[WFB] List Maintenance: Lord Ruthven Restored

Because I’m a whocking great nerd, I keep a battlefield journal. Not exhaustive “and then I rolled a three and a two and he rolled a four and a six” level stuff because life is much too short, but a “no more than one A5 spread per thing” record of the games I’ve played and the army lists I’ve used (or considered using).

Despite my respect for the Stillmanic principle in some regards (I am still using the same army I started on my eighteenth birthday and have barely touched some of it with a paintbrush since), I’m an inveterate tinkerer and fine tuner and consider this a pleasure I shall not forgo just because ol’ Nigel doesn’t think it proper.

Here are the post mortem notes on the list I took to that London back in March, straight from the Book.

Rod of Flaming Death works – it worries people just enough that they always Dispel it.

Pretty clear there, past me. I used to look down on the Rod and not bother with it, now I understand that opponents don’t want to risk an automatic Panic test for having one model get fried. The Rod is one of those items which can subtly turn a game even if it never actually works – and, as a bonus, it doesn’t run out of juice!

Use the Stone early to draw out scrolls – don’t save it!

The more spells I can push through in the early game the more Dispel Scrolls I can dummy out, giving me more freedom to cast in the middling turns where it matters more. Necromancy spells turn the game by tipping combats in my favour and that makes them most impactful when the battle-lines are either about to hit or have just done so. The Stone also allows me to slam five dice down on a key spell from Rosenkratz the Necromancer, cutting through the three-dice casting cap he normally has to labour under. I find this sort of thing far more decisive than bringing a single Dispel Scroll and fretting about what’s important enough to use it on.

Swap in the Aura.

Aura of Dark Majesty has returned to must-take status now that I’ve started playing on 6′ x 4′ boards more. I’d hoped that I could wean myself off it and get used to a mere 12″ bubble but the stage of the game where my fast units need to turn around and get stuck back in really needs them to keep marching, and sometimes the tide of battle draws my Lord away from them in the horizontal plane.

Stick to a Wight Lord BSB for Leadership 9.

What it says on the tin. I love Vampire Thralls, don’t get me wrong: mine is a cheap source of fast-moving chariot-wrecking arrow-scoffing extra hits right where they’re needed, and I’ve gained a new respect for the Necrarch and Strigoi variants as I help out putting tactical together for the Online. But a Thrall does not take hits well, nor lead units, and the high Leadership is excellent for keeping a combat unit where it should be after my General bites it, or when pursuit needs to be deterred in favour of good positioning.

Skeleton spears. In both games they got charged and having spears paid off. I CURSE THE VULGAR FASHION!

For years and years I misplayed the hand weapon and shield rule in sixth edition and never understood why the hardcore said sword and board was better than spear. Now I finally have a unit of Skeleton Swordsmen and am using them with a vigour, so I think my past self wants talking to here. As I go forward I find myself bringing two Skeleton units: spearmen to take point and get charged, swordsmen to deliver a flanking hit. My Zombies are reserved for filling a spare Core slot with the most minimal of caster bunkers, or raising.

Consider a steady list with swappable Counts?

I worked out a range of similarly-coster Vampire Counts a while back and considered trading them in and out of the army to see what difference it made. The drawback to this plan? My aesthetic is very much a Von Carstein army: I can get away with a Lahmian or Blood Dragon as I have appropriate Generals on foot for that, but Strigoi or Necrarchs, the most different and powerful Bloodlines, are closed to me because the rest of the army doesn’t match. (If I ever did a second Vampire Counts army, it would be mostly Ghouls and more bronze age style Skeletons, deliberately geared toward playing with these two Bloodlines.)

What do you need: Wraith or Wight? Both games had the BSB pay off but also Terror made a big impact.

This is a recurring problem for me. Both these heroes have been excellent additions to my collection and I’m a tad flummoxed about which one to leave at home when slots are at a premium. Since the Wight Lord doesn’t have quite such an established character or set of kit (he was swapped into the army at the last moment) I’m going to stick with the Wraith for the time being.

Periapt ain’t always so hot: consider another Stone.

