Goals for 2016

For me, 2014 was a year of board games and 2015 was a year of wargames.

I’m not sure how 2016 is going to pan out. Being a recent¬†parent, I’m just not sure how much painting and gaming I’m going to have time for. The most reassuring thing I’ve read or listened to was the ‘From Diapers to Dicebags‘ episode of the Independent Characters podcast.¬†The group, most of whom are parents, discuss how life changes for a gamer and give some practical advice on how to find time for the hobby. I’ve read a lot of ‘how to be a father‘ books and blogs but this was the¬†only thing that genuinely reassured me that my life wasn’t about to end.

Here are my goals anyway:

Finish off my Salamanders Horus Heresy army

I’ve got around 2,500 points painted but I’ve probably got another 2,000¬†to go. From memory, I’ve got:

Plus I’m probably going to buy a couple of Rhinos to round out the force.

Salamanders on the loose
Salamanders on the loose

That’s¬†a lot of painting. Almost certainly too much for one year. If I paint half of it and stop myself from buying anything further, I’ll be a happy gamer.

Finish off my Yu Jing force for Infinity

I reckon that I’ve got about 20 models either unpainted or in the process of being painted. A reasonable amount to get done, I reckon.

The problem with playing Infinity is that the creators, Corvus Belli, are always being out new models for every faction. I’d love to avoid buying any new models but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to resist.

Pew! Pew! Pew!
Pew! Pew! Pew!
Look at that lovely FAT mat.
Look at that lovely FAT mat.

Play more Deadzone

The new rules are out soon and I’ve already got several factions painted up. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get in at least a couple of games.

More of this, please.
More of this, please.

No more Kickstarters

I’ve backed 17 gaming Kickstarters to date and spent… I dread to even total it up. All have delivered but I don’t feel like I’ve got good value out of the system. There’s a number of reasons for this:

  1. Tabletop games are only good if you have opponents. Getting into a Kickstarter only works if you have a group of you getting into it together. Trying to introduce new games to people is¬†hard and I don’t have the time to invest in that. I’ve backed too ¬†many Kickstarters without first seeing if other people are interested too.
  2. The point of excitement is all wrong. The time that a game should be exciting is when you go to a shop, buy it and then play it. Kickstarter games are very exciting during the campaign when new things are being added but that enthusiasm has usually dried up by the time that the game has been released. Games Workshop only announce new products a week before they go on sale for a reason.
  3. Delivered games can be half-baked. Sit Down & Shut Up are once again on the money when they talk about Kickstarter games. Avoiding the middle-man is a double-edged sword. Yes, innovative and niche games can find a market but it also cuts out some of the quality control. Maybe that game on Kickstarter hasn’t found traditional funding for a good reason.
  4. Too many games, too little time. Absolutely nothing to do with the quality of Kickstarter projects but I simply don’t have the time for more wargames.

This isn’t meant as a rant against Kickstarter. It’s a great service that has let a lot of small companies flourish. The problem is definitely the guy behind the keyboard again.

Having said that, I’ve backed some great projects. ModCube was a simple project that executed perfectly. Heroes of Normandie¬†was a project that didn’t quite go to plan¬†–¬†and I haven’t played it enough – but is a fantastic game that deserves more attention. Both available now and worth checking out at your local gaming store.

Keep up with the Horus Heresy novels

33 out of 33 read so far. I’m not quite sure if Black Library’s new subscription service is worth it for me. I’ve only spent more than ¬£75 in one of the last three years.

Looking back at 2015

At the start of the year, I set myself some goals. Like most wargamers, my plans and dreams rarely survive contact with real life. At least with the birth of my son, I had a good excuse for missing out on my goals!

Let’s break down what I wanted to achieve:

Space Hulk

When did I buy my copy of Space Hulk? 2009? I can’t remember. Previously, I’d managed to paint half of the Genestealers. This year, I managed to paint the door bases! At this rate, I should be done by the time AI gains sentience and declares war on humanity.

The Primarchs

I own¬†five of the Primarch models. In 2015, I managed to paint one of them. The problem is that they’re exceptional models – genuinely the best I’ve ever seen. I’m not a great painter and¬†there’s nothing worse than expert model painted poorly. I’m¬†scared of painting them.

Thankfully, I had significant motivation to get Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders, painted. In August, I took part in my first proper gaming weekend away in about eight years. I was under pressure to get enough models painted in time. Taking a single, very points-expensive model seemed like a good shortcut to my goal.

I’m not sure how much time it did save in the end. Vulkan is an intricate model with many tiny parts. I did cheat a little by only painting the main model and not the scenic base for the tournament but I reckon he still took significantly longer to paint than, say, a Land Raider – especially as an airbrush owner. I’m proud to have gotten him painted though.

