[VtM] On Persistent Worlds, and Gehenna

The last few years have been… difficult, if you’re a fan of the Vampire. I won’t go over all the controversies and nonsense here, because some muck is better left unraked. Suffice to say that the launch of V5 was troubled, and the core game continues to soldier on even though – if community created content is anything to go by – the long term player base doesn’t really want what it’s about.

As a returning player I actually quite like it.

I’ve spent more time with Vampire in its various forms than any other game system. I dabble, here and there, for curiosity’s sake or because someone really wants to play such-and-such-another-thing, but I come back to Requiem as a platonic “really good vampire game” and Masquerade as a realistic “good enough vampire game that people are more likely to play.”

Crucially, Masquerade is the only game to which I’ve come back often enough that I have an internally consistent and continuous game-world of my own. Something that exists along the framework established by Justin Achilli et al in Revised edition, as a starting point, but steps back from the inane grand-scale spectacle (we do spectacle, where I’m from, but it’s comparatively low key next to whatever the hell the Week of Nightmares is supposed to be or however it’s supposed to work at table), and throws out a lot of the metaplot while remaining similar enough that it can be hung off the same game-mechanical hooks.


In 2004, a rash of prophetic dreams (a man and a woman in the desert before dawn; she takes his confession and leaves him to greet the sun) and the rising of the Red Star initiated the Winnowing, a process in which the first seven generations of vampires all died, one generation a year. (A few generations might have been fudged, here and there, if I happen to like the character and think it was a bit daft that they were sixth generation because of daft literalist interpretations of the source material, ahem hem Bloodlines fandom.)

There were, however, a couple of weird exceptions; the Harbingers of Ashur who, unbeknownst to anyone outside their insane revenge cult (Lilith worshippers hanging out in the afterlife with four captive really old vampires in boxes), haven’t been true vampires for centuries, and the original coven of Tremere, who – as false vampires who weren’t Embraced at all – seemed to dodge a bullet. At least, they did until the players in my Gehenna game killed Tremere himself to stop him winning the conflict formerly known as Jyhad all by himself.

By 2009, visible princes, prisci and other big knobs were starting to die, and the major sects became increasingly unhinged, especially as the false Regent had “her” cover blown by the simple fact of her survival, and the Sabbat ran wild and collapsed.By 2012, it was clear that this had been Gehenna, and it was over; not with a bang nor a whimper but a slow death in the dark. Only the Bahari really have a clue why, and they’re not telling. They just smirk, and suggest the enquirer work on their interpretation of dreams.

Everything since then has been a scramble to find the new status quo, with the eighth and ninth generations inheriting broken thrones, and thinbloods as a spreading and despised underclass, as per. There may be some kind of connection between Ashefinders and Ashur, or it may just be homonymic convergence.


Everything but the last paragraph was already laid in before V5, as a consequence of prior games followed through. The Gehenna material is from my Victorian Age game that ran from 2002 to 2004 weekly, and wrapped up with a Final Nights timeskip in the summer of 2005. The Bahari plot thread was planted in Constantinople, Not Istanbul. (I think that was 2011-2018? why did I delete my blog? I’ve lost all sense of the recent past now… oh, that’s right, I was having an awful time and didn’t want to remember!) The collapse of the Sabbat is honestly implicit in every short-run Sabbat game I’ve ever tried to run. The outcome is the status quo for Glasgow By Night, which I started running in 2020 and is currently on hiatus while I pranny about being a player in Slaughterhouse Three and wonder if I’m going to get the whole band back together.

I think about this because, long ago, I was gently chided for flittering and fluttering between game systems and settings – what depth and growth and creative maturity there is in RPGs comes from settling down and sustaining in one place. On reflection, I think that’s happened for me with V:tM. It’s the one game I can point at and say yes, I remember how I ran this at seventeen and I am not running it like that now (although I’m still a total magpie when it comes to SPC concepts and names – I always tell people I’m talented, not creative, I just pinch bits from everything I like and shake them through the game setting), but the events from those games when I was seventeen are still in my personal “canon” – eroded by time and revised by increasing standards, but not unhappened, nor abandoned.

