[40K OSR/Blood Bowl] Army List Follies

I’ve done some silly things this week. I blame mild sleep deprivation – well, not deprivation, more a dysfunction of the sleep pattern which has led to me regularly awakening at three or four a/m and passing out well before eight p/m. This is my natural sleep pattern, and it has a tendency to reassert itself in the bleak midwinter when the nights draw in. I dislike it.

Anyway, between that and a desire to avoid rewriting a white paper about autism, I have decided to indulge the symptoms of autism and experiment with some peculiar army lists for semi-obsolete wargames. In my defence, Blood Bowl’s new tabletop edition has just hit the shops like a twin-tailed comet stuck up the arse of a bat out of hell, and new miniatures for the Thousand Sons – rather tempting miniatures, too – are soon to follow. There’s some stimulus at work here. Of course, being me, I don’t rush out and buy things, oh no: I commit to theory wank instead. Behold.

The XV Legion First XV

First up – a Chaos Space Marines list. For second edition 40K. Obviously. I mean, who plays the current rules when there’s a version with even more cards, tokens, arbitrary silliness and table cruft out there? (Don’t answer that.)

CHARACTERS – 561

AHRIMAN – 346
Disc of Tzeentch

THOUSAND SONS SORCERER – 115
Mark of Tzeentch, Terminator armour with chainaxe and combi-bolter, Psychic Hood

THOUSAND SONS SORCERER – 100
Mark of Tzeentch, hand flamer, krak grenades, plasma grenades, Force Rod

SQUADS – 617

4 THOUSAND SONS TERMINATORS – 294
2 with chainaxe and combi-bolter, 2 with chainaxe and reaper autocannon

5 THOUSAND SONS MARINES – 198
Krak grenades. 2 with boltguns, 3 with flamers

3 THOUSAND SONS MARINES – 125
Krak grenades. 2 with boltguns, 1 with autocannon

VEHICLES – 230

THOUSAND SONS DREADNOUGHT – 230
Power claw, twin linked autocannon, Coruscating Warp Flame

Since it’s second edition, it has a special character. We all used them all the time, don’tcherknow? (I didn’t, actually, but I’m clearly in the minority, and I did own several.) Since it’s Thousand Sons, it has Ahriman, and since it has Ahriman, I’ve doubled down and made him the general, which restricts me to fielding only Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marines or Tzeentch Daemons.

The second edition Codex is relatively clear about designating various things as Thousand Sons. Obviously, there’s an army list entry for Thousand Sons Marines. One can also designate a Sorcerer with the Mark of Tzeentch as a Thousand Sons Sorcerer, which allows him to lead a squad of said Marines as though he were an Aspiring Champion. One can even upgrade Terminators to Thousand Sons Terminators, if one so wishes.

I might be stretching a bit to say that a Terminator-armoured Sorcerer can be attached to a squad of Terminators in the same way, but I think it’s a reasonable extrapolation from the rules.

I might be stretching it a bit further with the Dreadnought, but I wanted a vehicle in there and I did buy it the Tzeentch Vehicle Reward.

1500 points. Fifteen models, plus the Dreadnought. I’ve seen worse in battle reports (that one in the Battles book with Ragnar Blackmane, Njal Stormcaller, Bjorn the Fell-Handed and Eldrad Ulthran all turning up to a podunk Bunker Assault, plus a Land Raider and Imperial Assassin… that springs to mind). Admittedly those didn’t have models which vanished into the aether if Energy Drain was played, but… actually, I have no ‘but’. I just have a cast-iron grip on the Psychic phase, a lot of autocannons, and no interest whatsoever in taking psychology tests (Dreadnought excepted).

The worst part is, I could build this with one blister pack, two boxes and one Forge World kit. (I could use the plastic Helbrute, but why would I use the plastic Helbrute?) I wonder if it’d work under the new rules?

Zombie Nation Army

Necromantic Team

#1 – Zombie
#2 – Zombie
#3 – Zombie
#4 – Zombie
#5 – Zombie
#6 – Zombie
#7 – Zombie
#8 – Zombie
#9 – Zombie
#10 – Zombie
#11 – Zombie
#12 – Zombie
#13 – Zombie
#14 – Zombie
#15 – Zombie
#16 – Zombie

5 Team Re-Rolls

I didn’t come up with this all by myself – Ravenpoe’s team guides over on Reddit gave me the idea.

