Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thoughts on the Upcoming Stronghold Assault and Escalation Expansions

Apparently the 40K community will soon be able to get its hands on two new game expansions: Stronghold Assault and Escalation.

Stronghold Assault
Apparently, Stronghold Assault allows players to incorporate fortifications into their army lists much more extensively than is possible with the current rule book. Rumor has it that the expansion will allow individual fortifications to be grouped into one giant fortification; e.g., two bastions and an Aegis Defense Line can be combined into an Imperial Strongpoint. This expansion is also supposed to finally give points values and rules for the Wall of Martyrs.

While I find the idea of this expansion interesting, other members of the 40K Cabal and I worry about the lack of balance that it could introduce into our games. As pointed out by Bryce recently, an Aegis Defence Line isn't particularly valuable for durable armies like Space Marines or Tau. Sure, with Sergeant Telion my Scouts get a 2+ cover save from it, but the majority of my models already have a better save than they can get from the wall. The 4+ cover save is nice when they're getting hit by AP1, AP2, or AP3 weapons, but the armies I have to worry about with that kind of armor penetration in abundance are Tau (who can easily deny cover) or Imperial Guard (who are often firing over the wall).

On the other hand, fortifications are worth their weight in gold to lightly armored armies like Orks or Guard. For a mere 50 points, Orks can effectively upgrade a couple squads of Lootas from a 6+ save to a 4+. And without a significant number of barrage weapons or the kind of cover-denying abilities that Tau have, they can be difficult for more elite armies like Sam's Necrons, Carl's Grey Knights, or my Ultramarines to dislodge.

The thought of fielding extensive fortifications on the Cabal's tables is appealing from a storytelling point of view, but the disproportionate advantage that fortifications could give to a minority of our players makes some of us a bit uneasy. For now, it's just as well that only a few of us own even a single Aegis Defence Line.

Now this is the expansion that I'm really interested in. This expansion is supposed to emulate a feature of Forge World's Horus Heresy game in that it adds a single "Lord of War" force organization slot to 40K. According to the rumors, the Lord of War slot can be filled with one of 16 Super-Heavy vehicles or Gargantuan Creatures.

I really want to get this onto the table
Earlier this year I bought a Baneblade and a Shadowsword in preparation for the upcoming Apocalypse 2.0. Unfortunately, the Cabal is far from being able to actually play games of Apocalypse, meaning that my new Super-Heavies have remained untouched on my hobby shelves. Escalation may finally give me a reason to paint up the tanks and get them on the table.

My only real concern is that I might be forced to paint up an Imperial Guard Command Squad and a Veteran Squad before I can field either of the tanks (and that's assuming that an allied force can be the one to fill the Lord of War slot). When I first heard about Escalation, I had hoped that it would function like a mini-Apocalypse and that the Ultramarines could field an Imperial Guard Super-Heavy tank as their Lord of War. However, the rumors I keep seeing seem to suggest that the only Super-Heavy that Astartes can take directly is the Thunderhawk Gunship.

Some rumors suggest that D-weapon
will be downgraded to S10, AP1 for 40K
Ironically, GW's move to put more Super-Heavies on the table emphasizes the fact that the sole Super-Heavy vehicle their flagship army can field is only available in the form of a $650 slab of resin from Forge World. Of course, along with the rumors about Escalation we've also heard rumblings about a plastic Thunderhawk. Since this rumor has circulated off and on for years, it has been met with extreme skepticism. I think the probability that we may soon see a plastic Thunderhawk has increased, though.

It may be wishful thinking, but I suspect that GW's intent with regards to Escalation is to increase the demand for larger plastic models, thus giving the company a financial justification for producing more of them. As things currently stand, I assume that many 40K players are like our gaming group; we would love to get into Apocalypse but none of our armies are currently large enough for it, nor do we really have the time to regularly play large games. Because of this, I'm the only one in the Cabal who has actually bought an Apocalypse model. But if we were each allowed to take a single Super-Heavy in regular games, I think I can guarantee that my fellow gamers would become a lot more interested in some large models of their own.

Given the huge number of Space Marine players and an increased interest in fielding Super-Heavy models, it would only make sense for GW to finally produce the mythical plastic Thunderhawk. Even though I already own a Baneblade and a Shadowsword, I would certainly add one to my army.


  1. Hey James, how will you be painting up your Baneblade? Ultramarines scheme complete with agemos, or maybe Ultramar PDF?

    I've been itching to get a superheavy lately myself, but I wanted one that could be painted in marine colors, which essentially ruled out everything I wanted (Baneblade-chassis tanks and titans), and only left the two superheavies I DIDN'T want (Felblade and Thunderhawk).

    What to do, what to do.

    1. Supposedly the Codex-complaint Chapters handed their Super-Heavy tanks over to the Imperial Guard or their local PDF after the Horus Heresy. Although a few Chapters are said to have maintained a few in cold storage just in case, I would assume that the ultra-compliant Ultramarines would have turned all of their big tanks over to the Ultramar Auxilia.

      Since Macragge is supposed to be a bleak and rocky planet, I figure that the Auxilia would tend to use shades of dark gray for their tanks. I think I'll be using Mechanicus Standard Grey for the base coat with some lighter shades dry brushed over it.

      For fun, I'm going to paint a single side panel Macragge Blue with an Ultramarine logo. The panel is intended to show the tank's "original" color and to represent the Auxilia's efforts not to offend its machine spirit after it was reassigned to them.


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