The Big Man
The Big Man
Vulkan, laying the smackdown on a bunch of Death Guard Terminators.
Vulkan, laying the smackdown on a bunch of Death Guard Terminators.

1 point to Aaron.

Dreadball Xtreme

Nope. Not enough interest at my local club to justify the time spent.

-5 points to Aaron

Deadzone

Ding! Ding! Ding!

I did as I’d planned. I painted up an Asterian force, a Forge Fathers force¬†and¬†some scenery. I’m really looking forward to the new Deadzone rules in the new year.

Deadzone Asterian robot people
Deadzone Asterian robot people
A speedily-painted Deadzone building
A speedily-painted Deadzone building
Forge Fathers on the march
Forge Fathers on the march

5 points to Aaron.

Gaming board

No, not even close. I’m tempted to sell the tiles (I have enough for a 8’x4′ table) and buying a FAT mat instead. I think a FAT mat looks 70% as good but requires zero effort.

-10 points to Aaron

Writing!

No. I have failed at this. See future blog post!

The Unexpected…

A whole fucking Horus Heresy army

Where did this idea come from? I think I decided that if I only had a limited time to paint models, I might as well paint the best models around. In addition, my local club, HATE in London, found its feet and a permanent venue in Bethnal Green. 40K is the lingua franca of most wargames clubs and so having a 40K-compatible Horus Heresy army meant I get a game easily if I was ever at a loss for something to do.

I joined in the Independent Character’s hobby progress challenge to give me the discipline I would need to paint an entire army. The idea of the hobby challenge is that¬†you commit to painting one unit a month and every success gives you a ticket in a raffle to win prizes. Hopefully, after 12 months, you have a completely painted army even if you don’t win a prize. I actually bailed on the competition after nine months as¬†I already had a fully painted army and wanted to paint my non-Horus Heresy/40K models.

The project started with me wondering why I ever stopped painting large armies and ended with me never wanting to paint another Space Marine ever again. The vehicles and characters were fun to paint but painting even ten Tactical Marines was tedious.

My full 2,250 point Salamanders army
My full 2,250 point Salamanders army
A Rhino!
A Rhino!
Siege Breachers
Siege Breachers
The lads in action
The lads in action

And, of course, I bought the¬†Betrayal at Calth¬†boxed set and have some other models still to paint. There’s more to do in 2016.

20 points to Aaron

Yu Jing Infinity force

I spent a lot of 2015 saying that I didn’t want to play Infinity as I already struggled to play all of the games that I owned. I ended 2015 two games deep into an Infinity campaign at HATE. I blame the Shut Up & Sit Down podcast rather than my total¬†lack of willpower.

I justified¬†playing Infinity (to myself) by the fact that¬†I already owned plenty of Infinity-compatible Deadzone scenery and I would only need a dozen models to play. These points are true but I’ve ended up with a whole bunch of Infinity-specific scenery and around 30 models. So far, I’ve painted ten¬†or so of them¬†and I’m very happy with the result.

Contents of the Yu Jing (aka Space Ninjas) starter boxed set
Contents of the Yu Jing (aka Space Ninjas) starter boxed set
A selection of the other Yu Jing models
A selection of the other Yu Jing models

I’d hope to get the rest painted before my attention goes elsewhere.

5 points to Aaron

Dwarf Blood Bowl team

In 2015, HATE club ran an incredibly successful Blood Bowl league that culminated in a day-long drinking/Blood Bowl session on a Saturday. I took my already painted Pro Elves (who finished just outside of the play-off places). My plan for season 2 was to take my also-already painted Lizardmen so that I would have one less batch of models on my painting to-do list.

The big final!
The big final!

A great plan was foiled by a good friend, with no interest in painting, asking me nicely to paint his Dwarf team. I just about managed to finish them before becoming a dad and hanging my paint brush up for a while.

The Miners Strike!
The Miners Strike!

5 points to Aaron

 

All-in-all, a pretty damn good year for painting. With my attention span, I doubt that back-log will ever be cleared though!

Scorched Earth: The Analysis

I’ve had a couple of days to recover from Scorched Earth so I thought it would be interesting to take a deeper look at the gaming aspect of Horus Heresy.

There were 27 entrants into Scorched Earth plus a ringer to balance up the numbers. I’m only going to look at the players who took Space Marine Legion armies, bringing the sample size down to 22. This is a very small sample size but fun to analysis none-the-less.

