Monthly Archives: August 2010

Random Update


I’ve been quiet here for the past weeks or so; mostly because I haven’t had much to say.  Instead, I offer you: a monkey riding a goat.

There were a lot of good suggestions re: the number-crunching dump from last week… though I’m not likely to implement any of them.  My spreadsheet-fu isn’t up to the additional levels of calculation required.  I might try throwing it together in a program (since that’s sort of my thing, professionally), I might not.  It’s annoying that I’m a .NET developer by trade, but have a Unix-based webhost for personal use; so sharing anything might be a bit tricky.

I’ve been painting quite a bit: I banged out six Stormvermin what seems ages ago.  Also, I painted another ten Slaves, got started on an additional set of ten, and assembled another ten Clanrats.  I’m trying to stage this stuff to keep things interesting.

Haven’t taken pictures because… my Stormvermin look like my Stormvermin (only based with grey and not grass) and my Slaves look like my Slaves.  Nothing really new to share.

Slightly disappointed by the lack of response to the terrain I built.  I’m quite pleased with it: finally got to pop the cherry on it last Tuesday (and the water features had an enormous impact on the game).  Someone commented that it “looked like tournament terrain.”  I’m sure it was meant as a compliment, so I’m happy to take it as such.

I picked up Space Hulk: Death Angel at Games Day.  Late last week, I muddled through a solitaire game, trying to get a feel for how it played.  The game got considerably more brutal every time I got a better grasp on a rule.  No joke: the terminators were obliterating Genestealers as they came on, preventing any of them from having the chance to attack.  As soon as some got through, though, it was a dead terminator a round.  I’m looking forward to playing it with other people, as I expect the game will be even more difficult.  Should be fun.

Skaven Number Crunching

(This post was originally titled, “The case against ‘Horde.'”  That’s because, initially, I wasn’t convinced that deploying units in a Horde is the way to go.  I haven’t really run them, but my gut reaction has been that while, yes, they throw out a few more attacks, they do so at the cost of significantly increased points, as well as reduced ranks (and, therefore, Steadfast).

Also, since I started writing this, I’ve been talking with Torpored in the comments thread on one of Stahly’s posts.  (Are you following Stahly?  You should be.  He paints some beautiful stuff.)

I’m going to go ahead and begin by articulating the arguments against the Horde, then I’ll meander into the Mathhammer I’ve been working with.  Remember: Mathhammer the end-all, be-all, but it’s a good foundation on which to build reasonable expectations. (It’s also significant to note here, that this is incomplete/bad Mathhammer: it’s just straight odds, without accounting for the more nuanced statistical analysis I’m not really built for.))

Less Maneuverable

This is probably the most obvious problem.

Units, as a whole, are more maneuverable in 8th: what with marching made easier and charges greatly sped up and simplified.  Despite this, steering a unit 200mm (or a 250mm) wide unit is hard.  For example, unless you’re Mv 6, you cannot wheel 90° in a single turn.   The guy on the far end of the unit has to travel well over 12″ (nearly 15.5″) to get around.

I also find myself constantly getting in traffic jams, with units getting in other units’ ways.  Doubling the size of a block is only going to make that messier.

More Expensive

I’m a Skaven player.  I’m used to running things in big blocks of 25-30; that’s because I need the 5-6 ranks for Leadership, for Combat Resolution and for Steadfast.  Running in a horde doesn’t change that fact: I still need 5-6 ranks.  Except, in a horde, those ranks are twice as big, which means my unit costs nearly twice as much.

We’re talking turning a 151 point Clanrat unit into a 290 point unit.  That’s still cheap compared to a lot of armies, but we’re losing a banner (and Fortitude) and a unit to scoot around and flank with in exchange for a huge block of rats.

