don't ask them to do something they're not equipped for.

The legions also don't have chapter tactics, obviously because they had not been broken down into the smaller chapters yet. Instead what Forge World has done is given you some additional rules, called "rites of war," you can opt to use provided you follow certain restrictions on what you can take. So the emperor's children rite of war gives your primary detachment +1 inch of normal movement, run movement, and charge distance on the first turn of the game. They also must pick between 1 and 3 elite/fast attack units to hold in reserve. They write down on a piece of paper on what turn those units are arriving, either turn 2, 3, or 4. Those hidden units arrive as normal on the specified turn and gain the outflank special rule. The restrictions this rite of war places is that you can't take units that have the immobile, heavy, or slow and purposeful special rules. You must take a legion champion as a second compulsory hq choice, you may not take a fortification or any allied space marines from a different legion, and lastly if the mission being played has the slay the warlord secondary objective, if you fail to slay your opponents warlord the opponent gains +1 victory point. So each of the legions will have stuff like that which you can take if you're willing to deal with the downside. Some of them are pretty good, the iron hands have one that lowers the strength of any shooting attack by 1.

Another thing that's different is you don't use the missions from the main rule book. They have their own set of missions and deployment zones. They even have "historic" missions that recreate a specific battle that took place. There is a deployment zone where one side sets up in all 4 corners and the opponent is in the middle.

So how is the balance? If you've ever played a game of 40k you quickly learn that as a game it simply is not balanced very well. Guess what, 30k is very balanced. The reason for this is because everyone has access to the same equipment with the exception of those legion specific units and special characters. You can't really complain that your opponent has a better codex when he is using the same one you are. Also expect the games to be in a bigger point range. When you can take 10 guys with lascannons the points tend to add up rapidly. So really 2000 points for Horus Heresy is like 1500 for regular 40k. You really need to be at 2500 to have a decent amount of physical models. Really though if you're looking for a fun game with balance you can't go wrong with the heresy.

To bring it back to simplicity, its the same game with some difference in the flavor. A moral check still happens at the same point it would in a normal game of 40k. Charging is still 2d6 inches. Cover saves still work the same, etc. Your marines just don't auto regroup anymore if they break. They can however always attempt to regroup no matter how many casualties they've taken at their normal leadership.

Maybe your still on the fence about the heresy stuff after all that. Well the good news is that if you already have a space marine army most of your stuff is usable. Marines are marines, bolt guns are bolt guns, predators are well you get the point. You can't take a melta gun in your tactical squad but chances are you can find another regular space marine to fill in that 10 man squad with bolters. They do have some fun units and vehicles that you probably won't own, but you can still use almost everything you already have. With some simply clarifications on what is what I'm sure your opponent would have no problem allowing you to use some stuff as proxies. Plus you can always just pick up a couple of those units and vehicles that you don't have. You have an ultra marines army, great. Pick up a sicaran battle tank, maybe a contemptor dreadnought or two and poof you have a legion force. Oh and yes quite a few of the vehicles can be purchased as squads. So if you have 3 predators sitting around you can take all 3 for only 1 force organization chart hit.

The last thing I want to hit on here is the price of playing the heresy stuff. The biggest hit you're going to take is getting the books, because again if you have a marine army already you don't need to spend an extensive amount of money on getting units. The books I believe run about 150 each once you factor in shipping. I really do believe they're worth the price and everyone that has seen the ones I own in person has said they are really amazing books. Once you get the books though it won't cost you that much more to play. If you don't have a marine army already and still want to play but not invest a ton of money, ebay and used models are your friend. There is a store here in Cleveland that has a ton, literally a ton, of space marine stuff. Ebay is also always a great place to find stuff on the cheap if you don't mind used stuff. And as a additional bonus to getting any of the heresy specific units, I'm sure you would be able to use them in casual games against normal 40k armies. After all prior to half the legions turning traitor they were out in space killing eldar, orks, and any other number of races.

