Sunday, July 29, 2012

First 6th Edition Game

Last night was the Cabal's first game under 6th Edition. Jon's Orks and Kevin's Dark Eldar faced off against Carl's Grey Knights and my Ultramarines. Since we were already trying to figure out so many other new rules, we didn't bother with the allies rules.

The game was close, although Jon and Kevin had the most kill points left when we finally called the game. The Marines had the misfortune of being unprepared for the fight. Each player was limited to 750 points, meaning that we couldn't bring some of our meaner units to the game. Also, Carl was using a highly experimental list that proved to be uncompetitive. Finally, both Kevin and Jon brought flyers, which Carl and I were totally unprepared for. Although the Ork Bommer and the Voidraven didn't do too much damage, they attracted a lot of fire that would have been better directed elsewhere.

My overall impression of 6th was very good. It didn't take too long to get used to new rules like the revised wound allocation since most are pretty intuitive. I even took advantage of it by placing a Captain with artificer armor in the front of a squad. Jon initially laughed at me for putting my most important model directly in the line of fire (he put his Warboss in the middle of his mob) until he realized that the multi-wound model with the 2+ armor save was deflecting nearly everything he could throw at it in order to protect the rest of the squad. When the Captain got down to a single wound, he started taking advantage of the Look Out Sir rule.

I'm also a fan of the snap shot. One Ultramarine successfully fired a missile launcher while on the move, killing an Ork. And a Razorback with a twin-linked lascannon was able to get around an obstacle blocking its line of sight by moving at cruising speed and then successfully hit a Dark Eldar Venom, immobilizing it. Even though you usually have only a 1 in 6 chance of hitting something with a snap shot (a little better than that if you have twin-linked weapons or weapons that put out a lot of fire), it's nice that we're at least allowed to make an attempt under 6th Edition's rules.

For me, the biggest change (and best improvement) was the revision to the rapid fire weapon rules. Now that the range of rapid fire weapons is unrestricted by movement, Tactical Squads, Sternguard Squads, and Scouts with bolters no longer have to avoid moving just so they can get in that one 24" shot. Last night, when my Tactical Marines found themselves 26" from an oncoming Ork mob, they were able to move forward just enough to get in their shots. Under the previous rules the turn would have been an utter waste for the Marines. Between the new rules and my new Destructor-pattern Predator a mob that would have completely overrun my squad before was whittled down to a single boy and a wounded Warboss (the Warboss was promptly dispatched by a Dreadnought).

By the end, the other Cabal members said that they liked the new rulebook. I don't think they liked it quite as much as I did, though.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Newest Models: Razorback and Predator

When I started playing 40K, I borrowed Bryce's ~1500 point Raven Guard army. After I had finished the Black Reach models, Bryce sold his Space Marine army to help pay for his Imperial Guard (those Steel Legion figures were surprisingly expensive). It wasn't long afterward that I realized that I sorely lacked vehicles. Unfortunately, after a veritable marathon of painting the Black Reach figures and a Vindicator, I had a very slow period during the first half of this year. Although I did a lot of prep work on various models, I was only able to finish a Sniper Scout squad.

Finally, I decided to pick up the pace and work on five vehicles at the same time. Although I was able to glue together various sub-assemblies, prime the parts, and begin painting larger areas, I ended up focusing on one vehicle at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

The first one I finished is a lascannon-equipped Razorback. The turret plate and turret are held in place by gravity to allow the lascannon turret to be replaced with a heavy bolter turret or to turn the Razorback into a Rhino.

Although I enjoy playing the game, most of the reason why I like the hobby is because of the modelling. I won't sacrifice detail for speed, so each model takes me a long time. The interior of the Razorback is fully detailed (Bryce mocked me about this). Resting on a bench in this particular transport is a Tactical Squad sergeant's helmet. I put it there both to add some detail as well as to gain some practice painting laurels. I'll be painting plenty of those when I build my Vanguard and Sternguard squads.

The biggest lesson I learned while painting the laurels was not to use Ceramite White to do it. The white base paint is especially thick to allow it to cover darker colors and is difficult to use for detail work.

To ensure that I maintained consistency between my models, I pulled out my Vindicator to compare it with the Razorback. The Razorback is slightly darker due to a change in how I apply the washes. However, the color difference isn't so large that it couldn't be chalked up to different operational conditions.


The model I finished most recently is a Destructor-Pattern Predator. I'm modelling the Ultramarine's 2nd Company (hence the yellow circle with the "II" on each vehicle), whose captain was born to Talassari nobility. The Predator has therefore been christened Spear of Talassar.

