Time for a Shadow Force

I've made a decision on where to start on Raven Guard.

I'm going to build a Shadow Force. For those of you not in the know, it's a Formation from the Kauyon book that consists of a Captain (or Shrike), Sternguard Squad, Vanguard Squad, and a unit of Landspeeders. The Captain cannot have Terminator armor. The formation as a whole gets Acute Senses, Move Through Cover, and Scout USRs. In addition, the units can reroll their Run moves, or move an additional 6" when going Flat Out.

Very tame, but with a lot of options for deployment and movement around the board. One funny trivia point about the Speeder unit is that if you take three in the unit, you get +6" on Flat Out from the Codex as long as the unit still contains three models. In theory, you could have a unit of Speeders that moves 12" in the Movement phase and then Flat Out another 30" (18" for Fast Skimmer, +6 for three models, +6 for Formation bonus. That's Eldar-level movement without the pointy ears.

I've already started building a Landspeeder. Just putting the last few magnets in it, and then priming the subassemblies. After that will be the Captain, as I need an HQ to make my existing Scouts usable as part of an Allied Detachment until the Formation is complete.

The Captain will get a pair of lightning claws and a jump pack to represent some of the awesome relics in Kauyon. Swiftstrike and Murder are the claws, with standard lightning claw statline, but also Flurry, which gives him a free attack roll for every hit he's already made in assault (but no extras from the extras). So you can have five attacks on the charge, hit all five, and get five more bonus swings.
The relic jump pack makes his Hammer of Wrath hits S6 with Strikedown.

One thing I can't decide on is if I want my Sternguard to have tabards or not. When I first planned to paint Raven Guard, I wanted them to be very sleek and largely undecorated. I figured that ninja Marines didn't do lots of bling and decoration, and I really hated the white arms GW is using for RG Vets these days. But as I looked at the GW models in Kauyon, the fancy-pants Sternguard models started to grow on me. I'm not sure I like the tan tabards and white arms, but I think I might be able to modify the scheme to match my Scouts. It would look a little like THIS. Just more white for the fancy armor bits, and likely a white helm as well. Anyone have any opinions?


Standish Standoff 2015 After-Action, plus Additional Words on Things

Yesterday I attended the fifth annual Standish Standoff at the old FLGS, Crossroad Games. 1850 "semi-competitive" tourney, three rounds, with scores for battle, painting, and sportsmanship as well as a submission-based painting competition.

I put "semi-competitive" in quotes because while it's touted as such by the shop and the organizers every year, some folks abide by the spirit and some...don't.

I brought my Ultramarines on what I declared as their "swan song" as a primary force. Yes, I'm holding on to my Ultramarine models until I can subsume them with Raven Guard, but they'll never be the primary force for my army again. I'll expand on the reasons later in this post.
My list was a Demi Company made of a Captain and Command Squad in a Razorback, three ten-man Tacticals in Rhinos, a 10-man Assault Squad with jump packs, and a 10-man Devastator Squad with missiles. Joining that formation was a Strike Force Command formation of a 9-man Honour Guard unit with a banner, relic-bladed Champion. Half had swords, and half had axes. They were led by a Chaplain, and all rode in a drop pod. Nothing overwhelming, and nothing abusive. I didn't opt to min/max with 5-man squads in a metric assload of free transports, because I'm not a huge fan of 5-man squads, nor do I own any additional transport models.

My first game was against Orks, which I haven't seen on a table in a very long time. The list was several units of Tankbustas, Boyz, and Lootaz in Trukks, a unit of Grots, and several units of Bikerz. The core of the army was a massive unit of 14 Bikerz, joined by a Painboy and Warboss on bikes, all led by another special Warboss on a bike who gave them all Skilled Rider and Scout.
We duked it out for only two and a half turns until time was called, with the win going to the Orks. I was rusty and play terribly slow with such a high points level, so I think I lost sportsmanship points as a result.

Game Two was against Tyranids. I don't remember the exact makeup of the force. I just remember that he had no duplicate units, and had GENESTEALERS. That made my day, seeing Genestealers actually played and enjoyed. We got a full four turns before game end, tied, with the Nids player taking some additional points on secondary objectives.

My last game of the day was against a Krieg army heavy in infantry and artillery units, backed up by a Baneblade. I steamrolled a tired and seemingly uninterested opponent. It had been a loooong day. My Honour Guard killed 80% or more of the infantry in his army single-handedly, though I think he took a bit of a fascination in seeing how many men it would take to drown them in blood and body parts.

I did poorly in battle points, and had less than perfect sportsmanship points. That was a first for me, and stung the whole way home and a little of this morning until I realized it was likely because I was so damn slow in my play. Who knows? Less than half the field had perfect sports scores, which is a HUGE departure from all but the very first Standoff.

I was awarded Second Best Army, which was a collation of Painting, Sportsmanship, Pub Quiz, and Favorite Opponent votes. There was some low grumbling from various players regarding their paint scores in relation to others' scores, and I'll freely admit I had a couple grumbles of my own, but those grumbles have been there for each of the five years the event has run. Anything from "How did an army without 100% of its models fully painted get THAT score?!" to "That guy just uses airbrush and washes!" have been voiced over the years. I've had to judge painting personally on two or more occasions, and it is HARD to be consistent across a 40 point scale. So no shade thrown at the judges by me, just some bruised ego on my part.