Don’t get me wrong, the Black Periapt is fine; it’s just a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul every other turn because this phase often has to get by on seven dice so I can have nine later, and there’s a level of cognitive load involved in planning around the dice-storage gimmick that can slow me down and stop me playing decisively. I’m still umming and ahhing about the Periapt, which I think is only essential in 2000 point games where a fella only has three level 2 wizards to play with. Up here I can probably get away without it by ensuring I have enough dice in the first place, and enough powerful wizards to make good use of them.


To these vestiges I’d add a few more observations that came out of the report-writing process. I really like Death Magic on my Vampires and am close to considering it the default as I go forward, outside the Army of Sylvania of course (there I don’t have the luxury of faffing about without Necromancy).

The big unit of Knights is a necessary evil in a Sylvanian list but otherwise I think I need the flexibility of two units operating on opposite flanks or sweeping one together.

Finally there’s the small matter of casting power. At present the 3000 point army is too dependent on the Master and once he’s copped it, I am knocked back to 2000 point levels of casting power: not good enough. This “Master and Margarita” list archetype is therefore reserved for fifth edition from here on out, and Lord Ruthven will be making a return to wrangle the army. I also plan to shout FIE to the high heavens, bust the shield off my Imperial Noble model, and simply use the figure who matches the army’s aesthetic as Lord Ruthven. If anyone gives me grief about his breastplate I shall say it’s got warpstone in it or something. Life’s too short.

A few additional cuts have been made in terms of magic banners, unit champions and so on and so forth. Magic banners may yet be restored to the Knight units at the cost of some Dire Wolves.


Lord Ruthven: Von Carstein Vampire Lord: extra magic level (Lore of Death), Biting Blade, Ring of the Night, Walking Death, Aura of Dark Majesty435 points

Walravius: Master Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Cloak of Mists and Shadows, Power Stone: 290 points

Rosenkratz: Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Book of Arkhan, Power Stone: 150 points

Guildenstern: Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Rod of Flaming Death: 150 points

Whispering Nell: Wraith: Cursed Book: 140 points

Lord Ruthven’s First of Foot: 20 Skeletons: spears, light armour, champion, musician and standard bearer: 245 points

Lord Ruthven’s Second of Foot: 20 Skeletons: light armour, champion, musician and standard bearer: 225 points

Templehof Pals: 10 Zombies: musician and standard bearer: 75 points

Verhungernhund Claw: 5 Dire Wolves: 50 points

Verhungernhund Fang: 5 Dire Wolves: 50 points

Order of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights: barding, champion, musician and standard bearer: 240 points

Order of the Crimson Wing: 8 Black Knights: barding, champion, musician and standard bearer: 240 points

Black Monks of St. Herod: 5 Spirit Hosts: 325 points

Cora: Banshee: 90 points

Clarice: Banshee: 90 points

Emmanuelle’s Hearse: Black Coach: 200 points

TOTAL: 2995 points
Tower of Power: 13 dice
Pile of Denial: 8 dice

[WFB] Herohammer: An Experiment In Betrayal

You all know me. I’m a Vampire Counts man to the bone. I don’t entertain any of this twittering, wittering and doo-dah-de-lally about how ‘splitting the Undead was the worst decision GW ever made’. I like the Tomb Kings and I wish I’d had the money to buy into them during eighth edition when they had all those lovely kits, but that’s beside the point today.

The point is, I’m a loyalist. But…

… as I find myself putting together 3000 point lists for the purposes of chasing Mr. Ben Panting, Esq. back across the Border to whence he came, I find myself really wanting to use the fourth edition Warhammer Armies: Undead list.

OK, so I can’t cower behind Call Winds in a proper old-fashioned Undead army, and neither the Black Coach nor the Spirit Host will be making an appearance, but there are… rewards.

It’s the special characters, you see. Vlad and Isabella and Mannfred as they’re presented in the fifth edition book are good, but they’re not good enough. Their selections of powers and items are… OK, but there are essential support items and nice-to-have fun stuff that has to go onto a generic character if I want to include it.

Whereas in fourth edition, the special characters have some items set… but they also have free slots. They can be customised, integrated into the army build as a whole. They don’t need to be weighed against the flexibility of the generic options. And Isabella is still a proper Countess, i.e. a spellcaster.