Legion popularity

Here’s a breakdown of the Legions that people took:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 19.12.44

Number of Loyalist players: 6
Number of Traitor players: 16

Unsurprisingly, the legions who’ve received the most attention were the most popular. The Death Guard and World Eaters seem to be particularly popular. Neither are a particular focus of the novels but¬†they do have¬†striking paint schemes.

The biggest Space Marine chapters in Warhammer 40,000 have seen the least love in Horus Heresy so far. The Ultramarines rules and line of models have only just come out and the Dark Angels, Blood Angels and Space Wolves haven’t seen any rules or models yet. I expect the popularity of the Space Wolves and Thousand Sons to explode when their models come out.

The most under-represented chapter is the Iron Hands. They’ve got a great Primarch model, several other kits and the rules have been out since the first Horus Heresy book. I guess no-one wants to play a dead legion and their aesthetic¬†is very similar in style to the Iron Warriors.

I also expected to see more Alpha Legion armies. Perhaps the tricky paint scheme put people off?

The Current Meta

Looking through the armies, the following themes were apparent:

Spartan Assault Tank

The Spartan is a Land Raider++. Same armour, more hull points, better¬†weapons¬†and the upgrades available to make it pretty much indestructible.It’s also got twice the transport capability of the Land Raider, which means it can carry a Primach plus Terminator Squad or¬†a full 20-man squad. Even in Horus Heresy, where units die like flies, Spartans tend to stick around.

Firedrake Terminators assault a World Eaters Spartan.
Firedrake Terminators assault a World Eaters Spartan.

Players with at least one Spartan: 45%
Players with a positive win record with at least one Spartan: 60%

Average Spartans per player: 0.5

Sicaran Battle Tank

A¬†whole new type of tank for Space Marines, the Sicaran comes in two flavours – the standard model¬†with a twin-linked super autocannon of death and the Venator variant with a super lasercannon of death. No doubt Forgeworld will be producing more variants in future as its a popular model.Is it competitive though? Probably not. It’s got a lot of weapons but Armour 13/12/12 and 3 Hull Points is nothing to write home about in Horus Heresy games. They don’t survive long.

My Sicaran gets munched on by zombies
My Sicaran gets munched on by zombies

Players with at least one Sicaran (any type): 32%
Players with a positive win record with at least one Sicaran (any type): 30%

Average Sicarans per player: 0.4

Contemptor Dreadnought

One of Forgeworld’s most complete lines of Horus Heresy models is their Contemptor Dreadnoughts. They fill the same roll as regular dreadnoughts but have an invulnerable save, better armour and better basic stats. This is balanced out by their cost (175 points vs. 100 points for a standard dreadnought) and most players would agree that they’re over-costed. Most people who field¬†Contemptor Dreadnoughts do so because they’re cool models.

"Gather round Death Guard, I'm going to tell you a story... with my fist."
“Gather round Death Guard, I’m going to tell you a story… with my fist.”

Players with at least one Contemptor Dreadnought (any type): 64%
Players with a positive win record with at least one Contemptor Dreadnought (any type): 40%

Average Contemptor Dreadnoughts per player: 0.8

Whirlwind Scorpius

Standard Whirlwinds have always been poor against Space Marine armies. The ability to indirect fire doesn’t make up for the low strength and poor AP. Heavy Support slots are usually at a premium so Whirlwinds always get left at home despite the low points cost.The Scorpius variant is a different beast altogether. It lays down a big barrage with enough strength and AP to tear through Space Marines. It’s one of the most effective Forgeworld units available.

Players with at least one Whirlwind Scorpius: 27%
Players with a positive win record with at least one Whirlwind Scorpius: 40%

Average Whirlwind Scorpiuse tanks per player: 0.3

Apothecaries

Apothecaries give squads a 5+ Feel No Pain roll, which is a bigger deal in Horus Heresy compared to Warhammer 40,000 as squad sizes are generally larger. A 20-man Tactical Squad with Feel No Pain can take a lot of small-arms fires.

Players with at least one Apothecary: 45%
Players with a positive win record with at least one Apothecary: 40%

Average Apothecaries per player: 0.6

Primarchs

The Horus Heresy is the story of the Primarchs, much like Star Wars is the story of Darth Vader. Forgeworld have also brought their A-game to the table when sculpting the Primarch models. I expected to see a good smattering of Primarch but their were less than I thought their would be.

Here’s a break-down per Legion:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 19.15.30

It’s interesting that the Salamanders and Night Lords players all decided to bring Primarchs. Vulkan and Konrad Curze are great models and their fearsome on the battlefield too. I was actually expecting more Primarchs but it seemed that a lot of people preferred to take a Super-Heavy Vehicle or more basic units instead.

