Evolution of List Writing

Evolution-of-a-Gamer-01_thumbI wanted to take a look at how we as gamers tend to evolve as list builders.  I once heard something similar to this by Reecius from Frontline Gaming, so I started to watch closely at how members of our gaming group and me build lists.  Interestingly enough, it is scary how true it is.

As competitive list builders we go through three stages of list building.  The first stage is when we are starting out with a new army or entirely new to the game.  We take units that look fun on paper or are models we love.  Our first lists are very limited by the models we own for the army.  I remember building flash gitz for my orks just to have the insanity of them.  One game they worked well and killed every space marine that came into range of them.  They proceeded to fail at life for the next 6 games.

Eventually if we want to stay competitive and win some games we start to learn what are good and bad choices within a codex.  This comes with a lot of experimentation, running new units or old units in new combinations.  Eventually we hit on a unit combo we like.

The next level of evolution (I make is sound like pokemon) is the spam lists.  We have figured out what units are strong or we do well with.  If one is good, then two is better, and three is best.  This is when we see a lot of triple lists.  Three heldrakes, three riptides, three wraithknights, ect.  When learning my orks I started to run three dakka jets for a time.  If I could get all three in on the same turn and waaagh, that turned into 54 BS3 twinlinked strength 6 ap 4 shots.

Eventually through the release of new books or clever players, these spam lists will run into something they can’t handle.  By taking three of one unit type you start to make your army one dimensional.  Once people start learning how to counter these spam armies, there success quickly can stop.  For instance, three dakka jets are great, but if an army has any decent sky fire, they go down in flames often before I can get my shots off.

This is where we enter our last phase.  It’s when we realize the limitations and flaws within a spam list.  We start to take less of these strong units, limiting them to only 1 or 2 at most.  With the points we freed up we start taking units that will balance out the lists.  These list are commonly known as take all comers lists.

I have stepped away from spam lists and started to work on take all comers type lists.  My orks run at most 2 dakka jets.  Granted, the ork codex isn’t the most competitive, and I feel that pain every time I try to write a TAC list with them.  My tau run one riptide and one unit of broadsides.

I am not the only person to go through this evolution in our group.  Take a minute and think back to some of the lists you and your opponents have ran.  You can see this theme repeated again and again.

I point this out not so we can look down on less “evolved” gamers, but so we can understand each other.  A guy running a spam list my not be a worse gamer than one running a TAC list.  He may not have run up against a hard counter yet.  Of course all of this should be taken with the golden rule, and has nothing to do with narrative/fluffy list writing.

Knight Titan: First Contact

So, I had the opportunity to play against both variants of the Imperial Knights today.  I met up with our Master Of The Fleet down at Critical Hit Games, we setup a table and let it rip.  I wrote up a tau list for the day, not as hard of a list as I could have run, but not a slouch either.  For reference, I played the farsight enclave.

Commander – Drone Crontroller, Shield Generator, Stimulant Injector

Cardre Fireblade

Riptide – Earth Caste Pilot, Velocity Tracker, Early Warning Override, Heavy Burst Cannon, Smart Missiles

Stealth Suits – 4 including Shas’vre, Burst Cannons, Bonded

Fire Warriors – 12 including Shas’vre, Pulse Rifles, Bonded

Fire Warriors – 12 including Shas’vre, Pulse Rifles, Bonded

Crisis Suits – 3 including Shas’vre, 2 Missle Pods Each, Advanced Targeting System, Bonded

Crisis Suits – 3 including Shas’vre, Fusion Gun and Plasma Rifle Each, Advanced Targeting System, Bonded

Pathfinders – 10 including Shas’vre

Drone Squadron – 8 Marker Drones

Tetra – Disruption Pods

Hammerhead – Submunition Blast Railgun, Disruption Pods, Smart Missile System, Longstrike

Broadsides – 3 including Shas’vre, Heavy Railrifles, Smart Missiles Systems, Early Warning Override

Aegis Defense Line – Quadgun

2000pts

 

First game my opponent took the Errant variation to try out its big thermal cannon.  His guard was a fairly typical list, I don’t have his army list on hand but I will try to remember the key units.  I believe he fielded 2 basilisks, 2 leman russ variants with the demolisher cannons, a hellhound, 2 squads of guardsmen in chimeras, and 2 units of psychers in chimeras.  Looking at his list, I wanted to take out the leman russes first before they could bring their guns to bear.  The knight would have to wait and I don’t usually worry about the basilisks.

We rolled up dawn of war deployment and purge the alien.  I was able to take out his leman russ line with minimal damage and dropped the hellhound as it advanced.  I tried to deep strike in the fusion crisis suits to take on the knight, but in the end only caused one glance thanks to that ion shield.  I managed to drop the knight by turn 4.  It had advanced up my right flank an forced me to redeploy.  Since I had taken out the leman russes that were on my left flank, I wasn’t hurt by this redeployment.  When the dust settled, I had won handily.

Looking at it afterwards, we felt the knight did add a great mobile threat to the army.  That D weapon sword was a big threat to me.  Since I was able to stay away from it though, I was able to whittle it down with shooting.  I don’t think it was a waste of points.  If his battle line was able to survive my shooting better, my army would be trapped between big blast templates from tanks on one side, and a D sword with big blast template on the other.  I think the weakness was in the guard, not the knight.

We had time, so the Lord Primarch threw together a space marine list (ultramarines) for the Master Of The Fleet to use.  He event lent him his pretty blue boys to play with.  The list featured 2 thunderfire cannons, a squad of 10 scouts, 2 tactical squads in drop pods, 1 tactical squad in a rhino with Tigerius, 2 storm talons, and a drop pod with 10 sternguard. This time we tried out the Paladin variant of the knight.

