Well, it is. Sorry, but it really is. I’ve written about seven hundred words for NaNoWriMo this week. I’ve also written two research papers, applied for half a dozen jobs, volunteered as an officer for the local Green Party, done my torturous tax return for last year, started levelling my Orc Warlock in WoW (more on Warlords of Draenor when I’ve hit 100, I think, but I don’t hate it so far!), sold my bike (regrettable, but given the state my back and leg are falling into it’s just not worth damaging myself further by trying to cycle everywhere) and finally, finally bothered to stick my Skeletons back together. I only pledged to do that back in January.
Results have been mixed; the big unit with the spears were pretty easy once I bought some new polystyrene cement and bothered to clean up their joints; the sword-and-board ones at the back went together fairly well although some of them are a bit boring; the crossbowmens (crossbones?), though, were a bloody nightmare and I’m amazed my eighteen-year-old self had the patience to put them together. I put the five for whom I could find bits and reasonable poses together, as a testament to the good old days, but after that I ran out of parts and patience.
The leftovers will be transformed into a unit filler. I’d been intending to model the impact of a cannonball on a unit of Skeletons, but then I found a tube of model filler at the bottom of the bit box and, in a moment’s perversity, started squeezing great gouts of it all over the piles of broken Skellies instead. Cannonballs are all well and good but they’re a bit… historical. What I wanted was something uniquely Warhammer – something like representing The Dwellers Below being cast on and annihilating my helpless bonebags. It’s bound to happen sooner or later and it beats just leaving them in a box somewhere.
Results were… mixed. It’ll probably look better when it’s painted, so more on that later.
Besides patching up the Skellies, I’ve been somewhat hyped up about Orks of late. It’d be easy and not inaccurate to blame Warlords of Draenor for that, but truth be told I’d had a realisation about the Chaos project; it was way too big and way too easy to get carried away, and simply getting hold of the appropriate rulebooks through legal channels would set me back triple figures, let alone starting the army. Orks, by contrast, are very straightforward. Here’s your Ork book. That’s it. No temptation for crossovers, no itchy fingers for new WFB armies; just Orks for 40K and Vampires for WFB, like it was when I started out. Given that any interaction I have with GW games these days is basically a nostalgia trip and a chance to catch up with old mates, that might be for the best.
Mindful that the last project folded because I spent a month on theoryhammer and no time on practicehammer, I’ve turned my gaze on eBay; a few old army books have gone up, and a few bargains are being watched. I have high hopes for the wodge of good solid Ork Boyz and Nobz in totally unpainted state that some kind soul is parting with; if I can secure those, the huge start-up cost of a new army is mitigated and I can add fun stuff to that core as and when circumstances permit or encourage. Plus I know how to paint Orks. I’ve been doing it nearly twenty years, after all.
Anyway. Gorgrond beckons and I want to be level 100 by the time WoW’s anniversary raid hits. I’ll be seeing you in a week.
I had every intention of doing a spot of work on my Vampire Counts over the midwinter break, you know. I knew there’d be a lot of restoration work involved, what with the badly dated paint-jobs and general incompetence with which the force was constructed back in the day. What I hadn’t been quite prepared for was the sheer level of embuggerance that would be involved. It seems like the plastic models are becoming more and more decrepit and less and less easy to restore as time goes by.
The kitbashed models were always a bit brittle, but the Knights were assembled as per their source kit and four of those have imploded. I’d been about to blame modern Citadel plastic glue, but that wouldn’t explain why models I built ten years ago are collapsing. I’ve scraped and scrubbed and scored, I’ve tried superglue and plastic glue, and nothing seems to bally well work. The last straw came yesterday when I tried to stick a Skeleton champion’s hand back on and his whole arm snapped off, pinging deep into the nether regions of the carpet.
The ball-ache of restoring the army has got me to thinking. See, it’s my attachment to the old models which bound me to some rather dubious list-building choices – but if some of my old models are effectively unusable, couldn’t I replace them with some stronger pieces and newer figures, and keep those original models who’ve retained some integrity?
My twenty-seven Grave Guard – one-piece metal Reiksgard infantry – have held up well, as have five Spirit Hosts and five Wraiths – undead Flagellants – and the Varghulf. The characters are OK too, so that’s two footslogging Vampires and one on a horse, three Necromancers and three Banshees, two of whom I clearly never bothered to paint. The Fell Bats need a lick of paint and their stands fixed, but I have four or maybe five of them ready to fly, and eight Black Knights who are still pretty much intact. That’s actually a decent enough chunk of Special and Rare stuff. I begin to wonder if it mightn’t be worth assembling a kind of MSU-and-Hordes build; hard Grave Guard and Ghoul centre, with a couple of mid-sized Zombie bunkers for spellcasters, and then Varghulfs, Wraiths, Spirits and Bats in various multiples to run interference.
Having run off and done some mathematics I’ve come up with something a bit different from the usual Vampire Counts lists that I see going around. I started from Rare and worked down rather than from Core outwards like I usually do, and… well, here’s what I’ve come up with for a squeak under 2400 points. I could build this very easily with either two boxes of Mantic Ghouls and a couple of unit fillers (Citadel Woods spring to mind) or one of those Crypt Scavengers sets GW are currently pimping; that’d give me all the unit filler terrain I could want, including long gateway/wall pieces for bulking out Hordes, plus a unit of Crypt Horrors and the option of messing about with the new Battlescroll thing. And, of course, all my models would be Official, which would be nice.
