Think of the Children! A response to Warhammer Adventures and the ensuing panic

 

So, as usual, it feels like I’m late in responding to an issue that hundreds of others have already given their two cents on. Life, and horrible writer’s block, prevail again it seems. Anyway, for anyone who hasn’t noticed the latest “controversy” in the world of Warhammer 40,000, Games Workshop has recently unveiled Warhammer Adventures, a pair of book series aimed at “boys and girls aged 8-12,” with what looks like a series each for Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar. The 40k book, Attack of the Necron,  focuses on three children (a “ganger,” an “explorer” and a “Martian”) going off on an adventure together, while the AoS story, City of Lifestone, focuses on an escaped slave, a young clockmaker (I…think) and a young mage…also off on an adventure. In the latter half, it’s pretty standard high fantasy fare. In the case of the former story…I will admit, all I could do was sit back and laugh at some of the character descriptions. The “ganger” child is in fact a deserter from the Imperial Guard, and the “explorer” girl, despite being the child of a Rogue Trader, is also apparently an avowed pacifist. In other words, two characters that really couldn’t survive for long in the 40kverse.

But after my laughter calmed down, I looked and saw the internet collectively losing its minds over these books. I saw some people screaming that GW was trying to indoctrinate kids, that they were introducing them into a universe that is waaaaaay too violent for them to be ready for. Others have been reacting with laughter, wondering aloud how one is going to make a universe full of blood, filth, mass genocide, religious intolerance, and Slaanesh and all things Slaaneshi, kid-friendly. Others still have been terrified that it will be made kid-friendly, that the entire universe is going to be effectively neutered, that a lot of the violence will be downgraded to make it more kid-compatible. And of course, this being the internet, naturally there have also been the usual people declaring this to be all part of the nefarious SJW agenda, because what else could it be?

I’m going to say now: some of the concern I am seeing over this new book line is not unwarranted or unreasonable.  Because of this, as much as I believe in encouraging kids to read, and getting them involved in the hobby, I understand why some people are reticent to do so with Warhammer 40,000. With other IPs such as Star Wars, the violence is fairly diluted, limited to a lot of colourful explosions and fantastic action. But 40k not only depicts grim, horrible violence, it at times revels in it– after all, the “protagonists” of the setting are a xenocidal theocracy engaged in a constant state of total war with everyone and everything, a place where personal freedoms are nil and the lives of its citizens are nasty, brutish and short. The literary arm of 40k has, for the most part, almost always been aimed at adults, with most of the novels (and particularly the more noteworthy titles like the Horus Heresy series) not only diving headfirst into the violence, but also dealing with meaty political/social/religious issues and complex (or sometimes just attempts at complex) character development that might be lost on a reader from the 8-12 age group.

At the same time, however, I firmly believe that kids should be encouraged to read as early as possible, that their ability to handle difficult subjects should be gradually challenged to help prepare them for eventual adulthood, and that literacy, regardless of what form it takes, is something to be promoted. How ready children are for certain subject matter, however, I think varies, depending on the child, on their level of development/education, and most of all, what their parents think. I, for one, were I dad, would hesitate to give my child something from the Horus Heresy series to read, though I might not have these reservations with the Felix and Gotrek series, or, if I thought they were ready for them, maybe the Ciaphas Cain or Gaunt’s Ghosts novels.

In looking through the internet for various thoughts and responses to this new novel line, I found one YouTuber who has had, in my opinion, the most reasonable response to Warhammer Adventures so far. Long story short, he doesn’t think it’s as terrible as the internet is making it out to be. He even cites a Twitter post from Attack of the Necron author Cavan Scott, who, in his Twitter feed, has admitted that he is trying to balance kid-friendly content with the dark themes of 40k– that, even in a kid’s novel, he is trying to do the setting justice.

My own thoughts: a lot of the flak these books are getting are either that you’ll end up introducing kids to the sheer brutality of 40k at too early an age, or, on the flip side, that you’ll be neutering the violence of the universe to make it more kid friendly. I wish to point out that a lot of kids’ literature dives right into mature and often violent themes already, but handles it in a fairly measured, tasteful manner. Harry Potter comes to mind, as does His Dark Materials, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Redwall…hell, even Saturday morning cartoons, past and present, can be surprisingly adult. Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Star Wars: Clone Wars and Rebels all come to mind as shows that are either secretly made for the adults, or are giving their kid audiences a lot more credit than their parents.

