Monday, March 28, 2011

Semper fidelis tyrannosaurus

Killinger: The phrase is, 'Sic semper tyrannis'; you just said, 'Always faithful terrible lizard.'
21: I did? Cool.

This is a Space Marine post; sorry, no dinosaurs.

Spaguatyrine kicked my Marine army's ass in the second round of the Saltare tournament last Saturday.  Some of it was army list; some of it was failing three pin tests in a row and my entire second turn consisting of me firing one las cannon.  I was running a variant of my double captain army with one of the captains swapped for a librarian.  Spag runs a dynamic Wolf army, and my marines aren't built to handle the one, two, three punch of longfangs, thunderwolves, and wolf scouts.  Spag and I talked over things I could do to make the army better.  He pointed out that I don't have any big melee threats in my army.  It's hard to put a good melee threat into vanilla marines without going TH/SS termies, and that can really change up the composition of my army.

I'm going to dump the Sternguard out of the list.  I loved them, then I hated them, then I loved them again, and now I'm back to hate.  They can be very good and deal with lots of threats, but one squad can't be everywhere at once.  They are also very vulnerable to counterattacks.  They can jump out an kill something really nasty, and then die to whatever is left over.  If that nasty thing is Fateweaver or the Nightbringer it's a good trade; anything else, not so much.

I'm also going to drop the Las-Plas Razors.  This is a suggestion Spag made due to their high point cost.  Thinking about it more; their ratio of threat to survivability is too high.  Essentially a very scary weapon load out on a very flimsy tank.  The two I have are fire magnets, and that's a bad thing for what's holding 50% of my scoring troops.

The polish is wearing of the combi-melta relic blade Captain as well.  He's a good cheap utility HQ, but he can't fight hordes on his own with only his 3+ armor save.  He needs to pick up artificer armor to do that, but I don't think the expense makes him cost effective anymore.  Plus the models are getting converted back to Honor Guard for my counts-as Grey Knights army.

I'm going to keep the tac squad composition the same.  One ten man and two five man squads works well for 1500 points.  I'm going to put the two five man units in basic heavy bolter razorbacks.   It takes aways some high ST-low AP firepower from the list, but will hopefully put them lower on other players' target priority lists.

I love my Rifleman dreads.  They provide a very consistent long-range punch to the army, but they die as soon as anything gets close.  Spag thinks I should only run one of the arms as TL autocannons, and keep the other as a  DCCW.  That would really cut into the ranged firepower of my list.  I then thought about running 2 Ironclad dreads to support the two Rifleman.  Ironclads are something out of the codex that I never got around to trying out.  I though about it a little more and came back around to Spag's suggestion.  His way was cheaper, allowing me to spend more points elsewhere.
So I've ended up with two possible 1500pt lists:

List 1:
Master of the Forge w/ Conversion Beamer
Dreadnought w/ 2x TL Autocannon
Dreadnought w/ 2x TL Autocannon
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ 2x hunter killer missles,
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ 2x hunter killer missles,
10x Tactical Marines w/ Powerfist, meltagun, multi-melta, Rhino
5x Tactical Marines w/ combi-melta Razorback 
5x Tactical Marines w/ combi-melta Razorback 
Land Speeder w/ multi-melta, heavy-flamer
Land Speeder w/ multi-melta, heavy-flamer
5x Devastators w/ 4x missie launchers

MoF hangs out with the devi's in some 3+ cover ruins.  There's a few points left over on this one.

List 2:
Master of the Forge w/ Conversion Beamer
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon 
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon 
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon 
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon 
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon 
10x Tactical Marines w/ Powerfist, meltagun, multi-melta, Rhino
5x Tactical Marines w/ combi-melta Razorback 
5x Tactical Marines w/ combi-melta Razorback 
Land Speeder w/ multi-melta, heavy-flamer
Land Speeder w/ multi-melta, heavy-flamer
5x Devastators w/ 4x missie launchers

1500 points on the dot.

