Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Lunar Interlude

Classichammer is fucking awesome 
You want a Dwarf army? 

There's your fucking Dwarf army 

You want some newer models? 

Fuck you 

Dwarves can do lots of stuff like enchant artillery pieces. Can you enchant an artillery piece? 

Fuck no 

Play Classichammer

In case you aren't the most internet-savvy, the above is of course a parody of the famous advertisement for popular indie-game Dwarf Fortress (and Classichammer is apparently the name for playing Warhammer Fantasy with 6th - early 8th edition rules like I do). 

I've actually been kind of fond of the Dwarves ever since reading about them in the first White Dwarf issue I ever owned (it was covering the big Dwarf release that happened towards the end of 6th edition I believe, though it may have been 7th by then). They're actually my third favourite 'good' Warhammer Fantasy faction after Wood Elves and Bretonnia, and were one of the factions that were almost my first Warhammer Fantasy army (it came down to them, Bretonnia and Wood Elves, before a combination of falling in love with symphonic metal - specifically Nightwish - and the enormous fun I had playing as a Demon Hunter in Diablo 3 swung things in favour of the Wood Elves). I had planned to build a very large Dwarf army at some point in the future (along with Bretonnians, Beastmen, Vampire Counts, The Empire and, well, pretty much every faction except Warriors of Chaos and Ogres), but then GW brought out the ET series and promptly decided to stop selling Warhammer Fantasy models and my dream of owning gigantic armies for almost every Warhammer Fantasy faction died in agony. 

A while ago however I stumbled upon the above Dwarf battalion set in an out-of-the-way hobby store not too far from where I live, and decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I've worked out that if I can somehow find a second Dwarf battalion set, two boxes of warriors and some characters I should be able to put together a modest Dwarf army to act as an opposing force for my Wood Elves and Bretonnians (oh I'll also probably need an army book for it too. And any other extras I can scavenege along the way). And so I patiently waited until the anniversary of my existence that happened a month ago, which left me with a pile of cash to burn. After weighing up my options (the alternatives were either getting an Immolator or two off ebay, some Eldar ships for Battlefleet Gothic, or some Sisters of Battle characters), I decided that getting the battalion set and the other stuff below would give me the most bang for my buck. It's definitely a lot bulkier than the other battalion sets I've handled - with almost a third more volume than the Wood Elf and Bretonnian ones - and indeed when I first saw it I thought it was more than just a battalion set. Despite containing roughly the same value as the other ones (approximately three unit boxes and one small box worth of models), it's also very densely packed with quite a few bits, although most of them are weapon options and the sprues feel comparatively light on fun little doodads and extras, although it occurs to me that I may just be spoiled from the Bretonnian kits. 

As well as getting the batalion set, I also raided the online retailers and ordered up this healthy pile of old GW publications. 

Which includes the second version of the 3rd edition Chaos Space Marines codex, the Eye of Terror campaign supplement, Cityfight, and a bunch of White Dwarfs. 

If you collect Chaos Space Marines or experienced the early 2000s 'Silver Age' of Games Workshop, then this book needs no introduction. The second of two Chaos Space Marine codexes published for 3rd edition Warhammer 40,000, the 3.5 edition Codex Chaos Space Marines is considered by many to be one of the high points of Chaos rulesets, second only to the original Realm of Chaos books and the 2nd edition Chaos codex in the number of options, character and fun it provided. It's also infamous for its variant army lists, which included some insanely powerful options for armies (at the time at least. In an age of Unbound armies, superheavy units and S10 and D strength templates flying around they seem almost quaint now). 

I was a little worried about ordering this one, since it's condition was listed as only 'very good', but initial skimmings have shown it to be in remarkably good shape. I was however slightly underwhelmed by the armoury section. Much like the 2nd edition Sisters of Battle codex, after hearing about it for so long on the Internet I was expecting it to have a colossal armoury section spanning dozens of pages and covering every sort of wargear imaginable, but the actual 'wargear' section of the armoury is surprisingly small and is lacking a few things one might expect (the absence of an Auspex, for example, is particularly conspicuous), with the real options instead being found in the Daemonic Gifts and Veteran Skills (which themselves aren't as numerous as I thought they would be, but then I suppose there weren't as many Universal Special Rules floating around back then) sections, as well as the God-Specific items. Somewhat ironically for a book that's so rules-heavy, I think this is the only 3.5 edition era codex I have encountered so far that does not feature a special scenario somewhere in it, which I find strange the more I think about it. I suppose White Dwarf must have had that covered too?