In all of the above examples I’ve named, themes of war, oppression, violence, loss, heartbreak, religious/racial intolerance and even politics are all addressed in a surprisingly mature way, but not gratuitously so. They soften the blow of a lot of these topics, but at the same time, not to the degree that they end up treating their readers/audiences like idiots. Personally, I don’t think GW will be so dumb as to, say, throw horrendous decapitations or mutilations into the book, or introduce them to Slaanesh/the Dark Eldar. If they play their cards right, they will hopefully be able to make something kid friendly while still retaining a lot of the dark themes of the universe.

There is, of course, the fear that once these kids grow older and “graduate” into more mainstream 40k, it may come as a shock to them just how much more bleak and pitiless the setting is compared to the children’s books. This is a dilemma for which I see no easy answer: I honestly think a lot of that will depend on, again, how the children’s books themselves are written: otherwise, this is a change that may have to be explained by the parents and/or the managers at hobby centres.

Some people have also been afraid that this will lead to making the entire universe more kid-friendly, dwelling particularly over the fact that very premise of Attack of the Necron breaks away from fluff, since one of the children is essentially an Imperial Guard deserter, and another is a pacifist.  I personally feel, though, that these fears are unwarranted, primarily because GW knows that it’s adults that drive the majority of its sales and constitute it’s longest-running consumer base. I strongly suspect that Warhammer Adventures will remain its own small, isolated little alternate universe that won’t affect the main story whatsoever.

And as mentioned above, I’ve also seen some detractors declare this to be part of an attempt by the “social justice crowd” to diversify WH40k and impose a PC agenda, to ruin Warhammer “just like they did with Marvel and Magic the Gathering, etc etc”…to which I can only scratch my head in puzzlement. Are these complaints over the fact that there are female, and non-white characters in the casts of these two books? Is there some contract, somewhere, that I’m missing that states that all characters in WH40k/AoS have to be white and male (despite 40k being set in a universe with billions upon billions of people and potentially thousands of ethnic groupings, and AoS being…well, a fantasy universe)? While I can agree somewhat with the arguments that this seems like an attempt at PC tokenism, at the same time I fail to see how the inclusion of a few nonwhite/nonmale characters is hurting anyone. Call me naive, but I do not see this as a slippery slope towards degrading or eliminating all characters in the universe who happen to be male and white (just look at half of the new special characters in 40k if you don’t believe me). I see this, quite frankly, as an overreaction, no more, no less, and one that I hope will calm down over time.

The bottom line is, I am all for anything that gets kids reading or interested in reading: I think literacy is an essential thing to foster at a young age. I also happen to know quite a few gamers who are parents, and in almost all cases that I’ve seen, their kids have expressed an interest in their dads’ wargames (sons AND daughters, I should add). So no, I really don’t see the harm in Warhammer Adventures, nor do I think it is going to negatively impact the hobby in any way. Of course, this is all speculation at this point: we may never know until the novels hit the shelves and become available. But even when we do, we should not fret over them, because we are not the target audience. At the end of the day, freaking out that a bunch of children’s books will ruin our hobby comes across as…dare I say it, immature.

Naturally, of course, you may not agree with me, and that is fine: you are welcome to deconstruct my arguments and/or type abuse at me in comments. I’m always happy to hear what any readers of this little blog think.

*P.S. You’ll note that I have been talking mainly about 40k in this article, and not so much about Age of Sigmar. This is because, in my view, the high fantasy setting of Age of Sigmar is a lot less grim and brooding than 40k, and thus, by it’s very nature, is a lot more palatable for the child audience. True, things like the Khorne Bloodbound and Daughters of Khaine still exist, but in my view, Age of Sigmar does not revel in its own grimdarkness to the same extent as 40k. Besides which, high fantasy has been a favoured stomping ground of children’s literature since time immemorial, and honestly, I think Age of Sigmar will have fewer complications as a background setting for a children’s book than 40k will.

When Dwarven gods get angry…

So I just want to share something very quickly. Last night I was participating in a session of the D&D starter campaign, wherein the party was confronting the Bugbear King Grol in his throne room. The Human Warrior and the Dragonborn Ranger were both nearly dead, and while the Dragonborn had early managed to take off a third of Grol’s health with a whirlwind attack of axes, the Bugbear was only down a third of his health. In desperation, my Dwarven cleric, Baern Anvilbreaker, conjured Spiritual Weapon, summoning a ghostly, flying hammer from his patron god, Marthammor Duin….