Not As Killy As You Might Think

So, I ran some numbers.  Assumptions made were:

  • I’m talking things vs. Skaven units.  That’s what I care about.
  • There would be enough models on both sides to claim full CR for ranks
  • There would be enough models on both sides for the unit to make its maximum number of attacks
  • The horded-up unit would get 7 files involved, rather than all 10, against a unit 5-wide
  • I ignore things like Hatred and the Always Strikes First reroll.  It’d complicate the formulae, making it harder to cut-and-paste.  Plus, these numbers are going to show things being fairly dire for the Skaven anyway.  They don’t need the help.
  • Both units have as full a command as possible (so, a champ with +1A and a standard where available)

That last one bears some explanation.  Against poorer troops, the Skaven should win.  Increasing frontage will only help with that.  Against the same troops, of course having more models will make a difference.  The real question is, “Will a Horde formation help my Skaven perform against better enemy troops.”  In that case, increasing the number of Skaven files striking will increase the number of non-Skaven files striking back and, because they’re better troops, having more of them striking back won’t make things any better.

So, 7 Skaven on 5 non-Skaven, stronger troops is about as optimal as we can hope for.  If things look bad here, they can only get worse.

I’m also looking at straight odds.  Statistics are far more nuanced than that, sure, but I’m lazy… and I think the straight odds are sufficient.

Initially, I plugged in Dark Elf Warriors (with Shields) and Chaos Warriors (with Halberds), both units I can expect to see, often.  The former should be marginally better (crap, I just realized I forgot to account for Hatred) with a higher WS.  The latter is inarguably better.  Higher WS, S, T, more attacks and a better save. Then, later, I added some other basic infantry, to see how they compare.

Anyway, the numbers:

This table shows the Combat Resolution (CR) difference, from the Skaven perspective, putting aside any other factors besides Static CR and wounds.  (No, no Charge / Flank / Rear / Height bonus.).  So, when the table says “Clanrats: Normal x Dark Elf Warrors w/ Spears = -0.67,” that means that the Clanrats should, by flat averages, lose that combat by about 2/3rds of a point. (Remember the assumptions, though.)


What does this tell us?

For starters: Stay away the hell from Chaos Warriors. For reals. They will wreck your ratty face off.

Spears do make a difference, sorta.  For clanrats, the increased attacks do offset the increased losses resulting from the lack of a Shield armor & ward save, which is surprising to me. You’re still losing more rats, but it works out for the better.

For slaves, it’s just more dead rats.

Horde also makes a difference.  But that doesn’t surprise me.  Of course more models attacking (11, really: 2 additional per rank, plus the extra rank) will make a difference.  But how much of a difference?  And is it worth it?

As far as how much of a difference: it depends.  In general, not very much.  About 1-4 points of CR… 4 CR is kind of a lot.  1… isn’t as much.  The tougher the opponent unit is, the smaller the difference is.  The better the Skaven unit is, the larger… but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

How much are you paying for it, though?

The following table assumes that a non-Horde unit is 30 models strong and a Horde unit is 50 models strong, which seems reasonable.


Man, I don’t even think “Average” is relevant; not without including every unit in the game… and, possibly, without weighting those units by prevalence.  Clearly, this is evidence that I’m just screwing around with numbers and should walk. away.

I’m not even sure where I stand on my initial thesis.  Horde is expensive, not particularly super-killy, and less maneuverable, but it is somewhat more killy than nothing and ultimately (thanks to combat reforms and Steadfast) somewhat more resilient.  Since I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, I probably should just delete this post and pretend it never happened, but it’d be a shame to throw this work away.

So, anyone have any thoughts?

Cavern Table

I finished this up about a week and a half ago, but I haven’t had the chance to take pictures of it until now.  (Actually, I snuck into work a mite early so I could set it up in a conference room and take pictures; the lighting in here, while a bit harsh, is probably the most thorough I’m going to get.)

I was really inspired by the Skaven vs. Dwarfs picture near the back of the new Warhammer rulebook.  They’re stabbing it out beneath the mountains of the Old World.  It’s clearly inspired how I’ve been basing my new rats (and slowly re-basing my existing ones).

Also, I’ve had a problem where I’ve lacked good, game-able Fantasy terrain… so I caught the bug to do a table’s worth of “cave” terrain.

There’s a lot of room for improvement here, I think, but it’s a solid start.  I can totally play on all of of this, now, and come back and revise/replace/supplement when I’m not so woefully behind on painting Skaven.

The table consists of:

  • 2x Hills
  • 2x Water Features
  • 2x Stalamite “Forests”
  • 1x Ruin
  • 1x Warpstone Boulder
  • 2x Walls

So, 10 terrain pieces, total.