[WFB] The Battle of Hel Fenn

2 x 3000 points | Vampire Counts & Army of Sylvania vs. Empire & Dwarfs | Narrative Scenario!

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. First, Tom C had to drop out because Work, then Thomas Æ came down with Nineteen Crows Disease and had to stay at home.

Thus it was that muggins ‘ere had to pack up the rest of his dead, bang out an extra 3000 point army list (putting almost every model in the collection onto the table) and do his best to match wits with Kris W (my biggest and, indeed, only fan) and Ed H (the tallest Dwarf you’ll ever meet and the one of us who could be arsed to remember all the rules).

Might have gone full kit for this one. Not sorry.

The enemy army lists are currently written up from memory and best guesses. I don’t know Dwarfs Dwarves well enough to speculate on exact rune loadouts so I’m describing the effects I encountered.

The scenario was loosely adapted from the Hoodling’s Hole 20,000 point extravaganza. In lieu of hiding units in the marshy bits we simply plopped my Grave Markers in them to similar simulative effect, but otherwise the conditions remained the same.

Photography was carried out by Vicky, who was also drifting around taking snaps of the other tables, which is why one or two key moments don’t have direct illustrations (they happened while she was elsewhere, and I needed all my brain tape to play and record the game).

Last of the Von Carsteins

  • Mannfred von Carstein (Necromancy)
  • Vampire Lord (level 3, Walking Death, Power Familiar, Talisman of Protection) (Necromancy)
  • Wight Lord (Battle Standard; Hell Banner)
  • 25 Skeletons (sword and board, full command)
  • 5 Dire Wolves (Doom Wolf)
  • Bat Swarm
  • Bat Swarm
  • 3 Spirit Hosts
  • 8 Black Knights (barding, full command, Banner of the Barrows)
  • 8 Black Knights (barding, full command, Screaming Banner)
  • Banshee
  • Black Coach
  • Black Coach
  • Adolphus Krieger: Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon (level 3, Wristbands of Black Gold) (Death)
  • Vampire Lord (level 3, Spectral Attendants, Ring of the Night) (Necromancy)
  • Laibach Ruthven: Vampire Thrall (greatsword, Flayed Hauberk, Wolf Form)
  • 25 Sylvanian Militia (spears, full command)
  • 20 Sylvanian Militia (crossbows, full command)
  • 10 Sylvanian Levy (standard & musician)
  • 6 Dire Wolves (Scouts)
  • 20 Drakenhof Guard (full command, Banner of Doom)
  • 3 Spirit Hosts
  • Banshee
  • Banshee
  • 12 Drakenhof Templars (barding, full command, Drakenhof Banner)

The Flower of Stirland

  • Martin, Count of Stirland: General of the Empire (Hammer of Judgment, Van Horstmann’s Speculum)
  • Priest of Ulric
  • Priest of Sigmar (barded warhorse, great weapon, heavy armour)
  • Priest of Sigmar (great weapon, heavy armour)
  • Captain of the Empire (Battle Standard: Gryphon Standard)
  • 30 Spearmen (full command): 10 Free Company (detachment) & 5 Archers (detachment)
  • 10 Crossbowmen
  • 16 Handgunners
  • 13 Knights of the Divine Sword (Inner Circle, full command, Steel Standard)
  • 6 Knights of the White Wolf (Inner Circle, full command)
  • 24 Greatswords (full command): 10 Free Company (detachment)
  • 5 Pistoliers
  • Great Cannon
  • 24 Flagellants
  • 14 Duellists
  • Steam Tank

The Throng of Karak Raziak

  • King Razzik: Dwarf Lord & Shieldbearers (runed-up reroll-misses great weapon and some other bits that didn’t matter)
  • Runelord (Rune of Balance, +1 to Dispels rune, runed-up reroll-misses hand weapon)
  • Runesmith (2 x Runes of Spellbreaking)
  • Runesmith (2 x Runes of Spellbreaking)
  • 2 x 20 Longbeards (full command)
  • 2 x 10 Thunderers (full command)
  • 10 Warriors (full command)
  • 20-odd Slayers (lots and lots of Giant Slayers)
  • 20 Ironbreakers (“no fear” rune)
  • Grudge Thrower (Engineer, a rune)
  • Grudge Thrower (Engineer, a rune)
  • Organ Gun
  • Organ Gun