Hopefully I've given you some things to ponder about. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section and I will answer as best I can. Its an amazing this forge world has committed itself to doing, and while I know the xenos lovers out there are not fans of all the marine love, its still a vital piece of back ground to the 40k universe.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review of Games Workshops, Dataslate: Helbrutes

The Dataslate: Helbrutes was anticipated by so many Chaos Space Marine players. In their new codex the Helbrute is arguably the worst unit in the book. The unit doesn't match up to the fluff and for the points there are better alternatives that players take. Until the recent release of the new dynamic model players only could get their hands on the static model released in the Dark Vengeance box set.  But knowing Games Workshop they gave us a new Helbrute model and to make sure we bought it they released Dataslate: Helbrutes, their attempt to fix the Helbrute and sell some of the new models. We won't be reviewing the new model in this post, but just the Dataslate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Should you go digital?

Should you go digital?We first talked about going digital with our post Codex al Carte, with Games-Workshop's exclusive interactive content on iTunes to Black Libraries static content. Privateer Press also has a great digital app for their content. The question for most players, both new and experienced is should I go digital?

First the good and there is a lot of good here. Content is on demand, we get instant satisfaction downloading a new book the moment it is released. And for some of us that is almost needed with new content. Next some of the content is automatically updated with a FAQ, this means no PDF print outs to carry around and make sure the PDF's are up to date. Some content is interactive with imbedded videos and dynamic diagrams. But the biggest good of going digital is convenience all your rules, codex, army books on a single device.

The bad and yes it is bad. Tablets are not cheap by any means from an iPad to a Samsung Tab they start around $200 and go up in price. This is probably the biggest problem for anyone to move digital from physical books. Do I pay $499 for this iPad or do I pick up an apocalypse formation?!? The content isn't any cheaper, when you look at GW and PP you would think that since they are saving money in the cost of printing physical content that they would pass that along to us? In one word NO.  This also doesn't give you the chance to resell the content either, if you are done playing with a specific army or if you are giving up on wargaming all together (which why would anyone give up gaming?) you cannot sell off or give away the content. This means it is pretty much yours forever.

Now the ugly, which could be considered "bad" but this is where GW and PP get you. Exclusive content for digital only. Yeah that is ugly and these companies know it. Releases such as Kill Team by Games-Workshop in digital only (as of the time of this post) and it sucks for some players who are not digital. This is where we see a rise in illegal downloads of content. I found it easier to find an illegal version of Kill Team than to find the legal one on iTunes.

In all the question remains should you go digital? It comes down to the device, if you own it and you use it and the bad mentioned above isn't too bad for you then by all means give it a try. But if you don't own a tablet or laptop you want to use then moving digital doesn't make sense. The cost can set a gamer back almost an entire army. We say stay physical for the time being.

This also begs the next giant question, what if you got all the content for a monthly fee, would you pay it? We will save that for another post.

Are you in the Cleveland area and are in to wargaming? Join us online here G+.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A review of the New Imperial Knight by Games Workshop Part 2

For those of you that took the time to read part 1 of my review of the imperial knight, thank you. Here is part 2 detailing the actual building and painting of the model.

I'm going to start with the instruction booklet itself as it has a couple things in it that I think should be noted. First the diagrams in the booklet are the "new" style 3d imaging that GW went to a number of years back. I don't know exactly when they switched over to this, but I'm a fan. That 3d style really helps you see depth and exact fittings. In the past they've had some instructions that were not exactly clear, looking at you drop pod, but this booklet is free from errors. The last couple pages in the booklet are of particular note in that they lay out places to put the transfers for a particular faction. They lay out a mechanicum house and a regular house. If you didn't have access to anything other than the images on the box, I think this would be of real help. I didn't personally use those diagrams because I was basing my knight off of a specific imagine in the codex, but I think its nice none the less. I think that people who have no real interest in 40k and are just buying it because it looks like a cool model would probably find it pretty useful. Its just something new that I haven't noticed before in any instruction booklets from GW.