Vlad von Carstein – 500
Sword of Unholy Power, Carstein Ring
(Summon Undead Horde, Wind of Death)

Isabella von Carstein – 290
Ruby Chalice, Staff of Damnation
(Dark Magic spell: to be drawn randomly)

Mannfred von Carstein – 587
Skeleton Steed
Skull Staff, Dragon Blade, Dispel Scroll
(Vanhel’s Danse Macabre, Raise the Dead, Gaze of Nagash, Hand of Dust)


18 Skeletons – 196
Spears, shields, standard, musician

5 Skeletons – 55

5 Wights – 294
Skeleton Steeds, spears, shields, heavy armour, standard, musician

5 Wraiths – 375


2 Bat Swarms – 200

Zombie Dragon – 500

2997 points

The army deploys in oblique line, with the Crossbows (never gonna move) at one end, and the rest escalating in increasing order of hastiness. Skeletons (led by Vlad and Isabella), then Wraiths, then Wights, then the Dragon, assuming he doesn’t have anything better to do like fly high and descend like the fist of ages. The Bat Swarm runs interference, racing across the line to deflect anything I don’t feel like fighting until it’s had a few doom spells shoved down it.

You could probably shit better lists than this but that’s not the point. The point is to walk my old collection back an edition and slap three special characters on the board without that nagging voice going “but generic characters support the army better” in the back of my head. I agree it’d be nice to have some Skull Chuckers. Buy me some and I’ll fit ’em in somehow. I’d like the Mantic ones please, they fit the aesthetic of this army better.

[WFB] Herohammer – Fun With Fifth Edition

There’s talk of a Wales and South West Middlehammer meetup, with a small no-stakes low-restrictions tournament at its heart. This is good.

Somehow I’ve ended up involved with organising it and doing test games to remember where the exploits and snags are. This is good.

It’s… fifth edition?

It would have to be the one for which I don’t already have an army list written up and ready, wouldn’t it?

A Shameful Confession

I never really played my Vampire Counts under fifth edition rules. Oh, I had a modest Undead army, or at least a bunch of plastic Skellies plus metal Liche, Vampire Count and Skull Chucker, but those were laid aside when I learned you could build a 2000 point Chaos Warrior army for about £75 and still have some birthday money left for the Lord of Change. Sure, I pre-ordered the first Vampire Counts book, but I got as far as painting a buck-toothed Necrarch and a handful of Zombies before sixth edition rolled out and Mordheim happened and everything sort of… went sideways.

The point is I’d be retro-engineering here, taking my collection of models for sober, sensible, troop-focused sixth edition and seeing how well they transferred to the age of BanishmentBlack Gems of Gnar, and flying Chaos Lords with sixteen attacks and a sword that stops all your magic items working.

I do more or less remember how fifth edition works, and how the Vampire Counts work within it – it involves being able to reliably cast and recast very cheap support spells like Vanhel’s Danse Macabre or Summon Skeletons, keep your General alive and a character in almost every unit, and focus your efforts into juuust tipping the balance in combat since most things you beat and outnumber will be running for the hills.

The terms of engagement are pretty simple – 1500 points (to keep a tin lid on some of the worst excesses) with no named characters (because enough of us still have hangups about them twenty years down the line) but no other restrictions (because restrictions emerge organically out of a living ‘meta’ and we don’t want to start banning stuff before we see how the community evolves).

First out, I toyed with the idea of a Lahmian Vampire as my general (since her essential 5+ unmodified save and always-strikes-first capacity come from Bloodline Powers and not magic items which can be Deadlocked, Plaque of Dominioned or Sword of Destructioned away) and a Necromancer Lord (automatically able to recast spells and powerful enough to get them through reliably).

Thing is, I’ve always played Von Carsteins. The other thing is, I wanted to try some more authentically Middlehammer wackiness, like being able to stick large monsters in your army without necessarily strapping your single-point-of-failure Vampire General on them, or taking multiple Vampire Counts in any size game I liked.

1500 points is not quite enough to take my Zombie Dragon (I could do it, but I’d have no other characters or decent defences for the Count on its back, and if a stray cannonball took him off his ride it’d be game over in one shot) and I don’t own a Winged Nightmare any more, so back to the drawing board again.

Two Counts. That had some potential. They could cast the big Necromancy spells, the ones that are too expensive to really bother with recasting and great for drawing out Dispel Scrolls, and then a relatively budget but still reliable Necromancer Champion could spam out the two spells that actually matter.