The Archmage Finreir

  • High Elf Archmage (level 4, Staff of Sorcery, Dragon Bow, Dispel Scroll) (Heavens)

Preamble

Oddly enough for a battle with five Lord level wizards involved, magic didn’t end up playing an enormous part. I rolled mainly Invocations, Danses and Vigours, plus a Gaze for Mannfred and a Wind for Krieger, but no Doom and Darkness or Curse of Years. Kris got Uranon’s Thunderbolt, Second Sign of Amul, and some other bits he never got to cast. He spent most of his time zapping single wounds off Banshees, and dispelling everything that wasn’t a Grave Marker adding to my Levy unit or raising Crossbowmen in my back line.

The Vampire Counts, mounting an aggressive defence, had to set up and go first. This would prove to be a problem. I should have put my Black Coaches (as the units most concerned about entering marshland) down first, and keyed everything else around them. I did not: they ended up stuck behind Mannfred’s Knights, where they could be seen and shot but were thoroughly blocked in, which meant… well, you’ll see.

WHY DO I LET THIS HAPPEN?

I also ended up with the Zombie Dragon behind the only cover available, which meant Ed could set up directly opposite it with Slayers and Organ Guns and big stodgy Ld 9 and 10 T4 units that could absolutely handle it. I’d intended to have it go after Finreir, but he was safe in the midfield, bubblewrapped in Duellists, and getting the Dragon to him would mean running the Dwarf gauntlet or flying across my own lines in full view of the Empire cannons and Grudge Throwers.

“Turn it around a bit and I won’t be able to see its arse.” Thanks Kris!

Living After Midnight (turns 1 & 2)

The good news: I managed to break an Organ Gun crew straight off the bat, ploughing the Scout Wolves into them at full pelt. Didn’t catch them, what with the woods and all, but it was a fine start.

The bad news: I had to move Mannfred up full speed to create space for my Black Coaches to spread out and charge, which left him and his Templars in charge range of the Knights of the Divine Sword. Spurred on by the frothing of their Warrior Priest, said Knights charged at full tilt and slew half of the Templars in the opening hour of the battle!

“OK, so Mannfred’s in combat bottom of turn one. I can work with this.”

The middling news: Kris’ Steam Tank proved to be a damp squib, suffering from chronic Misfires and spending most of the battle shaking itself to bits in the corner. Serves them right for driving it into the marsh!

The excellent news: the Drakenhof Templars held and my Knights of the Black Cross were able to charge in and drive the Divine Sword off (failed Panic test), creating space for Mannfred to fry most of the Crossbowmen with a Gaze of Nagash before charging Martin, alongside the Black Coach that hadn’t been crushed to matchwood by a Grudge Thrower. The Black Cross, meanwhile, charged the remnants of the Divine Sword…

It’s the stray Artillery die I feel sorry for.

Meanwhile, the rest of the army trudged on…

The Dark Before Dawn (turn 3)

With the Dwarves largely pinned by ghosts, wolves, bats, raised Levy and some cowardly Knights of the White Wolf who clearly couldn’t bring themselves to hurt even a dead dog (two failed fear checks on the trot), I felt confident enough to send forth Krieger. Or at least, I felt that hiding my other 700 odd point model away for another turn wasn’t going to do me any good.

“Dogs aren’t dangerous, you cowards!”

It didn’t work out too well. Although Krieger survived, thanks to his Wristbands, the Dragon was blown out from underneath him, though it did take an entire Dwarf shooting phase to achieve that so I shouldn’t whinge. The Wolves and Knights who’d been riding ahead of the Dragon were able to charge Organ Guns, Thunderers and Warriors, shooing several smaller Dwarf units off the table and making a break themselves.

Seconds later, these Knights would be straight through the Dwarfs and off the table. In the good way.

The Banshee chorus took some time out from serenading the Divine Sword and leapt on an opportunity; one of them had the line, the length and the space to get near Finreir, who couldn’t hide in a unit, and so I took the shot. One 10 on 2d6 later and the Archmage was down. Luck not skill, of course, but you don’t get the jam if you don’t grab the jar (or something).