…which proceeded to crit, and roll max damage with a shot aimed at Grol’s nethers! The Bugbear King was instantly taken out by one low blow from a ghostly hammer, after everything else had just bounced off of his armour!

I am now advocating that the Nutcracker of Marthammor Duin be a rare artefact in the game.

Faith Rewarded: The plastic Sisters of Battle reveal

So, I acknowledge that I am criminally late in posting this, especially since I am a Sisters of Battle player. The past weekend has been both busy and…well, complicated for me, and so I have been somewhat distracted.

That being said…ohmygodanewSororitasminiIcan’tbelieveit’sactuallyhappeningaaaaaaaaaaa  is pretty much what my reaction was last Saturday.

To recap: WarhammerFest 2018 happened last Saturday in the UK, and among the many things that were previewed were the upcoming Adeptus Titanicus game, the new Nighthaunt army for Age of Sigmar, assorted Horus Heresy stuff…and the first preview of what the new Sisters of Battle are going to look like. And…all I can say is wow. The detailing on the model is absolutely beautiful– in particular I am blown away by the detail on her face (including the scarification), the smoothness and detail of the armour, and even her scenic base. The model almost perfectly captures the classic Sisters of Battle illustration that it’s being shown next to– so much so that a few users on Sisters of Battle boards have even wondered if she is going to be a new special character– ie, possibly Sister Miriya from the Faith and Fire novel that uses that illustration on the cover. I personally think it’s doubtful, but you never know.

There are a few important things to keep in mind, though: this is just a preview model, which means that, firstly, this particular model may not necessarily become part of the line when it’s released, and secondly, the actual range may not necessarily look like this, although I think it’s safe to say that this looks close. Some friends of mine have also pointed out that the model seems unusually smooth and clean-cut: this leads me to suspect that this is either a computer-generated test image, or an enlarged test model. If either case, then I think it’s unlikely that the final product’s level of detail will still be fantastic.

Even if it isn’t this fantastic, however, I will still be happy. If this model is anything to go by, then the new Sisters of Battle models will be everything that SoB players have been hoping for– dynamic, detailed and ornate, while not straying too far from the look of the original metal models. While I’m not about to ditch my current metal army for the new plastics (I have devoted too much time and effort to them for that), I will definitely be getting the new plastic minis to bolster their ranks.  Furthermore, while this mini has given me a decent idea of what the basic Battle Sisters will look like, I now find myself wondering about how the more specialized units will look when they’re– ie, Seraphim and Celestians, not to mention characters (hopefully they will have more than just Saint Celestine). I’m hoping they also do some of the Ecclesiarchy stuff, particularly Arco-Flagellants and Penitent Engines (the latter of which have some of the most horribly hard to assemble minis on the planet). And I’ll admit, a small part of me is hoping for a plastic return of the Repressor…

Your Army, Your Story: Naming Your Astra Militarum Regiment

(All artwork property of Games Workshop, used without permission on a non-profit basis)
This is one part of a series I hope to make on creating background for one’s army in 40k. I might not restrict myself to 40k, by the way, though I confess I have yet to explore Age of Sigmar that closely, nor do other games, like Infinity or the various Star Wars games, seem to lend themselves to creating individual army backgrounds. Regardless, I hope this is the first article of many.

 

In this article, I’m going to be looking specifically at the Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum/whatever you prefer to call them. When coming up with a backstory for your IG regiment (assuming you are making your own homegrown regiment instead of using one of GW’s existing units, like the Cadians), obviously you will need to come up with fluff for things like the planet they come from and its society, the regiment’s structure and doctrine, the major characters, etc etc. One essential aspect that binds all of these factors together, however, and can help inform you when writing them, is the name of the regiment. The name is, in many ways, the label on the tin: the first thing that gives clues to  whoever is reading your fluff what the army is about, what they do, what the character of the army is, etc, and in that regard will say a lot about your army.

