Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Implications of Re-basing

It seems like the controversy that accompanied GW's introduction of the 32mm bases for the Blood Angel Tactical Marines, Death Company, and Sanguinary Guard has died down a bit. I think most people recognize that nothing is forcing them to re-base and most have decided whether or not they're going to adapt the new base sizes for their army.

The largest schism was between the hobbyists and the competitive players. Although most hobbyists didn't seem eager to re-base existing models, they were generally excited about having the option of using bigger bases. The competitive players, on the other hand, were fretting that other gamers will gripe about their army having non-standard base sizes if they stay with the original 25mm bases (I would have left 40K several years ago if I had to play in such a hostile atmosphere) and complaining about possible advantages that armies on one particular base size will have against armies on another base size. Many of the latter complaints seemed to focus on the effect of size differences on base-to-base contact.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look at the actual affect of playing 25mm versus 32mm bases on close combat:

In the Abstract
If you were to ignore the weapons, limbs, etc. that typically hang off a model's base, a single round base of any given size can only come into base-to-base contact with six identical bases:

So what happens if your new Sanguinary Priest on its 32mm base is surrounded by an opponent's Astartes on their original 25mm bases? It turns out that your model will still come into true base-to-base contact with only six other bases:

Although a seventh 25mm base will obviously be able to participate in the combat, it will never actually contact the larger base in the middle.

What if your Space Marine Captain is still on a 25mm base and you're surrounded by a new Blood Angels Tactical Squad on their 32mm bases? You will end up in base-to-base contact with five Blood Angels:

A sixth model will still be involved in the combat, although it won't be in base contact with the base in the middle.

In short, the only real difference occurs when multiple models on the larger bases are in base-to-base contact with a single model on a smaller base. However, in a game that's as dependent on random dice rolls as 40K, I honestly don't believe that having one less model in direct contact would have a significant effect on the course of a game.

In Reality
Let's be honest; how many assaults actually look like the figures above? When your models look like this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

you're not likely to achieve those hypothetical patterns.

My Concern
Although most gamers' comments on the new base size seemed to focus on assaults, I'm more interested in what the larger bases will do to disembarking squads, especially when a 10 man squad's drop pod drifts near an enemy unit and the space for disembarking is limited. It's just as well that I'm going to keep my Tactical Marines on 25mm bases, but I still intend to field a 10 man Sternguard Squad on 32mm bases.

The Veterans might just find the battlefield to be a little bit crowded.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

7th Edition Blood Angels, or Why Space Marine Players are Still Jealous

As I've mentioned before, my oldest daughter recently started a Blood Angels army. Since babysitting money and allowance don't go very far in this hobby, I've been subsidizing it substantially, going as far as paying the entire cost of the "Shield of Baal: Deathstorm" kit as well as the "Leviathan" and "Exterminatus" book sets. (It's not all selflessness, though. I'll be starting a Tyranid army with the Deathstorm models, Leviathan has some great Tyranid formations, and I love the fluff in the Shield of Baal books.) We were going to hold off on getting the codex until my hobby budget had recovered, but we unexpectedly received a copy as a Christmas gift from a generous friend.

Bear in mind that I haven't played the army, but from what I've seen, the 7th Edition C:BA is a great codex. It has some good wargear, great army-wide benefits, and interesting units. That's why...

I Have Little Sympathy for Angry Blood Angels Players:
"It's lost all its flavor." "Now it's just like the Vanilla codex." "It's worse than the Vanilla codex." "Why didn't we get Centurions or Stormtalons?" "That's the last straw, GW, I quit."

This is the gist of what some very vocal Blood Angels players have been saying from the time the rumors starting flowing until the release of the codex. I'm sorry, but after reading through the new codex and the Shield of Baal datasheets and comparing them to my own codex, I can only say that I just don't feel sorry for those who are disappointed with the revised Blood Angels. Did people really expect 7th Edition Blood Angels to be as overpowered as the 5th Edition Blood Angels were back in the day, especially after seeing the power leveling that happened to the previous 7th Edition codexes?

In my first year of playing 40K, shortly after starting my Ultramarine army, I ran across a message board post where a Blood Angels player said, "why play Vanilla when Blood Angels do everything they do and more?" Since no one in the Cabal played them, I didn't actually see the 5th Edition C:BA until a few months ago. Good grief; no wonder C:SM players were so upset. Not only did 5th Edition Blood Angels end up with nearly every unit that Vanilla Marines had, including newer ones like Vanguard and Sternguard, but they had cheaper Devastators, Assault Marines as Troops, Land Raiders as Dedicated Transports for most squad types, fast Predators, and fast Vindicators. On top of that, they had unique units such as Death Company (a Troop unit with stats and rules that clearly belonged on a Elite choice), Baal Predators, Stormravens, Sanguinary Guard, and Furioso Dreadnoughts. Awesome wargear like hand flamers and Inferno pistols rounded it all out.