This is another Banshee, who is screaming at Pistoliers to make them go away.

Sadly, all was not well on the left flank. Mannfred’s attempt to infuse his Knights with Hellish Vigour (with dice, so it would be harder to Dispel) backfired as he did a big Miscast; a double one in fact, which would have had him go down the hole if not for the scenario special rules. As it is, he was left mildly frazzled, distracted perhaps by a thin ray of sunlight piercing the murky skies.

Ray of sunlight POV.

Despite his, and the Knights’, and the Coach’s best efforts, including a lance strike that left Martin on his last legs, they couldn’t quite break the Spearmen (or the remains of the Divine Sword, in the other charge across the lane), and the two Counts met in a challenge on the second round. Out came Van Horstmann’s Speculum; Mannfred made all his saves but couldn’t do much with Martin’s comparatively feeble statline and consequently, crumbled along with his overmatched Templars, broken on the points of good Empire spears.

The Sun Also Rises (turns 4 & 5)

Though the immortal will of the Vampire Lords kept their respective regiments intact, the Banshees, Wolves and Spirits slowly faded from the world over the ensuing “double-dip crumble checks.” Ed only let me get off some inconsequential raises of fresh Crossbowmen, and one of my Vampires miscast a crucial Danse at exactly the wrong time, terminating the final magic phase of the day.

“Nice NMM on that sword.” Yeah thanks Kris it was a busy week, OK?

Krieger cut down the Organ Gun crews and Runesmiths, while young Laibach Ruthven (a vampire to watch, I think) threw himself into one of the Grudge Throwers (the other, in a remarkable feat of accuracy, pulverised eleven Skeleton Spearmen in a single shot!). The Sylvanian Levy (bolstered by dozens of bodies from the Grave Markers) crashed headlong into the Empire lines, routing the Free Company and ploughing into the Flagellants behind, but too late, too late… the crumble claimed them too.

I only paid for ten of these.

Kris sent the Stirland Greatswords out to face the Drakenhof Guard, slaying half a dozen but not enough. Outflanked by Skeletons and a female Vampire surrounded by shrieking ghosts, their nerve failed them and they were chased down by their undead counterparts. Sadly, Mannfred’s subordinate on the left flank was unable to imitate their success; though he led his ranks of Skeletons into Martin’s Spearmen they couldn’t land the final conclusive blow on the Count of Stirland. Beset to their left by Free Company, their right was open to the rallied remnants of the Divine Sword.

The story was the same across the field. Finally free of marsh and Zombie, the Lords of Karak Raziak were free to charge the Sylvanian Militia front and flank, and avenge their manling allies. The White Wolves rode hard for the Skeleton Crossbowmen, hammers in hand. The Giant Slayers of Karak Sadra had turned to face down the Knights of the Black Cross, the only undead to break through the Dwarfish line. Even the triumphant Drakenhof Guard were facing enraged Flagellants, and vengeful Duellists drew a bead on Krieger.

At the end of the fifth hour, the dawn finally broke over Hel Fenn, and the outnumbered and outmanoeuvred dead lay down, keeling over on the dry land they had struggled so hard to reach. Laibach Ruthven, finally free of the burdensome Dwarf Engineers, did what his masters could not; he quit the field, fleeing west, out of the Empire and out of history.

Von Carstein concedes top of turn 6: a 7:28 Absolute Thrashing for the Vampire Counts!

Post Mortem: the Tactics

I made the decision to treat this as a historical refight, i.e. coming into it expecting to lose, and giving up a couple of advantages in the scenario as written to instead go for full Stillmania. In that respect I succeeded admirably, but in terms of actual generalship I shat the bed in grand style on this one and it’s probably worth working out how and why.

I’m not one to make excuses, but I was certainly up against it regarding the list; a last minute job which included several troop types I had originally deemed unfit for a battlefield of this nature. I also threw a lot of points into magic banners and Bloodline powers which ended up doing nothing at all (nobody shot at the Banner of Doom unit, the Screaming Banner unit never provoked a fear test and no Soulfires went off anywhere near the Drakenhof Banner). I did refuse all lending of miniatures (I’m not sorry either; I find that sort of thing malaesthetic at the best of times, let alone in Warhammer World at an exhibition game) and to be honest I’m not sure what the offered Grave Guard and Skellies would have achieved: I really needed more Ghouls and Bats to get across the marshes faster. First time I’ve regretted selling my Fell Bats!