One thing that I always found interesting about the Guard is their naming structure: while some armies have flashy, dramatic names for their subfactions (ie the various Space Marine chapters and Chaos legions, with names like “Salamanders” or “Night Lords” designed to inspire awe and/or fear), or names that just revolve around the name of a particular planet or family (ie T’au Septs, Eldar Craftworlds, Necron Dynasties), the Imperial Guard have a much more formalized, approach. A regiment’s name is usually the number of the regiment, followed by the name of the world they are from, and the particular name of their fighting force. Hence, you get names like the “12th Cadian Shock Troopers,” the “572nd Krieg Siege Regiment,” etc etc. When coming up with a name for your home-grown Imperial Guard army, it’s not enough to simply come up with a name for their homeworld and call it a day (although naming their planet is always a very important step): you may in fact need to come up with a formal name for the regiment itself. Hopefully, this article will help with that. And as you will hopefully see, the name of your regiment will do a lot to help you fill in the gaps of their background– what kind of world they come from, what their combat doctrine/culture is, etc.

Note: throughout this article I will be referencing actual regiments found on Lexicanum, and providing links where applicable. However, every once in a while I will throw up an example made up by me as well, which I will denote with an asterisk. (*)

Elysian_Drop_Troops_grav-chute
ROLE
One of the simplest ways to name an Imperial Guard regiment is, quite literally, to describe what they do. Quite simply, what type of regiment are they? Are they an airborne regiment, or an armoured division? Get an idea of what your army’s overall theme is– even taking a cue from your army list or collection if need be– and then apply that to your regiment’s name.
Some examples of what they could be:
-Light Infantry
-Rangers (ie light/mobile infantry)
-Paratroopers/Airborne troops
-Artillery
-Armoured Division
-Heavy Infantry/Shock Troopers
-Conscripts/Volunteers/A hastily assembled militia

Notable examples:

Cadian Shock Troopers
Elysian Drop Troopers
-Minervan Tank Legions
-Kroshin Grenadiers
-Kellersburg Irregulars
-Asgardian Rangers
-Orn’s World Militia
Semtexian Bombardiers
-Sarpoy Mechanized Cavalry

 5a8c58237d75fc7f9ead1fec4fed6e99.jpg
.
ENVIRONMENT
One unique facet of the Imperial Guard is that it includes regiments dedicated to fighting in specific environments. This is because the Imperium features a lot of single-biome planets (whether this is due to it being a big galaxy with limitless environmental possibilities, or lazy writing, is a matter of debate). As such, it is not unheard of or uncommon to have entire regiments that specialise in fighting in specific terrain types

Notable examples:
Tallarn Desert Raiders
Catachan Jungle Fighters|
Valhallan Ice Warriors
Drookian Fen Guard
Dieprian Mountain Men

STEAL BORROW FROM HISTORY

The 41st millennium is a universe drenched in anachronistic antiquity, with futuristic technology juxtaposed at every turn with gothic aesthetics and culture. The Imperium is a setting that features spaceships that look like cathedrals, and knights jousting in giant robots, and fashion, architecure and decoration that ranges from the early twentieth century to medieval times. As such, it makes sense to indulge in that antiquity by using a suitably old, or even ancient name for your regiment. As long as there has been human history, there has been a history of warfare, and that history has produced a long list of military formations and roles across dozens of cultures (as any history buff or Total War aficionado will tell you). By the same token, the Imperium is a huge place with a huge variety of cultures, many of which, conveniently enough, are similar to those of ancient Earth (hence why you end up getting things like Space Vikings and Space Mongols). The Imperium is a huge place with seemingly limitless possibilities in terms of cultural or social divergences, or historical allusions, so your imagination really is the limit.

One good source of inspiration is to simply open a history book (or appropriate Wikipedia article) and find a good name from there. The best part is, given the wide and diverse nature of the Astra Militarum, any era of history is open for you to explore, be it the Napoleonic Wars, the battles of ancient Greece and Rome, the various wars of feudal Japan– the history of the world is your oyster. Going down this route really is, not just a great opportunity to come up with a unique name for your regiment, but to get an idea of what kind of wonderfully weird, historically anachronistic planet they come from.

