Friday, 15 June 2018

This thing only goes to eleven...

A quick, late-night chat this, but I saw something today that brought home a thought I'd been having for a while. Specifically, it was about Cyberpunk 2077 and the developers' decision to go first-person with it, but the issue goes a far bit deeper than that.

Now, I'm not all that happy with CDPR's decision, but here's the thing- that's as far as it goes. On the miff-o-meter, it's a 4 at most- miffed, possibly even grumpy, but that's it. To read the Internet headlines, however, I'm apparently part of a 'backlash' or I'm 'outraged' or 'furious'. A lot has been said recently about how gaming, be it video-gaming, hobby games like 40k,  PnP RPGs or whatever needs to be more 'inclusive' and one of the things used to justify that statement is a perception that gamers are angry man-children who won't hesitate to throw their toys out of the pram the instant something in their favourite pastime isn't exactly as they want it to be.

I had to do it- they nerfed my Dreadnought!

That suits the internet news machine, of course. It's much more click-worthy to talk about gamers being 'outraged' at women being depicted as front-line troops in a WWII game than it is to say that they're scratching their heads at the idea a bit from a historical perspective. A nice juicy wrapper of misogyny makes the argument far more likely to explode into an ad-revenue generating flame-war. Never mind that many of the people raising the historical points had no problem with women in FPS games in a more modern setting where it makes sense- if they complain, they must be knuckle-dragging chauvinists. And of course you can rely on a few useful idiots to send Twitter death-threats to the developers into the bargain.

There's a related issue there about whether games set in historical periods should be criticised for not sticking to the social norms of those eras. This one cuts both ways- I've commented before on the (terrible) pirate-themed game "Raven's Cry" being pilloried because its cast were violet, foul-mouthed racists despite the fact that by all accounts pirates of the 17th century most certainly were all that and worse. It seems to me that there's a thin wedge being driven in here- if we say that historical accuracy isn't important, it makes it harder to use it as an 'excuse' for content and attitudes in a game that people consider 'problematic'- people say you're using the setting because you want to push those attitudes. But I digress to the extent that I'm going to stick this paragraph in italics.

To get back to the point- I think we've known for some time that the internet has a problem with nuanced discussion. It's hard, though by no means impossible, to find any forum or thread discussing a contentious point without someone getting angry and personal about it. The media, or at least that part of it that relies on clicks to survive, doesn't help, turning every disagreement into a massive, community-splitting Armageddon. I think that much of the time, the truth of the matter is quite different, and many of these things actually only have the majority of the relevant communities wanting their quite sensible points to be heard. The problem is that as soon as the Red Lanterns of the internet turn up- and if they aren't there initially, some hack will soon see to it that they're summoned-that's it. The reasonable people check out or watch silently in despair as someone claiming to agree with them proceeds to act like Pol Pot has possessed their keyboard.

The problems with this are twofold. Firstly, it allows people with an agenda against a given community- and it can be any community, from gamers to S&M devotees to Vegans- to paint that community as a bunch of angry cretins. Secondly, it allows developers, film producers and other creatives to make hideously bad decisions and then often look like heroes for standing by them because the Red Lanterns turned up to attack them over it. Other times, of course, those same creatives are simply making a decision that's unpopular with a small but vocal clique of their so-called fans and standing by it is exactly the right thing to do. The problem is that in an online world where everything only goes to eleven, those two situations look very much the same.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Can you Keep a Secret?

Not pictured: An official Keeper of Secrets

There's been a bit of chat recently about the possibility that we might see a new Keeper of Secrets model, or maybe even a new wave of Slaanesh Daemons in general, as the Age of Sigmar story rolls onward. At the moment, the Keeper is in a very odd place on the 40k battlefield.

Hurt Me Plenty
The Keeper of Secrets is by some distance the weakest of the four Greater Daemons (if we're lazy and lump the various forms of Bloodthirster, Great Unclean One and Lord of Change together). It's fast-moving, true, and certainly capable of doing some damage with its close combat attacks and a couple of psychic powers, but all it has between it and a first-class one-way ticket to the Warp is T7, a 5++, and 12 Wounds. Compared to the considerably cheaper Winged Daemon Prince, which has 3+ armour and the protection of being a Character with less than 10 Wounds, the Keeper is almost impossible to, er, keep on the table for more than a turn.

