Saturday, August 31, 2013

More On Veterans' Helmets

Not too long ago I asked what Veteran Sergeant Helmets look like. Much of the discussion had to do the fact that the presence of a white stripe or laurels on his helmet traditionally indicated that a Sergeant was a veteran but that GW's models had become inconsistent with time. I also noted that more recent images of Veteran Squad Sergeants, specifically a Sternguard Sergeant and a Terminator Sergeant, lacked any laurels or stripes on their helmets.

While markings on Veteran Sergeant models didn't seem to follow a set pattern, the marking of other Veterans was very consistent. The 4th and 5th Edition C:SM stated that a white helmet, or white laurels painted onto a helmet, indicated a Marine's Veteran status. Although nothing written in these editions of the codex implied that the white helmet needed any additional markings, the books' model galleries showed photos of Veteran Marines whose white helmets bore blue or red laurels.

The official unveiling of the plastic Sternguard and Vanguard kits in conjunction with the 6th Edition C:SM seems to have changed things:

6th Edition Sternguard Squad

Note the utter absence of painted laurels. All we see is a single Marine with laurels molded onto his helmet. (Other pictures of the kit show that it comes with several heads with molded laurels.)

Definitely no laurels here

Is the crest meant to be a kind of stripe?

Again we're presented with a Veteran Sergeant who lacks the traditional laurels. Of course, as a Sternguard Sergeant and an obvious member of the 1st Company he doesn't need laurels to show that he's a Veteran. However, it could be claimed that the white crest is intended to replicate the classic white stripe, but it would be a very non-traditional way to do it.

The new Vanguard models are consistent with the Sternguard models:

6th Edition Vanguard Squad

This time the Sergeant is bare headed, so we can't say anything about his helmet, but the helmets of the rest of his squadmates illustrate GW's current approach to Veteran models:

Again, no laurels

In other words, Veterans' helmets often lack laurels unless they're molded onto them. Although this represents a change from how previous Veteran models were painted, it's consistent with the actual wording of the previous codexes.

To be honest, I'm glad that the laurels are no longer expected on Veteran Marines. I really wasn't looking forward to painting all those laurels on my Sternguard.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thoughts On the New Space Marine Models

Images of the new Space Marine models have recently been leaked, along with a few rumored rules. Although I have dozens of models and squads left to build, these new kits have me pretty excited.

Space Marine Stalker/Hunter
I know very little about this anti-flyer tank, especially since rumors discussing it have been few and far between. The Stalker is said to have an Icarus Stormcannon Array, which consists of two independently targeted turrets. The Hunter version is supposed to have a Skyspear Missile.

Since I'm stupid with money, I'll probably be buying this model shortly after it comes out. However, if I have any sense left, I'll read the codex entry for it first. Our gaming group doesn't play with many flyers right now, so the Stalker/Hunter could be a complete waste of money. On the other hand, if the tank has Skyfire/Interceptor and the weapons have a decent strength (e.g., 7 or 8) it could very well be something worth taking. And if the look of the vehicle is any indication, its armor may actually be better than that of the standard Rhino. I just hope it doesn't turn out to be as worthless as the current Whirlwind.

Plastic Vanguard
Early rumors are saying that the Vanguard have seen a significant points reduction, meaning that they actually might be worth taking. Regardless of points cost, the new plastic Vanguard kit is definitely on my to-buy list.

The kit has various highly coveted parts, including several pairs of power armor-sized lightning claws. There's even one of the new grav pistols for the Sergeant. Ornate shoulder pads, decorated helmets (some with molded laurels), and fancy armor bits make this kit a bits collector's dream.

Plastic Sternguard
Unfortunately, I've not been able to find large pictures of the new plastic Sternguard models. Those who have seen them say they're even more decorated than the Vanguard Marines. The few images circulating show some interesting things, though.

Their armor is much more ornate than standard Marines and includes decorated helmets, shoulder pads, and tabards. Rumor has it that the kit contains a number of combi-weapons, with the picture above showing that at least one combi-plasma and one combi-grav rifle are included. [Update 8/10/13: on second glance, it looks like the "combi-grav rifle" lacks a magazine or obvious bolter barrel, meaning that it's probably just a grav rifle.] The picture also indicates that Sternguard continue to carry bolters (or combi-weapons) with box magazines. This has partially put to rest my irrational fear that GW might write special ammunition out of the codex.