Some examples of historical units whose names you can steal…er, borrow…include:

Fusiliers
-Dragoons
Carabiniers
-Hoplites
-Cataphracts
Arquebusiers
Immortals
-Janissaries
-Huscarls
-Shield-Maidens (if you want to go for an all-girl, Norse-themed regiment)
-Lancers
Voltigeurs
Jagers
-Minutemen
Mamelukes
-Hussars (bonus points if they are Winged Hussars)

Notable examples in lore:

Pyran Dragoons
Scintillan Fusiliers
-Samothrace Hoplites
Volscani Cataphracts
-Finrecht Highlanders
-Maccabean Janissaries/Byzant Janizars
-Khulan Huscarls
-Annwyn Errants*
-Midgardia Shieldbearers*
-Theron Companions*

Some military units have culture-specific names, which you can either use in their entirety, or alter somewhat to reflect how that culture has morphed in 40,000 across the stars:

Knovian Gharkas (which appears to be based on the actual Gurkhas)
-Rudinav Kazaks (made up by me, but based on Russian Cossacks)

 

VentrillianNobles

SOCIAL STATUS/ROLE
Sometimes, Imperial Guard regiments are raised from a particular strata of a world’s society. For instance, in some cases, only the elite and the upper-class of society are inducted into the Guard, and may see such an induction as a privilege of their status. Other times, though, the Guard regiments will be inducted from the lowest of the low, with the poor being drafted up en mass and sent off to foreign battlefields either to pay off their debts, to earn freedom (if their particular world practices slavery), to earn pardons (if they are prisoners, or come from a prison world) or simply because they are deemed expendable by their rulers. In either case, the social status of the regiment would be reflected on their models, with an “aristocratic” regiment getting fancy wargear, uniforms and colours, while a “lower class” regiment would be much more drab in appearance. Either way, in those instances the name of the regiment will indicate their social status.

Notable examples in lore include:

Jantine Patricians
Royal Volpone Bluebloods
-Ventrillian Nobles
Jopall Indentured Squadrons
Zenonian Free Company
-Bar-el Penal Legions

In other cases, social role need not necessarily be dictated by social class. Sometimes, if a particular industry is dominant on a planet (such as mining, or hunting, or logging, etc), then most if not all of a regiment’s Guardsmen may be recruited from said industry– so, for instance, you could have an entire regiment of miners, or huntsmen, or loggers, or fishermen, etc etc, which might be reflected in the name.

Examples:

-Roane Deepers
-Huntsmen of Araloth*

 

KymmeMiasmanRedcowls

UNIFORM OR WEAPON
In some cases, you have Guard regiments literally named after their equipment, gear or weapons. This has a historical context, as “the So-And-So Rifles” was a common regiment name used throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and, given again the antiquarianism of the Imperium, would be an all too suitable name for a quickly-raised, easily deployed regiment of infantry. On the other hand, a regiment could have a distinctive uniform or weapons from which they borrow their name, be it the “RandomPlanet Silver Helms” or the “Nowhereland Axes”, etc. This could also be a great way to tie your regiment name to your army’s appearance, particularly if you have a distinctive paint scheme or modelling theme going on.

Examples:

-Framlingham Rifles
-Miasman Redcowls
Brontian Longknives
-Greygarden Greatcoats*

574_large

BECAUSE IT SOUNDS COOL
In many cases, your regiment’s name doesn’t have to owe anything to its battlefield role, or to military history, or to the society that it came from. Sometimes the simplest way to name your regiment is to answer the question, “What sounds cool?” And that is perfectly acceptable– if it is an awesome sounding name, then don’t worry if no real military unit, past or present, would use it– this is, after all, a big universe, with things that will stretch belief a lot more than an outlandish army name.

Notable examples:

Mordian Iron Guard
Armageddon Steel Legion
Vostroyan Firstborn
Death Korps of Krieg
Harakoni Warhawks
-Molech Firescions
Savlar Chem-Dogs
Tekarn Iron Fists
-Lattari Gundogs

hqdefault

REGIMENTAL NICKNAME

In some cases, a regiment will have a unique nickname. This nickname can be just about anything, and could come from a wide variety of sources: for instance, the regiment could have an animal that serves as their mascot/totem/etc (ie, “the 23rd Tallarn Desert Tigers”). In other instances, they may be named after a particularly illustrious commander (ie “Mercer’s Marauders”), or after a reputation they have, for better or for worse (ie, “the Ork-Slayers” if they have a high success rate against the Orks, or the “Leadfoots” if they use a lot of tanks…or are just very slow-moving). When in doubt, you could look to real-world examples as well, such as “the Screaming Eagles,” “the Princess Pats,” etc. For further reference, here are some links with examples of famous nicknames in the British,US and Canadian armed forces.