As a bonus, these three characters could scale; 1000 point games could feature a cheap Count, Thrall and level 1 Necromancer, while at 2000 or more I could roll out the same models as a power trio of Vampire Lord, Vampire Count and level 3 or 4 mage. All this was going around my head when…

Pseud’s Corner

I’m not an imaginative soul when it comes to naming characters, but when my army’s steeped in Gothic horror traditions I don’t have to be.

During its sixth and seventh edition heyday, my legion of the living-impaired was commanded by Lord Ruthven and his Thralls, Carmilla and Varney. Later efforts of course featured Clarimonde and Romauld, as chronicled elsewhere on ‘ere.

My Necromancers have always been supporting cast, with different naming conventions; I’m not proud of the brief “völkisch occultism is f a s c i n a t i n g” phase that led to Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, but Rosenkratz and Guildenstern (they died a lot, you see) were okay.

When the moment of serendipity came this time, it was an alignment between conversations: proxying Mannfred as an ordinary Count just to get the model on the table in one window, and translating Russian classics as mock Big Bang Theory scripts in the other. Click. If my Mannfred would be acting incognito it only made sense that he wouldn’t have an actual title, and my suitable footslogging Count is female…

The Master and Margarita

I named the Necromancer after my favourite fifteenth-century demonologist (what, you don’t have one?) and was in business. Here’s the list I came up with for testing games.

Characters: 720/750

The Master: Von Carstein Vampire Count: barded Nightmare; Unbending WillpowerStaff of Damnation: 251

Margarita: Von Carstein Vampire Countess: Pure Blood, Carstein Ring: 240

Walravius: Necromancer Champion: Destroy Magic Scroll, Cloak of Mists and Shadows: 229

Regiments: 727 > 375

5 Wight Cavalry: lances, heavy armour, shields, barding, flag, trumpet: 252

19 Zombies: flag, alleged musician: 105

19 Zombies: pointed stick, blunderbuss: 105

5 Dire Wolves, including 1 Doom Wolf: 65

4 Vampire Bats: 100

1 Banshee: 100

Monsters: 50 / 375

1 Bat Swarm

A weird mix of troops because I honestly don’t remember what’s good in fifth edition. I want more Wight Cavalry but crikey they’re expensive, and I slightly regret two units of Zombies but I wanted two solid line infantry units and my full kit Skeletons (who come in at 12 points per head) just don’t fit in a game of this size.

The list is built around either Count working as the general. There’s definitely a default setting (Margarita in command, being harder to reach, better protected and less inclined to take risks, which is honestly a nice little riff on the novel too) but it’d be interesting to try and wrong-foot people by making the Master an expendable general (if he’s dead, the Wights are probably dead too, and the Zombie units can recover from d6 casualties well enough). In either case all the chaff will implode but again, I don’t bet on Wolves or Bats outliving their commander.

Now all I have to do is fix the models.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: How Would You Finish This List?

I’m currently tinkering with the 35 point list I’ll be taking to SmogCon in February. The two events I’m going to be entering are Hydra (35 points with a random caster from a pool of five chosen by myself – four rounds so someone’s gonna get benched – assume 5 warjack points) and Scalpel (35 points with a sideboard – can swap anything represented by a whole card in or out, so no min units for max units).

The core of the list is pretty much decided:

* Phoenix
* Sylys

10 Houseguard Halberdiers
10 Dawnguard Invictors
Stormfall Archers

While I wanted so so badly to take the Hydra to Hydra, I’ve been forced to accept that the sheer utility of the Phoenix puts it ahead. In the first three games of the club league, it’s carved up a Dire Troll (freeing up my infantry to finish off Mulg in the same turn) and enabled me to arc some doom spells onto Epic Doomshaper’s stupid troll face; it’s let me Arcantrik Bolt Kraye’s battlegroup from a position of safety; and it’s dealt the killing blows to both the Black 13th and Mr. Kraye himself in short order. The arc node and gun on the same chassis also means it can be set up in the second wave and still, well, get to do something, although I haven’t actually fired the gun yet – it’s always been easier to charge the target and hit it slightly more reliably.