The early stages of the logjam.

Getting into the actual battle, there were a few misfortunes. Not rolling a single Curse of Years or Doom and Darkness, and those two Miscasts, and the utter failure of a Vampire and Wight Lord to finish off Martin. (It occurs to me that the Vampire should have been whomping Free Company and hopefully cancelling out their counter charge, though, so that’s a poor choice compounding bad luck.) But again, I can’t complain too much about luck since that fluke shot at Finreir paid off and I was fortunate that Krieger survived his enforced dismounting for as long as he did.

I certainly threw the Dragon away but there wasn’t much I could do with it; it wasn’t going anywhere near the Slayers and there was no safe route across the line to engage suitable targets without eating two cannonballs and two rocks with good “scatter into the army” options. At least it ate a round of Organ Gun and Thunderer fire that would otherwise have laid waste to the units that did get through and do some damage to Ed’s lighter stuff. I don’t really know how to use the flying deathtrap since it had no place in the vast majority of my games; to really learn to love it I think I’ll need to play more 3000 pointers and figure it out.

The one thing for which I should be martyred in space was moving Mannfred up so far in the first turn; he survived the charge and the Divine Sword were seen off, but the loss of tempo and bodies in the Knight unit meant he was taking a longer and more delayed shot at Martin than I’d have liked and his supporting Knight unit ended up facing the wrong way. Again, this is inexperience talking. I can wrangle Mannfred’s casting potential but I don’t normally mount my Vampires up and put them in Knight buses, so I don’t really know how to keep him safe or ensure the first strike (since my Knights are usually on flank-and-spank duty instead of being high value targets that take point).

As it was, my worst painted unit performed the best. OF COURSE.

At the bottom of it all I think I was simply out-teched and out-planned, though. I had to move through lanes between the marshy patches (or have units horribly slowed down by moving through) while their firepower could engage whatever was closest at leisure. Their bonuses to Dispel and the five Scrolls meant I wasn’t going to get key spells off even if I didn’t Miscast them. All their Lords, barring Finreir and Martin, were buried in units I couldn’t really take on. And once Mannfred was gone, I was losing the remnants of my units (giving away points) while their odd models and lone characters were holding on and I didn’t have chaff to hunt them down (not giving away points). After two years out of the saddle I am simply not the Vampire Count I used to be: I even forgot that Zombies always always always strike last, barring Hellish Vigour, which is baseline: how embarrassing!

It’s difficult to talk about “learnings” when this is a highly unusual encounter using an army I don’t really play any more. Certainly there are things I could add to the army that would make this kind of encounter flow more easily, but the figure case is very extremely full now and I’d have to junk something (possibly that ugly-ass third Knight unit) to make space. More Ghouls (mine are not Citadel and not numerous enough to make a difference), more Bats of all sizes and possibly a hard turn into some better crossbowmen (Von Carstein militia or Dogs of War) wouldn’t go amiss. The main “learning”, I suppose, is that it’s not really a 6000 point army even though that’s what it adds up to: it’s a comfortable 3000 with a deep bench of reserves.

Post Mortem: the Experience

Everyone has been lateral flowing like mad, don’t worry.

All of which said, the point of this meet-up was to play some dream games, hence Hel Fenn, Waaagh! Grom, a three-way rumble in the Nurgle-infested jungle and the War of the Beard going on across the line of tables. In that respect the event was an unalloyed and inarguable success. We certainly drew a lot of favourable gazes, including from studio folks (hello JT-Y, yes I have known you for years, you are right as usual, I just haven’t seen your grumpy old face for quite a few of them and my poor ravaged brain has lost a lot of salient data lately), and my table certainly did a lot of “yes, people do still play it… there’s a Facebook group, yes… yes, there are events… OK, we’ll see you there.” Absolutely worth turning out to fly the flag, and now… well, now I have a bucket list game.