All are painted the same way I paint my bases: airbrushed on Cryx Bane Base, Cryx Bane Highlight  heavy drybrush, Hammerfall Khaki drybrush.  In the case of terrain that’s styrofoam, I airbrushed on a charcoal craft paint: styrofoam is thirsty, and I’d rather have to suck up cheapie paint rather than P3 paint that I really should know better than to use on terrain.

For stone features, it’s painted the same way we painted the Rapid Fire terrain: Delta Charcoal airbrushed with a heavy drybrush of Delta Hippo Grey and a light drybrush of Delta Rain Grey (or was that Quaker Grey?).

Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed; it only takes three colors and very little time to get some really sharp looking terrain painted up.

All of the texture here comes from ballast glued down with watered-down wood glue which is then sprayed down with more watered-down wood glue.  Basically, it shouldn’t be going anywhere.

The Actual Terrain

These hills are basically the same type of hill Casey and I (and several others) ground out sweatshop-style for Rapid Fire last year.  They’re extremely playable: there’s not a lot of slope, which can be a problem.  I’m not thrilled with how they look (because there appears to be an inverse relationship between appearance and practicality when it comes to hills), so I might replace them with something else (maybe even the Citadel Hills) down the line.

I’ve had a bottle of Water Effects for years, unused (except a little on my Khornate display board), and the Mysterious Terrain rules are something I can’t even dream of trying to avoid… so I needed some water features.
 I cut some MDF with a 45° angle.  Then I built up a lip around the edges of the shape with drywall putty.  I reinforced the putty with a wood glue/water mix and glued down the ballast.  Once painted, I applied the water effects.  
The first feature got little putty “islands” which worked out quite well, I think.  The second one got way too much water effects.  Lesson learned: a few, thin layers goes far enough.  Too much and that stuff stays soft. 
These can either be used as “Rivers” (getting a roll on the terrain) or Marshland.
Speaking of Mysterious Terrain: I’ve got to have “woods,” if only because one of my friends runs a Wood Elf army.   I thought about doing a mushroom forest or something, but 1) mushrooms are disgusting and 2) stalamites were way easier.
The bases are shaped based on the base of the Citadel Woods, with areas for stalagmites where trees would go.  The stalagmites are just pink foam cut and textured with a wire cutter and weighted with nails in the bottom.  If I had to do it again (and I probably will), I’d mount the stalagmites to either bases or wooden disks: something to give them more stability and make the overall result a little more professional looking.
Anyway, the plan is to use these as Forests.
I’ve had parts of an Arcane Ruins set left over from my display board… and I can only have so many forests on the table.  So, I built a ruins feature.  Not the best, I’ll admit, but it’s playable terrain: the menhir aren’t attached to the base, and they’ve got spots indicating where they need to be returned to.
Sensing a theme here?  I want terrain that looks good, but that I can play with.  Nothing makes me crazier than terrain that looks good but makes actually playing the game on/around it miserable.
We can use this for any number of Arcane Architecture types.
Finally, I needed something to use as a Mystical Monument: a couple of weeks ago, we used a 6″x8″ graveyard as an Idol of Gork (or Possibly Mork) (don’t ask) and it was a disaster: these things are supposed to be much smaller.  So, I made a very large hunk of Warpstone that can stand-in for any of those (or use the Warpstone rules from one of the battle reports in the rules).
That put me at eight terrain pieces, which isn’t quite enough.  So, I ordered a pack of the pre-painted Pegaus Stone Wall (Round) walls: I figure three of them can count as an Obstacle when Placing terrain.  (Or two, if that turns out to be too much.)  They’re pre-painted, and showed up Friday, so I haven’t had the chance to do much with them.  I dislike the color, though, so I’m almost certain to clean up their mold lines and repaint them to match the other pieces of stone.
What’s Next
As I’ve said, there’s a lot of room for improvement here:
I can redo the stalagmites and put them on some bases.
I can replace the hills with something less playable but looks sharper.
I could make the Warpstone look more convincing.
I could do better, spookier looking ruins.
I’ve got plans to build some towers; that’s the real lack here.  I’ve got thoughts that involve beating up on a Bastion so it looks like it’s a Dwarven fastness hewn into the side of some stalagmites (and, even better, a Dwarven fastness hewn into the side of some stalagmites that’s been overtaken and befouled by Skaven).  (Maybe one of each.)
All of that will have to wait, though, since I’ve got a LOT of Skaven to paint.  This’ll get me by until I’m not as buried under Clanrats and Skavenslaves.