Sylys is in because some of the casters need him and I think everyone at least wants him if he’s available – and he is. The Houseguard are, to my mind, one of the best chaff units in the game; they have absolutely everything they need on their cards (Set Defence, Shield Wall and Ranked Attack – Brutal Charge and CMA are very tasty gravy that mean the survivors are very likely to do some good). Likewise, the Dawnguard get in for their sheer utility and their in-Faction status (I was tempted by the Nyss Hunters for the same points, but the thought of replacing the unit again made my fingers cramp up in terror). The Stormfalls are, well, they’re Stormfalls, they run, then they Snipe, then they either set you on fire or Brutal Damage you until your eyes drop off.

The ‘caster pool I’m thinking of is Kaelyssa, Ravyn, Garryth and Ossyran, with the final slot tied between Vyros and Rahn. Rahn seems to need more stuff with ‘House Shyeel’ in its name than not, for the sake of his feat; but then, Vyros seems to demand a decent-sized battlegroup and at the moment I’m only rocking one ‘jack.

Which brings me to the rest of the list. By my calculation I have six points left. Combinations of possibilities throng before my mind, chiefly around a 4:2 split.

For 4 points I can get UAs for both units, a Griffon or Aiyana and Holt (the budget option since I already own them). The Griffon is most tempting; it gives me something to set up Flank on the Dawnguard, and a second ‘jack to ensure some mileage out of Vyros’ feat. Does mean spending money, of course, but I’m pretty much resigned to that.

For 2, the options are a single UA, or one of the oddball solos – a Mage Hunter Assassin or House Shyeel Magister or Ghost Sniper. A pair of Arcanists seems slightly redundant when I only have two warjack; although there is the prospect of an Arcanist and a Soulless Escort, I guess?

As Unit Attachments go I’m torn; if I had to pick one I’m not sure whether I’d go for the Dawnguard’s or the Houseguard’s. The Houseguard have been surprisingly effective combatants, so I’m edging toward theirs, but the Dawnguard seem to need the UA more in order to do what I want them to do, i.e. drop scary Combined Ranged Attacks from a reasonable distance away.

There’s also the outsider option in a 5:1 split – a second unit of Stormfall Archers, or a unit of Battle Mages (I’d consider running Rahn instead of Vyros, in that case) and an Arcanist. It’s not often that I put my hand up to wanting two units of something, but I am very fond of Stormfall Archers.

So, bearing in mind the whole ‘random caster’ thing, what would you do? How would you spend those last six points, and would Rahn or Vyros occupy your last slot?

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: The Houseguard, the Dawnguard and I

Long-term readers may have received the impression that I am not very good at using units in Warmachine (or Hordes for that matter). This is blatantly and horribly true. It’s something to do with the way in which they work; each model activating, moving, attacking and existing individually is a bit taxing to someone who cut their teeth on the “just roll for all of ’em” approach of WFB and post-second-edition 40K.  That they don’t have to shackle one another within 2″ but are instead free to move around within a circle of diameter usually between 16″ and 20″ which moves with one key model only adds to the brain-fatigue, as does the presence of two or three such units in the successful Warmachine army, which is the ultimate cake-taker.

And yet… I’ve been doing all right with the Retribution, so far, with one unit of ten, one of six, one of four and one of two angry elves making their appearance in my 25 point list.

Partly it’s down to the rules on the units. The Houseguard Halberdiers, for instance, have Shield Wall and Combined Melee Attack, which encourages them to bunch up into little tight-knit groups of three or four, moving and attacking together. They also, crucially, have Ranked Attack, which eliminates many of the cludge-up problems I usually experience with units; the rest of my army shoots and consequently can pretend the Houseguard aren’t there. The Dawnguard Invictors have a similar principle; Defensive Line jumps them from ARM 15 to ARM 17 if two of them are standing together, and two of them standing together are pumping out the effective RAT 8 POW 12 Combined Ranged Attacks that I’ve been finding so effective of late. Aiyana and Holt tend to stand next to each other in order for Ayisla’s Veil to do its thing and make them both Stealthy. Only the Stormfall Archers are actually individual actors: the rest of my units are pairs or small groups, such that a unit of ten models might comprise five or fewer actual actors, since models will tow others after them to maintain Shield Wall or Defensive Line, or to share targets for Combined Attacks.