Examples in lore include:

2nd Catachan “Green Vipers”
-101st Mordant “Lucky 13s”
9th Necromundan “Spiders”
Tanith First and Only, “Gaunt’s Ghosts”
-22nd Ketzok “Serpents”
-5th Maccabean “Drusus’ Own”

 

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:

In case you’re still struggling to come up with a good name, there is an easy, catch-all solution that can work for any Guard army, no matter what their background, or their composition or role, or homeworld, or any of the other factors we have covered. Ready?

The Guard.

That’s it. When in doubt, simply call you army “the [Homeworld] Guard.” It is short, simple, and to the point, but still looks good on paper. At the end of the day, it identifies the regiment as part of the Imperial Guard, as yet one part of the vast armies of the Imperium, and that alone still says quite a bit about your regiment.

Necromundan Guard
Praetorian Guard

 

 

Ultimately, though, at the end of the day, it’s your army, and you will have the final say in what to call your little plastic dudes/dudettes. Hopefully, though, this article will have given you some ideas on how to pick a good name for your force.

 

EXTRA SOURCES

Some extra sources that may help you come up with a decent historically-based name for your Guard army:

Infinity– Infinity (you know, that other miniature wargame) has actually pulled out all the stops in coming up with interesting unit names for its various factions, including (or rather especially) unit names lifted not just from Western/European history, but also from Asian, African and Middle Eastern lore. Their store or wiki may be worth a browse just to pick up interesting names.

Lexicanum- Regiments of the Imperial Guard

Wikipedia- Military Forces by Type

 

 

The Invasion of Realspace: Two Drukhari Lists

After a hiatus in gaming brought on my work and life constraints, I finally have some time to get some games in in the next few weeks. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to finally test out the Drukhari book, and so I’ve had plenty of time to fidget between various lists on Battlescribe.

In particular, I’ve been focusing on trying to create a good Alliance of Agony list. Here’s what I initially came up with:

DRUKHARI RAIDING FORCE:

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL PATROL:

Archon- blast pistol, Djin Blade, Famed Savagery- 76
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon- 104
-Raider- disintegrator, splinter racks- 90
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Sslyth- 27
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
8 Mandrakes- 128
5 Scourges- 4 blasters- 128
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators, splinter cannon- 145

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Haemonculous- liquefier gun, flesh gauntlet, ichor injector, Diabolic Soothsayer
5 Wracks- ossefactor- 52
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
3 Grotesques- 105
-Raider- dark lance, grisly trophies, phantasm grenade launcher- 90

CULT OF STRIFE PATROL:

Succubus- Archite glaive, Triptych Whip, Blade Dancer- 54
18 Wyches- 2 shardnets & impalers, Hekatrix w. agonizer- 158
9 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, 2 grav-talons- 201

Total: 1999

Pre-Game Command Points: Alliance of Agony, Prizes of the Dark City
Total Command Points: 5 (-2, +d3)

This list was based primarily on units i have, and/or ones that I really want to test out. The general idea of this list is to flood the board with maximum threat overload by turn 2. While the Kabal forces are there to provide fire support, everything else in the army is there to provide some close combat punch. Fire priority in this list will first go to killing enemy shooty units, particularly things that can threaten my vehicles and counter my mobility, while secondary targets will be anything with the close combat punch or mobility to pose a serious threat to me. With the Grotesques riding around in a Raider, the Reavers zooming around, the Mandrakes coming in from reserve and the Wyches coming out of the webway, I’m looking at multiple nasty close combat threats swarming the enemy lines by turn 2, with the aim of swarming the opponent, ganging up where possible, and inflicting plenty of damage (particularly with my mean characters). The Scourges either hang around on the board, hopping from cover to cover, deep strike in to kill some vehicles with their blasters. The characters, meanwhile, join the Sslyth in a Venom, and together ride off to provide buffs wherever needed, provide close combat support where needed, aand drink orange mocha frappucinos in the meantime.

A lot like this, only replace WHAM! with the screams of the damned.

I do have a few issues with this list, though. Firstly, given the number of deep striking units that I have, I can’t help but wonder if I’m leaving my main army a little more vulnerable to the enemy’s turn 1 shooting. I’m hoping that the turn 2 assault by everything on the board will more than make up for the diminished turn 1 board presence. This is coupled with the question of whether I have enough firepower on the board on turn 1. I like to think, realistically, that I do, but then again there are always extremes– I may find that I don’t have nearly enough lances if I end up against an IG tank horde, or Imperial Knights, or vice versa, enough decent anti-infantry weapons if I run up against Tyranids, Orks, or Poxwalker-heavy Death Guard (though I am hoping that the Wyches and my other close combat stuff can deal with that– that the best way to deal with a horde is another horde).