I do worry about this book though. Whenever I look at it it's like... I can hear... voices... whispering to me in my head... saying that Gav Thorpe is a treacherous monster and that GW hates Chaos Space Marines and only takes away the things that make them interesting to give them to Loyalist Space Marines instead, and that Chaos Space Marines have been ruined since 4th edition.. 

A close relative of the 3.5 edition Chaos Codex, Codex: Eye of Terror was a campaign supplement published to introduce people to the famous Eye of Terror worldwide campaign in 2003. I remember seeing it and the Codex: Craftworld Eldar expansion in GW stores when I was a kid (way back in the glory days when they played metal music in the background and had artwork posted up on the walls. Also when model boxes had actual artwork on them... sometimes...) and wondering why they existed, since my childhood logic concluded that anything contained within them must surely be in the Chaos Space Marine and Eldar codexes respectively. It's about as thin as I remember it, although it doesn't have quite as much content as I was expecting (but then that's only to be expected given its length and nature as an introductory booklet). 

The main reason why I wanted it of course was for the legendary Lost And The Damned army list that allowed for armies of Traitor Guard, mutant hordes and pretty much anything Chaos-aligned that isn't a Daemon or Space Marine of some kind. It wasn't... quite what I was expecting, essentially being a list of things you could take from the Chaos Space Marine and Imperial Guard codexes plus a couple of entries for things not covered by either of those books (like the mutants). In hindsight I'm not really sure what I was expecting from it to be perfectly honest, since from what I gather it was only really ever meant to be a way to port over Imperial Guard units into Chaos armies. I guess an armoury section would have been nice, but really most of that would inevitably just be repeating stuff that's already in the other two army lists, and they had to cram in another three entire army lists as well, so I guess I can understand why there isn't one. The only real serious criticism I have about it is that there's no option for a normal human HQ choice - All the HQ options available are from the Chaos Space Marine codex and so are all, well, Chaos Space Marines. Which is fine if you want an ambitious Chaos Space Marine champion rising to the top on a horde of mortal Chaos followers and mutant monstrosities, but if you want a Lost and The Damned army without any Chaos Space Marines at all in it - like I do - then you're fresh out of luck. I know Chaos Space Marines are supposed to be the favoured champions of the Chaos Gods and so on, and that it is based on a campaign about one of Abaddon's black crusades, but Chaos Space Marine-free Chaos armies do exist too, and would it have really been too hard to add in one little entry for a mortal champion or a rouge psyker or something, or a quick "Traitor Command (use Command Squad rules from Codex: Imperial Guard)" to the list of units you can take? Really?

Fortunately the Adversaries options in the Witchhunters codex provides exactly that - options for regular human Chaos followers - but it has this stupid thing where it says you're not allowed to use them against armies that aren't Witchhunters, and it still feels like an excessive number of hoops to jump through. 

There are also three other lists, for the 13th Great Company of Space Wolves (with the glorious metal Wulfen models of old), the Cadian Shock Troops and Eldar from Ulthwe. They're about what you would expect, with the only really odd thing is the Cadian army list including the options for some Internal Guard units. What's weird about that is that the Internal Guard is charged with eliminating subversive cults on Cadia but is formed from the Ordo Malleus and uses Daemonhunters rules, when rooting out subversive cults is usually the Ordo Hereticus's job. Using Daemonhunters rules is kind of understandable, since the whole campaign happened a year before the Witchhunters codex existed, but actually stating it's an Ordo Malleus outfit and not a Hereticus one in the background struck me as.. off. 

Aside from all that, there's some top notch artwork as well. Some is from other places (I recognised one piece from Battlefleet Gothic), others seem to have been included for the first time here. 

Cityfight was another publication I noticed when I was younger, but never really thought much of it. Rather than seeing it in a store, I first happened upon it on the old GW website, where I looked through the little articles and things in its section, noticed a distinct lack of Tau-related content and promptly dismissed it as not worthwhile (during this time I generally tended to avoid any 40k-related material that did not pertain to the Tau in some way, mostly out of childhood fanaticism for my chosen faction, but also because my time and resources for tabletop hobby were even more limited than they are now, and the army I was building was Tau, so they took priority and everything else just sort of fell by the wayside). I did however get its 4th edition descendent Cities of Death, and certainly found a lot to like in that, so after seeing a few tidbits online and reading the designers' notes for it in White Dwarf #261 I thought it perhaps warranted closer inspection. 