Eventually, the downward creep of the points costs in other codexes cut into the Blood Angels' competitiveness. Although many Blood Angels players were hoping to get away with a simple across-the-board points decrease, it became obvious with each 7th Edition codex that GW was deliberately trying to avoid codex creep and was scaling back some of the worst offenders. It should have been obvious that C:BA, like the Grey Knights codex, wasn't going to survive the transition from 5th Edition to 7th Edition with a mere decrease in costs.

Yes, GW has scaled back some of the more outrageous stuff in C:BA. The new codex better reflects the fact that the Blood Angels are supposed to adhere to the Codex Astartes with a few deviations stemming from their susceptibility to the Red Thirst and the Black Rage. Tactical Marines and Scouts are the lone Troops choices (just as they are in Codex-compliant Chapters), Land Raiders as Dedicated Transports are again limited to Terminator Squads (which befits their supposedly limited numbers), Furioso and Death Company Dreadnoughts are no longer infantry blenders, Death Company are Elites (which is appropriate for a squad type that isn't really part of any official Company), and Assault Marines have been moved to the Fast Attack Slot (where every other Chapter keeps them).

This latter change seems to be the biggest point of contention, with quite a few angry posts lamenting that they'll be forced to fill their Troop slots with "worthless" Tactical Marines instead of Assault Marines. The conspiracy-minded declare that GW stripped out all units except Tactical Marines and Scouts from the Troops section to force gamers to buy the new Blood Angels Tactical Squad box. This ignores the fact that nearly every 7th Edition codex has made it practically impossible to move other unit types to the Troops slot, which is effectively what the previous Blood Angels Codex had done with Assault Squads without even needing a special HQ to do it. With GW attempting to better balance the codexes against each other, it was inevitable that Blood Angels would have to deal with a limited number of Troops choices, just like the other Chapters.

(By the way, I think the new Tactical Squad kit is pretty awesome, but it seems better suited for a Blood Angels Sternguard or Command Squad than a Tactical Squad.)

They seem a bit too fancy to be basic Troops

This isn't just consistent with the options available to other Marine Chapters. From the standpoint of the fluff, Tactical Squads should form the backbone of a Blood Angels Battle Company, just as they do in any other Codex-compliant Chapter.

Why the New C:BA is Still Better than C:SM
I said that GW toned down the army a bit, but 7th Edition C:BA will still make most Vanilla Marine players envious.

Let's start with Tactical Squads, which are actually pretty good in the current edition, especially when entering play via drop pod. Thanks to a larger number of wargear options, Blood Angel Tactical Squads are even better than the Vanilla version. Their Tactical Sergeants have access to all the same wargear as their Vanilla brothers while also having access to Inferno pistols and hand flamers. And the list of heavy weapons they can take includes the heavy flamer (which is technically an assault weapon). Most Vanilla players would be very happy to be able to land a drop pod loaded with a combi-flamer (or a hand flamer), a flamer, and a heavy flamer on their opponent's doorstep. On top of all that, all Blood Angels infantry, bikes, and Dreadnoughts have Furious Charge, which is effectively a Blood Angels "Chapter Tactic". Put a power fist on your Sergeant and he's hitting at Strength 9 on the charge.

Strength 9 thunder hammers are just scary

And how about those Assault Squads that were sent to the Fast Attack section where all other Space Marine Chapters keep them? They're better than their Vanilla counterparts, too. Not only do they have all the same weapons options as Vanilla Assault Squads, but their Sergeants can take an Inferno pistol or a hand flamer, while up to two Assault Marines can take an Inferno pistol, a hand flamer, a meltagun, or a plasma gun. Again, I would gladly take these options over the plasma pistol or flamer that Vanilla Assault Marines can take. The ability to put three melta weapons in a highly mobile squad would make a Blood Angel Assault squad one of the better tank killers in the game.

There was much lamenting when rumors suggested that Blood Angels Vindicators and Predators were no longer going to be Fast. No, it just turns out that the ability to make those tanks Fast is called "overcharged engines" and is an upgrade rather than a built-in rule. Under the previous edition, the Blood Angels' Fast Vindicator was 20 points more expensive than the Vanilla Marines' standard model. Under the new codex, a Blood Angels' Vindicator with overcharged engines is a mere 5 points more expensive than the Vanilla Vindicator.

BA Terminators are priced identically with their Vanilla counterparts, but with Furious Charge they're more potent than my boys in blue. A bunch of thunder hammer Terminators can do some ugly things to the average vehicle when swinging at S9 on their first turn. And Wraithlords, Wraithknights, and Imperial Knights should be very concerned if some of those furiously charging Terminators get the chance to assault them.