Rolled up vanguard strike deployment and crusade with 4 objectives.  I changed tactics slightly, deploying my fire base deep within my deployment zone and holding both squads of crisis suits in reserves.  My opponent landed both drop pods of tactical marines right in front of my fire base and more or less hemmed my units in there.  Then the knight advanced up the middle with Tigerius and friends.

In short, this army put too many threats in my face and left me nowhere to run.  My riptide was eventually caught by the knight (although I did some amazing rolling and put 5 hull points on him during overwatch). Close combat was bloody and short.  I was able to put down the knight, but in the end I was down to the missile suits, commander with 4 drones, and 5 pathfinders.  I hadn’t even scratched his back field units, and still had tigerius and the sternguard running around in my firebase.

Honestly, I felt the knight added a ton to that list.  It was able to force my right flank in combination with tigerius.  With the marines holding steady on my left flank I had nowhere to run.  I was so busy dealing with the drop pod troops, the rhino’s troops, and the knight, I didn’t even get to think about taking out his scouts on objectives or his thunderfire cannons.

Interestingly enough, in both games, the titans failed to earn back their points.  But the threat they present and the amount of shooting it takes me to deal with them left a noticeable impact on both games.  I think they could have easily earned their points back, but I just kept running away and trying to deny them that chance.

So far, I am encouraged by today’s results.  I still want to play test them more.  I will probably end up with one eventually.  I am interested to see how they fair against eldar and tyranids.  Daemons as well.  I also would like to see what they add to certain armies, like space wolves, blood, angels, and dark, angels.  More playtesting is required.

Review of 6th Edition…So Far: Part 4

Part 4 of my review of 6th edition, you can catch the previous part here.

iyanden

Now in a change of pace, GW put out to army codex supplements in the form of the Iyanden for eldar and The Farsight Enclave for tau.  Iyanden did not make to big of a splash other than allowing wraithguard and wraithblades as troops.  The Farsight Enclave on the other hand made some waves.  Crisis suits as troops opened up mobile scoring units for tau.  And 7 unique characters that could be taken as farsights bodyguard (including a riptide) changed the farsight bomb a bit.  Plus codex supplements can ally with their parent codex as battle brothers, so in theory you can take 4 riptides and 4 wraithknights in a single list.  We did have one player bring out 4 riptides in our group, and it looked great.  But the army tends to lack scoring units.

farsight enclave

Overall, I really enjoyed the fluff on the farsight enclave (when the actual book dropped several months later).  It present a completely different view point in terms of the tau empire and farsight’s split than had ever been previously seen.  Plus it explained why farsight kept getting new tau technology after he left the empire.  The rules seem like a minor tweak, but it made for an interesting army.

The farsight enclave book brought with it a new death star, a modified version of the farsight bomb.  Taking a character riptide (a new bodyguard for farsight) from the enclave with farsight and allying in a buff commander and another riptide, it is possible to combine all into a single unit that features twin linked, ignores cover, monster hunter or tank hunter, and the ability for the two riptides to target different units.  A very strong unit shooting wise, and mobile to boot.  Can’t take much of a punch in close combat.  Once again, I have not had a chance to see this combination in our local group.

apocalypse

The summer also gave us the release of apocalypse.  A revision of the rules to bring them in line with 6th edition.  I had the chance to play several games of this, and I can say it is enjoyable.  It suffers from the same thing apocalypse always dose, that is the time it takes to play such large games.  There are some pretty strong combos possible with the formations presented, but in the end everything is pretty strong in apocalypse, so it balances out.   Honestly, I would like to play this a little more, but the time, space, and organization requirements make it hard to pull off.

Setting the Scene: Battle for Tarandros Part 2

The imperial’s success in the first part of our battle has given them a foothold on the ork infested planet.  There next step is to setup a base of operations on the planet.  From there further attacks can be launched against the greenskins and any other xenos that seek to prevent the imperials from reaching there goal.  With this in mind, the gathered elements of the imperial forces have setup a defensive perimeter around the new base of operations.

The orks see this base of operations as a great chance to get a good fight in.  The full force of the ork waagh has still not hit home against the imperials yet.  Scattered elements of the orks have begun to throw themselves at the lines of imperials.

In the mean time the other xenos forces on Tarandros still seek there own objectives.  They may join in this battle if it suits there goals, although which side they will join is not clear.

Finally, don’t forget the present of chaos space marines and daemons on the planet.  Surely they will take the opportunity present by the ork attacks to strike at vulnerable points in the imperial forces.

With this commander I leave you.  I will see you planet side with my orks.  Records of our battles will be kept and the story told by our chief librarian.  Until then,  WAAAAAAAAAAGH!

Review of 6th Edition…So Far: Part 3

Part Three of my review of 6th edition.  You can check out part 2 here.

tau codexAfter daemons came the Tau.  My beloved army (and the only army I still own from my 3rd edition days) finally see’s and update from its 4th ed book.  A new model range including plastic pathfinders, sweet looking broadsides, new HQ models, and the ever amazing riptide.  I went a little off the reservation and literally bought it all.  Except the flyer.  Not because of rules, I just didn’t like the model.  Playing with this army really emphasized synergy between units.  And it could get really ridiculous.  I often killed entire units on overwatch.  Since then people have learned how to tackle a tau fire base.  It is still very strong, but not impossible to take down.

This army spawned another deathstar, the farsight bomb.  It required farsight, a buff commander, and a unit of 7 bodyguard crisis suits.  The buff commander gave the unit twin linked and ignores cover, as well as could try to soak up wounds with his T5 and 2+ armor save.  Farsight unlocked the 7 man bodyguard and allowed the whole unit to deepstrike without scattering.  Then you arm the 7 crisis suits with your choice of weaponry, most people went with missile pods and plasma rifles.  You can throw in some target lock on a few so the unit can split fire.  This deathstar did have its flaws; it was stuck in reserve so some poor rolling could see you waiting on nearly 1000 points of your army to show up.  It’s also not that tough, the buff commander is the only thing with a 2+ save, there are no rerolls (yet) and it is majority T4.  I wouldn’t say it’s a glass hammer, but it definitely can hit better than it can take a hit.  This deathstar has not seen an appearance in our local group.