Partly it’s my sense of what the army should be doing. The Houseguard are chaff which occasionally charge to clear routes or tie up enemies; their activation is generally “run and fan out” in the first turn, then “close in and Shield Wall” in the second, then “charge” in the third. The Stormfall Archers like to close the distance so they can pick more fun things than just Snipe; their activation is usually run on turn one, move and shoot or aim and shoot on turn two, aim and shoot on turn three and thereafter. Only the Dawnguard are complicated and even they are basically moving and shooting or aiming and shooting until lanes are clear for them to charge. Everything has a job to do and does it.

Partly it’s that the actual games I’ve played have suggested roles for the infantry.

Against Skorne, in a No Man’s Land mission, the infantry were necessary to keep those marauding Titans at bay. By maintaining some depth between the Halberdiers and Dawnguard, I could ensure that any Trampling Titan would get free-struck and Dawnguard-charged into ineffectiveness; by keeping the Halberdiers in tight knots I could back-stop them against slams and prevent the Titans ploughing into my lines that way. That the early push with the Halberdiers left one in charge range of Hexeris to actually seal a game was sheer blind luck and not something which I planned for or deserved at all, but still!

Against Khador, meanwhile, the infantry’s job was to contest the Mosh Pit scenario area, and create overlapping threat ranges through which it’d be tricky for him to advance his Demo Corps without, again, entering Free Strike City. I don’t know what possessed me to bunch them up in deployment – it made them spray-bait for the fully armed and operational Winter Guard Death Star – but their acceptable ARM kept them going and they did conveniently block Sorscha’s Line of Sight to the Stormfall Archers and Ravyn, on whom I was relying to actually eliminate those Khadoran infantry and claim the Pit.

For someone who dislikes infantry, I’m actually finding them easier going than the warjacks. I’ve been finding that the potential of the Retribution ‘jacks isn’t quite met by their actual impact; not that they’re bad, just that I seldom have much to do with them other than move, pot-shot, and put them somewhere where they’ll draw attention by looking scary. Perhaps I’ll review the House Shyeel heavy chassis next week?

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Decisions and Revisions

For those canny folks who bought their SmogCon tickets ahead of the game, last night marked the pre-registration for the tournaments and organised casual hobby time (you know what I mean, the stuff where a space needs to be set aside, like speed painting or RPG stuff). With my fingers a-hoverin’ over the trackball, I was there right on time, eager to shimmy into the 35 point events while everyone else was battering for the generally-preferred 50-pointers. In order to make sure that everyone got some formal games in and nobody over-committed and burned out, registrants were allowed to pick two tournaments and two non-tournaments for the course of the weekend.

My original plan was to take on the Hydra (hail Hydra!) event, on the grounds that I’d only have to buy and build one 35 point army plus four alternate casters; a much more achievable prospect than three 50 point armies with no FA: C choices repeated, and then to dip my toes into competitive Malifaux with the Hardcore event on the Saturday.

And then I thought about the £60 I’d just spent on the two infantry units for my Retribution – I went for Houseguard Halberdiers and Dawnguard Invictors in the end, incidentally – and the £10 or so that each run to the Clapham club for a practice game sets me back, and the current confusing state of Malifaux (I still can’t walk into the shop and see the rulebook on the shelf, which is kind of a bummer when you’re trying to get into a game), and I said to myself, “self, do you really think you’re going to be able to practice a 35 point Retribution list with five different casters and learn to play Malifaux to a standard where you won’t slow-play and get your head around the IKRPG by February?”

“Probably not, no,” said I.

So here’s the new plan. I’m still taking the Gremlins to SmogCon, but I don’t intend to inflict myself on the tournaments for that system. Instead, I’m signing up for Midnight Madness: Scalpel on the Saturday. Another 35 point Warmachine event, single list but with a sideboard capacity (you can swap out things that cost the same number of points, but you have to swap out actual cards, not just upsize and downsize units). That sounds… fun, and within my financial and tactical remit.

Admittedly, there’s the small problem of my being a career Morning Person and so usually braindead by about nine p/m. However, I also live less than an hour’s train ride from the convention. This is promising.