I am also wondering whether or not to switch the Cult of Strife for the Red Grief– on the one hand, Strife benefits the big Wych blob quite a lot, especially since, given that they will be arriving on turn 2, they will already have rerolls to charges thanks to Power from Pain, and will be arriving close enough to the enemy that they won’t need Red Grief’s advance-and-charge ability. On the other hand, the same can’t be said for the Reavers, who will most definitely benefit more from Red Grief than Strife, especially given their hefty advance move.

Finally, there’s the issue of command points. Quite simply…a Raiding Force may not cut it competitively any more. If I want more command points, I may need to bite the bullet and switch one of my patrols into a Battalion, though I would have to make severe cuts to the list to do that. Just as an example, though, I’ve tinkered with the above list and made this secondary version:

KABAL OF THE FLAYED SKULL BATTALION:

Archon- blaster, Djin Blade, Famed Savagery- 93
Archon- blaster, huskblade- 93
10 Kabalite Warriors- 2 blasters, splinter cannon- 104
-Raider- dark lance, splinter racks- 95
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
5 Kabalite Warriors- blaster- 47
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
8 Mandrakes- 128
Sslyth- 27
-Venom- dual splinter cannons- 75
Ravager- 3 disintegrators- 125
Ravager- 3 dark lances- 140
Razorwing Jetfighter- 2 disintegrators- 135

PROPHETS OF FLESH PATROL:

Haemonculous- stinger pistol, ichor injector, electrocorrosive whip, Diabolic Soothsayer- 86
5 Wracks- ossefactor- 52
3 Grotesques- 105
-Raider- dark lance, grisly trophies, phantasm grenade launcher- 90

CULT OF THE RED GRIEF PATROL:

Succubus- splinter pistol, Blood Glaive, Hyper-Swift Reflexes
9 Wyches- shardnet and impaler, Hekatrix w. agonizer- 80
-Raider- dark lance, grisly trophies, phantasm grenade launcher- 90
8 Reaver Jetbikes- 2 heat lances, 2 grav talons- 182

TOTAL: 1994

Pre-Game Command Points: Alliance of Agony, Prizes of the Dark City
Total Command Points: 10 (-2, +d3)

This list gives me way more Command Points to play with, but does so, sadly, at the expense of my Scourges. To cut back on points, I was also forced to downgrade one of my Ravagers to disintegrators (though “downgrade” is a subjective term, as it will still do plenty of damage to multi-wound models, and absolutely murder things like Primaris Marines). If I were to fiddle with this list more, I might consider trading the Razorwing for the Scourges again, if I find that I miss the anti-tank firepower that they provide. At the very least, though, I have more Warriors now, and an extra Archon to join the Party Venom.

I also wound up going Red Grief in this instance, for three reasons: (1) it would improve my Reavers tremendously, (2), it would mean one less Command Point to spend, and (3), the Red Grief’s relic and warlord trait are simply far superior for a Succubus. That being said, I still do want to experiment with the Cult of Strife and their bucketload of attacks at some point, and so the Webway-wandering Wych party is something that may still show up in future lists.

While both are designed as all comers lists, I anticipate my first opponents being Imperial Guard and Space Marines. After my first few games I’ll hopefully have an idea of what’s working and what’s not. More importantly, later down the road I do want to experiment with different obsessions and/or list themes, and see what’s next on my shopping list. Of the two, I’ll probably try the first list first, simply because…well, I have only one Archon model.

Hopefully I’ll have more updates on my Drukhari to come. Until then, happy hunting, Kabalites!