Now looking back on the tau, I can say they are definitely a top tier army.  Which to some people is a great thing.  For me though, I found they weren’t that fun to play.  It was a very simple process for me.  Setup a fire base, shot everything that came within 30 inches of it.  Have some mobile elements and longer ranged elements to root out any enemy forces that were hiding.  Ultimately the only mission I consistently struggled on was the relic, as tau are not a very mobile force when it comes to their troops.  So, I put them aside.  Our lord primarch made several comments to me that he observed I had more fun playing orks than tau.  In the end, that army comes out when I want to win.  Otherwise it sits in its foam.

eldar codexThe next codex to drop was the eldar.  Arguably a stronger codex than tau.  Battlefocus and bladestorm completely re-invented this army.  Everything is so fast in this army and such a huge threat.  They are still a heavy psychic army, and with random powers, maybe a little less reliable in that department.  But there primaris powers are great and can still take divination, so not a big hit.  The wraithknight is amazing and incredibly tough.  Our chief librarian plays eldar, and quickly began to show us just how strong this army could be.

The release of the eldar opened up to big issues in the land of 40000, taudar and the seercouncil deathstar.  Taudar is an alliance between tau and eldar, tau being the primary.  The eldar brought in very fast scoring units in the form of jetbikes and the psychic buffs to hand out re-roll to hit to several tau units.  Combo that with the already strong tau shooting and now you have an army that can shoot you off anything and on turn 5 can jump on several objectives either scoring them or denying them from you.   I have seen this dreaded alliance only once, in a local tournament.  Despite the fact that both myself and the chief librarian have tau and eldar armies, these too failed to make a significant appearance in our local group.

The seerstar is comprised of 1-2 farseers on bikes, 1-8 warlocks on bikes, and +/- a dark eldar baron on a sky board.  Through a combination of psychic powers (which you have to roll for) this unit can have a 2+ cover save, 2+ armor save, and a 4+ invuln (2+ on the baron) all of which can be rerolled.  The unit is not very strong at shooting, but can throw around some serious buffs or de-buffs.  It is incredibly fast since they are eldar jetbikes.  And once again, they are not slouches in combat.  One big issue with this army is there are no models out for farseer on bike or warlocks on bikes, so you will have to convert them.  And all there powers are random, so there is the chance of key powers not being rolled or failed to cast.  Once again, this deathstar has not seen play in our local group.

And with those two big entries to 6th edition, we wrap up part 3.  Up next, codex supplements, apocalypse and SPACE MARINES!!!

My Golden Rule of 40,000

I want to take a moment to discuss what I believe is the fundamental rule of 40,000.  With some many rule supplements, experimental units, digital releases, data slates, super heavies, and crazy combos floating about, it really easy to get caught up in all the drama.  Myself included.  The lord primarch and I had an experience with this and it made me remember this.  The golden rule: it’s a game you play to have fun.

Seems simple, but it is very frequently forgotten.  The point of that rule is to keep you focused on what is fun for you.  If you like the new escalation or knight titan rules and it’s fun to you; great, use those rules and have fun.  Just remember that what is fun for you may not be fun for everyone else.

I have heard a lot of people say that you really need to sit down with your opponent and discuss what kind of game you want before you actually start pulling out models and lists.  This rings true with me.  I usually have multiple lists prepared before I go out for a day of gaming.  That way if someone wants a competitive game, I have a list for that, or a fluffy game, I also have a list for that.

Now, let’s look at this from another angle.  Say your opponent wants to use a rule set, supplement, unit combo, whatever, that you don’t want to play against.  Just tell them that politely.  If you don’t want to play against a seerstar list or a super heavy or a tau gun line, then politely say that you would not like to play against that list.

If both opponents are observing the golden rule, a solution should be reachable.  Lists can be changed, scenarios can be changed.  Rule interpretations can be agreed upon in advance.  Part of that solution maybe that you don’t play that opponent.  There is nothing wrong with that.

If I really want to play my orks, a low tier codex, and my opponent really wants to test out his tournament list of taudar, we could easily end up in this position.  If we can’t agree on a different game to play (either myself pulling out a harder list, or my opponent changing his to a softer one), then the best thing to do is not play that game.  There is no point in either you or your opponent being forced to play a game they don’t enjoy.

This all seems really simple in practice, but I don’t see it being applied nearly as often as it should in actual games.  Give it a try.  Decided what you think is fun.  Don’t worry about what other people will think.  Talk to your opponent before a game about anything within each others lists that may raise some concerns.  Just remember, it’s a game we play to have fun.

Keeping at the Painting Grind

I must confess, I have only one fully painted army (my vampire counts).  My orks are about 30% painted.  I had planned to get about 2000 points finished before the new codex drops eventually, but they have been off the painting table as of late.  My tau are about 25% complete.  They are a simpler paint scheme and I was able to base coat most models with an airbrush.  I even started an escalation painting league to help motivate me to finish the army.  Yet still I failed.

Recently I have started my Iron Hands, they can be seen here.  I got through there first tactical squad and rhino (I finally got a top hatch for it btw) in about 2 weeks.  I have literally been painting one marine at time to completion before moving on to the next.  Right now, this feels like a comfortable pace for me, but I am all too aware that I have failed before.

The only tactic that seemed to keep me motivated to paint was what I used with my Vampire Counts.  I would not let myself buy another box until I painted the previous.  It worked well, and I didn’t play fantasy often.  I just haven’t been able to exercise that level of self control with my purchasing of 40k.