I’d really like to play some of the first War of the Vampire Counts, with Vlad ‘n’ Izzy ravaging the Empire. Maybe Schwartzhafen, or Bogenhafen, or a street fight in Middenheim with an army of ghosts, or maybe we should just go all out and do the Siege of Altdorf (although I’d need a lot more bodies for that).

All that remains is for me to thank Kris and Ed for being sterling opposition and thrashing me without provoking the frowny face even once, Joseph B for arranging it all, and my lovely hostess Vicky for a) putting me up all weekend and b) taking over photography duties for the day so I could at least try and focus on the game.

Death is but a window onto eternity. I’ll be back.

[WFB] From Dust Taken, To Dust Returned?

My Tomb Kings are a cursed project. I love the army in theory; in practice I have been trying to make a Tomb Kings army happen for four years and currently have three games played on one day in 2019, zero painted figures, two “botch and restart with new range” hobby wobbles and a bunch of brittle resin figures that my clumsy arthritic fingers struggle to keep in one piece at the hobby table, never mind bagging them up and taking them away to play with.

The final breaking point was realising that the bases supplied with the figures have the slots cut out but the figures don’t have tabs so I’m going to need to either fill 80 slots or buy 80 wooden bases, and the wooden bases I have look like they’ve got mildew somehow, and I’m just sick of all the faff this army has turned out to be and how the only way I’m likely to get it finished is throw yet more money at it.

I think I’ve spent over £500 on Tomb Kings so far, including supplies bought just for these (like five assorted cans of spray paint, which I otherwise never use). I got £50 for the Mantic stuff, a fraction of what I spent but I did ruin the figures so I was lucky to get much of anything. This is a sink for time and money. I’m now at the point where I’m talking about commission painting and that makes me seriously wallet shy, and also feel like a copout because I’ve always painted my own figures before and stuff I didn’t paint never feels like mine.

Here’s what I have, all from the TTCombat range:

  • KS exclusive Tomb King (conversion job done)
  • Tomb King on foot
  • Tomb Queen
  • KS exclusive Liche in Chariot
  • Liche on foot
  • Casket of Souls proxy
  • 2 x 20 Swordsmen
  • 2 x 20 Archers
  • 5 x Swarm bases
  • 3 x Chariots
  • 5 x Carrion
  • 2 x Scorpions
  • 6 x Ushabti
  • Bow Giant
  • Catapult

I think I spent about £300 on these. I’d want £200 in my pocket after shipping and fees, just so I can sleep at night. I’d throw in a copy of the sixth edition army book for good measure.

Failing that, I’m looking for a price for commission painting. I will gladly supply cans of Zandri Dust, Skull White and Chaos Black spray for priming – they’re of no use to me as my new house doesn’t have a good space for using aerosols. I will also gladly supply the Liquitex inks I own from before Contrast was a thing, but was thinking of using in a similar way. If I can supply conventional paints from my collection I’d be happy to as my hobby life is coming to an end and I don’t see myself using up everything I own.

I’ve never actually used a commission service before and have no idea what reasonable prices and standards look like. As I said earlier, the mere thought of paying someone else to paint my models – especially models from a project which has already cost more than it should – is making me very skittish on top of the usual uncertainty from not knowing what’s what. I feel like anything less than £200 is taking the piss but anything more than £100 is giving me the fear.

[WFB] “So… is there a tier list?”

Because every week someone on the sixth edition Facebook group wants to know, and it’s fast becoming the new “what is Middlehammer?” (everything produced on Tom Kirby’s watch, 1992-2015) or “where can I get the old Citadel Colour paints?” (Cote d’Arms) or “which is the right Dwarf book?” (the first one and on this hill I will get really quite puffed out and have to be carried back down by a team of sherpas and their friendly St. Bernard).

This post is sourced from community consensus (the group has run a couple of polls over the last few years, with different methodologies but yielding more or less the same result). I’ve given my personal rationale for why the armies end up where they did, and in a couple of cases I have taken a stand against the consensus because it tended to be shaped by “well you never saw them on the top tables at the best tournaments” and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that’s not where the majority of Warhammer is, was or ever has been played.

