Monthly Archives: September 2009

For Whom the Bell Tolls

This past weekend was my first free weekend in what seems like forever; I had high hopes of Getting Things Done.  And, although I didn’t get as much done as I’d have liked, I did get 95% done with my Screaming Bell conversion.

I’ve had the pieces for it for probably over six months, but I’ve held off on doing it because of frustration with the Skaven and diversion into War of the Ring.  Plus, I was never really sure how I was going to get some thin and small plastic hands to support a large and heavy metal bell.  I could have waited for the rumored new kit, which if it exists should have a plastic bell but…

The announcement of Dragon Wars, an annual Fantasy Tournament built around dragon fetishism and goofy but fun rules motivated me to pull the tub down and get to work.

The first problem I’d faced was what to do with the hands.  The dragon claws weren’t large enough to convincingly hold the bell.  After several months of deliberation, I realized I have a surplus of Rat Ogre arms.  Problem solved.

The grip isn’t perfect, but at least it’s convincing.

Getting the secured was the biggest challenge.  I finally gave up on supporting it from above and decided to support it from below.  I’ve got a thick paperclip coming up  nearly 3″ from the base and shoved into a wad of greenstuff and superglue in the top of the bell and secured with more greenstuff and superglue near the opening of the bell.

The paperclip runs another 3″ or so on the bottom of the base and is secured by… you guessed it: greenstuff and superglue.

A little bit of the pin is showing, but I don’t think it’ll be all that noticeable, especially when camouflaged with some aquarium rocks.

Skaven don’t truck with dragons, but the do have an endless horde of hideous and vile mutants to drive onto the field.  The main goal of the conversion was to transform it into a enormous wing’d rat beast.

So, I gave it gnawing, buck teeth, and filed down what was a forked tongue into a more normal, ratty tongue.

And then I started sculpting hair.  This is what made it take a weekend instead of an afternoon, since I had to wait for the greenstuff I’d just sculpted to cure before I could start on another section (lest I maul what I’d just completed with my clumsy fingers).

I orginally hadn’t planned on doing so much hair, but this is where I ended up.  I think it looks good.  Also, I put on a few buboes, since Skaven always have a few of those.

The only thing I’m not entirely sure I’m happy with is the tail.

It needs to look like a ratty tail.  The bottom of the tail is fine, in this regard.  The top’s another matter.  I don’t feel comfortable trying to file or buff the scales down (especially now that it’s all assembled, but even before), since the end result would just be something unnervingly smooth (or unnervingly smooth and with horrible texturing).  So, I’m leaving it.

The other thing that needs doing is the mount.  Originally, I’d planned to build a little platform over the saddle for the Grey Seer to stand on.  That plan is on hold, though, because there’s talk of a number of mount options in the new Skaven book: Giant Rat, Rat Ogre, litter, etc.  Also, the style of the Skaven is changing a little bit.  My hope is that there will be some new riding legs that I’ll be able to use to mount the Grey Seer on it’s back like a rider.

Of course, this presents me with a difficult decision: paint it now (and in time for Dragon Wars), or leave it unpainted and therefore more easily altered with whatever new bits there will be in November?

(Also, this post has convinced me that I need to buy/build a lightbox.  My current setup clearly isn’t holding up.)

Planning for the Enemy

I’ve been doing some thinking about tuning your list for a specific opponent.   Taking advantage of your strengths as much as your opponent’s weaknesses.

Most of the games I’ve played have been with “All Comers” lists; lists intended to perform as well as one could hope against any possible opponent (I’ll come back to why that is in a bit).  It’s become clear to me that, while this is sometimes appropriate, maybe sometimes isn’t.

Warhammer 40K

I’ve spent more time playing Warhammer 40K than I have playing any other miniatures game.  Far and away, the bulk of that time has been spent playing in leagues (escalation and otherwise) in the Iron Fist League, a group that’s pretty competitive in the way it approaches the game… mostly because many of its members like to play in tournaments.  Lists are often refinements of tournament lists.

Tournament lists, ideally, are all-comers.  Although there’s a certain amount of metagame involved (like the fact that you’re somewhat more likely to face an MEQ army in any particular game or that there are a lot of Ork and Guard players out there), there’s really no way to know what armies you’re going to face.  Building to completely obliterate one kind of army is generally setting yourself up to take a beating from another kind.