It was a really good idea.

When you don’t have expensive, skilful, difficult-to-replace players to fret about, you relax. You learn to take that ‘Both Down’ for the sake of causing a turnover; you learn to foul because who cares if one Zombie gets sent off?

When you don’t have flair players or even positionals to pull off risky plays, you play a basic game. Slow. Steady. You screen rather than scrum; you stand back and you let the opponent come to you and cause their own damn turnovers. You have to play properly, but you don’t feel like you’re wasting potential by not using the skills you don’t have.

When you’re that chill, you learn to take risks. Yes, I just said you don’t have the positionals to pull it off. Who cares? You’re running a stupid Zombie team. Go for that slightly dodgy pass. You never know. If you screw it up… so what? You’re not using your Real Team.

So far I’ve fought Skaven and Amazons to a draw. That’s in the first PC game, by the way, when the first teams you face have a 300 TV advantage on you. I spend my inducements on an Igor (just in case someone actually dies), and then either a Wizard (if I have 150K to burn, but not 200) or a couple of Bribes (because why not put the boot in?) I briefly considered hiring Von Drakenberg for my third game (the token Vampire amongst the Zombie swarm) but I think I’ll maintain the purity of the experiment for now. I’ve even gotten two Interceptions, thanks to my tendency to keep the Zombies near enemy players without actually standing next to them and giving away free blocks. One of them even scored a Touchdown.

I did briefly consider using a Khemri team and Skeletons (slightly more movement and Thick Skull to keep them on the field), but Zombies are just so much more… relaxing, and that’s the point of this daft little experiment: it’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt while playing this stupid game.

By the way…

I’m still making terrible Let’s Play videos. I think the channel will update on Wednesdays and Sundays, until I forget or come down with the Conniptions or have better things to do.

A Cold Collation of Links and Things

As I lurch toward my twentieth nerd anniversary I am still picking up the old second edition Orks where they can be found at bargain prices. The cards and templates for second edition – well, most of them – arrived the other day. No card counters but as a former Warmachine and Magic player I am blessed with an abundance of beads and tokens. No flamer template either but I think the plastic one’s more or less the same size. Rulebooks currently reside on the (rubbish) Kindle with the exception of the Ork Codex, which could be had for a fiver and of which a decent scan was not forthcoming. Sadly – very sa-a-a-a-dly – I could still identify the original batch of funny-shaped dice I bought in ’95 among the collection, and the more recent special-dice-for-playing-Inquisitor-with ones to boot. I think all I need now is heavy weapons for the Ork footsloggers, a set of Sustained Fire dice and an Artillery die, unless Hark’s hidden the old one somewhere. Wouldn’t put it past the minx.

I’d take all this stuff to BOYL except a) hardly any of it’s painted and that’s not the Way and b) I’m entertaining someone better-looking than everyone in the Oldhammer movement (except me and possibly Curis) next weekend. Heigh ho. Maybe 2016. Anyway, here’s a bunch of things I’ve read/seen and thought were interesting. Enjoy.

An introduction to hnefatafl, and a musing on the use of gameplay as personal training for strategists.

Some of North Star’s wizards for Frostgrave, which looks like an interesting little game: a Mordheim-covered-in-ice aesthetic, and a sense that it’s like the Ars Magica of warband-scale wargaming.

A review of the Crescent and the Cross for SAGA, which I will get around to playing any month now.

A theory piece on game theory, movement, and perhaps why X-Wing is so damn popular. (Note: I am old-fashioned and like those ‘perfect information’ games where I have time for a gentleman’s half in between turns.)

A RISK/OD&D play by post with which I’m whiling away the time.

Saladin Ahmed and Joe Abercrombie on different societies in fantasy. Ahmed’s short stories in Engraved On The Eye are very good and I must read him in long form at some stage. I haven’t read Abercrombie but he seems pretty sharp.