My cunning plan is still slightly nebulous. If someone is kind enough to lend me floor space in their hotel room on the Saturday – someone who’s playing in a daytime tournament and so won’t be needing it – I’ll crash at SmogCon and buy them dinner or something. If not, I’ll just catch the first train home on Saturday morning, sleep in the comfort of my own sweet bed, dine in on Saturday evening and then troop back out for Midnight Madness. My two casual sign-ups have been expended on some IKRPG time on the Sunday – a nice, no-pressure come-down that I can probably walk into with naught but a nap and a shower to my name – so it won’t be worth coming home on that day anyway.

Things like food can also be manipulated around this; I’m trying to avoid paying stockbroker-belt hotel prices for too many meals. At some point closer to the event I’ll have to weigh up the available cash and establish whether it’s cheaper to eat/sleep at home and pay extra train fares, or crash at the convention and eat out all weekend. At the moment I lean toward the former option, but we’ll see.

There is a budgetary constraint on this operation, but it’s looser than might be thought; basically, whatever money I get from selling off my Necrons is going towards building the Retribution and attending SmogCon. I’m not sad to see the Necrons go; I’ve had fun with them over the last couple of years but 40K is such a massive palaver and I only play it a couple of times a year, a long way from home, with people with whom I can just play other games.

At present, the financial situation looks like this:

  • IN
    £80 from sale of Necron units (after eBay fees)
  • OUT
    £53 – ticket
    £60 on extra Retribution stuff required for competitions
    Projected £200 from selling remaining Necrons, surfeit of 40K tokens, unused RPG rulebooks &c. &c.

So, slightly over budget at present. Better hope those Necrons shift.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Retribution List Building

As we discussed before, my basic Hydra build is looking a bit like this.


  • [House Shyeel heavy of some sort]
  • Griffon
  • Sylys Wyshnylarr

Full Dawnguard Invictors / Nyss Hunters (always an option, and could serve in other faction contexts)
Full Houseguard Halberdiers
Stormfall Archers

PLUS – exact choice dependent on cash and points available
Aiyana and Holt
Unit Attachments for Invictors and/or Halberdiers
Eiryss + Arcanist

I’ve been noodling around with possible ways to make this build concrete – trying to use as much of the stuff I already own as I can, for economy’s sake, without compromising battlefield effectiveness too far. If I can get away with spending £45 or so on the two infantry units and an Arcanist, I’ll be happy.

The Dawnguard vs. Nyss option is something that’ll ultimately be decided by factors on the edge of gameplay. One: will I seriously follow through on that idea to build a pGoreshade Theme Force at some point? (If so, the Nyss could appear in all my Warmachine forces, and strike me as an extra-special-value purchase just for that.) Two: will I actually be able to get hold of them? (I’ve seen one box on shop shelves and Privateer Press’ UK supply line has these… moments of intermittency.) Three: would I prefer to build and paint Dawnguard than my third unit of Nyss Hunters? (Almost certainly.) Four: how many of the Retribution casters will prefer an in-Faction unit? (I’ll have to look and see. Might be a future post in that.)

Anyway. The lists.

Continue reading “[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Retribution List Building”

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: Hail Hydra

Hydra, as a format, could be tailor-made for a player like me who prefers small games, doesn’t have the disposable income for two or three lists’ worth of stuff, and is a long-term believer in the whole ‘run the same good stuff with a different caster and see how much the game changes’ approach to Warmachine.

It demands a single 35 point list, assuming that 5 warjack points are available, and five different warcasters, to whom numbers are assigned. At the top of each round, the caster choice is randomised; if a four is rolled, everyone in that round uses their number four caster. It’s a four-round event, so there’ll be one caster you just don’t get to use. This is not only within lunging distance for me, but the kind of scale toward which I’d be working anyway; the list suggested by Capture and Control as a decent ‘starter’ force happens to include a whole bunch of things I think are good.

The list features Dawnguard Invictors and a Griffin for solid Flank-tastic fun; the ‘jack of all trades Phoenix (although mine seems rather lacklustre, maybe because I don’t at present own an Arcanist, maybe because it’s having to take point in my games, maybe because I keep forgetting that it has a sodding gun); the cheap Houseguard Halberdiers who provide one-way see-through chaff; and the potentially-devastating-if-they-ever-hit-anything Stormfall Archers.

There are, however, problems.