As far as putting the model together, again great job by GW. Everything fit correctly and I didn't need to do any kind of crazy cutting or heating to make something fit. Ever built a land raider? Those things were notorious for not fitting right together and having some significant gaps. Ever built anything by forge world? Again most of the stuff they put out has gaps that need filled or resin parts that need heated so you can bend them to fit right. I also didn't run into one of those moments where I wished I had a 3rd or 4th hand in order to hold something while the glue set. I was worried when I noticed the thin metal railings that go on top of the carapace that when clipping them off the sprue they would be prone to break, but that was not a problem for me. All in all I think its a pretty easy model to put together. I don't think you need to have amazing skills to put this guy together.

On to my favorite part, the painting. I always paint my miniatures in pieces and then assemble them. Sometimes this can be a bit tricky to avoid glue getting on your beautifully painted surface, but again I didn't run into that problem. Most of the sections where you're going to glue are pretty hidden. The shoulder pads are glued under at a point you really can't see. The only parts I had to worry about this were the railings on top but that just took some care to not get a ton of glue on the parts.

I based my paint job on house Taranis. There are pictures of 3 imperial knight in the codex of house Taranis. I like the symbols of the house and the back ground so that's why I picked them. One really nice thing about the digital codex is that I was able to zoom in on the image of the knight I was painting. For the most part that's not really needed for the colors, but for the transfers that came in real handy. Looking at the painted model in person I'm pretty impressed with how it looks painted up. I'm not saying that I am an impressive painter, more so that pictures don't do this model justice if painted well. Painting in pieces ensured that I didn't have a hard time reaching anything, but I also think that it wouldn't be to hard to get at most of the nooks and crannies if it had been fully assembled. Painting anything in the inner carapace might have been hard but I'm sure a lot of people will skip any detailing of that anyway. I chose to paint some of the wires and piping in order to help it stand out. You won't see it without looking for it because its not the part that catches the eye, but its there to see. I think the paint scheme I chose would be pretty easy to do for most people if they wanted to take the time to do it. Its colorful but not filled with a ton of different shades. I avoiding any edge highlighting because while it can look great, it just didn't seem right to me.

Last but not least, the transfers that I talked about. I put a fair number of them on the imperial knight. I would guess about 20. For the most part it was pretty straight forward. I did have trouble with one on the shoulder pad. Its a fairly long transfer and thin. In the process of trying to get it in place it curled up under itself and no matter how carefully I tried I couldn't get the thing to uncurl itself. So I had to sadly give up on that one. Otherwise I didn't have any problems. Some of the transfers on the sheet are really close to each other so you have to go slow and take your time cutting them out. This is because of the large number of transfers on the sheet. Given that I took off about 20, I'd estimate the sheet has about 120 or more transfers on it, looking at what's left on it. I use vallejo's decal medium and decal fix to apply my transfers. The decal medium is alcohol based and you put a layer of that on the surface where you're going to place your transfer. It helps to make the edges of the transfer disappear. You also want to put some on top of the transfer after you've placed it and wipe off any excess while making sure to brush out any air bubbles as best you can. Also having a layer underneath helps you to move the transfer where you need it exactly. Once that's dry the decal fix is brushed on. This obviously "glues" or fixes the transfer permanently to the model. Its basically a clear acrylic paint, that has a matte finish. It will show up when it dries which is why you have to overcoat your model with whatever varnish you chose. The varnish will fully hide the presence of the fixer and give a single smooth surface to your model. I use a matte varnish because I am not a fan of the glossy look except for things like gems or eyes.

All in all it was a lot of fun painting and assembling this beast. I may in the future do a part 3 about using it in game. Thanks for taking the time to read and enjoy the pictures. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A review of the new Imperial Knight from Games Workshop

Today I picked up one of games workshop's newest releases, the imperial knight. This review is going to be done in two parts. The first one will focus on the actual parts on the spru and my initial impression of it prior to building/painting. Part two will of course be the building/painting review.