All those DCCW pose a significant close in threat.  Dreadnoughts are not very good against MC's in close combat, but all that downrange S7 and S8 should help kill those before they get to assault range.  My thoughts for going to 2000 pts involves adding a Land Raider with another embarked Tactical squad.  With a generic squad inside, the land raider should blend into all those dreadnoughts for target priority.  Plus more shots at the land raider means fewer shots at the more destructible dreadnoughts.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sprinkles it is

After some deliberation and receiving the bill for a recent emergency room visit, I've decided that starting a full army from scratch while still building up my Tau would not be a financially prudent choice.  I can build a counts as force fairy cheaply.  I think I could make it work with 2 or 3 strike squad boxes, a tactical squad box, and a of course a Dread Knight box.  With that much, I should have no problem putting out a 1500 point list with the help of a few chapter assets for support.

I don't have ready access to the codex, so I've been trying to guesstimate an army based on the few minutes I looked at the codex on Saturday.  I'm hoping that I can squeeze the following into 1500 points:
Grand Marshal
Purifier Squad(The cool honor guard)
Vindicare Assassin(Telion)
2x Strike Squads(The not quite as cool honor guard)
Psy-Rifleman Dread

I'll probably have to go light on the upgrades, but the plan is to make the squads 10x men strong with rhinos.  Arming them with psycannons, psybolt and hammer for the strike squads and hammer, halberds, and incinerators for the purifiers.  I'm also thinking of taking a heavy incinerator for DreadCalgar.  I may have to drop the Vindicare or reduce the purifier squad size to make the army work.  For 2000 points I want to add in another psy-rifleman and a Storm Raven.    

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Should I add sprinkles to my vanilla or get butter pecan?

I really like the fluff and the models for the Ultramarines Honor Guard.  As more Grey Knight rumors became available, it started to seem like their new codex would make a good basis for a Honor Guard counts as army.

It seems like an easy enough thing to do, but playing a count's as army can be rather trying.  For instance; the only HQ model that could lead an honor guard force is Calgar, but you can't equip a grand marshal with two powerfists.  Now you have to explain to your opponents every game that those two really big fists are actually a demon hammer and psycannon.  It can be confusing for your opponents, and I don't want to be accused of being a flavor of the month player.

There are advantages to running the counts as army.  I already have most of the support units I'll need, like rhinos and dreadnoughts.  I probably will only need to buy a tactical box and grey knight strike team box to fill out a basic 1500 point army.  I'll probably get a Dreadknight and a Stromraven too, since I like the models.

Dude....I could convert Calgar as the driver for a Dreadknight!  That could totally work!  Wait, now who am I going to use for my Grand Marshal?

So what do people think?  Should I go down the counts as route, or start a Grey Knight army from scratch?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Streamlining my minis collection

Also known as funding Grey Knights.  I have a lot of models that I probably won't use anymore, and I want to give them all good homes.  I would like for these to go to local players as I don't want to bother with shipping.  If you are interested in anything, make me an offer.  My email address is included in my Blogger profile.

Read on below for the list

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why can't my 40K dice like me like my Warmachine dice?

I've recently returned to land of Warmachine, and apparently that's where my dice karma moved to long before me.  My sample size is incredibly small, but in my pair of MK2 games I've played so far: my dice have been rolling...average.   At one point I even rolled three sixes on three dice!  Warmachine's system has the benefit of being Gaussian.  For those non-math nerds who don't want to read the wiki article, this means that the random values in a set cluster around a single result.  For 2d6 that value is 7.  As you move away from 7 the likelihood of rolling a given number decreases.

In 40k your rolls can be all over the place because each roll is its own distinct event with its own probabilities.  With war machine you have at least two dice affecting a single event, so the random nature of one die is tempered by the random nature of the other.  In 40K if you roll for two events and roll a 6 and a 1, you've had a good time, and a bad time.  In Warmachine if you roll for two events, one being a 6, 1 and the other being a 6, 1, you've had two average times.