I may not have succeeded in painting a 40k army to completion yet; but I have read about many different strategies to keep one self motivated.  I figured I would give you a short run down and my experiences with each.

1)      Batch painting.  The idea is to take a large batch of models (10 or more usually) and paint one step or color at a time on each model before moving on to the next.  I discovered this tends to work well on units with very uniformed models and simple color schemes.  It did not work well with my orks.  There was far to much variation in how each army, boot, gun, ect had to be painted to fit my paint scheme.  This led to a lot of missed spots that I would have to go back on to fix.  Slowed everything right down.  It did work well on my tau though, since the models are all very similar and the paint scheme is very simple.

2)      Small Batch painting.  Similar to above, but small groups of models.  I found that 3-5 work best for me.  This is how the majority of my orks get done.  Probably the most common method I use.

3)      Painting on a schedule.  The idea being to set goals in terms of a calendar.  Like I need to finish the squad by the end of the month.  It all works groovy until you either A) get behind because life invades hobby time, or B) you work on a model or unit you don’t enjoy.  Then you are either forcing yourself to do something you are not enjoying or rushing through to try to catch up.  This happened with my tau crisis suits, and I feel the rush to get done had a noticeable drop in quality.

4)      Painting individual models.  Idea is to only paint one model at a time, allowing for more detail and focus on each model.  Results in good quality, but is a very slow process.  Better have some good pod casts or Netflix lined up.  I recommend the overlords or the independent characters.

5)      Painting a unit before buying the next.  See above.

In the end though, the best thing I can say is just keep painting.  Do a little bit here and there and it will all add up.  I get bored painting one unit, so I will switch to another unit or a whole new army.  Yes, it takes me longer to finish things this way.  But painting should not be work, it should be fun.

Review of 6th Edition…So Far: Part 2

Now we start into part 2 of my review of 6th ed.  You can go back and read the first part here.

3D-Chaos-Codex15            Chaos was the first new codex of 6th edition, and it dropped around Christmas as I remember.  I haven’t played chaos since their 3rd edition book, and yeah, there were a lot of changes.  Helldrakes immediately were recognized for the fire breathing horrors they were.  They only got worse when GW FAQed that the flamer had a 360 degree fire arc.  Cultists were the new hotness, super cheap troops that you could min max with to your hearts content.  Don’t forget about the flying daemon prince with his black mace.  He is still a jerk, but as a friend and I learned in a tournament, not invincible.  People experimented with cult troops, but ultimately nurgle appeared to be the best.  At the time, there was no great moaning about the overall strength of the codex.

Dark-Angels-Codex             Dark Angels were the follow up in January/February (I could look it up, but that really isn’t relevant).  Deathwing was popular.  Especially those deathwing knights and there giant beat sticks.  For a time, the deathwing knights were a scary unit to see on the table, with the ability to crush just about anything in close combat and the increased toughness.  The flyers looked cool, but I only every saw one person playing them.  I can remember everyone talking about a ravenwing army being strong, but never saw one fielded.

m3061229a_60030115003_DaemonsCodexENG02_873x627              There was some fantasy nonsense next I think, then the drop of Daemons.  I specifically remember the very comical lamentation of one particular gamer’s love-hate relationship with the random tables, (our own Ralshenik Genial, Tender of the Sacred Gardens).  This army saw a huge change.  No longer forced to deploy the entire army in two waves via deepstrike really opened up how you could play this force.  The warp storm table threw in some great random shenanigans.  Taking four heralds in a single HQ slot was new, allowed you to throw around some really great buffs to your units and allowed for tons of physic potential (which we will soon learn sucks).  Shortly after the release I remember the rise of the flying daemon lists (aka flying circus).  I took the list on with my orks, killed all the flying monstrous creatures, but couldn’t reach the plague bearers on the backfield objectives.

This is about the time our first true deathstar makes its appearance.  The screamerstar.  Based around a unit of screamers and 3-4 heralds of tzeentch.  Through the cleaver application of a psychic power raising there invuln to 4+, then the grimoire raising it to a 2+, and tzeentch’s ability to re-roll saving throws of a 1 we now had a nearly invincible unit.  The unit is no slouch in close combat and is jetbikes, so can move incredibly fast.  The heralds provide the option to shoot with some psychic powers and prevent you from taking out the guy holding the grimoire.  The fact that you need to deal 36 wounds just to get one through is insane.  I faced this unit once, and it was no joke.  Tore apart my orks and took down my allies’ chaos without much hassle.

And thus brings us to the conclusion of part 2.  Up next Tau and Eldar.  Stay tuned.

Planetfall: Part 3

Holographic displays recreated the last moments of the battle between the Ultramarines and the Tau. Warlock Sereth watched distastefully as the Tau leader attempted to transmit the data that his infernal device had acquired. “These methods are barbaric! The device must be destroyed.” He said, unequivocally. Hidden in the webway; a realm between the warp and the materium, the elegant Ulthwé warship Asredil was invisible to the belligerents upon the nearby world of Tarandros. Within the vessel’s meditation chamber, a heated debate was underway.

“They are a young race, Sereth. They do not fully comprehend what it is that they meddle with.” Farseer Erethentil retorted. The warlock was not dissuaded “even so, it is our duty to protect the younger races from their own folly. These manipulations can only serve to draw the attention of the Hive Mind” Sereth insisted. “Can we risk open war with the Tau? Has it not been seen that they are our best hope for survival?” asked Warlock Lenea. Having remained silent thus far, Farseer Aramel answered “the Seer Council of Ulthwé has indeed determined that the Eldar must align themselves with the Tau Empire. Only together can we hope to stand against the dark powers. However, this does not mean that we can allow their youthful curiosity to drive them along a familiar, ruinous path.”