I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me...
In part, this is understandable due to the state of the current Keeper model. With no nice new plastic combi-kit to call its own, we can see why the Keeper might be a little lacking in the rules department, too. But even this doesn't entirely make sense. Compare this:
I'm scary, honest
With this:

Jog on, pipsqueak
Now, although those two pictures aren't quite in the same scale, they're both on 60mm bases. We can see that in terms of mass, the current Keeper and the Daemon Prince are about the same, though if they were getting ready for a weigh-in I suspect the Prince would be desperately cutting water whilst the Keeper ordered a Big Mac Meal. The point is that going by the models, there seems no reason why the Keeper should have 4 more Wounds and suddenly be a fire magnet whereas the Prince gets to sit happily in the sweet spot. As things stand, the Keeper is what my Grandmother might have called 'Too tall for Dick and too short for Richard'- it's supposedly a big target, but it's simply not tough enough to roll in that league. It's like putting Manny Pacquiao in a fat-suit and on stilts and then throwing him up against Vitali Klitschko.*

You gets what you pays for (sort of)
Now, to be fair to the authors of the Daemon Codex, they at least made the Keeper considerably cheaper, to the tune of about 100 points, than the other Greater Daemons. But I'd argue that in its current state it's not even worth as much as a Daemon Prince unless you're lucky enough to run into another army with next to no shooting. There's also really not a lot you can do to protect the thing. (It doesn't help me that my Keepers are third-party models and are far bigger than they really should be)

No way is this hiding behind a Soul Grinder
There are Stratagems that can help, at least a little. You can reserve the thing with Denizens of the Warp, but that just delays the problem- the Keeper can't do much when it arrives other than throw a few powers and hope to make a 9" charge. Warp Surge can boost it to a 4++ for a phase but that still feels very flimsy, especially when poison or Deathwatch special issue ammo is about. (It's particularly perverse (appropriately) that Hellfire rounds, designed to kill Tyranids, are considerably better at killing the Keeper than they are at killing the armoured Big Bugs)

You could also try to summon one with Daemonic Ritual. Stop laughing at the back! (The advantage of this is that at least you can then spend the points on something else that might be useful and easier to summon.)

Don't get me started on the Daemon version of Delightful Agonies only granting a 6+ FNP when the Astartes version is 5+. Seriously. Don't Go There.

Where do we go from here?
Hopefully it's not too much to expect for any new Keeper kit to be accompanied by new rules, just as those for the other Greater Daemons were. So, what might we do to the Keeper to help it stay alive long enough to do something, assuming that dropping below 10 Wounds so it can hide isn't an option?

One possibility might be to simply ignore that aspect of the Character rule. Rather than dropping the Wounds of the Keeper, give it a special rule called, say, Bewitching Glamour, that means that the Keeper can only be shot if it's the closest target. Another might be that old favourite, a -1 To Hit for shooting attacks to go with the one it already has in close combat.

We could also consider giving the Keeper a version of the old Look Out Sir rule, perhaps allowing it to take a 2+ save against a hit in exchange for putting a Mortal Wound on a Slaanesh Lesser Daemon within 6". This would make using it to support Daemonettes much more viable, rather than the situation at the moment where it's basically suicide.

Of course, these are only my quick thoughts on the subject, and it's quite possible that GW will surprise and delight Slaanesh players if and when the new model is released, and not just because it'll mean Slaanesh is Still A Thing.

I'm keeping my fingers and... other extremities crossed.

*Note to boxing nerds: I have no idea how that would actually go, but I know how the people who wrote the weight rules would expect it to go.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

When a Cauldron of Blood and a Raider love each other very much....

I know I've been a little quiet on here recently, but I've been busy behind the scenes. I thought today I'd show off my first re-rebooted Raider.

The idea for this model goes back all the way to my earliest days of posting on DA, with Version 1 of the model using the old-style Raider and the metal Cauldron parts. When both models got updated to be, in GW's typical style, bigger, madder and more complicated, I toyed with replacing the model with a new version but at the time I had no appetite for re-doing the entire army. Finally, however, I've got around to re-jigging the entire force for 8th Edition- I've already made 30 Witch Elf/ Wych hybrids so now it's time to start on the motor pool.