Vampire Lord with Fencer’s Blades, Armour of Destiny, Red Fury, Dark Acolyte – 375
(Lore of the Vampires; always picks Invocation; General)
Vampire with heavy armour, shield, Book of Arkhan, Dark Acolyte, Beguile – 176
(Lore of the Vampires; always picks Invocation)
Necromancer with extra magic level, Staff of Damnation – 140
(Lore of Death)
30 Zombies with standard and musician – 100
(5×6 – Clarimonde goes here)
30 Zombies with standard and musician – 100
(5×6 – Walravius goes here)
Grim Moor First of Foot
40 Ghouls – 400
Knights of the Black Cross
29 Grave Guard with great weapons, full command and Banner of the Barrows – 428
(10×3 Horde – Ruthven goes here)
Spirit Host – 45
Spirit Host – 45
2 Fell Bats – 32
2 Fell Bats – 32
Black Monks of St. Herod
3 Wraiths with Tomb Banshee – 175
3 Wraiths with Tomb Banshee – 175
Varney the Varghulf
Varghulf (duh) – 175
Unusually light on characters and magic; rather than muck about trying to pin down an enemy magic phase I’d be focusing my efforts on soaking the casualties, hunting down the wizards with fast stuff and Death sniping, and using the Bound spells to recoup losses, move faster, and behave more efficiently in combat.
Possible tweaks include:
- Thirty Ghouls and ten Dire Wolves (two fives with Doom Wolves) for more speed and chaff and hunting?
- Two Varghulfs and five Wraiths, without Banshees (would involve dropping Walravius’ extra magic level and Staff down to a Dispel Scroll, taking Beguile off Clarimonde and trading in Ruthven’s Armour for a Talisman)
- Cursed Book on someone, since I might not be using all my Power dice…
And you know, ranking them all up and taking a look at them without the depressingly broken-up Skeletons feels… strangely good. And it has been ten years since I first built the army. Maybe the cycle’s turned again. Maybe 2014 will be the long-awaited Year of the Vampires?
I have a confession to make.
Despite going on record as one who holds Warhammer’s eighth edition in low esteem and less regard, I maintain a half-arsed, nascent interest in the system and the antics of those who play it. There are some excellent battle reporters on The Warhammer Forum, who are still quite capable of playing Warhammer in a tournamenty sort of way and enjoying it: I believe it’s fundamentally unsuited to that kind of thing, but I have to admire their moxie. There are some excellent bloggers on the House of Paincakes who are still holding each army book up to the cold light of inspection, sifting out the wheat from the chaff (chaff being very important in WFB) and, in general, discussing the contents without just witlessly rephrasing them. And, well, since I started writing for Corehammer I’ve been going back through the archives and reading about their Tale of Gamers and realising hey, here are some solid blokes who are working on a WFB for the working gamer, who has better things to do with their money and time than buy and build two hundred sodding Skaven before they’re even allowed to play with the cool kids.
This has gotten me thinking, never a good sign when WFB is concerned. If I were to take leave of my senses and go there again, how might I do it? How might I approach the game so’s to avoid the bits I don’t like and snuggle up close and tight to the bits I do?
I started out by considering revitalising my Vampires, but I’m rather conflicted about that. I think they belong to an earlier stage of my life, when I was happy to shove big blocks of melee stuff across the board, take tons of casualties, and then sink some reliably-available resources into scraping a win with whatever survived. As we’ve established, a few things about Warhammer v.8 have rather put me off my chips in this respect:
- Random charge distances (harder to co-ordinate engagements, less reliable than shooting with known and consistent ranges)
- Random dice in the power pool (plus other armies being better at casting/dispelling than the one which depends on magic the most)
- The poor resilience of undead units if/when they do reach melee (Steadfast units don’t crumble when they lose combats, Unbreakable/Unstable ones do; the living now outlast the dead!)
- Rerollable psychology tests, and the diminished impact of Fear and Terror (auto-breaking the enemy if they lost by one point was probably a bit excessive, but I’d have settled for cancelling their Steadfast and making them take their Break tests with modifiers…)
- The nagging sense that a ‘fun’ Vampire Counts army is a delivery system for two Terrorgheists, half a dozen Crypt Fiends/Vargheists and the standard-issue ‘blender Lord’, with the rest of the army standing back being wound counters for wizards and trying not to die. Another option involves two Mortis Engines and all the Necromancers I can carry, although that’s still bound to #2, above.
Some of this, admittedly, is not the fault of WFB. My tastes have definitely shifted more in favour of the ranged approach, across all the games I play; I’ve finally come to appreciate that guns replaced swords as standard issue weaponry for a reason. I still like a punch-up in mid-field but I like having enough ranged capacity to force that engagement, and I like the thought of my bunker units contributing something to the game besides being thirty-odd ablative wounds for a wizard.
There’s a small matter of theme involved, too. I have this weird hangup about taking, say, a battery of Necromancers and two Mortis Engines, or a whole bunch of big stompy monsters, or even a Ghoul King as my Lord; all these ideas seem to compromise the essence of my beloved army and move the focus away from the undead Empire thing I have going on. The Ghoul King in particular makes me gnaw the table in rage as I can’t find a model that’s sufficiently bestial and has the appropriately Imperial trappings. (That said, I’m beginning to feel that all these things could be justified, somehow – the cabal of Necromancers could easily assemble around equivalents to the new Empire wizard-chariot-war-engine-things, and if I could build a suitably bestial version of Ruthven, Terrorgheists don’t feel that far-out…).
Also, there’s just something about spending £120-180 (depending on whether I opt for Vargheist or Skin Wolf models, how much a new version of Ruthven onna horse sets me back, how I go about padding the new case…) If I’m going to replace stuff I already own I’d be sort of tempted to do so with a new army, one which more suits my current preoccupations with shooting.
I’ll talk about the other options in the next post.