Although I'm very excited for this kit, I'm wondering what to do with my in-progress 10 man Sternguard squad. Although I've made my own Sternguard bolters and gathered together various Veteran bits from multiple boxes, my homemade Sternguard can't match the new models for ornamentation.

My Sternguard models have only reached the priming stage, so I've decided to repurpose five of the more ordinary Marines. The remainder will get extra banners, purity seals, etc., and will be mixed in with the five models from the new kit. Rumor has it that the Sternguard kit is packed with extra bits (hence the reported $50 price tag for five Sternguard Marines versus $40 for five Vanguard Marines), some of which could go a long way towards sprucing up the converted models.

It's very possible that the five remaining Marines will be painted as a Deathwatch Squad that will occasionally see action as a counts-as Sternguard.

These models are, by far, the most controversial. The reactions I've seen to them are overwhelmingly negative. However, I remember when the Heldrake received similar criticism until it was discovered that the model had been given an immensely powerful set of wargear and rules. Now the only criticism the Heldrake seems to get comes from those who regularly take a beating from it.

Rumor suggests that the Centurions may have some impressive stats (possibly toughness 5, 2 wounds, a 2+ armor save, and a 5+ invulnerable save). They can either be built as an assault version or a Devastator version. They're big, too. These monstrosities are similar in height to a Dreadnought, which could explain the almost Dreadnought-like price tag of $78 for three models.

Astartes SMASH!

From the picture above, it looks like assault Centurions can be armed with either hurricane bolters or Ironclad assault launchers in the chest. On their arms they carry some sort of drilling weapon accompanied by either a meltagun or a flamer. The Devastator version has heavy bolters or lascannons on the arms and either a missile launcher or hurricane bolters in the chest. Rumor says that there will also be a grav-cannon option.

The big controversy is not over their stats, but their appearance. I'm in the minority when I say that I actually like how the Centurions look. The models are obviously meant to represent the missing link between power armor and Dreadnoughts, which is probably how GW will justify their sudden presence among the tradition-bound Astartes. They're big, brutish, and ugly. In other words, they're Space Marines. The Devastator versions seem a little more graceful; the enormous drills on the assault Centurions' arms look pretty unwieldy whereas the heavy bolters and lascannons are a lot less awkward. I also believe that they'll look better when we finally get to see them from multiple angles.

As for how the models fit into the army, I don't really see the use of assault Centurions. Unless their rules are amazing or fill some unique niche, I honestly can't think of any reason to take them when Space Marines already have close combat Terminators or Ironclad Dreadnoughts to fill the role. However, if the rumored stats are genuine, and if their rules allow them to fire all (or most) of their weapons per turn, I would take a squad of Devastator Centurions in a heartbeat.

I have to wonder what the existence of Devastator Centurions means for the traditional Devastator Squad, though. For starters, I think it's obvious that standard Devastators will have to receive a huge points decrease to justify their continued existence.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Do Veteran Sergeant Helmets Look Like?

Like a lot of geeks in this hobby, I'm somewhat obsessive-compulsive about the details. In the case of my Ultramarines army, that means that I want to use appropriate markings, colors, etc. when painting and detailing the models.

While the current Space Marine codex includes various details, it leaves a lot to be desired. Not only does it omit certain bits of information, but what it does present often seems to contradict previous codexes or guides. Where printed information is lacking, I try to follow the examples of GW's official painters. Unfortunately, I think a lot of GW's professionals are aiming for style and the end results aren't always consistent. Recently I've run into the conundrum of how to paint Veteran Sergeant helmets. The answer to that question is less straightforward than I would like.

Pre-4th Edition
Before 4th Edition, determining the color of a Space Marine Sergeant's helmet was simple. If he wasn't a Veteran, he wore a plain red helmet. If you upgraded him to Veteran status, or if he led a squad of Veterans, his red helmet had a white stripe running down the middle. This standard held true for Terminators as well. The Insignium Astartes, which was published in 2002, shows exactly what their helmets were supposed to look like:


The white stripe was found on plenty of official models, as well:

4th Edition
With the release of the 4th Edition of C:SM, the idea of using white laurels to indicate veterancy was introduced. Although no mention of the classic white stripe is made in the text, there are still several photographs of Terminator Sergeants with a white stripe painted on a red helmet. There are also photos showing non-Veteran sergeants wearing plain red helmets.