As I usually do with such projects, I built another Raider stock first to get the idea of how the kit worked, and tested various versions of the idea on it. For a previous project, I had parts of the Cauldron kit lying around, so I used the pre-assembled stairs to test fit and work out how to cut things about to get everything to fit. I failed to notice a bit of flash on the stairs, which I used in this build, until waaaay too late but you can't see it and I'm not telling you where it is, so nyah.

Obligatory butt-shot.

Eventually I settled on cutting the platform which the Avatar statue goes on down shorter until the stairs would just about reach it, slightly shortening the boom that supports the Cauldron, and having the stairs lead down to the well before the front gunner's position. That sounds a lot easier than it in fact was. Possibly due to the alterations to the boom, the Cauldron was poorly supported and moved about even when glued, so I reluctantly used the two crew with the spears as a structural element- they're glued solid to the model and hold everything in place. This was exactly as irritating during painting as you might expect. The rear platform was also then supported by cutting down all the struts that wouldn't fit until they just about would.

A problem I was left with was that there are two holes in the Raider deck for pegs that support the central rack which holds the Aethersail. I could have simply filled these with Green Stuff but that would have left two very obvious blanks in the deck, so instead I covered the rear one with a couple of salvaged slave girls from an older model, and the front one with a pile of skulls from GW's oh-so-handy recent set. This also meant that the Death Hag who's serving as commander/ gunner can still rest one foot on hers without looking out of place. I added a pistol-grip to the Disintegrator, since she wasn't going to be holding it, by splicing in the end of a spare splinter rifle- since I'm going to need a fair few Wych-crewed Raiders I'm probably going to use this dodge again. A little Green Stuff cleaned up the merge.
Peekaboo slave girl. She's older than the rest of them, but she wears it well.
The rear fighting platform has a small magnet buried in it. This can just about support the Avatar statue, which isn't in these shots because it's not 100% painted and would have made the model deeply awkward to photograph. Primarily, though, the platform will be used to hold the Succubus leading the raid until she gets out. In a plan so cunning that you can brush your teeth with it, I'm going to have her standing on another skull, which will have a magnet in it, allowing me to remove her from her base and stand her on the Raider, so at least one won't have an inexplicable circle of green grass on board.

Finally a top tip for models with flying bases- before choosing which 'stem' to use, dry-fit the candidates into the receiving hole. Most of the time, one will fit snugly enough that you can pop the model on and off with some confidence, as is the case here. Wear may change that, but for transport reasons you really, really don't want to be gluing them.

That's probably just a vat of combat drugs. Why does it have a bone in it? Why not?

Painting- yep, I painted it. It was deeply irritating (I find this sort of build is impossible to paint pre-assembly) so I'm not saying any more about that, TYVM.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Leverage: A new short story

To follow up on the release of The Third Mirror, I've written another Thelenic Curriculum short. This one is called 'Leverage' and is set at roughly the same time as The Oath of Sherenith.

As always, if you find the story interesting, you can buy the first book, The Wake of Manadar, on kindle or paperback right now from Amazon, as well as reading both that book and The Third Mirror for free digitally with Kindle Unlimited. Think of it like Patreon, only it only costs £2 once...

Alternatively, if you'd just like to learn a bit more about the world of the books, head on over to the Thelenic Curriculum Landing Page.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Law of Unintended Consequences

It's a well-known fact that tweaking a game like 40k is complicated. With the enormous amount of factions, special rules, models, rules (and differing interpretations of said rules) in the game now, anything GW does to fix an issue runs a very real risk of breaking something else. Several of the changes in The Big FAQ and its related documents have done just that.

Kabalites Can't Have Spearheads, and other stories
Of all the Codexes for 8th Edition, you'd expect the Drukhari to be the most compatible with the most recent FAQs, seeing as it came out something like a week before them. However, the unique way that DE are split into Kabalites, Cults and Covens poses some pretty serious issues, at least in 'events'. It's already  well documented that due to the limit on Detachments, the DE's ability to gain Command Points by taking multiple Patrols doesn't work very well, but what's been discussed less is that the changes also deprive them of some Detachments altogether. For example, one list I was playing about with had a Wych Cult Battalion, supported by a Kabalite Spearhead. However, this was a 1000 point list and at that point level, you can only take two of each Datasheet, and since Kabalites only have one Heavy Support choice (Ravagers) it's not possible for them to take a legal Spearhead. Even at higher point levels, the fact that most of the DE sub-factions only have one HQ choice, plus the special characters, means that even if you could take multiple detachments, you'd soon have no-one legally available to lead them.