While I’m chuntering: most of this is not as important as people think it is. A mediocre general like what I am can play a very good army like Vampire Counts and still achieve a middling overall win:draw:loss count, or another very good army like Wood Elves that doesn’t suit their playstyle and run it into the ground. Likewise, some people are very very good at playing Orcs and Goblins because they have the mindset to enjoy and thrive on greenskin nonsense. You will do better, and have more fun, with a “bad” army that suits your playstyle than a “good” army you don’t enjoy or understand.

TOP TABLE

Skaven. Lots of little rules hacks add up to a horrible army to face and the worst part is you don’t have to try to beard out with them, it just kind of… happens. “Oh, I’ll bring a couple of wizards just to bung some spells around” – whoops, you’ve got two casts of the best magic missile in the game, with better odds of Irresistible Force on the dice you have available, and you can zap it into combat. Stuff like that.

Wood Elves. Best at frustrating scampery keep-away Warhammer, throwing out high volume or quantity of attacks when they do choose to engage. No other army gets to guarantee favourable terrain (although no other army needs it guaranteed at the list building stage either). Wood Elves are just plain weird.

Lizardmen can be played like the Wood Elves but shorter ranged, and have the rank and flank muscle to play proper Warhammer if they feel like it too. Also, Slann are bloody amazing wizard lords, the cherry on top of an already tasty pie. They’re probably bottom of the top as they certainly have their drawbacks, but they’ve never been bad, not once, not ever.

Vampire Counts. Almost nothing runs away, autobreaking when you’re outnumbered is the pits, and they often end up with more troops on the board at the end than when they started. Powerful Lord choices and a solid core of supporting heroes. Very few bad units (only the Black Coach and some of the Bloodline Thralls are really weak).

Chaos. This one’s controversial but: no other army gets two books’ worth of stuff or such a wide and deep set of customisation options, the Beastman Ambush or heavily Khorne/Tzeentch marked armies totally skew deployment and magic, and their unique selection structure means stuff that would be Special or even Rare in any other book ends up a Core unit for them. Hordes or Beasts by themselves probably belong in the tier below but the books are written to be souped, and together they go over the line.

THESE ARE FINE

Empire: they have exactly one busted special rule (Detachments) and one game-distorting why-did-nobody-say-no-to-Alessio unit (Steam Tank) and other than that they’re benchmark – lots of options, lots of which work. They suffer slightly from a lot of their options being White Dwarf add-ons but the base book is still decent.

Bretonnians. Granted, their magic’s a bit crap but you don’t play Bretonnians to dominate the magic phase anyway, other than that they seem all around solid and I’m informed you can be absolutely visored and still get a decent game out of them. I have less experience with or against them than anything except Chaos Dwarfs but I see no reason to argue the toss here.

Ogre Kingdoms attract a certain kind of “pick big unit and shove it forwards!” playstyle but I think small units of Ogres working in tandem and played with a bit of foresight can bully a lot of opposition off the board. Ludonarrative dissonance aside, they can weaponise psychology well, they’re fast, their magic is odd but not bad and very spammable, which throws off opponents used to scrolling the big spell every turn.

Tomb Kings are the reasonable, balanced version of Warhammer Undead: thoroughly mediocre troops but when they get a whole extra turn out of each magic phase they don’t need to be good. They’d be top tier if they weren’t so dependent on characters to get anything done.

BUT FOR ONE FATAL DRAWBACK…

High Elves. All their interesting stuff is 0-1 and in crowded slots. The Honours system has some fun options but you have to build around Pure of Heart being a thing and most of them aren’t THAT good. And god damn it, the general is randomly determined. While you can work around all that, you HAVE to work around that and so a lot of the lists turn out safe and samey: Spearmen, Spearmen, Swordmasters, Silver Helms, two Bolt Throwers, two Eagles, bucket of Mages to go. There aren’t that many genuinely bad units (even Phoenix Guard would be fine if they weren’t in the same slot as Bolt Throwers and Eagles, which are cheaper and add more tactical options) – it’s the army wide rules that hold this one back.

