Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall to the dark side...

So, now we've addressed an army that's not the best for a rookie, so what's a good one? Simple. Chaos Space Marines. Why? They can do everything, they're fairly simple and straightforward and they will teach a player how to play the game.
First, The CSM dex and the Ork dex are the bar to which other dex's are measured as to quality. I say this for 2 simple reasons. 1 they're balanced and 2. you can easily have a half dozen players all have completely different armies that are all competitive. Orks lose the recommendation just because they're labor-intensive. A new player may be overwhelmed when he asks what he'd need for a 1750 point army and the answer is 160 models. So Chaos it is then. Chaos has the ability to become the army you want it to be. First you can take Marine squads and add marks to give them a bit of a bonus and when you're ready there are cult troops. These are all troops, so you get a scoring unit that does what you like, be it survive, charge, stand and shoot or shoot then assault.
They're readily available, largely plastic and lack massive gaps in their model line that are becoming common in newer armies. New players don't always like the idea of reading about some cool unit only to discover there's no model (and sometimes no picture...) and they have to build one themselves.
Chaos introduces basically everything you need to know to play the game. They don't have any funny rules, but use most of the core rules you'll see. They have monstrous creatures, normal troops, fearless troops, vehicles, transports and just about anything else you'll need to know about. The only things missing are fast, open-topped or skimmer vehicles.
Chaos are more of a jack of all trades then most armies. Their basic troop can hold its own in CC, can bring special or heavy weapons and can take marks to specialize their mission further. Beyond that you have cult units. As a player gets to know himself as a gamer, he will discover what strategies he likes and what works for him. He can then expand with cultists that follow what he wants from the army. This is also an army that can grow with the player. With some armies when the time comes to expand, it's often more of the same thing. That's not a bad thing at all, but if a player has a budding force and wants to experiment, having so many choices gives new opportunities to try things out without completely re-building the army or changing its entire construction.
At the end of the day an army choice is something a gamer has to consider carefully. This is far from a cheap hobby, so its important to pick an army that becomes an investment. Just about any army can be licked up by a rookie and will draw them into the hobby if its right for them (sorry necrons, you still suck). Putting a few hundred bucks into some models means changing your mind completely isn't always an option. Having an army that can change with a player, do so many things and get them into the game is valuable so I usually will point someone to chaos first. Besides, Grandfather Nurgle always needs more children to spread his infectious love.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why Space Marines are a bad starter army: an editorial

Wandering around the mixed bag of advice for the fledgling 40K player, I see a lot of people recommending Space Marines and honestly, this is a mistake. 3 years ago I would agree in a second, but things have changed. Space Marines aren't the all-around decent and forgiving army they used to be. They've become very complicated and just being decent with them has become more of a challenge.

First, they have become a synergy army. In the old days, you had the standard list or you had traits and drawbacks. You could combine them as you wanted to build an army any way you liked. Along came the 5th edition dex and traits were gone. In their place came chapter tactics and the special characters that brought them. The problem with this system is you can only get the trait with the character. This can be somewhat complicated for a new player, and limits their choices.

They have lost the flexibility they once had. Their old traits let them do more then they can these days. Again, I'm not saying its gone, but its harder for a rookie to find. In the old days you could easily adapt an army to your playing style. Now it involves buying more models (a great marketing idea, but again bad for the starting player) and sometimes severly altering an army. I think this is best reflected in the Tactical squad. A tac squad could use a trait to get an extra attack by finding that cc weapon that they have now lost somewhere in the void (Found 'em, thanks-Space Wolves) Now, a tac squad is basically a shooty element only. They can gain combat tactics abilities (which are great by the way) but this requires a special character and only opens up certain options. A starter army should allow greater options for the rookie to find the tactics and playstyle they like best.

I can go on, but i don't want this to degenerate into a "I hate Space Marines" rant. Space marines are still a decent army, but there are ones out there that are just plain better for the rookie. In our next instalment, I will discuss what I feel has become the best starter army and why.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What I learned from my first game of Rockethammer...

I had my first game of Rockethammer last week (It's rockethammer because there are no jump packs in fantasy, but oddly one on the rulebook for fantasy) and I learned some things about the state of the game and my armies.
I played my Vampire Counts against a largely Khorne Warriors of Chaos army and it didn't go well. I was utterly decimated and killed 6 models. Actually it was less then that because he cast Purple Sun and it didn't go well once and he also had a miscast at one point so he may very well have killed everything.
I like to take any crushing defeat as a learning experience, so I will forego the "Vamps suck" rant that has become so common. I think Vamps were weakened, but that's alrgely because they were jacked up in 7th. The fact that Initiative is more important and chargers strike first did hurt because the VC Inits go from bad to worse. Vamps really don't have anything super-hitting like they used to. Even the Vamps themselves aren't too capable against the wrong challenger. Nothing they have is all that decent in a fight and they have basically no durability. Depending on who you play they can do some damage, but against a strongly offensive army, be prepared to lose a lot of combats.
Now the strengths...they can replace losses so the fact that they can't take a pounding is somewhat negated. The only time this becomes a problem is if you start losing more models then you can replace in a turn. As I said, you will lose combats, but the good thing is you will never break. You're going to lose extra models, but you won't be overrun so you can tarpit units.
As for 8th in general, I have to say Magic has been severly nerfed. Yes, spells are powerful now, but the "Winds of Magic" roll means you can't build an army that has to rely on magic as its biggest strength. When you really need to get a few spells off, be ready to roll snake eyes and have no power dice. I also think this means the game doesn't scale up well. At 2,000 points an average roll of 7 dice with maybe a few extras channeled would be plenty, but at 4,000 it's nothing compared to what you could have in 7th. I like the changes to combat, espically the casualties coming off the back. Combats are more decisive and the game moves along better.
As I look forward to the Empire army I'm working and the Warriors army I've decided will be next, I'm beginning to see that like 40k's 5th edition before it, armies have to change to keep up. Unlike 5th, armies seem to be far more balanced, but only time will tell if the approaching army books follow the pattern their sci-fi counterparts had with the over-the-top IG, Wolves and Blood Angels, but we will have to wait and see.