So, last week I dragged myself onto Skype to discover that my lacklustre 40K Correspondent has actually played some sixth edition 40K at last, and while he won’t be blogging about it (something about proxies, unpainted miniatures, non-existent records and so on), it did at least start a conversation.
Von: Did I tell you I have been thinking dire thoughts of Allies for the 40K thing?
Lexington: No! Polate most extra-ishly, plz.
Von: Does sir have time to give any thoughts on Allies which he might have? I say so because, well, there’s bloggin’ in this.
Lexington: A co-article, as it were?
Von: Yeah. The sort of thing we said we’d do when you joined.
Lexington: We’re bad at that. Anyhow! Allies for your Cybermen, or Allies for Alles?
Von: Well, I figured I’d talk about my particular predicament first, and then if you had anything broader to say (you know, as a man who owns multiple armies and such). Although I like Allies fur Alles as a series. Maybe we should do that. Talk about the various reasons for taking Allies, and use our collections as a case study.
Lexington: I like this.
Von: Well, you see, I have looked upon the Necrons, and I have found them Good. Very Good, as it happens.
Von: And I have looked upon the opportunity for Allies in the new 40K, and have found it very promising from a forge-the-narrative perspective, but from the perspective of those things we call ‘tic-tacs’ and ‘strategery’, I confess myself more bemused.
Lexington: Oh dear. What’s in your sights, allies wise? Allies for Necrons are a difficult proposition, since they do damned near everything these days, and do it well. From a strategic standpoint, the best I can think of is Grey Knights, just to make your opponent weep tears of blood.
Von: Yeah. Well. Fuck that. I’m just not into Grey Knights, you see.
Lexington: I’m hardly suggesting you should be.
Von: Well. I keep thinking either Orks or Chaos, because it’s always Orks or Chaos with me.
Lexington: ‘Tis true.
Von: The thing is that I have trouble identifying a significant tactical capacity that they add to a Necron force. It’s true, for instance, that Chaos Havocs have those nifty flyer-shooting missiles – but since my usual approach to vehicles with Necrons is ‘point guns at them and pray for sixes’, shooting at flyers isn’t really that different. I’m still, ultimately, hoping you roll enough sixes to Tesla or Gauss the airborne nasty into its component atoms.
Von: And while the Ork Boyz and the Chaos Cultists represent nice big blobs of objective-camping goo, I’m not sure that Necrons actually need that, or whether it just gets in the way. I’m seeing a lot of Allied contingents which comprise maybe a couple of flyers with deadly things inside, or one unit which adds several capacities to a list at once (like psychic powers, defence and melee potential in a tough transport that can kill things). Wondering if that isn’t the way to go – one scary unit of allied-in Ork Knobs or Chaos Maureens in something that’s more mobile and conventional than a Monolith.
Von: Or a Stompa. BECAUSE STOMPA. (Can I even do that?)
Lexington: Well, in Apocalypse.
Von: Anyway. The issue I’m having is that most of the Allied Contingents I can envisage are ultimately going to get in the way of my Necrons doing what they do best. And yet the contingents do add things to a Necron force that it would otherwise be lacking in.
Von: Yeah. Like, the Orks bring melee punch, hordes of cheap and disposable bodies, and – depending on the choice of non-Troops units – can show up with some specialised firepower that doesn’t need to pray for sixes. The Chaos bring, err, much the same stuff really. And yet, I have so far found that the Necron units which pretend to be cheap objective grabbers, or melee beatsticks, or tank crackers, do so well enough that Allies don’t feel essential. And also, with these contingents, I worry about getting something that feels like a plausible mini-army, and not just a strictly-gamist bolt-on.
Lexington: Indeed. Mostly…why do you want allies, anypoop?
Von: Because not using them feels like I’m missing out on something. Because I like Orks and Chaosmens but not enough to do whole armies of them. Although, with Orks, I rapidly run into the “ahh, but you could use the bits much more efficiently if you bought LOADS and then these bodies from Kromlech and these ones from Micro Art and OH GOD YOU’RE DOING AN ORK ARMY YOU HAVE A RULE ONLY EPIC ORKS FOR YOU.)
Von: The great advantage being, of course, that scads of the buggers can be had for less in the way of expenditure and storage issues. If time and money were no object I’d be filling my house with Orks by now.
Lexington: Just an ever-loving Orkatorium. As if I’m one to talk, of course.
Von: Well, I assumed you were cheering and not jeering, if you see what I mean.