Erethentil nodded in agreement “fortunately, the Ultramarine Captain prevented the Tau leader from transmitting the emitter’s collected data” he said. “But it was not destroyed!” complained Warlock Sereth. “The mon-keigh fools did not even notice that it existed. They slew all without bothering to discover why the Tyranid creatures could fall under another’s control!” he continued. “Surely those that wrought this device will seek to recover it.” Aramel sighed before responding “sadly, that is the way of the Astartes. They live only for war, much like the Exarchs of our race. Little interests them beyond battle and defending their empire.” Sereth scoffed “what empire? their power has no serious opposition in this galaxy and yet they can barely hold their crumbling government together! What are these mon-keigh defending? They have no culture to speak of, except for their fanatical devotion to their corpse emperor!”

“You go too far Warlock!” Aramel said sternly. “The Crippled King does more for the war against Chaos than you can possibly imagine! You have walked the path of the Seer for only a brief while. If you cannot participate in our councils civilly, then perhaps you walk the wrong path.” He added. Cowed, the young warlock apologized “I am sorry, Farseer Aramel, I spoke without thinking. I allowed my passions to overcome my sense.” Aramel nodded. “Our emotions can serve us well, but there is a time and a place for each of them. It is well that you recognize this” he said. “We should influence events against the recovery of this device if possible. But open conflict with the Tau should be avoided” voiced Erethentil, eager to return the discussion to the topic at hand. “Agreed” the other Seers said, unanimously.

Suddenly, the mind of every Seer present was touched by another’s. It was Farseer Ithiniael, communicating telepathically from his diplomatic quarters aboard the Tau flagship in high orbit above Darkstar Sept. “It is I, Farseer Ithiniael. May I address this Council?” he asked. Though everyone knew his identity, decorum demanded that the ritual words be spoken. Every mind within the meditation chamber consented to Ithiniael’s intrusion. “I have spoken to Commander Darkstar’s Ethereal, Aun’ro” the Farseer mind-spoke. His message was conveyed not just in words, but also in emotion and images of his summit with the Tau leadership. “It would seem that the Tau’s sensors have detected the approach of the Alpha Legion, and recognize this threat. We have been granted permission to enter the Tau Empire’s sovereign soil of Tarandros, and are invited to joint-operations with Tau forces to expel the forces of Chaos. However, Aun’ro expressed great dismay at the uninvited arrival of Imperium forces to this system. Particularly given that the Imperium’s ‘reclamation fleet’ far exceeds their colonization armada. The Tau respectfully request our aid in expelling the Imperium interlopers. In spite of this, he made no mention of the open hostilities between the Tau and Adeptus Astartes.”

The gathered Eldar psykers were not surprised to learn this. The new Tau weapon, that allowed limited control over Tyranid forces, was obviously a closely held secret. The Tau would not risk revealing its existence, even to would-be allies. Quite familiar with intrigue, the Eldar had no intention of pressing the matter. “Is it wise to antagonize the mon-keigh by joining forces with the Tau against them?” Lenea asked with her mind. “We have already examined the skein thoroughly. All favorable futures require collaboration with the Tau” mind-spoke Erethentil. “The Tau Commander Boldstrike is tasked with securing an abandoned industrial sector” added Aramel. “Unbeknownst to him, the Imperium forces count with the support of the Dark Angels. Without our aid, he is doomed to fail. Under cover of darkness, we can descend upon the humans and disrupt their communications. Their leaders will believe that only the Tau were responsible for their demise” the Farseer continued.

“Farseer Aramel and I will lead the strike force. Warlocks Lenea, Sereth and Naril will join us. Farseer Ithiniael will remain with the Tau” mind-spoke Erethentil. Psychically, the gathered Council expressed its unanimous agreement. The Eldar seers aboard the Asredil felt Ithiniael’s mind depart. “What of Farseer Maceil?” asked Lenea. The two Farseers looked uncertain. A force of Eldar from Craftworld Windu had made contact with them as soon as they had reached the Sorathian webway network. It was they that had warned the Ulthwé Seers of the approach of Chaos to Tarandros. Maceil had led his own strike force to the planet surface, but none aboard the Asredil had heard from him again. The skein was strangely clouded to all inquiries into the Farseer’s fate. “For now, knowledge of our kin’s whereabouts is beyond us. We must hope that he is well, and focus on the task at hand. Fate will no doubt reveal the truth, in time” said Aramel. With that, the Coucil session was adjourned, and the Seers destined to do battle went to don their arms and armor.

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The Imperial Guard 678th Cadian Armored division had been ordered to reclaim Tarandros’ industrial sector in the name of the Emperor. Their landing transports had reached the planet surface soon after the Ultramarine spearhead pierced the ork horde. They spent the remainder of the day mopping up the rag-tag bands of savages that had taken up residence in the ruins of an ancient Manufactorum. As the sun set, enormous abandoned cranes cast long shadows on the Guardsmen below.

A portion of the division was ordered to patrol the perimeter. This force consisted of two Hellhounds, two Chimera transports filled with veteran Guardsmen, a squadron of two Flakk tanks and a squadron of two Lehman Russ battle tanks. They were joined by Adeptus Astartes of the Dark Angel chapter. None of the Guardsmen had been notified of their arrival, they had simply appeared, seemingly intent on joining the patrol. This made Guardsman Yorik nervous. He had heard tales of the mysterious Dark Angels. It was said that they always follow their own agenda and are utterly ruthless in the service of the Emperor. But they would not travel all this way just to kill orks. Something more must be afoot and the possibilities gave Yorik chills.