One: that list has six warjack points, not five, and I’m reluctant to just chuck out the Arcanist (that little sod is needed to make the Retribution heavies do anything worth doing). I’m also very much aware that some of the warcasters I’ll be running would really, really benefit from having Sylys Wyshnalyrr around, for the extra range on the spells and the free upkeep and the help with getting those Arcantrik Bolts, Strangleholds and Death Sentences off.

Two: that list doesn’t use everything I already own, and it includes a couple of high-cost low-volume pay-for-rules options in the form of the Unit Attachments. They’re certainly good, and I’d like to have them, but money is not abundant and if I can get the list ticking with stuff I own rather than stuff I’d have to buy, I’ll be in a generally more comfortable position.

The simplest way to get to 35 points is just to drop the Halberdiers down to minimum size, freeing up 3 points – one for the rogue warjack point and two for Sylys. I’m not sure that an eight-man chaff unit is really a good chaff unit, though, and I’m also not sure I want to buy ten Halberdiers and only field six. Does anyone else miss the days when Privateer Press sold minimum-sized units? If I wanted a maxed-out unit I’d just buy two boxes – two minimum or one maximum, problem solved, no need for blisters.

Other options include chucking the Unit Attachments (frees up four points and a lot of cash – maybe a Soulless Escort for somebody, or a second Arcanist to get both the ‘jacks swinging harder), or downgrading the Phoenix to a slightly cheaper heavy.

This last has a certain appeal – the Phoenix is excellent but I struggle to get the most out of mine, possibly because I don’t have other pieces to do the heavy hitting but possibly because the gun and the arc node and the decent melee weapon and the Combustion are a few too many options for me. The thought occurs that with Sylys in the list, the arc node may not even be essential. With extra range on the non-channelled spells, the casters could potentially operate closer to the front lines; most of them have some sort of weapon or ability which encourages being played up-front, too. I used to play Epic Magnus that way and blimey, it was fun getting to use stuff other than focus!

The other options with the kit I’ve built are the Manticore (sufficiently punchy to not need the Arcanist, and could be fielded with Aiyana and Holt or both UAs if I can afford them, but a right old focus hog) or the Hydra (more economical in terms of focus, could be fielded with Eiryss or an Arcanist and one UA if I can afford them).

Decisions, decisions. At the moment, here’s how it’s shaking down.


  • [House Shyeel heavy of some sort]
  • Griffon
  • Sylys Wyshnylarr

Full Dawnguard Invictors / Nyss Hunters (always an option, and could serve in other faction contexts)
Full Houseguard Halberdiers
Stormfall Archers

PLUS – exact choice dependent on cash and points available
Aiyana and Holt
Unit Attachments for Invictors and/or Halberdiers
Eiryss + Arcanist

[WM/H] Hardcore Cryx Action!

In the past I may have been heard saying good things about Warmachine’s Hardcore format, in a sort of detached, intellectual kind of way, with ref: different goals for different playstyles and a prize for each, no conflated ‘best overall’ nonsense, sportsmanship as a prerequisite rather than something that needs extra gameable systems to police.

What I haven’t mentioned is how much bloody fun it is.

The five minute turn limit means the analysis paralysis that normally grips me can’t be allowed to set in – it’s keep going forward, don’t get killed, make a mistake and live with it.  Not having any time to umm and aah about things or regret errors of judgement is remarkably liberating, and I’d be really looking forward to Sunday’s 50 pointer down at Chimera, which I haven’t found time to visit just yet, were it not for one small thing: the lists I was thinking about taking are rubbish.

Continue reading “[WM/H] Hardcore Cryx Action!”

[WM/H] FQDII Khador List Review

I’ll be honest, I’ve got the blues a bit at the moment.  Not as regards actual gaming, still doing a fair bit of Blood Bowl and WoW, although the Goblins! game has stalled owing to the near-impossibility of getting seven people into a room at the same time.  Strange that it’s only RPGs that seem so afflicted; the local wargames club pulls in more people than that to play wargames and boardgames every week and most of us manage to turn up regularly.

I do have the blogging blues, though.  It might be that I’ve been talking about one company’s games more than I like to, it might just be one of those fallow periods that we all go through from time to time.  However, I did say I’d have a quick look over the Khador lists that I took to FQDII, just to see what I’ve managed to assimilate from the day, so here goes.

Continue reading “[WM/H] FQDII Khador List Review”