Vulkan takes on the Death Guard terminators atop the central mountain. Well, we couldn't actually balance the models so the fight happened on a nearby flat surface!
Vulkan takes on the Death Guard terminators atop the central mountain. Well, we couldn’t actually balance the models so the fight happened on a nearby flat surface!

Players with a Primarch (out of those with one available): 35%
Players with a positive win record with a Primarch (out of those with one available): 29%

Super-Heavy Vehicles

Horus Heresy allows players to pick one Lord of War, worth up to a quarter of their points total. This can be either a Super-Heavy Tank, a Knight or a Primarch.

One choice of Super-Heavy proved overwhelmingly popular – the Typhon Heavy Siege Tank. It’s a brute of a tank that shares many similarities with the Spartan. It also packs a Dreadhammer Siege cannon that lays down 7″ Strength 10 apocalyptic ordnance blasts. Nasty.

Players with a super-heavy vehicle: 18%
Players with a positive win record with a super-heavy vehicle: 30%

Percentage of super-heavy vehicles that were Typhons: 100%

Flyers

Flyers are a fairly recent addition to Warhammer 40,000 (in my mind, at least!). They started off being niche Forgeworld products before Games Workshop proper started making plastic kits for every race. Forgeworld has never stopped making flyers¬†and several are compatible with Horus Heresy.The big thing about flyers is that they’re hard to hit. Unless you have some dedicated anti-air weaponry (rare in Horus Heresy), you’re going to have a hard time taking a flyer down.

A Fire Raptor flies in, attempting to save Lorgar.
A Fire Raptor flies in, attempting to save Lorgar.

Players with a flyer: 18%
Players with a positive win record with a flyer: 40%

Allies

With Space Marine Legion units very expensive points-wise, there’s a temptation to mix in some human allies to bulk out your Horus Heresy army. Few people did this at the event but those that did tended to be the more competitive players. With everyone worrying about dealing with Armour 15 Spartans, it’s not surprising that a horde of cheap infantry caused problems. They certainly caused problems to me – a zombie pack took down my Primarch!

P1060797
Army by Ian Galloway

Players fielding non-Space Marine allies: 9%
Players with a positive win record fielding non-Space Marine allies: 20%

Conclusion

If you’re a competitive Horus Heresy player, you should consider taking:

  1. Allies
  2. Flyers
  3. Typhon Heavy Siege Tanks
  4. Spartan Assault Tanks
  5. Whrilwind Scorpius Tanks

And perhaps think about leaving home the following units:

  1. Contemptor Dreadnoughts
  2. Primarchs
  3. Apothecaries
  4. Sicaran Battle Tanks

But who plays Horus Heresy to win, eh?

Scorched Earth: The Armies

Over lunch on the second day of Scorched Earth, I went around and took photos of all of the armies on display. The photos speak for themselves; the standard of painting at the event was impressive.

Apologises for the short depth of field on the photos. I was very tired and had no idea what I was doing.

Legion I: Dark Angels

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Army by Glen Ward

Legion II: Deleted

+++

Legion III: Emperor’s Children

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Army by Chris Roberts

Legion IV: Iron Warriors

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Army by Lukasz Furmaniak

Legion V: White Scars

No combatants.

Legion VI: Space Wolves

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Amy by Jason Mullins

Legion VII: Imperial Fists

P1060784
Army by Will Foxton

Legion VIII: Nights Lords

P1060822
Army by Jason Gaylard
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Army by Tom Pedley

Legion IX: Blood Angels

No combatants.

Legion X: Iron Hands

No combatants.

Legion XI: Deleted

+++

Legion XII: World Eaters

P1060801
Army by Matt Woodsmith
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Alex Orford
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Army by Toby Firth

Legion XIII: Ultramarines

P1060780
Army by Ben Williams

Legion XIV: Death Guard

P1060807
Army by David Simpson
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Army by Dean Walton
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Army by Paul Rudge
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Army by Jonathon Richards

Legion XV: Thousand Sons

P1060825
Army by Alex Barbor

Legion XVI: Sons of Horus

P1060815
Army by Adam Stone
P1060834
Army by an unknown ringer!

Legion XVII: Word Bearers

11838633_917918664946243_5842995784357044922_o
Army and photograph by Chris Gent

Legion XVIII: Salamanders

P1060791
Army by William Henry
Photograph by Chris Gent
My army, photograph by Chris Gent

Legion XIX: Raven Guard

No combatants.

Legion XX: Alpha Legion

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Army by Luke Grant

Mechanicum

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Army by Chris Alexander
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Army by David Piddington

Solar Auxilia

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Army by Joe McGough
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Army by Lewis Jones

Knights

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Army by Zac Steels

Warp Cult

P1060797
Ian Galloway