The Guardsman’s musings were interrupted by a loud explosion. He peered out of one of his Chimera’s firing grate and saw that something had turned the nearest Hellhound into a smoldering ruin. The vehicle burned brightly in the night, but there was no sign of the attacker. On instinct, the Cadian forces fired their considerable armament in the direction they believed that the enemy shot had come from. Yorik’s world shook as his transport’s gunner opened fire with his multi-laser armament. At least some of the shots struck home, for the Chimera’s search lights zeroed in on the target. The illuminating beams revealed the hull of a black-painted skimmer, of unmistakably Eldar design. The Lehman Russ behemoths lumbered onwards, unleashing their battle cannons upon the revealed enemy vehicle. But the skimmer was moving too fast for the Imperial gunners, and the shots went wide. Eldar walkers revealed themselves with a torrent of laser fire. They pelted the advancing Dark Angel bikers with their scattered beams of light, before racing back into the gloom, out of reach of Imperial guns. To his horror, Yorik saw that five mighty Astartes bikers fell to this barrage.

The Chimera’s vox exploded with a stream of curses. “Hammerhead sighted…bring it down boys!” someone shouted authoritatively, probably the battle psyker that Commissar Nemo had left in charge. “Call for air support!” someone transmitted. “Outbound communications are down. Can’t reach Command” another replied. From his vantage point, Yorik could not make out the Tau forces, but he did hear the unmistakeable rumble of a heavy rail gun. Tau weaponry featured heavily in guardsman training-vids. Its first shot smashed into the front armor of a Lehman Russ, but its adamantium plates held strong. The other Chimera was not so fortunate and was wrecked by the Tau battle tank’s next volley. Yorik could see a triad of the infamous Crisis suits rise from the rubble using their jet packs. From the air, they sent streams of missiles and plasma fire into the Astartes bikers, only to disappear into the ruins to reload.

From the frantic vox communications, Yorik learned that the second Hellhound had moved up the right flank and begun to roast the Xenos hiding in the ruins. The painful screech of metal brought the guardsman’s attention back to the battle nearby. One Lehman Russ had finally succumbed to the Tau and Eldar combined firepower. Unexpectedly, bright bursts of light lanced into the Dark Angels’ land speeder from above. This was followed by a barely perceptible stream of projectiles. This proved too much for the vehicle and it was torn asunder, violently forcing the Astartes pilots out of their seats and throwing them several yards away from their destroyed land speeder. Clearly these shots had come from a flyer, but if it had made any noise during its arrival, Yorik had not heard it. The Flakk tank squadron immediately opened fire. Looking up through the Chimera’s top hatch, the Yorik finally saw the enemy flyer. Its hull was black, just as the skimmer that he had seen earlier. It made impossible maneuvers as it tried to jink out of the torrent of Flakk fire. But the Cadian anti-air tanks were unrelenting and eventually struck home. Bright sparks erupted from the flyer’s fuselage and one of its wings began to trail smoke. Although the flyer was not destroyed, it turned and flew out of the combat zone.

The guardsman had no time to celebrate this small victory. Another Eldar skimmer began to move towards his Chimera at impossible speed. His gunner fired at it with all available weapons, to no avail. The next thing Yorik knew, the Eldar vehicle was right next to him. Enemy artillery hidden in a ruined building fired directly at him. The weapons emitted arcane waves of supersonic sound. When these hit the Chimera’s hull, the entire vehicle began to vibrate uncontrollably. Within moments, the chassis was ripped apart, and the passengers were forced to disembark. Yorik and his fellow guardsmen climbed out of the wreckage, only to be greeted by a volley of laser fire. The guardsmen were cut down where they stood, until only four members of their squad remained. Seeing that the left flank was crumbling, their Sergeant ordered them to fall back. As Yorik scrambled to follow the remnants of his squad, he was struck in the back by a laser blast. Immediately he felt his body paralyze, and then his world went black.

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Aramel’s wave serpent glided to a halt just past the destroyed human vehicle. The attack was proceeding just as he had foreseen. Several Tau had fallen but, so far, no Eldar lives had been lost. Throughout the battle, Farseer Erethentil had guided the war-walker squadron, allowing them to perform their vital role of neutralizing the Dark Angels. He also used his powers of prescience to direct the guardians controlling the unit of Vibrocannon artillery that he had joined. Thanks to his guidance, the support battery was able to destroy several of the human vehicles. By now, only a handful of space marines and their lesser brethren remained. The two remaining vehicles would soon fall to the Tau onslaught. The carnage was unfortunate, but unavoidable.

Once the designated position was reached, the wave serpent’s door opened and the disembarkation ramp descended with a gentle hiss. Aramel’s unit of Storm Guardians drew their weapons and started to move out of the transport. The Farseer walked with them and was joined by warlock Sereth. Before they were able to exit the wave serpent, however, Aramel sensed a disturbance in the warp. A presence had entered realspace earlier this day and only now, that it had been momentarily cast back into the warp, was it forced to reveal itself. By his expression, Sereth had sensed it too. But he knew not the perils that lurk in the warp. Even as Farseer Aramel shouted at him with both mind and voice to stop, the bold warlock gazed through the raw warp at the servant of Tzeench. What he saw, consumed him. The titanic truth of the greater daemon’s presence within the warp was too much for Sereth to bear. His physical body could not withstand the vast psychic pressures that his mind had forced upon it, and he fell, lifeless.

Aramel’s heart was heavy as he gently placed the young warlock’s glowing soul stone in a special container within the transport. Perhaps this fate could have been avoided, but any future becomes uncertain when the changer of ways plays his hand. The Farseer chanted a quiet prayer to Isha, then donned his ghosthelm and joined the Storm Guardians on the planet surface. Wary, he reached into a pouch within his robes and began to cast his wraithbone carved runes and divined the possible futures to come. Using the specially designed ammunition intended for this mission, the warriors of Ulthwé fired their pistols at the last remaining Astartes.