Additionally, 40K has random scenarios and deployment rules.  You don’t actually know what sort of game you’re going to be playing until you start playing it.  You need to build your force to handle every possible scenario.

Discussions on the IFL forum about specifically customizing your army to your opponent generally involves universal abhorrence.  Although it’d be madness to for a company of Astartes to not recognize that they’re assaulting a Tyranid warzone and equip themselves accordingly, the consensus is that it’s just bad sportsmanship and indicative of low character.

I’m not altogether sure where to draw the line between specifically customizing your force to address your opponent and simply responding to the local metagame, however.  What’s the difference between deliberately saying, “I’m about to play against orks.  Better load up on the flamers,” and just playing against a lot of orks and coming to the conclusion that flamers always end up useful?

Warhammer Fantasy

Most of my Fantasy playing has also been with the IFL… though the WHFB culture is remarkably different from that of the 40K culture.  Almost all of the Fantasy players participate in a challenge pyramid, which is all about knowing exactly who you’re going to be facing and building a list to crush them.

It feels like the magic item lists really support that approach, too.  Dwarf-Slayer doesn’t look like something I’d ever take, unless I knew I was going to be playing against Dwarfs, you know?

It also makes sense in that it truly encourages a player to learn all the ins and outs of both his army and his opponent’s.  If you don’t really understand what you might be facing, you can’t really prepare for it.

Unlike 40K, Fantasy pretty much just as the one scenario.  I’ve looked at the variant scenarios from the 6th edition rulebook, and they’re fundamentally not so much alternate scenarios as mildly different deployments.

As I’ve only played in on WHFB tournament (an escalation league tournament), I don’t really know how that scene works.  I’m not sure how the WHFB players make the transition from the specific-opponent army to the all-comers army that I’m sure a tournament requires.

What’s interesting is that, here too, I have to wonder if there is a line: one of the more recent local scandals is when a player, on seeing that his opponent had unpacked (and therefore likely would be fielding) a dragon, put a unit back in the case and pulled out more bolt throwers.  There was a great deal of outrage over this on the forum.  Is this specific act fundamentally any different from more generally deliberately building your army to defeat your opponent’s?


I’m only just getting started with this game, so in many ways I’m talking about of my ass.

One thing that we’ve identified is that it really feels like we’re supposed to pick the scenario, look our opponent in the eye and then build our list with full knowledge of what army they’ll be playing.  Showing up with a list typed up the day before that seemed like a good idea is just asking for frustration.

The mechanics of the game seem to encourage it, as do the extremely awkwardly phrased unit costs.


It seems to me that, depending on the game and metagame, it’s sometimes appropriate to construct a list with a specific opponent in mind.  Given that my default setting is 40K, which discourages that, I’m likely to generally continue building all-comers lists, regardless of the game and I’m likely to continue being disappointed when I’m up against someone who hasn’t.  I think that’s probably my fault, though, for not tapping into the game better.

What do folks think?  Always all-comers?  Are things more nuanced?

Therians: The Future of Mankind

I won an excellent auction on eBay last week, and it finally showed up yesterday.  I wasn’t really looking for a second AT-43 army, but it was too good a deal to pass up: the lot had been going for $100 when I noticed it and I ended up snapping it up for $153.

The guy noted that he didn’t really know what was in the lot, just that what was shown was what I’d get.  Not a problem.

Now that I’ve had the chance to really work through what’s in the box: it really was a great deal:

  • Characters
    • Sigma Urash
    • Alpha Atis-Astarte 
    • Omega Tiamat
  • Golems
    • Overseer x1, Nanoblaster, Reaper Blades
    • Overseer x1, Nucleus Gun, Reaper Blades
    • 24x Nanoblaster, Reaper Blades
    • 11x Reaper Blades, Reaper Blades
    • 9x Sonic Gun, Reaper Blades
    • 7x Flamer, Reaper Blades
    • 4x Nucleus Rifle, Reaper Blades
    • 3x Nucleus Gun, Reaper Blades
  • Assault Medusae x8
  • Bane Goliaths x6
  • Wraith Golgoths x4
  • Hekat Golgoths x5

If I assume that as many of these minis came from Operation Damocles boxes as possible (which is tremendously likely, though I don’t actually believe it to be the case), that’s ~$650 worth of stuff at MSRP.  More likely, because so much AT-43 is still floating around at deep discount on sites like The War Store and FRP Games, all of this stuff is worth much closer to $400.  That’s still an incredibly good deal; somewhere in the neighborhood of 77% – 62% off, depending on how I want to look at it.  Plus, Assault Medusae aren’t listed anywhere, now… not even on Rackham’s AT-43 site.

