Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts: Supplements n' Expansions

When I first caught wind that Games Workshop was working on a set of expansions and other rules updates, I got excited.  When I heard one of them would center around siege warfare, I started digging trenches in my front lawn in preparation.  Having read through Stronghold Assault and Escalation, and being familiar with the concepts behind the new Dataslates and Formations, I'd like to share my thoughts on them and muse about where the game is going from here.

Escalation

I more-or-less ignored Escalation until I bothered to read it and my opinion on it remains largely unchanged.  Being able to take Super Heavy units in "regular" games of Warhammer 40,000 is pretty cool and can make for a game that the players will remember for a good long while.

The Imperial Guard get the lion's share of choices from the book in the form of the frillion Baneblade variants.  Many of the other armies get only one choice, which I think was a major ball that Games Workshop dropped.  Having at least two or three would've been better and there are options out there for some of the other armies.  Craftworld Eldar could have gotten access to a Cobra, Orks could have gotten a Mega Fortress tank...  You get the gist.

Luckily, Forge World has picked up the slack and given all of the armies the full range of Lord of War options they deserve.

Others have complained that Escalation being a Supplement (not an Expansion) fundamentally alters the game, but I don't see it that way.  Relatively few players have super heavy units anyway.  They're cumbersome to tote around and are enormous targets on the battlefield.  Many of the options are from Forge World, which adds enormous expense to the pile of issues of bringing a Lord of War to the battlefield.

I think, also, that a majority of players recognize the potential to break casual game play.  Much like win-at-all-costs tournament lists, many hobbyists playing casually will politely refrain from playing with or against Escalation army lists unless both players are up to the challenge, much the same way you might hear "Hey, Dave, I just paid my taxes and can't take getting bent over a table again this week.  D'you mind not bringing out the tourney list with four Riptides?"

The alternate Warlord Traits table is pretty sweet.  Reading through it a second time I had to keep reminding myself that not everyone plays Imperial Guard and other HQ units can make much better use of the traits than a Company Comander or Commissar can.  One of the traits gives your Warlord armourbane and fleshbane in close combat against Lords of War.  Now imagine a base Company Commander pistol-whipping his way through a Baneblade--and destroying it.  Talk about a memorable game!

The missions included with the book also seem like a lot of fun.  I'll have to dust off my Baneblade and actually find time to play.  Busy holiday seasons are always such a joy, aren't they?

Stronghold Assault

As a Death Korps player and lover of siege warfare, this book had me hungrily hoovering up any rumor up until its release and absorbing it all with glee.  Reading the book, I had only minor quibbles, but was very, very impressed with the Expansion.

Stronghold Assault allows players to fight siege battles with one side being the attacking player and the other being the defender.  The book also features three additional missions to take full advantage of the new rules for fortifications in the book.

One of the more interesting surprises was the alteration to building rules.  The new building rules in Stronghold Assault streamline the process of using buildings in games of Warhammer 40,000.  One of the best, in my opinion, was making Battlements a big access point to whichever building it's attached to.  Allowing Jump- and Jet-pack troops to embark into buildings was also a nice addition, though to be honest, I wasn't aware at the time that they weren't allowed to do so.

The choice of fortifications available to players is rather undiverse, representing Games Workshop's buildings available for purchase.  An excellent addition to the book would have been giving each army a few alternate options to the basic structures.  Something like Tau being able to add some sort of drones or letting Eldar replace Imperial weapons and void shields with their own guns and holofields.  I imagine the design studio will probably be releasing separate Dataslates for army-specific upgrades to fortifications at some point in the future.

Out of the two, Stronghold Assault is the book I'm most excited to use in my games of 40k.  It very strongly reminds me of Planetstrike, which I absolutely adored.  Stronghold Assault even utilizes many of the same alterations to the Force Organization Chart featured in Planetstrike.

Dataslates

My friend Ryan is a big fan of World of Tanks and Mech Warrior Online.  Both are shooter games that are free-to-play online, but feature options you can purchase to enhance your in-game experience.  Too often, free-to-play games will suffer from what players call "pay-to-win" syndrome, wherein all of the best items, equipment and enhancements sit behind a pay wall, unavailable to players not looking to spend any money on the game.  Ryan remarked that Dataslates are Games Workshop's experiment with pay-to-win gameplay.

Certainly an apt analogy, but after looking at some of the Dataslates that have been released so far, I'm not getting the impression that there's anything game breaking in them at all.  In all honesty, I really like the concept!  Adding a new dimension to gameplay and encouraging players to consider options they otherwise wouldn't take is almost never a bad thing.