Xxx...Expunged Security-vid Record...xxX

Xxx…Expunged Security-vid Record…xxX

Just as the last one fell, Aramel saw a future where the three fleeing humans nearby opened fire upon his Guardians. He saw over half of his ten-strong squad being consumed by flames. As the moment approached, the Farseer forewarned his squad members. Many jumped out of the flamer’s path before the bearer had even fired. Yet still three Storm Guardians fell, either dead or badly injured by the searing gouts of flame. Whilst the casualties were rushed back onto the wave serpent, the two guardians bearing fusion guns fired at their attackers, vaporizing the three humans in their tracks. All imminent threats having been neutralized, Aramel walked towards the group of Astartes that had fallen in the ruins ahead, located at the furthest edge of the Imperium’s collapsed left flank. The Farseer walked to a specific point in the rubble, and used his telepathic powers to raise the heavy slabs of fallen metal. With an effort of will, he found his buried objective, and wrested it from deep within the ground.

Aramel had unearthed an old human sensor array. It still functioned, as he knew it would, despite the centuries of disuse. He examined the device, but did not tamper with it. He placed it in the middle of a clearing within the ruins. After some time, he was joined by Warlock Lenea and her team of Black Guardians. They were followed by small automated hover-platforms, which carried the Dark Angel bikers, that had all fallen during the battle. With her hand, the Warlock led yet another hover-platform, this one carrying a device very similar to that excavated by Aramel. When she reached the Farseer, Lenea bowed her head and made a gesture of mourning for Sereth’s passing. The Farseer nodded and reciprocated the hand motion. “When will they awaken?” Lenea asked, referring to the ceramite-clad giants. “Fairly soon” replied Aramel, “our war walker’s scatter-lasers were modified to overload their nervous systems. I imagine that they will regain consciousness before day-break” he continued. “As for the toxin used by our Storm Guardians in place of their pistols’ shuriken fuel…It may be as effective. I obtained it from Archon Oberon. He owed me a favor.” Lenea nodded, but she was far from convinced. Their dark cousins made it very difficult for Craftwold Eldar to trust them.

Soon after, Aramel received a telepathic message from Farseer Erethentil. The Tau had been persuaded to relinquish control of the third sensor array. However, they knew nothing of the Space Marines’ survival and assumed that all had perished. Together, the three arrays will provide incontrovertible proof of the Alpha Legion’s presence within the Sorathian System and offer a clear indication of its movements on Tarandros itself. Once the arrays were in place, and the unconscious Astartes carefully deposited on the earth nearby, the protectors of Ulthwé prepared to leave. Before they parted, Lenea asked Aramel “could we not have simply told the shadowy mon-keigh that their quarry was here?” He smiled sadly. Though she could not see this through the Farseer’s helm, his mood was captured in the tone of his reply “alas, this is the only way in which Captain Tomas of the Dark Angels would believe our message. We explored countless futures before deciding on this course, but humans are very distrustful of alien species. This one in particular, would never accept that our warnings rung true. Thus, only the technology of his own people would suffice to guide him.”

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Guardsman Yorik was completely disoriented as he regained consciousness. He rose from the dirt and felt about his uniform for a wound, but did not find any. Though he distinctly remembered being struck in the back, he had somehow survived the same lethal weapon that had annihilated the mighty Adeptus Astartes bike squad. Yorik looked about, searching for friend and foe. Of the enemy, there was no sign. In the distance he heard the moaning of wounded Guardsmen. Occasionally Yorik would hear orders being barked, though he could not make out the words. It was probably that psyker again. All else was eerie quiet. As he searched his surroundings, he was very surprised to see a sizable contingent of Dark Angels congregating within the closest ruined building. These reinforcements must have routed the Xenos scum, the Guardsman reasoned. Carefully making his way through the rubble, Yorik moved in their direction.

When he was only a short distance away, Yorik could see three ancient machines placed in a semi-circle within the ruins. Standing before it, a Space Marine with finely decorated armor held a tiny disc-like object in his armored left hand. Yorik imagined that this must be the Dark Angel Captain. Before the Guardsman’s eyes, a holographic image projected itself from the strange device. It appeared to be a recording of some sort. It displayed a thin,robed, figure that began to speak. “Greetings Captain Tomas. I am Farseer Aramel of Craftworld Ulthwé.” The Eldar spoke Imperium basic with a strange accent. The words were clear and precise, but the inflection sounded forced and bizarre.

“Apologies for the subterfuge” the Eldar continued “it was the only way that we could retrieve these devices. Without them, you would not heed our warnings. Those you hunt are here. Know that they are our enemy also, and that we mean you no harm.” When the message ended, Captain Tomas crushed the projecting device in his fist. “Surely we cannot trust the Xenos scum?!” Blurted out Guardsman Yorik. The nearest Space Marine walked towards him, until he towered above Yorik. “Identify yourself Guardsman” he commanded. “Yes my lord!” Yorik exclaimed as he saluted. He then proceeded to stammer his name, rank and serial number. The super-human colossus nodded in acknowledgement “very well, Guardsman, you have served the Emperor well. Return to your unit” he commanded. “Yes my lord!” Yorik replied and went to rejoin the other Imperial Guard survivors. He had only taken a few steps when he heard shots fired nearby. He turned to see what was happening, only to come face to face with the Dark Angel’s bolt-pistol. Before he could say anything, the Astartes pulled the trigger.

Elsewhere, Chaos Lord Croxius lurked in the shadows, mounted upon his colossal warbike. The rest of his squad waited patiently behind him. In the distance, two Rhinos painted in Ultramarine colors rumbled toward an Imperial Guard checkpoint. The fools stood between Croxius and his goal. His misguided Astartes brothers had come seeking ancient gene-seed, to create more drones to serve the false emperor. “But they would not have it!” Croxius thought. The hated loyalist marines had hoarded his birthright for far too long. He would liberate the gene-seed and at long last the Legion would be allowed to grow, and engulf all of the Gods’ enemies. For this, he would be richly rewarded.

As soon as the Rhino transports came within sight of the Guardsmen, they were illuminated by several search lights. A vox-projector came to life with a loud burst of static “My lords!” exclaimed a nervous sounding Guardsman, “your Captain Titus has instructed us to ensure that none pass this point. We knew not to expect any Astartes from outside the perimeter” he continued. “Kindly speak the words of passage, and we shall hinder you no further” the Guardsman explained. Both transports activated their dirge casters. “For the Emperor!” twenty baritone voices shouted at the top of their genetically enhanced lungs. “Ah…indeed” replied the Guardsman, “but those are not quite the established words…if you…” At that point, the Rhinos accelerated to full speed and started to race towards the Imperial Guard lines. At the same time, their dirge casters began emitting a continuous stream of inhuman wailing and other disturbing, incomprehensible sounds.

Lord Croxius smiled wickedly as realization dawned upon the hapless humans. Thanks to the daemonic gifts that enhanced his already considerable Astartes physiology, he could hear the Guardsmen’s cries of terror. “Traitor marines!” Many of them shouted in shrill voices. The dirge casters’ symphonies were doing their work. The Imperial Guard scrambled to fire their guns at the advancing Rhinos, but it was too late. The chaos lord and his bikers revved their engines into a deafening roar and crashed onto the open cityscape, bellowing war cries and brandishing their cruel, daemon-morphed weapons. A pair of obliterators manifested out of the raw warp and unleashed powerful bolts of las-cannon fire upon the nearest enemy vehicle. The destructive beams burned deep holes into the Guardsman tank, turning it into a useless wreck.

As the chaos bikers rampaged across the battlefield, the Imperial Guard focused their firepower upon them. Two of their number were eventually shot off of their saddle, but Chroxius cared not. He hungered for carnage. Finally he reached the enemy’s lines and charged into the ranks of Guardsman infantry. They posed no real threat to the mighty chaos lord and he reveled in their slaughter. A demonic howl form above signaled a Helldrake’s arrival. It descended upon the puny mortals and bathed them in the glorious flames of Chaos. Meanwhile, the Alpha Legion warriors had jumped out of their camouflaged Rhinos. Together with the obliterators’ heavy weapons, they lay waste to the Guardsman infantry and armor.

Croxius gloried in his impending victory. The surprise of his attack had been complete, and the servants of the false emperor were being swept away like wheat before the scythe. The chaos lord was so consumed with thoughts of his inevitable ascension, that he failed to notice that the weight of Guardsman firepower was taking its toll on his squad. By the time he finished butchering a squad of guardsmen with his chain-sword, he found himself alone. It mattered not. He had been chosen by the Gods. Croxius knew with absolute certainty that no mortal weapon could harm him. He revved his bike’s engines once more and charged headlong into the last remaining squad of Guardsmen.

Hundreds of lasgun beams rained upon him. Croxius laughed at these pathetic attempts to slay him and accelerated. When he was almost face to face with this fresh enemy, the chaos lord sought to raise his chain-sword above his head. Inexplicably, his mighty muscles refused to comply. With all of his will, Croxius commanded his limb to move, but it would not budge. “What trickery is this?!” He wanted to bellow, but found that he had no voice. Unable to control his bike, Croxius was powerless to prevent his deviation into a pile of rubble. He crashed into it and was violently thrown off of his saddle. As he lied on his back, unable to move, the chaos lord realized that he was dying. Enslaved by his own bloodlust and thirst for power, Croxius had led his squad, alone, into the heart of the enemy forces. Heedless to his grievous wounds, he had fought on. Now, Croxius’ broken body was damaged far beyond its ability to heal. In his mind, the chaos lord howled in rage. But soon, his life-force was utterly spent. Somewhere within the warp, a Greater Daemon of Tzeench roared with laughter.

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Captain Tomas witnessed the complete annihilation of the Imperial Guard’s forces at the hands of the Alpha Legion. With his bike squad, Tomas had used the data retrieved from the sensor arrays to locate the Fallen. Having seen them with his own eyes, the Dark Angel was forced to accept that the Xenos had spoken truthfully, at least in part. He turned to one of his squad members and said “Librarian Darwyn must know of this. Inform him that our quarry has been found.” The marine nodded “it shall be done my captain. Also, Commissar Nemo wishes to know what befell the forces stationed at the abandoned manufactorum.” The Captain replied immediately “tell him that there were no survivors. The Tau slew all before we could intervene.”

Current Project: Clan Sorrgul Iron Hands

resized squad 2Tonight I would like to share with you my current project, Clan Sorrgul Iron Hands.  They are the 5th battle company of the Iron hands.  I always fancied the iron hands fluff and thought they looked really good.  After the drop of the 6th ed space marine codex and they finally got some rules love (and awesome ones to boot), I decided I would take the plunge.

This is my first serious attempt at painting a good quality space marine army, and in my mind that starts from the ground up with good quality models.  In terms of marines, I am using the new tactical box with the fine cast upgrade kits.  The models look suitably Iron Hands with a dash of bionics throughout the squad.

This army has no goals of seeing the table anytime soon.  I want it to be a project where I get the models I want and paint them to a level I am happy with before I send them to the table top.  For me, that means taking it slow.  I literally painted this tactical squad one marine at a time.

Resized 3 manUltimately I am happy with the results so far.  My line highlighting needs work, but I think that will come with practice.  I am not entirely pleased with how some of the transfers look.  I am using the forgeworld transfer sheets on them.  My flesh tones really need work (I am literally too embraced to put close up pictures of them up yet).

This group is pretty much done.  I am still missing the storm bolter top for the rhino.  I confess I did acquire my rhinos and drop pod second hand.  The rhino in the picture was the worst conditioned of the lot.  Instead of moving on to tactical squad two and its rhino, I think I will take a break from them for a week or so.  Maybe work on my nob bikers.

Let me know what you guys think so far.  Excuse my ghetto rigged photo studio.  I guess if I get serious about taking these photos I should get one of those little photo booths.