Lexington: Hah. Well, that too. More, I have both Orks AND Chaosmens.
Von: Indeed. You have that Advantage. As I said, I dare not tread those ways, because I am quite unable to look at Orks and not immediately start thinking about all those spare arms, and all those firms that make bodies for them to go on. Before you know it I’m looking at Lootas and Burnas and Goff ‘Ardboyz and Flash Gitz and that Nobz mob I’ve been wanting to do for years and Blood Axes with shootas and it’s all gone a bit excessive and I’ve given all my money to Kromlech and Micro Art Studios.
Von: And then the Necrons start peering blearily down from their shelves and wondering where they’re going to live
Lexington: “There goes the neighborhood.”
Von: Exactly. No, I think it would have to be Chaos. My ambitions there are containable – Cultists, Havocs, something that can actually fight in hand-to-hand, and a Sorcerer or Warsmith (Sorcerer adds more to ‘the build’, but damn me if I don’t want to do Iron Warrior allies with their signature piece). (Then I just have to start thinking ‘okay, so Word Bearers or Iron Warriors or Night Lords or what?’)
[There follows some unrelated chit-chat, which has been excised from the record as not germane.]
Von: That said, I’ve just had a wave of brains.
Lexington: Please, do share these brains.
Von: The issue I have with units getting in the way of each other on the board is largely an issue of list design, rather than the role of Allies. If I get all the Necrons in the air, or coming out of Monoliths, or otherwise contained, then the big blobby Allies are free to occupy whatever spaces they see fit.
Von: Or I focus the Chaosmen on a purely static ‘these go here and do this’ role, the sort of thing that I’m currently wasting Warrior squads on doing. ’cause at the moment I often end up with a Warrior squad or two not getting to do anything much because, well, they’re standing at the back and they only have 24″ range guns.
Lexington: Is it a waste, though?
Von: It’s more that that job could be done by something which is a) also scoring b) cheaper and c) not wasting perfectly viable Gauss-power. I don’t mind not firing Cultist shotguns, but I do sort of mind not firing Gauss flayers. It’s the job that I’d be doing with Gretchin if my allies were Orks, basically.
Von: But I find it much harder to justify an allied contingent of Grots, Nobs and a Weirdboy than I do a Chaos Sorcerer, some scary Chosen or Mutilators, Havocs and a couple of Cultist units.
Lexington: Do share your justifications here.
Von: The Chaosmens would be either Iron Warriors or Fallen Dark Angels. It’s a tough call.
Lexington: Mmm, yesh.
Von: Since I do love those Fallen, they have been in my fanfiction for a while… and they’re not silver, which might be important or might not.
Von: A little Chaos warband feels like a viable cult, possibly an Iron Warrior cult who are all “so, Necrons, we desire your forbidden technology” and are thus allies of convenience for a Tomb World that’s still getting its act together. The Iron Warriors have been around, they know the galaxy as it is now, and they supply knowledge and savvy to Tekeshi and co. in return for access to the Necrons’ technology. Of course, the one side is planning to lead THEIR allies (those Orks I mentioned, of an Epic nature) to the Tomb World and pillage the place, and the other side is deliberately handing over things which don’t work or are very, very dangerous to the wielder.
Von: Anyway, that contingent justifies itself in a way that a hotchpotch of Orks fulfilling the same tactical roles just doesn’t.
Lexington: I can understand this. I’m really not sure how to justify much with the Necrons now. They continue to make little sense to me as a faction.
Von: Well, we’ve had that conversation, I think.
Lexington: But I like this Chaos/Necron alliance.
Von: Well, I’m glad you like it.
Lexington: I do. It has a potential.
Von: I wonder what I’d prefer to look at – the Fallen, who’d provide a strong visual counterpart to the Necrons, and emphasise the temporary nature of the alliance, or the Iron Warriors, who’d look a bit more… settled?
Lexington: More something you’d at least sort of expect to see.
Von: Exactly. Less like something you’d need to read the fanfic to have a proper grasp on.
So, there it is. Start of a series, we hope. The vague plan, at the moment, is to talk about my hopes and dreams, and his extensive collection of stuff, introducing what we think about Allies in terms of our own hobbying, and then to turn our gaze on the various things that Allies offer to the player in terms of gameplay, hobby and narrative potential (plus anything else we think up on the way). Half a dozen or so posts. Sounds overambitious (for us), probably is, but at least it motivates me to tie the bugger down on Skype and actually make him produce words for me.