Of course, there are some minor issues: chief among them is the fact that Formations are separate Detachments.  A huge potential for abuse would exist were it not for the enormous number of points one must spend to take any of the Formations that have currently been released.  The Tau Firebase and Space Marine flyer Formations are each in the ballpark of 500 points.  As it stands, it's just a head-scratcher.

My other quibble with the Formations are the (so far) lack of restriction on how the units in a Formation must be arranged.  Think of the formations in the Apocalypse rulebook.  When a group of units in an Apocalypse formation maintain some sort of special coherency, they benefit from some special rule.  A better idea, in my own humble opinion, would be to play Formations in standard games of 40k the same way, granting buffs to units that remained in a special arrangement.


Overall, I'm extremely positive about what the deluge of new gaming material means for the hobby.  My sincerest hope is that my regular gaming group doesn't just decide to ignore the expansions.  They all sound like so much fun and I'm chomping at the bit to play all of them.

All the best and Merry Christmas!
-Jordan

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Death Korps Siege Regiment Painting Technique Test Run


The start of something wonderful!

I've purchased quite a bit of stuff from Forge World recently.  It's a solid chunk of the stuff I'll need to build a large Death Korps of Krieg army.  I'm intending that the army will have over 120 guardsmen at 1850pts.  In order to paint that many models, I'll have to rethink the way I paint miniatures, which is where the products pictured above come into play.

Normally, I paint by priming with a color primer, painting on basic colors, washing all or part of the model, finally adding details, highlights, etc and varnishing.  While I could do that for this build, applying the wash by hand is entirely too time consuming, so I bought some of The Army Painter's Strong Tone Quickshade dip.  

Let's see how it works, shall we?


The model--in this case, a Death Korps Grenadier with a hose section--got a hole drilled into his heel and toothpick jammed into the hole.  He then got primed white and had a base coat of The Army Painter Skeleton Bone Warpaint applied by airbrush.  I use a 50/50 paint/water mix.  Works great.


The next step is to apply the layers of paint on the model by brush.  A few basic colors from The Army Painter's Warpaints range, and we're pretty much good to go.  This guy probably took about 45 minutes to paint to the condition that he's in as pictured.  


While the Grenadier was drying, I added some Vallejo Black Lava textured paint to a 25mm MDF base I cut out with my laser cutter.  This was my first time working with textured paint like this, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Oni had very positive things to say about the product, so I figured I'd give it a chance.  

From the one model I've used Black Lava on, I think it's a keeper.  The product does have to get "slopped" on instead of brushed on if you want an even grit across the whole base.


After letting the Grenadier dry for about half an hour, I put the Quickshade dip to the test.  The stuff is pretty much wood stain.  Tons of hobbyists use Minwax instead and save a couple bucks in the process, but I like the way the Strong Tone looks on models and didn't want to spend money and time trying to figure out which shade of stain matched closest.

The entire process of dipping models is new to me.  The dip looks like it coats very heavily and does have to have the excess tapped back into the can and the few drips and such shaken off.  Unfortunately, I neglected to glue the toothpick to the Grenadier's heel, so he flew off while I was trying to remove excess dip.  After his second airborne excursion, I just sopped up the heavier pools of dip with a paint brush.

The thing I like least about the dip is that it requires 12 hours to dry and 24 to cure fully.  While this can be a drag, I imagine it's not such a big deal when you're dipping 20 to 30 models at a time and letting them dry while you work on the next batch.  As was to be expected, the dip dried to a high gloss, which shows off the varnish component of the dip.


And so, after waiting the requisite amount of dry time, I hit the model with my favorite Testors Dullcote.  I can honestly say I couldn't be more pleased with the result.  The camera on my cellphone fails to capture how splendid the model looks for the level of effort I put into it.  I did have to do a tiny, tiny bit of touch up work with Strong Tone Ink, but aside from that, this chap's ready to hit the table top.

The base is my usual desert scheme: Desert Yellow base coat, a drybrush of Skeleton Bone and the lip painted Leather Brown; Warpaints all.  I primed the base white.


The entire Death Korps army will be painted using this technique.  I have some plans for magnetized squad-sized movement trays, just so my opponent doesn't kill me when I tell him I'm playing with more than 100 models, but that's a post I'll get to when I reach that point in the project.  For now, I think we can all call this experiment a resounding success!

All the best,
-Jordan