At long last, the oddities of WoW-RP are starting to make sense to me: the Scandinavian traditions around roleplaying are quite different from what I’m used to, and the EU RP servers have a lot of cool Swedes hanging around.

A different way of mapping space on the tabletop during RPG sessions – one less preoccupied with the nitty-gritty of who is how far away from whom and whether or not someone can reach a given point in one turn or two, and more on what’s in the space and how it can be interacted with, but it doesn’t totally abandon the idea of distance, radius, area of effect and so on. A nice compromise? I’ll have to try it out.

These are pretty. I want some.

Build Optimisation and You (2/2)

When I sit down to optimise something – when I get to the third stage of the three-stage process that was outlined last time – I’m generally looking at four things, two of which came up in the discussion on Craftworld Lansing which originally started me off on this topic.

  • How does this list/deck/character actually achieve what it’s setting out to achieve?

With a Magic deck or Warmahordes army, that generally means I’m looking for a kill condition. How does the deck take large amounts of life points off the other people in the game? How does the army kill warcasters? (I’m aware that scenarios are a thing, but I’m generally really bad at winning by scenario conditions, and so I mentally file them away under another stage in the process, which we’ll come to later.)

With characters – either in the WoWs or in tabletop RPGs where ‘build optimisation’ is an issue – I’m looking for ways to make that character fulfil their role effectively. How does the character, for instance, stop flag carriers from dying, or carry the flags myself? If the character is supposed to be entertaining, or scary, or sexy, what behaviours will it exhibit that create that reaction?

  • How many ‘ifs’ are involved in getting there?

Is there something which has worked in one engagement and failed in nine others? Is that something a fringe case or something that the build is allegedly built to achieve? Too often do I see people mashing together mechanics that they happen to like and creating beautiful little synergies which… don’t actually interact with the means by which the game is won or lost. Too often do I see people sinking their effort and resources into salvaging a poor choice, throwing good rules after bad and frustrating themselves with getting so little reward for so much work. Too often do I see people struggling with classes that they don’t really want to play, or with characters who are only interesting if you happen to know their entire backstory from the word go.

Case in point; my Golgari deck, in Magic, has several different kill conditions but frequently struggles to meet any of them because they all depend on it being about turn 5 and some losses having already been taken. Outside of exceptionally fortunate draws and match-ups, the deck has too many ‘ifs’ to survive the early game in most encounters. When it wins, it’s in slow games which frequently bore the other participants to death.

My Vampire Counts armies, at least in WFB.8, tend to struggle with the huge ‘if I roll these support spells, and successfully cast these support spells’ factor; the army is balanced around the possibility of Vanhel’s Danse or whatever, but how does it manage if that’s not available? That leads us into the next point…

  • How does it deal with factors which would prevent the build from achieving its objective?

If I’m running a tank character in the WoW, how does the character survive massive thumps of damage (assuming the absence of competent healers), and how does it recover threat when some trigger-happy over-geared Warlock starts throwing their Chaos Bolts around?If I’m building a themed wargames army that might have to be used for pick-up games occasionally, can it hold its own against the power builds of the day, or will it just have to not be played outside of controlled conditions?

If I’m building a Warmahordes force, how does it avoid losing by scenario before it can get the kill in? I admit I’m a bit of a scrub in this regard; I don’t have the luxury of being able to play often enough to keep up with the latest Stallroller revision, so my interaction with scenarios is very much to treat them as something to mitigate, something to keep off my back while I kill your caster stone dead. Do I play Retribution to justify that play-style? Possibly.

If I’m building a 40K list, how does it create target priority issues for my opponent, and how does it deal with army-wrecking nonsense like the Heldrake?

If I’m building a Pathfinder NPC, how does it avoid being Not Fun to interact with? This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to have a weakness; it may be mechanically overpowering but can it be negotiated with or neutralised by factors outside the crunch?

  • How efficiently does the build do all this?

Is there an odd mix of guns in the Havoc Squad? Is there a weird feat choice that’s only there for boring mechanical effectiveness reasons when this is meant to be a throwaway NPC? Does the execution depend on using a very precise set of abilities while standing still for forty seconds?

The next few posts will probably be running some examples of this process in action…