There was a slight drawback in that every single strider in the package was broken.

The seller had too much faith in styrofoam peanuts.  I expected there to be a bit of breakage, but this is far more extensive.  Even that I’m okay with (he did warn that there was some breakage, and it was a great deal)… the only really vexing thing is that I seem to be missing a couple of bits of of Golgoth.  I’m a few spiky bits short of having five Hekat Golgoths.  Given the savings, I can’t complain much, though.

I might, in the near-term, supplement it with a Nina Zero, a Baal Golgoth and maybe some Assault Goliaths… but nothing else.  There’s no need.

Genestealer Color Scheme

In between other things, I’ve trying out different color schemes, trying to settle on how I’m going to paint my Space Hulk genestealers.  I’ve got a very solid idea of how I’m going to paint the terminators already (heck, I’ve got the terminators from the last edition painted up, though I’m not sure I’d like to parade them around in public… in fact, I could field all of them as Deathwing Terminators, though the bases would cause me problems).  The ‘stealers have always given me problems.

About this time last year, I’d settled on a paint scheme for a Tyranid army that I’ve since abandoned, and really need to put on eBay (if you’re interested, let me know, I’ve got a great deal! :) ).
I’m actually very happy with the scheme: basecoat, highlights and then brushed with Minwax.  Dipping’s great for painting a huge number of space bugs, but Space Hulk has less than thirty.  Too much hassle, I think.
Plus, although I like the scheme, I’d like to make them darker, creepier, nastier.
I’ve thoroughly abused a spare genestealer I’ve had floating around (possibly/probably from the previous edition of Space Hulk), and have settled, I think, on a paint scheme.
The chitin on the leg is the scheme I’m going to use for chitin.  It’s P3 Cryx Bane Base highlighted with P3 Cryx Bane Highlight and washed with Devlan Mud thickened with some matte medium.
The flesh pretty much everywhere here is what I’ll be using for flesh.  It’s Dheneb Stone washed with Devlan Mud thickened with matte medium.
This’ll give me a nice, wicked and creepy color scheme.  Dark, dangerous and insectoid chitin and pulpy, gross flesh.
I still need to settle on how I’m painting the claws.  I’m thinking I might try Dheneb Stone washed with some sort of Badab Black.  Not sure, though.  They need to pop out and look dangerous.

Arch-Plaguelord Nurglitch

Finished Nurglitch yesterday.  (Technically, I finished him today, but all I did today was glue the banner on, wash a few small things and varnish him; I did a lot of work on him yeterday.)  Here he is:

I’m not entirely happy with him; I relied a little too much on washes, which might have turned out okay but my Devlan Mud seems to have thickened up a bit.  Still, he’s pretty cool, and I think the base looks great.

Plague Rats

I should be playing WHFB this coming Tuesday.  Hopefully, timing work out such that I get not one, but two games in.

I’ve been working on painting some miniatures for the army, too.  I’m not quite up to powering through a full unit of 25 in a single week just yet, but it’s entirely appropriate to paint Nurglitch. He’s maybe halfway there, but I hope to find some time to finish him before Tuesday.

(Hastily taken with my phone this morning.)

This is the list I’m looking to use:

Rashputin Marches
Bubonic Court of Nurglitch – 2250 points

Lords & Heroes
  • Nurglitch – General
  • Plague Priest – BSB, Stormbanner
  • Festering Chantor – Dispel Scroll x2


  • Plague Monks x26 – Full Command, Extra Hand Weapon, War Banner
  • Plague Monks x26 – Full Command, Extra Hand Weapon
  • Pusbags x20
  • Pusbags x20
  • Frothing Giant Rats x25
  • Frothing Giant Rats x25
  • Plague Censer Bearers x10
  • Plague Censer Bearers x10


  • Rat Spawn
  • Rat Spawn

We’ll see how it does.  Not many changes from before: pretty much just dropping the Lvl 2 upgrade on the Festering Chantor and using the points for more bodies.  I was pretty happy with how everything worked out in the last game, and I’m not sure that any of the other units would be that much more useful.