Opinion: 8th Edition’s Increasing Lack of Imagination

So recently, GW has been wheeling out previews for the upcoming Deathwatch book. I have to say, I’m interested, especially since I’ve always liked the background of the Deathwatch (ie, why choose which Chapter to play when you can play ALL the Chapters?), and have toyed with the idea of including a Deathwatch detachment to support my other Imperial forces. However, in the aforementioned previews, I couldn’t help but notice one of the Warlord traits the Deathwatch had access to:
40kdeathwatch-may3-hiddenknowledge1r
Now where have I seen this warlord trait before? I must say, it bears an uncanny similarity to:
-Adept of the Codex (Ultramarines)
-Fate Reader (Ulthwe Eldar)
-Monitor Malevolus (Adeptus Mechanicus)
-Grand Strategist/Kurov’s Aquila (Astra Militarum)
-Labyrinthine Cunning (Kabal of the Black Heart)
-Helm of the Third Eye (Thousand Sons)
And the list goes on and on. Though there may be slight differences here and there (such as some of the aforementioned only working on a 6+, and/or having the ability to steal the enemy’s spent command points), but the fact remains that we are now seeing the same basic mechanic being copied and pasted across several codexes, usually as a warlord trait or relic.  And it’s not just this one ability, either: I’ve noticed quite a bit of repetition in a lot of the subfaction abilities of many armies. For those of you who like lists (I know I do), here’s a lengthy one of subfactions that just so happen to have the same ability:
Advance and shoot:
Black Legion, Tallarn Desert Raiders, Metallica, Vior’la Sept, Sautekh Dynasty
 
Advance and charge:
Renegade Marines, Cult of the Red Grief
 
+1 attack on the charge
World Eaters, Cult of Strife
 
+1 strength
Catachan Jungle Fighters, Cult of the Cursed Blade
 
Ignore wounds on a roll of 6:
Iron Hands, Graia, Ulthwe Craftworld, Hive Fleet Leviathan
 
Range increase of guns by 6″
Vostroyan Firstborn, Bork’an Sept, Kabal of the Obsidian Rose
 
Reroll 1’s to shoot if stands still:
Cadian Shock Troopers, Nihilakh Dynasty, Hive Fleet Kronos
 
May charge after falling back:
White Scars, Hive Fleet Kraken
 
Enemy has -1 LD for every unit in 6″
Night Lords, Dark Creed
 
Reroll 1’s to wound in Fight Phase
Ryza, Hive Fleet Gorgon, Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue
 
+1 to cover save if does not move (or does not advance or charge):
Dal’yth Sept, Hive Fleet Jormungandr
 
Enemy has -1 to hit at long range:
Raven Guard, Alpha Legion, Alaitoc Craftworld, Stygies VIII
 
Hit on 5+ in overwatch:
Mordian Iron Guard, Agripinaa, T’au Sept
 
Half damage from morale:
Valhallan Ice Warriors, Iyanden Craftworld
 
Reroll failed charges:
Black Templars, Saim-Hann Craftworld, Hive Fleet Behemoth, Cult of Red Grief
This trend seems, to me at least, to be somewhat counter-intuitive. When 8th ed first came out, one of the things it billed was the end of universal special rules: instead of having to remember about two-dozen universal rules throughout the game, instead every single unit would have its own unique special rules that could easily be found on the datasheet. This was meant to mitigate the endless searching (in theory), and also foster a greater sense of uniqueness between armies and units.
But now it feels like universal special rules are creeping back into the game, now that the same freaking rules mechanics are popping into every single codex. The thing is, in the case of a lot of these repeated rules, I can’t help but wonder if GW could have taken the time and effort of coming up with something new instead of copy-and-pasting a previous rule mechanic (even if that mechanic is particularly useful). In the case of the Lord of Hidden Knowledge trait, for instance, the vast alien-slaying knowledge of the Deathwatch warlord could be represented by “marking” a single enemy unit for rerolling wounds, or conferring a reroll wounds on 1’s bubble in shooting (to represent his knowledge of enemy weakpoints), or even allowing him a free extra CP on top of what is already being generated.
I am not saying, necessarily, that the “recycling CP” trait that Lord of Hidden Knowledge trait, as is, is a bad thing, nor am I necessarily saying that the re-use of this particular mechanic is bad either. And I am fully willing to admit that I am looking for copy-and-paste similarity at the expense of any rules mechanics that genuinely are unique and novel. But I am wondering if this is a pitfall that GW ran into from a games design perspective: whether they set out to eliminate universal special rules…and then, when pressed for time in coming up with good rules mechanics, found themselves slowly but surely gravitating towards them again.
Personally, I hope that GW finds a way out of this pitfall: from my own personal perspective, I always like it when it when Codexes and army rules feel distinct from one another. This recycling CP’s ability, however, is so prolific that you can almost anticipate it being in every upcoming codex in some form or another, especially since it is almost always a go-to option in competitive lists. Beyond just this particular ability, I don’t see the replication of rules as a problem yet, but I do hope that it doesn’t become more and more excessive in future– otherwise, we may as well say that generic universal special rules never left.
That’s my two cents, anyway.