Games Day 2010 – Loot

I didn’t spend too much at this year’s Games Day.  That’s probably for the best: I know I went out of control at my first one. :)

I did walk around Dan and Mrs. Abnett to pick up Blood Pact before things opened up.  I smiled at him, and still feel a little weird about not saying anything to them but… he was off the clock.  Given that he was going to spend the next eight hours talking to fans, the last thing he needed was another one starting the day off early.  He’s too nice a guy to have to deal with me that early in the morning.

The Fantasy Flight games booth’s presence was a very good thing.  It gave me the chance to snap up a couple of things I’d been looking forward to picking up: Deathwatch and Death Angel.
I hadn’t planned on picking up any resin, but impulse motivated me to ask fellow IFL’r Jeff P. to snag this year’s Forgeworld Games Day mini for me while he was going back through the Forgeworld line.

When I was on my way back from the bathroom, they announced they were selling Stompas for 50%.  I don’t need a Stompa: I don’t play Orks and I don’t really play games that involve superheavies… but I was right there and, for $50, I’m sure I can find something to do with a Stompa.  So, I snapped it up (and did so before they started making people WAAAGH for them… that’s how I really won).

Finally, we had some blisters left over from the Rapid Fire prize-support, and GW didn’t want them back.  So, we all picked out some: I kept some random minis that look like fun to paint (particularly excited about painted up the goblins), as well as a couple of Skaven minis.  Everything else is going to go into a bag and get auctioned off at the next Battle for the Cure auction as a Bag of Games Day Crap.

Games Day 2010 – Rapid Fire

As I mentioned, the Iron Fist League ran Rapid Fire again at Games Day.  We were pretty hard to miss: smack dab in the middle of the convention floor, across from the store.

Setup
Setup on Friday went down quite smoothly: completely done in about three and a half hours.  I attribute this to Doug McN’s somewhat psychotic organization of terrain: he showed up with a truck full of terrain, all broken out by theme and table: two 4×4 tables per drawer.

After that, it was off to the Wharf Rat Oliver’s Pratt Street Alehouse with the IFL and WNPG guys to wait out traffic before heading home

Turnout
I’m still waiting on the result spreadsheets but I can speak, roughly, about how active it was.  Last year was insanely successful.  This year, we were still successful but less so.

Last year: there were no open gaming tables; while that was a mistake on GW’s part, we certainly profited from it… if you wanted to game at last year’s Games Day, you had to do it through Rapid Fire.  This year, they had open gaming and, it seemed to me, there were more club tables offering it as well.

Also, we had more tables than we did last year… plus, they put the 40K and Fantasy tables next to each other, which was great since it let us shift tables to the system that needed it most (40K).

So, turnout wasn’t as out of control as it was last year but most of our tables were occupied, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

For 40K, we had about 2/3rd’s the players.  Fantasy, surprisingly, was nearly dead.  It was much more active last year; we had barely more than ten players.

Prizes
I’d been concerned that we’d forgotten to talk to Game Vault, who’d very generously given us prize support last year, about prize support this year.

I had no need for concern, though, as Games Workshop hurled stuff at us to give away:

  • Warhammer 40K Battle Points: Killa Kans & Deff Dread
  • Warhammer 40K Longest Winning Streak: Chaos Predator
  • Warhammer Battle Points: Beastman Battalion
  • Warhammer Longest Winning Streak: Warhammer 8th Gamer’s Edition (minus the book)

They also gave us, literally, an entire box of blisters to give away.  So, we did: anyone who won three games in a row got a blister.  At one point, we had a guy waiting kind of an unreasonably long time for a game of Fantasy: we gave him a couple of blisters as a thanks-for-your-patience.

Games Day 2010 – Golden Daemon

On the drive home Thursday, I had the unpleasant realization that Games Day was two days off, one of which was going to be spent… prepping for Games Day.  Basically, that I had Thursday night to finish whatever I was going to enter into the Golden Daemon.