(God, doesn’t that image make you want to hurl?)

More Red Blok Thoughts

I keep forgetting rules that my units have.  Must, must keep that from happening.

  • Tymofieva’s Interference rule (when she activates, I pick a card in my opponent’s sequence and put it somewhere else).  It’s not amazing or anything, but when I’m paying for it, I should use it.
  • Vrachov’s Grenade Pistol.  He doesn’t have an Assault Rifle like the other Krasnye he rolls with; he’s got a mini-grenade launcher.
  • Odin O-1 & Manon O-2’s Mechanic ability.  They get to repair two boxes per activation.
  • Assault Rifles are 1/1.  Not 1/0.  That’s kind of freaking important.

I also can’t shake the feeling that we’re not doing cover right.  It seems like I should be basking in the warm glow of cover saves a lot more often than I actually am; last night we used Frostbite maps, and it wasn’t really happening.  I think it’s probably because we’re not correctly establishing the Zone of Fire.

Type 3 Infantry is very hard to take down.  I was unprepared for this.  Chris’ Cog Type 3’s were functionally invincible, and my Dragomirov Kolossi were awfully resilient until Bane Goliath’s opened up on them.

I’ve been unimpressed with my Dragonov Kommandos.  Sniper doesn’t work on heroes, apparently?  Electronic Warfare is useful, but no so much that I’m not sure I can’t get more mileage out of some other unit in that slot.

Still, I’ve hardly played any actual games.  More play will tell me more.