Yes, somehow they nerfed Sisters of Battle
If you're a Sororitas player you probably read that last part going 'yeah, cry me a ***** river.' However bad the limits are for Drukhari, they're much, much worse for Sisters of Battle. With a grand total of one HQ choice that isn't a special character (plus Celestine and maybe Uriah Jacobus, depending on your tolerance for shotgun-toting hillbillies) it starts to get really, really tricky to field more than one Detachment. It's sort of ironic that in an update that was supposed to crack down on 'soup' armies, Sisters have been all but forced to field other Imperials to make legal lists.

You can't see me because I'm not hiding
I've talked before about the fact that I think the current Character targeting rules are dumb, and the most recent changes have done little to change my mind. I understand that Rhino Sniping was a thing, and I even made some suggestions to address it in the previous post, but GW still don't seem to think there's anything wrong with units being forced to not shoot at a model which is literally the only thing they can see to shoot at. The idea that a player can lock a unit in combat so they can't be shot, and then have a character standing behind them who can't be shot because there's a closer unit is silly, and it's the sort of thing that makes any game a hard sell to new players. Sure, old hands know about all the exploits the rule is there to stop, but to a newcomer "your guys won't shoot him because they don't think he's important." sounds plain daft. I miss Look Out Sir!

You can't hit me because I said so
This is the worst one for me, the real gear-grinder. The FAQs confirm that if a player manages to place his models in such a way that enemy models can't get into base contact with them, most typically by standing on any elevated floor of a GW ruin, then they can't be Assaulted. Doesn't seem to matter if you're a Knight Titan or a Lord of Skulls who one might expect to be quite pleased to not have to bend down so much, and no-one much cares that you've got a Jump Pack or even that you're standing on the level above with a Power Lance, they're immune. Fill a Ruin floor with Scouts, and 2000 Daemonettes can do nothing to them apart from give them some funny dreams. Put Alaitoc Rangers there and a buff or two later you can push Orks into the 7+ to hit bracket for their shooting whilst making it impossible to charge you because bricks.

Of all the changes, this is the one I think is going to cause the most trouble. GW better hope that the players at live-streamed tournaments get the hint and drop assault units like they're on fire, because the pros are going to abuse this one until it begs for mercy. At my own FLGS we've generally just house-ruled this sort of situation as a Wobbly Model Syndrome scenario, but that's not going to fly at Adepticon or Throne of Skulls, I fear.

The Inevitable Cheerful Bit
I should say, though, that overall I like the intent of the Big FAQ, if not all of the results. Hopefully GW will continue to listen to feedback and the kinks will get ironed out. Hopefully....

Sunday, 15 April 2018

New book, free book..

My second novel, The Third Mirror, is out! Return to the Empire of the Thelenic Curriculum to see what befalls Amanda Devereux this time around. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you could head over to the Thelenic Curriculum Landing Page to learn more, or better yet, from Monday 16th April to Friday the 20th, you can get the eBook version of the first book, The Wake of Manadar, for the low, low price of free!

And no, before anyone asks, the second book isn't going to be free when the third one's done. I play 40k, I'm not going to leave that obvious an exploit lying around..

Friday, 30 March 2018

A sniff of the lost Legions?

Not something I generally do, but I haven't seen this posted yet. The Regimental Standard just posted a new article about field dressing Lasgun wounds. Now this text is actually (literally) cut-and-pasted from the Uplifting Primer, but what's interesting is that the page it's been pasted over refers to a campaign called the Rangan Xenocides- a campaign in which the II and XI legions apparently participated alongside the Solar Auxilia.

This is pretty interesting, since very, very little information about either Legion exists and the article also implies that the Solar Auxilia regiments were also at some point lost. What does it mean? Who knows, probably nothing, but it's always fun to see stuff like this...