But Wait, There's More!
The above is just what's in the codex. Shield of Baal has given Blood Angels an embarrassment of riches. For a mere 25 point increase over a similarly armed Terminator Captain, Shield of Baal's Captain Karlaen gets Master-crafted on this thunder hammer, gains Counter-attack, and has a special Warlord Trait giving him +1 to Seize the Initiative rolls and allowing him to re-roll Reserve rolls (whether they passed or failed). Other than Karlaen's abilities, I didn't find the Deathstorm datasheets to be particularly impressive, but the Exterminatus material is fantastic.

Do you want to field the Blood Angels Veteran Company, the Archangels? Take the Archangels Strike Force detachment, which is composed of a minimum of 1 HQ (in Terminator armor) and 2 Elites and a maximum of 2 HQs (again, in Terminator armor) and 16 Elites. The detachment has some pretty amazing Command Benefits, too. Would you you like to represent the 2nd Company, the Blooded, instead? Take the Blooded Demi-Company (as the name implies, it's essentially half a Codex Astartes Battle Company) and get a boost from the Red Thirst (+1 Initiative on the turn you charge into combat) in addition to your army-wide Furious Charge. Are you disappointed that you have a bunch of Death Company that don't count as Troops anymore? Take the Strike Force Mortalis: 1 Chaplain, 3 Death Company Squads, 2 Death Company Dreadnoughts, and 1 Stormraven. Strike Force Mortalis gains the Crusader and Fury of the Forlorn special rules, the latter giving you +1 attack if a squad is outnumbered.

I would be very surprised if Blood Angels get a supplement anytime soon since Exterminatus probably contains more good stuff than what's found in any other army's supplement. And speaking of supplements, my Ultramarines are still patiently waiting for theirs, GW. And yes, they would also like to be able to field their Veteran Company now that Space Wolves and Blood Angels can. Oh, and it would be pretty cool if you could work the Tyrannic War Veterans into it, too. The previous dataslate was interesting, but it would be nice to see how they fit into the 1st Company.

So 7th Edition C:BA looks pretty strong while supplemental materials make the army look even stronger. If my daughter ever gives up on the hobby, I might just have to adopt her army.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Back to Basics, Part III: Combi-melta Sergeant

It's depressing to think that I haven't finished a model since July. It's not that I haven't been doing anything. In fact, during that time I prepped and primed over a dozen Tactical Marines, a Librarian, an Aegis Defence Line, its gun emplacements, and a comm relay. I even helped to prepare and prime my daughter's Death Company. But it's not encouraging to do so much work and still not have anything new to put on the table.

But this week I finally finished a new model. And I think it'll be a pretty useful one, too:

Melta: the Marine player's best friend for taking out armor

Somehow I've gone all this time with a single painted Tactical Marine Sergeant; i.e., the Black Reach model modified to carry a plasma pistol. Whenever I needed other Sergeants, I simply grabbed an unpainted model with a bolt pistol and a chainsword that Bryce gave me when I started the hobby.

With melta weapons being the surest bet for tank-busting in 7th Edition, I figured I should finally add a combi-melta Sergeant to my army. I built this guy using Mk VI legs with studs, a Mk V torso, a Mk VI helmet, a backpack, and arms from the new Tactical Squad kit. The right shoulder pad with the Ultramarines logo comes from the Commander kit while the studded shoulder pad on his left comes from the old Tactical Squad (although the new kit has a studded pad, too). His backpack decoration is from the Command Squad kit, the parchment/loincloth is from the old Tactical Squad, the melta bomb on his hip is from the Assault Squad kit, and his combi-melta is from the Sternguard kit.

I painted him using an approach meant to stretch my supply of Mordian Blue. The first two or three layers are Macragge Blue, which entirely covers the black primer. I follow that up with only one or two coats of Mordian Blue. Although the two colors are noticeably different, they're close enough that it doesn't take too much Mordian to completely cover the Macragge. I then wash the model with Nuln Oil and finish up with a dry brushing of Macragge Blue. The end result is a bit more purple than my first models, which were dry brushed with the old Ultramarines Blue.

This combi-melta Sergeant is part of my plans for deploying "melta trios"; i.e., drop podding 10 man Tactical Squads containing a combi-melta/melta bomb Sergeant, a meltagun, and a multi-melta. With the Ultramarines' Tactical Doctrine allowing re-rolls to hit, in a single turn these squads would have a 40.5% chance of exploding an AV14 vehicle, a 50.1% chance of exploding an AV13 vehicle, and a 57.8% chance of exploding an AV12 vehicle.
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