Dark Elves. This time the army wide rules are fine but a lot of the individual units are janky. Everything is a bit too fragile, or a bit too dependent on the rubbish Cauldron of Blood (which tethers some of the best units and stops them making decisive plays), or a bit too stil-has-flavour-psychology-but-lost-the-good-stats… they just don’t have a reliable Special unit to do the hammer and anvil heavy lifting, which leaves them relying on heroes and monsters to a very un-sixth-like degree. The magic is good, the monster mash is fun, the core units aren’t bad once they’re errata’d down to a reasonable points cost, but there’s no oomph there.

Orcs and Goblins. They have everything they need to be a viable, competent army except for ALL THE LOLRANDOM. Animosity! Scatter events! Lousy leadership! Stupidity! Frenzy! Random “what the hell will your Giant decide to do this turn?” table. Leaving aside my personal dislike for these “game plays itself, you’re along for the ride” rules, they absolutely hold the army back as no other force is so vulnerable to “dice say no today.”

Chaos Dwarfs. I don’t think I’ve actually played into these in sixth edition. From looking at the army and trying to write a list for myself (back when I had some third party figures I was mucking about with), I feel they have all the right bits but nothing quite fits together; the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Monsters are a bit too expensive, infantry are a bit too slow or raddled with greenskin problems, Bull Centaurs are not quite proper heavy cavalry – ultimately it’s two armies bolted together with some cool flying things and big guns on top to hide the join.

Dwarfs. They’re just very, very tactically limited: no proper magic, no cavalry, no monsters, everything’s slow apart from the one unit that everyone regrets not taking. What they do they do well, and they play for the draw like nobody else in Warhammer, but big wins always seem a struggle for Dwarf players and there are some scenarios it’s just not worth playing with them (Breakthrough, for instance, is just sadistic as without some lucky pursuit rolls they’re never going to pull it off). I’m told that the False Dwarf Book elevates them somewhat and I believe that, but nobody will ever convince me that book is anything but a schedule slip.

Dogs of War. 57 varieties and all of them distinctly average. You’d think being able to field more Heroes than anyone else via Regiments of Renown would be a dealmaker but they’re more like expensive Champions as you can’t send them out alone or customise their kit for a particular role. By the end of the edition, with Truthsayers and Dark Emissaries and Giants and Ogres available to bulk them out a bit, they amount to something more impressive; the problem is pretty much any other army also has access to those bits and a proper book’s worth of moving parts as well.

[40K] CHAOS RAPTORS, READY TO KILL!

What is wrong with me?

Two weeks before a WFB event and what am I struck with the urge to do, every time? Build Chaos Space Marines.

In my defence, this has been a while coming. I picked up the first fifteen of these second hand at a knock down price last year, and bought myself the box to round out the squads into something game-legal for my birthday. At least… that’s what I thought I was doing.

Turns out that the earlier Chaos books are more generous with Raptor equipment than I remembered, so I didn’t actually have to abandon any special weapons as long as I could divide them up in threes-per-five. So I had another think, decided not to repeat the error with Fourth Claw (who may be visually interesting, but are total photocopy specials in the rules), and promptly sawed some arms off some Warp Talons and used a bunch more special weapons. It’s not like there are Warp Talons in every edition I like anyway.

Three of the original lightning claw lads still remain, acting as unit Champions. This fourth fellow is an alternate champion for the later editions when that weapon option is no longer available, and bigger Raptor squads are more appropriate; the idea being that as many bodies as possible get jammed in behind him.

Two plasma pistols, a plasma gun, three meltaguns and a flamer. This is nobody’s idea of optimised and I’m loving tolerating it. I might even stick a couple more plasma pistols on a couple more bodies just to keep my options open, but the more of those I have the smaller my “modern” squad becomes, so I’m holding off for now. Three meltaguns together, two plasma pistols and a plasma gun together, and the flamer by itself seems like it might be a giggle. Or:

See? Nine perfectly straightforward Raptors and a Champion, as an option.

Goodness knows where Szandor picked up this rabble of a Raptor Cult, but they’re another score of bodies for the Red Right Hand and beggars, as any renegade knows, cannot be choosers.

This throws my painting queue right out of whack, but they’re all in such different states of painted over different primers that they might as well be their own side deal anyway. I’ll paint up the Possessed first and then work out what to do about these.