5th Edition
In the 5th Edition of C:SM, the option to take a non-Veteran Sergeant was removed. All of a sudden, the need to distinguish between a Sergeant and a Veteran Sergeant became moot since they all had Veteran stats. Like the 4th Edition codex, the text of the 5th Edition codex makes no mention of the white stripe. The wording of the current codex is similar to that of its predecessor:

Typically, Sergeants have
red helmets. Veterancy is
indicated by a white laurel.

The only Sergeant's helmets shown in the codex are from suits of power armor; there is no indication of what markings may be found on a Terminator Sergeant's helmet. (The shape of the Terminator helmet doesn't really accommodate laurels.) The model gallery is of no help since all Terminator Sergeants are shown with bare heads.

Actually, the 5th Edition codex seems obsessed with showing nearly every Sergeant with a bare head. One of the few exceptions is the Assault Squad Sergeant:

A Veteran Assault Squad Sergeant

The model above follows the guideline given in the codex. However, at least one model in the gallery strays pretty far from the standard. This model is specifically identified as a "Sternguard Veteran Sergeant":

This is a Sergeant?

White helmets, or white laurels painted onto a non-white helmet, are explicitly said to identify a Veteran. Although the C:SM states that Sergeants "typically" wear red helmets, it says nothing that would lead us to expect that a white helmet with red laurels necessarily indicates a Veteran Sergeant.

There are a number of official models that also ignore the red helmet rule. Here are the models for both the Sternguard Veteran squad and the Vanguard Veteran squad:

No red helmets on the Sternguard Veterans...

None on the Vanguard Veterans, either

GW's painters have failed to identify any of these Veterans as a Sergeant. You can only tell who the Sternguard Sergeant is by his power fist (only the Sergeant can carry a power weapon). The Vanguard Sergeant is probably the one holding the two-handed sword since he's one of the few models that can take a relic blade. Either way, we're forced to look at wargear to determine who the Sergeant is rather than by looking for the red helmet that the codex tells us to expect.

Late 5th Edition
GW uses the same models over and over again in their literature. Once in a while their painters will add a few models as needed to showcase new products or to make an appearance in a new issue of White Dwarf or in new rulebooks. When the Sternguard weapons pack came out, GW did what many modelers do and built a plastic Sternguard Squad. The Sergeant, inexplicably wielding a pair of power claws (special ammunition is already part of the base cost, people!), was shown wearing a red helmet, but the white laurels appeared to be missing:

This sergeant made a reappearance in the recent Apocalypse rulebook along with a newer Terminator Sergeant model:

Veteran Sergeants as shown in the new Apocalypse rulebook

While the Terminator Sergeant is shown wearing a red helmet, the iconic white stripe is gone. I didn't see that model until after I had already painted this:

The stripe took forever to paint!

I'm rather fond of the stripe, so I'm not going to paint over it. However, it was a pain to paint and I would have skipped it entirely had I seen an official model that omitted it.

Reconciling the Inconsistencies
Although the C:SM makes it clear that the red helmet traditionally marks a Sergeant, and that some sort of white marking can indicate when one is a Veteran Sergeant, it's impossible not to notice that the codex constantly uses words like "usually", "frequently", "typically", or "often". I believe that GW's painters have used the leeway written into the codex to show that Veteran Sergeants can be marked in various ways. The fluff even gives reasons why such a variety would exist. Insignium Astartes says the following about Space Marine markings:
The Codex provides for a number of variations on this basic system and also suggests that each Chapter periodically revise its tactical markings in order to confound the enemy. This has led to many differences between the many Codex Chapters. It also explains why it is that some Chapters have varied their appearance over the course of millennia.
The 4th Edition codex also states that the guidance on markings found in the Codex Astartes is relatively general, allowing for a lot of variation between chapters, companies, and even within companies.