There's a lot of artwork in here that I recognise from Cities of Death (though it seems that one of my favourite illustrations in Cities of Death - a black and white piece showing a Battle Sister blasting away with a boltgun from a window while enemy fire pitter-patters off the walls around her - was original to that one and not first included here). This book has a more extensive colour section than Cities of Death, including a detailed blow-by-blow battle report (the same one used to showcase Cityfight in White Dwarf #261 in fact). Its focus is different however, with less attention being given to customising armies for urban combat and more given to building appropriate terrain, which makes sense given that this was before GW put out much in the way of urban terrain (Forgeworld, however, had a beautiful Cityfight range, which is mentioned in the book. It still tears me apart knowing that those terrain pieces will never be sold again). 

There's also some interesting stuff on the mechanics front, especially in the armoury section. Some elements from there would go on to feature in Cities of Death, but many don't. Comparing the two is interesting, with some common items changing between the two (booby traps and combat engineering equipment), and both books having some very brutal tricks in them. Cityfight's sentry guns seem pretty hardcore... 

Cityfight also includes a short list of modifications for codexes. Most of these are rules clarifications over what counts as what for the purposes of cityfight rules interactions, but some of them are extra army list options. The list feels incomplete to me - once again, the Tau are conspicuous in their absence, although this is to be expected as the book was released before the Tau properly existed in 40k, as did the fully-fledged Necrons that also seem strangely missing (and both could probably do with a few clarifications on how certain weapons and wargear interacts with the Cityfight rules). What's far less forgivable is the total absence of any mention of the Sisters of Battle, which most certainly existed at the time the book was published. Granted, at that point they were still confined to a Chapter Approved army list, but you'd think they'd warrant an entry with all their template weapons and whether or not it's possible to give Immolators siege armour, and maybe some amendments in the Cityfight armoury to give them things like, say, multi-melta armed sentry guns or incendiary mines that you would expect them to have. 

White Dwarf #263 completes the holy trinity of White Dwarf magazines that covered the first ever Tau release, ever. Interestingly, this is the first 'old' White Dwarf I've gotten that's in pristine condition - not just excellent or near mint, but literally brand new and seemingly never before touched. As a pleasantly unexpected surprise it also included a pair of supplementary catalogues. I have never seen any examples of them before (though I dimly recall seeing TROLL mentioned somewhere once), anywhere, which suggests that they weren't readily available in the stores, or if they were that I never noticed them once. These two booklets, along with the sealed packaging it came in still having a delivery address that was not mine on it (according to it this issue hails from Miami, the land of Michael Westen) leads me to believe that this was a subscription issue that the receiver for some reason never opened before trading it away. 

It has the usual goodly articles that a White Dwarf of its vintage has, but the real prize for me - and why I wanted it - is the Tau background it contains, especially an article about Vior'la that I don't believe has ever been published anywhere else. There's also the famous guide to Battlesuit configurations, from which many iconic Crisis Team loadouts get their name (If you've ever heard a Tau player call a Crisis Suit with a plasma rifle and a missile pod a Fireknife, this article is where that came from) and which was later published online, and can still be found in Advanced Tau Tactica's official background archive (or on the old GW website through the Wayback Machine). Strangely, it's billed as a tactics article in the contents, but is written purely from a background lore standpoint with zero discussion given over to in-game performance or utility. 

White Dwarf #251 may seem like an odd choice at first, but I put it high on my to-buy list for one very important feature, namely the old 40k Vehicle Design Rules. I've heard a lot about these on the Internet, and so- 


Ahem. The Vehicle Design rules are indeed in this issue, but not all of them. It seems that they must have been revisited at some point, as several elements I have seen in places online are not included, in particular options for designing Tau vehicles. In hindsight it should have been obvious to me that I wouldn't find that in there, since this issue predates the introduction of the Tau by some time, and indeed it quickly dawned on me that was the case when I suddenly encountered the nasty paradox of how rules for a faction could be featured in a publication that was released almost a year before they existed. This threatened to create a universe destroying temporal singularity rift, but fortunately I was able to preserve the fabric of reality at the cost of having all knowledge of how to perform long division erased from my mind for all eternity. You carry the one over, don't you? 

It's not a total loss though. The basic design rules are all there (including a plug for Forgeworld's brand new book Imperial Armour. The very first one they ever published. No, not Imperial Armour Volume 1, the one BEFORE that one), and there's some other useful stuff too, particularly rules for most if not all of the Regiments of Renown in Warhammer Fantasy, as well as a sneak preview for the amazing brand-new Tyranid line coming soon for Warhammer 40,000 (the 3rd edition release in case you were wondering) that I found amusingly quaint and a Lord of the Rings poster still lodged in the middle of the magazine. 