First of all lets clear the elephant in the room, the $140 price tag. My personal view point on anything in this hobby is how much do I get out of an item for the money invested. Based solely on the price I am going to try and use this guy, as well as future ones I plan on buying, as much as humanly possible. This isn't that big lord of skulls, necron vault, baneblade, titan etc that is going to sit on a shelf for most of the year. I plan on using this guy as an ally whenever possible and, once I have enough, as a full complete army unto themselves. My first plan is to use them with the mechanicum army I'm working on. I have a severe lack of ap2 and these guys perfectly fill that role with that large blast strength 9 ap 2 gun. I look at this unit as a must have for that army to really make up for a lack in the list, at least currently.

As far as the physical contents and the value outside of game mechanics, I feel the price is a little high. I have a necron tesseract vault and at $160 that model has a ton of plastic and parts. When I look at the 3 sprus for the imperial knight for $140, I feel the raw material cost is a bit high. So in other words I feel like you get less plastic for the money than you do on the big escalation/apoc units. So take that for what you will. The model is supposed to be slightly shorter than a wraithknight, but judging from the sprus will be considerably bulkier.

Before I get to the sprus I want to talk about the transfer sheet that comes with it. I've read that there will be a larger sheet available separately with a lot more transfers and markings. I personally love using transfers and I think the one that comes in the box itself is pretty good. In fact I'm looking at it and seeing a lot of other uses for the markings on lots of imperial tanks and vehicles. The mechanicum markings are really awesome for me because I'm not well practiced in free hand. If I were not planning on purchasing additional knights I would probably be hitting the ebay market looking for more of the basic transfer sheets. The transfers themselves from a design standpoint are definitely above past GW standards. The older transfers they have always had that huge blob of excess clear transfer paper. These are almost entirely designed to only extend as far as the design. So now when using them you won't have to worry about how you're going to hide the excess or attempt to cut as close as possible without messing up the transfer. The only exception to this are the numbers on the bottom left of the sheet. They're still that simple block formation that has excess transfer paper on it. While I love this sheet I do plan on buying the additional one that is coming out, but not because I need it, because I want it.

Now for the sprus and parts themselves. This is probably the most impressive plastic kit they've put out from a detail standpoint. The rivets, the intricate designs, electrical wires, piping, purity seals, and railings are really nicely done. The painted ones I've seen in white dwarf really don't do the model enough credit. Just looking at the amount of detail they put into this beast is really amazing. I've done one of the dreamforge leviathan kits, and while its a great kit, from a detail perspective this thing puts it to shame. The underside of the shoulder pads has tiny rivets and details. They could have left that area blank but instead they filled it with some detail to add texture. It gives it that look that makes you think this thing is man made. They obviously thought about the functionality of the various parts on the knight and didn't leave a ton of blank empty space for you to wonder just how this leg really moves. You can see the cogs, wires, and pistons that just help add a bit of realism to the knight.

There are of course some optional accessories such as purity seals. I can see about 10 of them and they are small enough that you could use them on normal infantry sized guys. I also see a couple different markings you can use such as a skull with laurels around it, the aquila, and a very mechanicum looking plastic symbol. There are lots of little plastic hand holds and railings which will add to the functional look of the model when done. It also comes with 4 different face plates for those that don't already know. The base it comes with is unique to the knight, at least as of this moment it is. Its longer and narrower than the normal oval base used for flyers and various monstrous creatures.

In the event you couldn't tell from my writings I really think this has to be in the top 5 of kits that GW has put out. Obviously aesthetics will vary from person to person but this is one fine model kit. A bit pricey sure, but none the less impressive to actually behold. I have a few things to paint and build before I get to this beast, but watch out for part 2 when I go over the instructions and actual building/painting of the knight.