Warmachine also has a way built into the game to adjust probabilities. You can make sure important shots are more likely to hit; something that is not generally possible in 40K.  When I'm playing Warmachine I'm less likely to throw a temper tantrum over dice.   Of course there is plenty of other BS things to get pissed about during a Warmachine game :) (note: some of those may or may not have been nerfed in MK2)

One thing I don't like about Warmachine's implementation of 2d6 is that the stats don't quite map to the probability curve of 2d6.   In Warmachine you compare an attack stat to a defense stat and the difference is the target to-hit roll.  Say you have an attack stat of 6 versus two separate defense values of  13 and 17.  You need an average roll of 7 to hit the first one, and a very unlikely 11 to hit the second.   In this case a 30% increase in defensive stat can result in a 50% decrease in the probability of hitting.  This kind of math must make balancing Warmachine a real chore.

I tried to overcome this problem in my own game.  Though I'm not sure if it is the best solution.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I like games where the random chance is a bit less random.  I like 40K for a lot of reasons, but the single d6 mechanic is not one of them.  Unfortunately, I can't think of any other option for providing random results in the quantity needed for the average game of 40K

Monday, March 14, 2011

It isn't easy being vannilla

Another divergent marine chapter codex is about to be released, and poor Codex Space Marines are left wondering why they are still following the teachings of that hack Guiliman.  It seams that when you break the rules you get some pretty cool toys.

 I don't think that the other marine codecies are more than marginally better than stock Astartes,  but their specialization lends to more competitive 5th edition armies.  Each chapter codex has a focus, and if your marine army shares that same focus, you loose nothing by switching codecies.  Running divergent chapters should be a trade-off, not a boon.  As it is, there is no appreciable loss from changing your light-mech Codex Marine army to Blood Angels.  You get essentially the same stats and available units, and also gain the benefits of being a Blood Angel.  The points are different, but not substantially so.   The options are not vanilla vs chocolate vs strawberry; its vannilla vs choclate-vannilla swirl vs strawberry-vannilla swirl.

Compare troop options between Wolves, Blood Angels, and Ultras.  For my Ultras I have to take ten men to get a special and heavy weapon.  Most of the time those two weapons are mutually exclusive in their use.  The other two chapters can take ten men and get two specials that can be used together.  Essentially trading duality for redundancy.   That seems like a fair trade, but it's not.

There's a lot of talk about duality in 40k and its benefits.  I'd rather take a redundant single purpose unit than a unreliable dual purpose unit.  The limited role of the single purpose unit can always be covered by another redundant single purpose unit that fills the opposite role.  Those types of units are not lacking in the divergent chapter codex's.

On top of taking the unfair trade, the Wolves and Blood Angels also get their army wide rules.  They only have to give up Combat Tactics( a situationally useful rule) in return.  You've lost some codex marine traits in the process, but never anything that makes the choice remotely hard.

I think that the divergent chapters should not get the basic marine stat line by default.  They should have one stat take a penalty with the according adjustment in cost.  This makes being a codex marine mean something as they would have the best overall stats but the least specialized rules and equipment.

I think Wolves should get -1 to BS to all units except Long Fangs and the units that already have BS3.  Wolves are primarily a melee army, and having them less capable at ranged combat balances all their CC abilities and units

For Blood Angels I'd like to see -2 to leadership across the whole list.  This way they are little less dependable than marines, and their ability to occasionally become fearless mean a little more.

Maybe I'm being jealous of the Stormraven, Dread Knight, and Thunderwolves, but vanilla is a flavor!  To be vanilla doesn't mean to be completely void of flavor.  Codex Marines needs something to set it apart from all the other Marine chapters, and that is currently lacking in 5th edition.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It Never ENDS!