A lot of the fun of making a Space Marine vehicle is in adding the various scripts, banners, blessings, etc. that the Space Marines bear into battle. I hoard the decorative bits included in the Tactical Squad and Command Squad boxes that seem a bit too big to attach to the Marines themselves but are perfectly sized for their vehicles.

Supposedly the crest on Sicarius' helmet bears the colors of his house; i.e., white and red. For that reason, much of the white script on Spear of Talassar begins with large red letters. 

Unlike my Marines, which are basecoated Mordian Blue (now Macragge Blue), all my vehicles are basecoated Ultramarine Blue (now Altdorf Guard Blue). However, the vehicles receive two to three heavy coats of black wash. I then dry brush the bascoat over the wash to highlight the edges, lighten up the overall paint job, and give the model a smudged, dirty look. This time I accidentally over-washed the Predator, which meant that I had to do a lot of dry brushing to make it consistent with the Razorback. By the time I'm done the vehicle is only slightly lighter in shade than the Marines' power armor. After I dry brush on the blue, I dry brush Boltgun Metal (now Leadbelchers) onto the corners, edges, and the occasional flat surface to give the paint a worn, chipped look.

To finish off each model, I add the decals. Once the decals are dry, I give them a very light coat of black wash so they match the smudged look of the rest of the model.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Munitorum Dice Redeemed (Mostly)

I said recently that I removed six of the twelve limited edition red Munitorum dice from my collection. This afternoon, as I was about to mark the dice to designate them as marker dice only, I decided to chi-square test them one more time before defacing them.

The more you roll the dice, the more likely you are to find a truly imbalanced die. As I said before, not a single Munitorum die had failed after 120 rolls (unlike several of my Chessex dice, which failed within 90 rolls), but several almost failed and a few seemed suspicious. I knew I would feel better if the dice had genuinely failed, so I decided to increase the number of rolls to see if they would fail.

The first die I tested was rolled 210 times; 75% more times than the first test. Lo and behold, not only did the die not fail, but it tested with a chi-square value of a mere 0.74 (0 is perfectly balanced and 11.07 means that it's statistically probable that the die is imbalanced). I calculated the P-value as being 98.1% or, in other words, that 98.1% of all balanced dice would give results that deviated from the theoretical value more than that particular die. Finding that a die I had removed from my collection was actually one of the most balanced ones started a spree of re-testing.

I gave the second die 300 rolls in an attempt to make it fail. Although its chi-square value was relatively high compared to that of other dice I've kept, I had more confidence that the apparent imbalance really could be a coincidence.

The third and fourth dice received 510 and 600 rolls respectively (I was really trying to see if those two would fail). According to the blog that first gave me the idea to test my dice, a test of 500 rolls has a nearly 100% chance of detecting an imbalanced die. Although the two dice tended to roll ones and twos a bit more than I'd like, the fact that neither actually failed the test indicated that they are at least mostly balanced.

The fifth die was rolled 300 times. Its chi-square value was low enough that I decided to stop.

It was the sixth die that was the odd one. After showing that five out of the six dice I had rejected as imbalanced were actually fine and just needed a significant number of rolls to prove it, I figured that the sixth one would be just like its companions. It took 510 rolls to do it, but the sixth die actually failed the test. For whatever reason, four showed up 114 times versus the expected 85. Contrary to every obsessive compulsive instinct in my brain, I decided to keep the die. The four seemed to show up to the detriment of the three and the five which, for a Marine player, usually makes little difference.

The best part of this is that I have more confidence that the soon to be released black and white Munitorum dice will be properly balanced.

[Update 7/29/12: Tonight's game using the full set of 12 Munitorum dice went very well. The dice seemed to roll fairly and even made a few memorable snap shots. I very nearly damaged/brought down a Voidraven Bomber with a plasma pistol shot, but the penetration roll was just short of glancing the armor.]

Friday, July 13, 2012

6th Edition Rulebook: Gamer's Edition Review

It took long enough, but my Gamer's Edition rulebook set finally arrived this past Saturday. The set contains a standard 6th Edition rulebook, a satchel for carrying it, and Gamer's Edition-only red Munitorum dice in a lasgun power pack tin. GW will be releasing more Munitorum dice in an identical tin, but these will be white with black markings; the red dice are exclusive to this edition. GW is also supposed to release Battlefield Objectives and Vehicle Markers in lasgun power pack tins, but these have all been delayed until the end of this month.