In other words, GW has made it so that even obsessive-compulsives like myself can personalize their paint schemes while remaining true to the fluff. A hobbyist may prefer to paint the classic white stripe on his Veteran Sergeants rather than the currently preferred laurels. It could easily be said that the helmet itself is ancient and the current wearer has no desire to alter it or that the Veteran has chosen to use the older symbol for veterancy.

If GW's models can be considered cannon, the variety of acceptable markings may be even greater among the Veteran Squads than it is in Devastator, Assault, or Tactical Squads where the Veteran Sergeant is clearly of a higher rank and has superior leadership. The recent Sternguard and Terminator Sergeant models have red helmets, but they completely lack Veterans' markings, possibly because their armor itself indicates their status. The white trim on the Sternguard Sergeant's shoulder pads shows that he's part of the Veteran Company while only a Veteran may wear Terminator armor.

The fact that the helmets of the original 5th Edition Sternguard and Vanguard Sergeants are painted exactly like those of their squadmates could indicate that some Veteran Sergeants who lead Veterans (all of whom have the same leadership as they do) may feel little compulsion to differentiate themselves from the rest of their squad. Perhaps they considers themselves to be the first among equals and have no desire to set themselves apart from their battle-brothers.

Why Does This Matter?
So, other than to satisfy some sort of obssessive need for accuracy, why does it matter what a Veteran Sergeant's helmet looks like? Well, under the 5th Edition codex, when all Sergeants have the same stats (except for armor saves), or in a Veteran Squad, I guess it doesn't matter. But what about 6th Edition?

While C:SM isn't expected to get a new edition until later this year, it's likely that the 6th Edition Dark Angels codex has already given us a glimpse of what to expect. Specifically, Dark Angels players have the option to take a non-Veteran Sergeant in non-Veteran squads. If this ability is restored in the 6th Edition Space Marine codex, then the markings may be necessary to distinguish between the two types of Sergeant.

I'm flexible with my opponents, but my Ultramarines strive for strict WYSIWYG (although I've proxied Tactical Marines as Sternguard a few times, much to my shame). If the markings on a Sergeant indicate which set of stats he has, you'd better believe that I'll be painting his helmet so as to differentiate him. For Veterans, I'll probably opt for the laurels, but it might be fun to give one or two a white stripe. Just in case, I'll be keeping a few bare-headed Sergeants around so I have models that I can play as Veterans or non-Veterans.

[Update 10/6/13: As more information became available, I did an additional post on this subject. You can find it here.]

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thoughts on the new Tau

On a 14 hour bus ride, what else should one do but analyze the crap out of one's army. As mentioned earlier I have been creating a dangerously fiendish Tau army. The recent addition of the Tau Riptide has reinforced the true fiendish nature of my force. At first I was skeptical of the Riptide being a monstrous creature and still relatively poor in close combat (albeit Smash special rule definitely helps out). BUT, 5 wounds, a potential 3++, and the new AWESOME missile pod shield drones truly make the Riptide a mobile Great Wall of Tau'n (not quite as big as the great wall of China but can probably still be seen from space). With statistics on the Tau player side for a S9 AP2 large blast (a very versatile weapon) the Riptide does bring firepower to the table but on a more near-and-dear to my heart role, it is a fire magnet brute. By no means can it be ignored on the table and I LOVE the Riptide in the spotlight while my Hammerhead with Longstrike wreaks total Havoc on the enemy.

Longstrike: Smashing the Imperium one tank at a time

On a bit sadder note, I have lost some faith in my battle suit HQ units. I am having a harder time justifying their points when there are other (cheaper) HQs that help beef up the army, such as the Fireblade Cadre. Thus far I have never regretted taking one in a large Fire Warrior squad. Good Leadership, solid BS with markerlight and allows an additional S5 shot from the Fire Warriors if they didn't move and all for the bargain price of 60 points; what's not to love? NOTHING! I will probably always have one. I give the Fireblade Cadre the coveted Auto-Take Unit Badge (oh and also Longstrike in a Hammerhead... I mean DUH! need I say more).

The Tau army is truly a machine of 6th Edition 40k. Cheaper units, HQ's that modify the function of the army, and meaner shooting abilities. It is an exciting to be an addicted nerd in the 40k realm.
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