That meant the Bonebreaker I’d had hopes for, but had tabled (thanks to uselessness in 8th), wasn’t going to happen.

I was also quite certain that this was going to be the last Games Day in Baltimore (and therefore the Golden Daemon I’d be able to enter), so there was no reason not to enter into as many categories as possible.

In the end, I painted up the banner on the Doomwheel and that was it.  Everything else was entered as-is.

My entries (just re-posting pics, here, not taking new ones; hence the lack of Doomwheel banner for now):

Warhammer 40K Single Miniature: Dark Angels Librarian

Mostly wanted to see how well he’d do, as I’d painted him in about half a day before the first Rapid Fire.

Warhammer 40K Squad:  Bloodless Bloodletters

Why not, right?  I knew these guys weren’t going anywhere, because they’re modeled… imperfectly.  The seam between face and cranium is one of those things you don’t know to watch for until it’s way too late.  Still, they’re the most unique squad I have.

Folks had commented on them: people I didn’t know would know about my Daemons mentioned that they knew I’d done my whole army this way.  That was kinda neat.

Warhammer 40K Vehicle: Dark Angels Venerable Dreadnought

Mostly because I was trying to hit as many categories as possible.  If I’d realized he’d be a vehicle and not a monster, I’d have submitted one of my Daemon Princes, as well.  No worries, though.

Warhammer Single Figure: Skaven Warlord

Yeah, this guy.  I’d been seriously considering doing my Warlock Engineer, but he came out the other side of rebasing for the worse, and my wife convinced me that this guy was much cooler.

She was right: he made First Cut and, I was told, was extremely close to actually winning an award.  Hot-damn.

Warhammer Monster: Doomwheel

This guy was a no-brainer, but he needed a banner.  That’s what ate my Thursday.  I’ll post pics later.

This was, to understate, a Doomwheel-heavy competition.  Mine was one of three.

It was also one of two to make First Cut.  Boo-yeah.

Lord of the Rings Single Miniature: Haradrim Troll

I’d planned on entering this fellow last year… but made the mistake of looking at Dave Taylor’s blog the morning of the event.  That’s a great way to make yourself feel like an incompetent modeler.  This year, I just went with it.

Misunderstood how things worked in the late afternoon: all of my stuff was still in the cases, and I thought that meant all of it had made the cut (hence the ecstatic FB posts & Tweets).  This was not the case.  Rather, only two models (the Warlord and Doomwheel) made first cut.  Although this means four entries didn’t; I’m okay with that… it means First Cut means a lot more.  Being one of ~5 models means a lot more than being one of ~25.

Overall, I’m quite happy with my performance and satisfied with myself.  I can continue being insufferable as a first-place loser in the Golden Daemon for another year!

Rapid Fire – Games Day 2010

It bears repeating that the Iron Fist League will be running Rapid Fire for both 40K and Fantasy at Games Day this year.

The format is, at its heart, the same as the Rapid Fire tournament Matt H and I run every year at Game Vault: play small games, fast.  It’s a good format for Games Day, because you can play as many games as you feel like… and no more.

Composition rules (which aren’t exactly on the GW website, beyond “500/800”) are:

Warhammer 40,000

  • Max 500pts from a current, published GW codex
  • Force Org: 0-1 HQ, 1+ Troops, 0-1 Elite, 0-1 Fast, 0-1 Heavy Support
  • Max 250pts on any single unit
  • Max 100pts on any single model
  • No 2+ Saves
  • No Model with more than 2 wounds

Warhammer Fantasy

  • Max 800 pts from a current published GW Army Book
  • All GW FAQ/Errata applicable to the chosen GW Army Book are in use.
  • Army must have a character model (Lord or Hero) acting as its General *
  • Army is subject to the following additional composition limits: (0-25% Lords, 0-25% Heroes, 0-25% Rares, 0-50% Specials, 25%-100% Core, 2+ non-character units)

* Tomb Kings may use a Liche Priest as both the Heirophant and General.

I’ll be working the IFL tables… probably the Fantasy ones, but that’s not a lock.  Stop by and say hello if you’re going to be there.  Or, better yet, bring an army and get a couple of quite games in!