6th Edition Rulebook
I won't be reviewing the rules here (although I like a lot of the changes). However, let me say that the book is beautiful. It's full color and is filled with photos and artwork. I know that a lot of people balked at the $75 price, but having bought dozens of cheaply bound and less interesting text books for $100+ each in college, I feel like I'm getting a bargain.

The leatherette satchel was the primary reason why I bought the Gamer's Edition since I've been carrying my books and other tools in a cardboard box for over a year. The embossing on the side declares it to be an Imperial Guard officer's signal satchel originating from Cadia. You can attach either an Imperial Aquila or the Chaos Star to the flap, both of which are heavy metal pins.

The primary pocket is ideally sized for the new rulebook and the secondary pocket is large enough to hold two to three codices with room to spare for templates. However, I'm guessing that the bag was designed with hardcover codices in mind, so I may have a lot less room in a couple years. Finally, there are three small pockets designed to hold the lasgun power pack dice tins (presumably one tin each for the Munitorum dice, Battlefield Objectives, and Vehicle Markers). I think the upcoming dice and tins are supposed to be limited edition, so I'm definitely going to have to order at least two more tins as soon as they're available to fill the remaining two pockets.

It's a shame that the Gamer's Edition and its satchel were so limited that they sold out of them within about four days. I think a lot more gamers would have bought the satchel over time if they had made more of them.

Munitorum Dice and Tin
Finally, there are twelve red Munitorum dice in the tin along with six servo skull dice holders. As I mentioned earlier, the tin is labeled as a lasgun power pack and has some fun fluff printed on it. It's listed as having a range rating of "19 megathule" but with the caveat to "Confirm compatibility with techpriest prior to using this power pack". While the satchel is from Cadia, the power pack says it's from Armageddon. The tin is easily large enough to hold all twelve dice and the six dice holders that come with it, while leaving some extra room. I'll probably fill one tin with Vehicle Markers, Battlefield Objectives, and as many holders as will fit, another with just Munitorum dice and some holders, and a third with my Chessex dice.

The dice holders are styled as tiny servo skulls that are just large enough to hold a single die. At first I thought the dice holders were a silly idea, then I realized that I accidentally snatch up counting dice at least once per game and my opponent and I then have to try to remember how many wounds are left, how many turns have passed, etc. Since we now have to keep track of vehicles' hull points in addition to everything else, I can see the need for the holders even more now.

And that brings us down to the Munitorum dice. The dice look great, with embossed gears, nuclear trefoils, hoses, and servo skulls behind the highly stylized numerals used in the 40K universe. But oh, how I wish I could say that the square corners and lack of indented pips make them well balanced. (I've discussed imbalanced dice here and here.) I was immediately suspicious when I opened the package and noticed how light the dice are. With square edges that reduce irregular rolling and without the deep pips that can affect a die's center of gravity, the only other major factor that can ruin a die's balance is porosity or internal bubbles. Lighter dice seem to suffer from such defects more often.

Since there were only 12 dice, I performed a chi-square test using 120 rolls per die instead of my usual 90. By increasing the number of rolls by 1/3, the chi-square test becomes a lot more sensitive and is better able to detect unbalanced dice. Although none of the dice failed, three very nearly failed the test and three more were suspiciously skewed. Interestingly, the six dice that appeared to be mostly balanced scored a lot better than most of the Chessex dice that tested relatively well. And since it's also possible that some Chessex dice that passed the test at 90 rolls would fail at 120, it's likely that the Munitorum dice are more fair than the much cheaper dice.

As for the apparently unbalanced Munitorum dice, whatever small manufacturing defect is present in them caused most to preferentially roll twos or fives. One die rolled a five 31 times out of 120; the expected number was 20. This behavior is different than what I've seen in Chessex dice, which tend to roll ones and twos when they're unbalanced. In the end, I removed six out of the 12 limited edition dice from my collection.

Oh well, when life gives you lemons, and all. The dice really are nice, I do need to be able to keep track a lot of things under 6th Edition, and I have six dice holders, so I'm going to mark the unbalanced dice and use them solely as counting dice. As farfetched as it may seem, I'm hoping that the delayed release of the other Munitorum dice is due to the discovery of balance issues and that the next release of dice will roll fairly. Being the sucker that I am, I will of course be buying the new dice and testing them too.

[Update 7/15/12: See my later post where I find that even a 120 roll test can be misleading.]
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