Does anyone else have to deal with the constant urge to build a new 40K army?  I'm in the middle of building my Tau army, yet I'm compelled to want to build both demons and demon hunters.  Oh, and there's the Santa Claws reindeer riding Space Wolves army I want to build as well.  I also have all those Orks from two separate Black Reach box sets, so I might as well build an Ork army.  I get the urge to build Tyranids occasionally.  I was all set to build some Dark Eldar until half the people at the local store decided to build ones themselves.  I have a mortgage to pay, and that, thankfully, keeps me from even thinking about building a Guard army. I can honestly say I don't want to build least until they get a new codex.   Basically, I want all the armies; except for Chaos Marines.  At least until they get a new codex too.  Ugh, and I need some updates for my Ultras and my Eldar.

I kind of wish there was a way to rent armies.  It would by nice to try one out for a few days to get the urge out of the system.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oh No, Not Again

I played my first game of Warmachine in 3 years yesterday. It was kind of refreshing.  Hard to tell if the MK 2 is that much of an improvement from one game, but is does seam better.  I played a 35 point game against legion.  I was running Haley, the T-Head, a Defender, a Lancer, and a full unit of long gunners with attachment.  It seams that Cygnar still plays the same, but they do still feel bland next to the tricks the legion player got to pull off. Most of my stuff was prime units anyway, and they have always been lighter on special rules.

I'm still kind of sour on Privateer as a company.  They are more like GW that their fans would like to admit. I'll probably get the rule book and the new cards, but i'm not going to buy any knew models.  Even with quitting the game three years ago, I still have 80% of the Cygnar model available.  I also have enough legion models that I shouldn't have to buy any of those either.

Speaking of new rule books and cards.  Privateer really took me to the cleaners on books from the last edition that are now worthless.  Prime, Escalation, Apotheosis, Superiority, Prime++, Hordes, Evolution, Pirates Book, and Mk1 Faction deck.  Not counting the books and decks I need to play MKII; that's close to what I've spent on 40k rules over the last 10 years,and a third of my 40k books are still usable. There are even 2 MK 1 books I didn't even buy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I watched the documentary film version of Freakonomics on Neflix the other night, and it was very fascinating.  Although there was no segment analyzing the behavior of miniature war gamers, there was an interesting segment talking about incentives and cheating.  The economist was talking about how people will find a way to break any incentive system put in place to try and control behavior.  A typical 40k tournament is essentially an incentive system to control player behavior.  Painting scores are there to try and make us paint our armies.  Sportsmanship is there to control the way we interact.  Comp makes us obey the fluff.  It's no surprise that there is a way to abuse all of theses systems.

If people are going to break your carefully crafted incentive systems, then why bother?   Tournaments, for the most part, are fun to play in.  You get to play the game in a manner different from the normal causal weekend games at the local game store.  The trick is to not put too much additional complexity into the design.  Every tournament pack that has ever made me ask what the TO was drinking when he wrote it has tried to use too much complexity to solve the problem of bad player behavior.  A complex rule system for a tournament isn't necessarily going to stop people from abusing the spirit of the game anymore than a simple one.

As a software developer I know a few things about complex systems.  The more elements you add causes the amount of interactions between those elements to grow exponentially.  All those interactions are places when unexpected behavior can occur.   They represent places where people can break the rules and get away with it.   

It's been my observation that people will bend the rules just enough to get what they want. Cheating is essentially a lazy act, so you won't see people create complex ways to cheat simple systems. It's too much work.  With a simple system, the ways to break it are obvious, so it becomes obvious to see when someone does it.

You also don't need complex systems for people to have fun.  The escalation league I'm running is a good example of this.  The league essentially has two rules sets.  The first one can be explained in a few sentences.  You play games, get points for winning, and then spend those points to gain rank.  It's really not that much more complicated than that.  The second is an optional campaign with special rules and missions.  I almost always see people playing in the simple free form manner of the first rules set, than with the more complex campaign rules.

Another bit of wisdom carried over form software development is the distinction between a working solution and an elegant one.  Most of what we can  hope for is a good enough working solution.  A tournament system that get's it right most of the time is good enough.  And you don't need complexity for a most of the time solution.  And if you keep refining the good enough solution, over time it may become an elegant one that works all the time..

So the moral of the story: Cheaters are going to cheat, so keep it simple and have fun despite them.