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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
1 point to Aaron.
Nope. Not enough interest at my local club to justify the time spent.
-5 points to Aaron
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.
5 points to Aaron.
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
No. I have failed at this. See future blog post!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Here’s a breakdown of the Legions that people took:
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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:
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.
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%
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 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.
Players with a flyer: 18%
Players with a positive win record with a flyer: 40%
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!
Players fielding non-Space Marine allies: 9%
Players with a positive win record fielding non-Space Marine allies: 20%
If you’re a competitive Horus Heresy player, you should consider taking:
Typhon Heavy Siege Tanks
Spartan Assault Tanks
Whrilwind Scorpius Tanks
And perhaps think about leaving home the following units: