Ravenwing Landspeeders

Finally got round to doing something I had been meaning to do for a couple of years (at least) – more Landspeeders for my Ravenwing.

I have had a little clutch of these vehicles from the start but I have always been meaning to explore their weapon options (especially as Dark Angels can have five in a squadron, rather than the normal three). Most of my current Speeders are the ‘standard’ Heavy Bolter/Assault Cannon type, and they work well, often an addition to my armies. I also have a couple with Heavy Bolters only and one with a single Multi-melta.

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I kicked off with this guy, another equipped with a single Heavy Bolter – so far, so standard, really just there to put some padding into a large squadron if I work up the nerve to use one (they can get expensive, points-wise, very quickly).

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This was the first I really got cracking on – twin Multi-Meltas, a breeze at 80 points (as I recall, Codex not with me right now). Deep strikes onto the table, lets loose with two Multi-Melta shots, good chance of popping a tank immediately, and capable of doing reasonable damage against a super-heavy vehicle in one turn (though, granted, it will probably be Jinking for the rest of the game as the enemy tries to hunt it down!).

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This one goes in the opposite direction – two Heavy Flamers, designed for serious anti-infantry work, and at 60 points a real steal. However, you will note that it has purity seals (more on the other side), prayers/slogans, and has been titled Vindictus. I felt those additions could justify the Isstvan V Legacy of Glory which, for an extra 20 points, means it never scatters when it deep strikes. Cue lots of shenanigans where it can be placed exactly in the right place for maximum effect. Yesterday, Vindictus took part in a 2,000 pointer against Dark Eldar (battle report: We Won), where it toasted Kabalite Warriors as they rode around in Raiders and, at one point, managed to get both a Raider and a Venom with one attack. Dark Eldar do not tend to react too well to Heavy Flamers…

It also occurred to me (and yes, this should have come to mind immediately) that Vindictus makes the perfect leader for an entire squadron, as it can drop without scattering, and the rest of the Land Speeders form up upon it, rather than having to scatter round the table.

Anyway, for these points and this utility, I can see these two latter Speeders getting a lot of service (currently taking bets that the new forthcoming Dark Angel Codex takes these weapon options out…). I have a couple more sitting on my desk right now, all built aside from the weapon fits and as soon I get suitable parts in my bits box, they will be following these guys.

 

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Filthhammer

Yeah, I might get a little toasting for this, but I added a new unit to the Eldar this weekend – a Wraithknight and yes, it is armed with two heavy distortion cannon.

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There are people reading this who will laugh me off the Internet, but I actually have concerns for this chap’s survivability – Armour 3+ and 6 wounds is not going to be all that on a table dominated with the likes of Lascannon and Dark Lances, but we’ll see how he goes!

I already have in mind to get a second Wraithknight (hear me out before you throw things!), but this time armed with the Scattershield and Ghostglaive. To my immediate mind, it makes no good sense to take two ranged D weapons off a model and replace them with an invulnerable save (5+, nice, but nothing to sing about) and a close combat D weapon. However, I love the idea of this big model pegging it towards the enemy as quickly as possible – it is going to take a disciplined opponent to not fire everything he can at it and focus on objectives instead.

I also got round to putting together some of the new Jetbikes, both Craftworld and Harlequin – they go together really nicely (no more hollowness under the canopy, they have flat bottoms) and GW is right – you can see the close relationship between the two in terms of construction. Looking forward to getting a lick of paint on them!

Managed to get some other pieces done, including a few things I have been meaning to get round to for a long while – will cover them in posts later this week!

Review: Codex Eldar Craftworlds

So, I have a copy of the new Codex: Eldar Craftworlds, very possibly the most controversial book released by Games Workshop since, well, ever, really. It certainly has the various gaming forums alight with people ‘debating’ the rumours and leaks that have surrounded this tome. Are they right?

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The first thing you notice – it is a big book, the size of Codex: Space Marines, and with the same price tag. And if pretty Codexes are your thing, you will not be disappointed.

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There are some re-used pieces of art, but plenty of brand new items too, including a nice colour picture of an entire craftworld floating through space, the first time we have really seen that kind of detail.

As you would expect with a book of this size, there is a lot of background material, covering not just the individual units but the different craftworlds too, including…

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… the lesser known ones. Interesting point here, the Altansar Craftworld on the top left of that picture is almost exactly the same colour scheme as my own Altsain Craftworld. Obviously just a variant spelling from a different part of the galaxy.

And, of course, the obligatory ‘hobby’ section, which has everything you need to get inspired to do the forces of an entire craftworld.

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However, I am guessing that at least 92% of you don’t give two figs about any of that in a review, and want me to get into the heart of things – the rules and army lists.

I will say this to begin with – after spending a few days with this book, I think Games Workshop have hit the nail right on the head with Codex: Eldar Craftworlds, in terms of both rules and (shock!) game balance. The trick I think GW has managed to pull off is that they have got people looking at various units and saying ‘OMG, how do I fight such a beast?’ And yet, within the structure of the army, everything balances – as a games designer myself, I am impressed. This is exactly what you want to aim for when you release a new army/army list.

Perhaps I should explain.

Yes, there are some really nasty units in this book, and the Internet has been alight with S6 Jetbikes and D Weapons. However, there are some balancing factors…

 

Balance Factor 1

These ‘super’ units all have weaknesses that can be exploited. For example, our local Dark Eldar player had his eyes light up when he saw the new Craftworld Jetbikes, as he saw immediately that his own Jetbikes could have the edge on them, being geared to close combat. And close combat is certainly the Achilles’ Heel of Craftworlders. Anything that can close in and nobble Marine Equivalents, as they are called, will be well suited to engaging Jetbikes.

This is just one side of the equation, of course. A bunch of ten Jetbikes armed with Scatter Lasers (which is possibly the wrong choice, incidentally, Shuriken Cannon may be the better option – the reduced range is neither here nor there, and you get the poor man’s Rending on top) is a fearsome thing with enough shots to glance an AV12 vehicle to death and force Terminators to make enough saving throws that a sizeable number will fall.

All well and good. However, that Jetbike unit is going to ring in at over 300 points (you will put a Warlock with them). And, more to the point, it is as vulnerable to shooting as Marines are – if you can kill Marines, you can kill these guys. Sure, they get a Jink against low AP weapons, but that is the point – you want them to Jink. As soon as your Eldar opponent declares a Jink, give yourself a pat on the back as you have just eroded his ability to fight greatly. And when you do it in one round, make sure you do it the next.

In short, there are some seriously tasty units in this Codex that can do some seriously nasty things to you – but that has always been the case with Eldar, specialising in one area to a degree beyond other armies. However, every such unit also has its weakness, and they have not been removed in this edition.

 

Balance Factor 2

This point will not be popular, so I will use an analogy to begin with.

I have used Imperial Knights in the past. My opponents want to use Imperial Knights themselves – but I recommend them not to do so.

From their point of view, they see this big, strong killing machine that marches straight over their troops and wins battles. But that is not how it appears from my point of view. I see the problems in deploying knights. I see the huge points cost that gouges a hole in my army list. I see the limited number of targets it can engage. And I see how an allied knight never, ever earns its points during a battle.

Basically, I am saying people are looking at various Eldar units in fear, without appreciating what life is like for the Eldar player (I know, I know, poor little Eldar player, life might actually happen to him…).

The balancing factor in this Codex rests with the Craftworld Warhost detachment and its resulting formations. In a nutshell, you will never, ever have everything you want or even think you need in a battle. The points costs will knock you over every time and, when you look at your army, it will seem pitifully small.

The problem starts with the core Battlehost/Windrider Host/Stormhost – they will rock in at over 600 points, without having too many ‘toys’ added. And you can forget about Wave Serpents being present. The Wraith Host, with all those D weapons, is over 1,000 points – so, in a 1,500 point game, you won’t see it due to the Battlehost cost. There is an awesome combo involving never-scattering Falcons unloading BS 5 Aspe ct Warriors right in your opponents back line – but take it in a 1,500 point game and you won’t have anything else beyond the Battlehost.

And that is the issue. The mandatory Battlehost (of whatever flavour rocks your boat) is not merely a tax to get access to other goodies. It is enough points that it actually has to perform in a battle. You cannot just rely on the ‘cool’ stuff, the Battlehost has to earn its points and place in the army – and three Guardian squads, even with free weapons platforms, are going to struggle with that against many armies. Even the Windrider Host will not be that awesome when you start working out how many points it is sucking up and then realise it is just three Battle Cannon templates (or whatever) from being rendered down to BS 1.

So, whatever horrors you think you will face when fighting Eldar, there will never be very many of them, and your opponent will have had issues just getting those on the table.

 

Balance Factor 3

The counterpoint here is, of course, to screw the new detachment and just use Combined Arms. Yes, you can do that, but here is the thing – as an Eldar player, you want to use the Warhost detachment, simply because the additional benefits are so nice and, of course, the whole power behind Eldar is getting the synergy between your units going to magnify the effects of all. That is what wins you the games, not the single awesome unit.

So, how could GW possibly tempt you away from the (near) free choice of Combined Arms and the ObSec it gives to boot? Well, let me list a few examples…

Craftworld Warhost: If you go for the big detachment, the first thing you get is Matchless Agility, which always counts the dice as a 6 when you Run. Nice enough when you consider a) your Guardians are probably walking now and b) Banshees can now reliably move and run 15″, but there is another nice benefit lurking a little further on.

Guardian Battlehost: You now get free weapons platforms for your Guardians. Nice enough but, so long as they stay close to the Guardians, the Vypers, War Walkers and Vaul’s Wrath also get Preferred Enemy. Worth thinking about.

Windrider Host: Once per game, the Shuriken units (see, told you not go go heavy on Scatter lasers) gain Shred. Actually not the sexiest of benefits.

Guardian Stormhost: Like the Battlehost, but you get free flamers/fusion guns and power swords.

Seer Council: Harness Warp Charges on a 3+. Got to love that.

Aspect Host: Pick WS or BS, then +1 to it for all units in this formation. Think about Fire Dragons and/or Dark Reapers for a moment. Oh, and the units get to re-roll failed Morale, Pinning and Fear. Then think about putting them in three Falcons and putting them down on the table exactly where you want them…

Dire Avenger Shrine: BS 5 for your Avengers, re-roll Morale, etc, and once per game everyone gets an extra shot.

Crimson Death: Three Crimson Hunters that get a 4+ cover save all the time and, if you choose to Jink, you get to re-roll it.

Wraith Host: If you are near to the Spiritseer, you get to re-roll misses. Nice enough, but glance upwards on that page – you might just have missed the bit where it says the units of this formation gain Battle Focus. Now go back to the top of this section and re-read the benefit of the Craftworld Warhost detachment as a whole…

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As you go through this book, you will constantly hit upon bits and pieces that make you think twice (in dread if you are fighting Eldar, with a smile if they are your army). Fire Dragons, for example, gain +1 on the vehicle damage table – they can one shot a Land Raider (say) on a 4+. Dark Eldar Raiders and Ork Trukks pop on a 3+. Howling Banshee Exarchs reduce enemy Leadership by -2. Dire Avengers Overwatch at BS 2.

Lots of little things like that, and I think we are looking at a good few months before everything is shaken out of this Codex and people start leaning one way or another when it comes to tactics.

However, it is clear that a lot of different tactics are possible with this Codex (I haven’t even glanced at a Wave Serpent yet when building army lists, and they remain quite good!).

In all, I think GW have done rather a good job here.

 

 

 

High Elf Tactical Thoughts

We have just finished another Mighty Empires-based campaign for Warhammer Fantasy (High Elves won!) and so it seemed like a good time to review the units used and the tactics that were built around them. I am not going to go through the entire army list, just covering the units that were actually used (though, to be fair, you can make a very good army just out of these).

 

Heroes and Lords

At the 1,500 point level we were playing at, you don’t get much room for Heroes and Lords as a High Elf, even with the new 50% allowances.

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My first choice was always an Archmage, pumped up to Level 4 and carrying the Book of Hoeth. He had some other bits and pieces, but they tended to be optional. The high level and Book were what was important. In the past, I always gave him the Lore of High Magic but in this campaign I tried out the Lore of Life – and loved it. Hiding within a unit of Dragon Knights (see later), he helped make the cavalry a very nasty unit.

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Second choice was always a basic Level 2 Mage, normally carrying a Dispel Scroll and maybe a Channelling Staff. He sat in the  main block of Archers for protection and concentrated on either the Lore of Metal (to deal with heavily armoured units, such as cavalry and Chaos Warriors) or the Lore of Death (going after single models that could otherwise be quite nasty, like Vampires and Hell Pit Abominations).

The combination of these two meant the High Elves always, and I mean always, dominated the magic phase of every battle they fought. The magic phase belonged to them, no other way of putting it. However, it did mean that I had no super-warrior characters that could go toe-to-toe with enemies in challenges.

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I briefly experimented with a Noble leading the Dragon knights but, with the Archmage in there too, it was an 800-point unit waiting for a disaster to happen. Very powerful, no argument there, especially with the Archmage casting the likes of Regrowth to bring dead Knights back and Flesh to Stone, giving them hideous toughness. They never suffered the major disaster I feared, but it is something to bear in mind when using them. Still, it is also a lot of fun absolutely annihilating anything they manage to charge.

 

Core Units

I would really have liked to take more Core Units than I did but, at 1500 points a High Elf army does not have a lot of room to breathe, and you will need to draw from the Special and Hero/Lord choices to have an effective army.

Lacking Silver Helms, I dispensed with the idea of an all cavalry army and though I have a couple of units of Sea Guard, went with Archers instead to keep the points down.

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A single big block of Archers became a standard feature of the army, topping out at 30-odd models, in three ranks – not for the horde bonus, it is just that as a High Elf you want shooting warriors in three ranks (because of the Fight in Extra Rank rule they get). Archers are not all that, true, and they will generally be second-class compared to their counterparts among the Wood Elves but if you have enough of them, they make even big monsters think twice. No upgrades on this unit other than the Hawkeye leading them.

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I backed them up with a single unit of five Reavers. I had wanted (and painted up!)  a second unit, but could never squeeze them into the force – a shame, as having one unit on each flank would work well. They carry both spears and bows but have no other upgrade, leaving them at a neat 95 points, just low enough to not mind too much if they get wiped out. As it happened, they ended up quite survivable, with only Wood Elves paying them any great attention. They work as a real nuisance unit, bombing round the battlefield to interrupt marches, hammer lone wizards and war machines and possibly perform a charge into a weakened unit.

 

Special Units

This is possibly where the real strength of High Elves lie.

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The Dragon Knights saw a lot of action and ended up being fielded in a block of ten, including a Noble and Archmage – very, very expensive, but very survivable and very powerful on the charge (and yes, I gave them the Banner of the World Dragon – there really is no choice in 1500 points when the unit as a whole takes up more than half your force…).

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Towards the end, I switched the Dragon knights out for Swordmasters, again with the Banner of the World Dragon to keep them safe against enemy magic. The idea here was that they might be more survivable with their greater numbers, and possibly more powerful with their high Strength attacks not being reliant on the charge. Overall, that is a pretty fair assessment of them and I drool when I think of a big block of 40-odd…

 

Rare Units

I only ever delved into Rare units twice for this campaign.

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The Sky Cutter is a lovely model, and I opted for it over a Lion Chariot. If I am honest, the Lion Chariot would probably be more potent. Lots of mobility with the Cutter, but you are not going to want to get it into close combat and the reduced range bolt thrower is… okay at best.

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The Sisters of Avelorn, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. The average-sized block above are just shy of 300 points (the High Sister goes with them and has a magic bow that kicks out three shots per turn) but they can absolutely annihilate almost any target within a turn or three. A base BS of 5 means they rarely miss, and their magic arrows hit hard. These girls get a Gold Star recommendation for any High Elf force.

 

On the Battlefield

My general tactics against the enemy armies in the campaign (two Wood Elf forces, Vampire Counts, and Skaven) were to never, ever, ever directly engage any enemy, unless it was completely on my own terms. Despite this causing some derision among some opponents (why do you not stand and fight? Coward!), the mobility of a High Elf army allows you to do just this which means you can get the best-suited unit matched against the weakest enemy time and again (in many ways they really are the Craftworld Eldar of fantasy).

The Archers (sometimes accompanied by the Sisters) formed a solid base line that anchored the whole army and, frankly, I had no intention of moving them, ever. Their orders were to stand and launch as many arrows as they could against the enemy.

The faster moving units, such as the Reavers and Sky Cutter, roamed the flanks, looking to slip past (or fly over!) the main line of enemy units. Once they punched through, their goal was to cause as much trouble as possible, slowing units from behind while peppering them with arrows, and going after lone characters and war machines. If an enemy so much as sneezed near them, they retreated and came back in a later turn.

Meanwhile, the mages hurled spells at the enemy, everything from Dwellers below to various magic missiles. Anything to help the Archers whittle down the enemy.

Then, and only then, the close combat guys charged, either Knights or Swordmasters, preferably into a now weakened enemy that had no chance to halt them.

A simple approach, but it worked time and again.

Can’t wait until the next campaign!

Siege!

An aborted Traveller session did not stop the lads coming round and a bout of Fantasy Battle erupted. They wanted to try something a little different, so I pulled the old castle out for a good old-fashioned assault!

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The Vampire Counts (Alan) had taken over an old Empire fortress, and were being rooted out by a combined Wood Elf force (James and Andy).

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The presence of unpainted and half-painted models tells you that I was not taking part in this battle…

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When I dug out the fortress, I found an old pre-painted tavern from EM4 Miniatures. Not sure it is still available, but a nice piece of terrain is always welcome, and at least the zombies have something to drink while they wait for the elves to appear (it is not as if the Vampire Counts are raining arrows down on their enemies…).

Heavy Weapons in the Jungle

Just a quickie today – last night I polished off the first squad of the second Catachan platoon, doing their scenic bases (photos when the platoon is done), but I also completed the first heavy weapons team.

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They likely won’t be fielded as a complete team, as an Autocannon, Mortar and Missile Launcher do not make for the best match-up, but beggars can’t be choosers on eBay!

I have continued the trend started with the Missile Launcher team, using GW’s jungle trees and/or artifical fish tank scenery, and it seems to be working well.

Now I just have to figure out how to do tanks in the same vein…

Codex Star Wars Downloads

Okay, enough already – an awful lot of you want PDFs of the Star Wars Codexes we did for Warhammer 40,000!

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After digging my inbox out of the deluge of emails asking for copies, I finally came to the conclusion that it was just possible that other gamers might want to have a play themselves. Always happy to oblige.

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You can now download Codex: Rebel Alliance here.

And you can download Codex: Galactic Empire here.

Hope you all enjoy them!