White Dwarf #292 and #293 appear to be the main two issues that covered the 2004 Witchhunters release, and so I added them to the list as well. I walked away feeling like there was surprisingly little coverage given to it in #292, the main Witchhunters-related content was buried towards the back just before the Lord of the Rings section along with the other 40k related articles (in contrast #262 had almost all the Tau-related stuff front and centre). It also lacked a Designers' Notes article and inaugural battle report, which I found equally surprising, but on the other hand it seems to have a healthy chunk of background material I don't recognise (which means it's likely I haven't seen it before) and - in a totally unexpected but wholeheartedly welcome surprise - rules for using Frateris Militia, or Zealots as they're called in it, in 3rd+ edition alongside the Witchhunters codex. Looking at the new releases listed in it and the following issue (most notably neither list features the actual Witchhunters Codex itself) leads me to suspect that there was a third issue given to covering the Witchhunters release, and that I probably want either #294 or (much more likely) #291 as well. 

#293 begins with a brief look at upcoming digital developments, including some obscure unremarkable Real Time Strategy computer game for 40k called Dawn of War. Pfft, nothing to see there, it's only a matter of time before it falls off the public radar and is forgotten like all the other Warhammer computer games. It will never amount to anything. This issue features a tactics article for Witchhunters armies, which is why I got it, as well as a background article with examples of Witchhunters characters and enemies (both this and the tactics article were also featured online) and some painting/modelling articles on Immolators and Penitent engines and a phenomenal First World War inspired Imperial Guard army. The rest of the issue is almost completely given over to covering Storm of Chaos, a Warhammer Fantasy global campaign that I have every confidence and utmost faith will be immortalised as an immutable part of Warhammer Fantasy canon and history for the rest of time, and can only be building towards an incredible breathtakingly epic climax that will be forever loved by Warhammer enthusiasts the world over. 

White Dwarf #212 represents a historic landmark as the first White Dwarf issue of the 1990s era that I now own. Adding to what is quickly becoming a recurring trend, I was somewhat underwhelmed by it. Much like the 2nd edition Sisters of Battle codex (the release of which this issue covered), I had always found the 1990s iteration of White Dwarf to be hyped up as some mythical golden age of content that was vastly superior to all that came after it, and for something with that kind of reputation, I didn't feel like it had that much content. Don't get me wrong, it has plenty of good content, I just don't get the impression that it has considerably more of it than, say, one of the 2001 vintage White Dwarf issues. Most damming is that there's no designers' insights on the Sisters of Battle models or codex or additional background for them that I was expecting to find in it (though it does feature what looks like some interesting special scenarios themed around them, I will give it that). There's also a big section on GorkaMorka (also a new release then) and a bunch of other interesting bits and bobs. There's also supposed to be a cardboard scenery piece included as well, but unlike #263 above whoever first owned this copy DID look through it, and so that little freebie is now long gone. Not that it bothers me that much, I wanted it for the articles. 

Finally there's White Dwarf issues #307 and #308, the main two that covered the 6th edition Wood Elf release (hallowed be thy name). There's what you would expect them to include - designers' notes, painting guides (which much like the assembly guides for Tau ships included in Battlefleet Gothic Magazine #17 would have been nice to know when I was trying to work out how to replicate the studio scheme!) and a couple of battle reports, one of them having the Wood Elves led by an almost-unrecognisable Mat Ward. There are some other interesting bits as well, like the rules for a Regiment of Renown of Amazons for Warhammer Fantasy and a delightfully bizarre Mechanicus army showcase (which has left me desperate for any information revolving around the so-called Phi-Alpha 2 Neutrino Irradiators) and a teaser for the first expansion pack for that Dawn of War computer game from awhile back. How odd, I was certain it was going to crash and burn, and that the Storm of Chaos ending was going to be grand and satisfying! How is it that the impossible is happening? Why next thing you know the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game's runaway popularity will die out after the third movie's run is finished, and they'll take away the Specialist Games! Totally unthinkable! 

Actually, speaking of unthinkable things, there are two things I found utterly hilarious in these issues. The first was a quick sentence in the Wood Elf painting guide warning not to put too much detail on a model so that it doesn't look cluttered, and the second was an article recommending counts-as proxies. Needless to say the idea of showing restraint from excessive model detail and advocating creating your own models to stand in for other units both seem absurdly ironic given GW's recent trends... 

And that's about it. Now to enjoy the wonders of outer space some more.