The (Bubonic) Court Is in Session

Only got one game in with the Bubonic Court last night, but it was a pretty good one.
We ended up bumping things up to 2250 because of my concerns that, after dropping 575 for Nurglitch, there wouldn’t be enough left over to make a viable army; I think I was probably right.
What I ran:
An Itching, Burning Sensation
Bubonic Court of Nurglitch – 2,250 points
Lords & Heroes
  • Plague Lord Nurglitch
  • Plague Priest – BSB, Storm Banner
  • Festering Chantor – Lvl 2 Upgrade, Plague Censer, Dispell Scroll x2
  • Plague Monks x24 – Full Command, Extra Hand Weapon, War Banner
  • Plague Monks x24 – Full Command, Extra Hand Weapon
  • Pusbags x20 – Musician
  • Pusbags x20 – Musician
  • Frothing Giant Rats x25
  • Frothing Giant Rats x25
  • Plague Censer Bearers x10
  • Plague Censer Bearers x10
  • Rat Spawn
  • Rat Spawn
What Mike ran:
Khainite – First Cut
Dark Elves – 2,250 points
Lords & Heroes
  • Death Hag – General, Cauldron of Blood
  • Master – BSB, Heavy Armor, Sea Dragon Cloak, Dark Steed, Ring of Hotek, Crimson Death
  • Dark Elf Assassin – Extra Hand Weapon, Manbane, Rune of Khaine
  • Dark Elf Sorceress – Level 2, Dispel Scroll, Darkstar Cloak, Dark Steed
  • Dark Elf Sorceress – Level 2, Dispel Scroll x 2
  • Crossbowmen x10 – Shields
  • Dark Riders x5 – Musician, Repeater Crossbows
  • Dark Riders x5 – Musician, Repeater Crossbows
  • Harpies x5
  • Harpies x5
  • Cold One Chariot
  • Har Ganeth Executioners x16 – Standard, Musician
  • Witch Elves of Khaine x20 – Standard, Musician
  • Repeater Bolt Thrower
  • Repeater Bolt Thrower
  • War Hydra
I truly did start the game expecting to be wiped off the table in half an hour… in the end, though, the game had a lot of back-and-forth and was pretty close. We had to call the game at the end of the fifth turn due to the store closing, but I think I had a pretty good shot of winning had the game gone on to the sixth turn.
That said, there were three things that made the game as close as it was:
  1. Mike’s list. The list he ran was different from his usual list; including units he’d never really run before and leaving out units he’s come to rely on. He wasn’t running a deliberately bad list, but it was something new and not particularly optimized.
  2. The winds of magic hating him. Eternally hating him. His casters miscast every. single. time.
  3. His assassin was unable to drop Nurglitch. Eight hits became two wounds, neither of which were able to penetrate Nurglitch’s foul misasma of funk.
That’s not to say I played a perfect game. Far from it. I dropped the ball in a number of places.
  • I did an execrable job screening my Frenzied units (nearly all of them) with my non-Frenzied units (Pusbags). I didn’t. Instead, I deployed them the way I normally deploy my Skavenslaves: in a fat block waiting to either catch an enemy unit in the flank or flee from a charge, setting up a flank charge for another unit. What I should have done is stretched them out in two ranks of 10 Pusbags each and screened my Plague Monks from charging off.
  • Casting wasn’t great. Although I didn’t roll a bunch of 1’s, Nurglitch lost Plague to an excellent casting roll turned into a miscast by the Ring of Hotek. From that point on, I didn’t have much ability to get off Pestilent Breath due to range and dispell dice and I never really wanted to cast Death Frenzy. In an army that will never lose Frenzy, it looks very useful but it’s absolutely a death sentence.
  • This also means that Warpstone Tokens weren’t particularly useful, and it also means the Level 2 Upgrade for the Festering Chantor was a complete waste.
  • I consistently forgot that Giant Rats are M 6 and not M 5. At 12″ charge distance is very different from a 10″ charge distance. I don’t know if that would have helped (I’m sure I would have caught Mike’s Dark Riders with them) or hurt (I’m not sure that having them tied up in combat and not soaking up Bolt Thrower fire would have been a good thing), but it’s a fundamentally dumb thing to forget.
  • I also consistently forgot that I had the War Banner. +1 CR matters, damnit!
The army was well outside of my comfort zone, and played very, very differently than what I’m used to. That’s fun. It didn’t hurt that there were a number of things worked pretty well for me, either.
  • Fewer units meant that each real block of rank & file had at least one character in it. One unit of Plague Monks had, for its fronk rank, Nurglitch, a Plague Deacon, a standard bearer, and a Festering Chantor. The other had a Plague Priest and a Plague Deacon up front. That added both a leadership boost that Skaven really love to have and a great deal extra punch, which the Plague Monks really need.
  • Nurglitch is a big, tough, bastard. I don’t know that he’s worth nearly 600 points, but he threw out a number of attacks that I’m simply not used to, had an extremely high toughness and a ton of wounds. Statistically, he should be able to survive the Assassin he saw last night (but just barely): the Assassin threw out 8 attacks with Manbane (4 base attacks, extra hand weapon, bonus from the Cauldron of Blood, and 2 attacks from Rune of Khaine), 7 of which should hit, 4.6 of which should wound, only three of which should get through Nurglitch’s 5+ Ward Save.
  • Having some hard-hitting characters in the units, plus Frenzy never going away, plus the regular Skaven static combat resolution helped a lot.
  • The Rat Things did quite well. Stubborn 10 is another thing I’m not used to. Their strength could be higher, I feel, but they seemed to do quite well tying up units.
All in all, it was a fun game that was full of back-and-forth, something I’ve found lacking in WHFB. I’m going to fiddle with my list (and paint up Nurglitch) and try to fit in another game or two with the Court.

Pustulent Rat Spawn

In preparation for next week, I had to dig around to find the Nurglitch I’d assembled and gap filled about a year ago. I also searched, in vain, for the Lord Skrolk miniature I know I own (but can’t seem to find).
Anyway, here’s Nurglitch, Arch Plague Lord of Clan Pestilens in all of his pustulent glory.

I also assembled a Rat Spawn. I’d orginally intended to use the Chaos Spawn model as a base and throw in some Rat Ogre bits… but that really never really came together. I have to say; I appear to have unreasonable expectation for the Chaos Spawn kit; it seems particularly unable to produce what I’d like it to produce. (See also: The World’s Crappiest Daemon Prince.)
Instead, it ended up being a Rat Ogre with a couple of Chaos Spawn bits and a hunk of green stuff. It’s not as impressive as I’d hoped, but it’s sufficient. Better than the Daemon Prince, that’s for sure.

Those snakey things in the background are D&D Minis I’d considered sawing into bits and using as a lower torso… but I ended up deciding against doing that. It’d be weird to have a snake-like lower body… and a tail.