I achieved the one goal I had for myself on the day though, that being winning the Best Painted Squad category in the painting competition with my Ultramarine Command Squad. Mission accomplished!

There is one huge, glaring lesson that I take from the Standoff though, and that is that the Space Marine Demi Company formation is the most boring thing that has ever bored a player. I've actually been running a list of that type for several years off an on, and I thought that with new rules that support the build it would be more fun. Wrong. So wrong. The Demi Company (and even moreso the Gladius built with a double Demi), is a big bag of yawns thrown in a river of suck. Does it win games? Yes, it does. Does it appeal to me any longer? Not on your life.

I sat down in each of my three games and explained to my opponents what the Demi did, and what all my Ultramarines Doctrines did, and I watched their eyes glaze over. As I lay in bed last night trying to sleep, I realized that an ObSec Marine with a bolter is the worst thing ever. It has no special skills, no interesting stats/attacks, etc. Its role on the field is to exist, take up space, and not die while either sitting inside a Rhino or moving around 6" at a time and taking cover or pot shots with a mediocre weapon. I don't want to aim to win my games simply by existing, I want to win them by outmaneuvering, attacking, falling back, and generally playing more cerebrally. Ultramarines in a Demi Company play and win by Mathhammer, and I hate Mathhammer.

So, I'll be bidding a fond farewell to my Ultramarines from here on out. I picked up my copy of Kauyon, and will be painting Raven Guard from this point on, no exceptions. Ok, maybe a couple exceptions for the Grey Knight Terminators I still have kicking around here someplace, as well as some Tempestus Scions I'd like to pick up to spice things up as allies to the Sons of Corax.

I had built a squad of five Raven Guard Tactical Marines to add to my existing Scout Squad. Here's a couple WIP shots of two of the squad members (excuse the poor pics, I've still not set up my painting desk and photo area since the move to the farm):

Originally, I wanted my RG to be city fighters. Guys who are posed dynamically like they're kicking in doors and clearing rooms. Lots of gear and pouches. I chopped the arms and leg joints on every squad member, reposing them ever so slightly here and there. The sergeant in the first two pics has his legs at new angles and elevations, and the other Marine is about to pull the mag from his bolter. another non-pictured model is high-stepping over some rubble. The models without standard studded pads got scratchbuilt ones made from old third edition pads with the rims filed down and microbeads drilled in as studs. Those five Marines took a week or more of time and energy just to chop and build, and they don't really look all that great to me. The sergeant is too thin in the waist area, and the bolter Marine's hand isn't quite right in its grip or spacing. The high-stepping Marine I mentioned looks unbalanced in his run, like some sort of Khorne Berserker model.
When you combine what I feel is a failed first effort at building chop-shopped Marines with the new focus given by the Kauyon book and my sudden loathing for ObSec Tactical Marines, I'm hitting rewind on the Raven Guard machine. The squad will go into a box, and instead I'm building a Land Speeder. There are six different formations in Kauyon that involve Land Speeders. I've had one sitting in a box since the kit was recut in Fifth Edition, so it'll be my starting point. I will either build the Raptor Wing (Speeders and Stormtalons), Shadow Force (Speeder, Captain, Vanguard, Sternguard), Speartip Strike (Speeders and Bikes/Attack Bikes/Scout Bikes), or Stormbringer Squadron (Speeders and Scouts with Speeder Storms). They all have neat rules, and I can't decide quite yet.
I'm newly excited about my Raven Guard thanks to the new things Kauyon lets me do with them, and thanks to the realization that I've hit my limit with Tactical Marines, ObSec, and Doctrine rerolls. here comes a new way to play, and it dresses in black!
Now I just have to figure out how to fund purchases of so many more Land Speeders...eBay bitz selloff?


Forward with Raven Guard

Yesterday I slaughtered and processed twenty five chickens, and closed out almost all of the crops from the field. That means my farm work is slowing down a tiny bit, and I will be able to sneak in some hobby time here and there.
I've decided to build a five man Tactical Squad and a Librarian. This allows me to field my existing Scouts alongside these new models as a Combined Arms detachment. I can then build outward from there to bulk out the detachment, or into a Demi Company.
The squad will be armed with just a heavy bolter, and probably a lightning claw or combi bolter of some type on the sergeant. Everyone will have a Corvus helm and pads, and each model will be cut and reposed into a non standard pose. For example, one squad member will be kneeling against a rubble pile, the heavy bolter will be sprinting while handle-carrying his weapon, etc.
I need to cast up another set of bases for the squad soon.


Games, games, games!

Something amazing happened this past Saturday...I played 40K! I managed to find some time off from farm work to get down to the old FLGS and play in the monthly tourney. 1850 points, and I brought an Ultramarines Demi Company formation (Chaplain, Command Squad, Razorback, three Tacs in Rhinos, Assault Squad, Devastators, and a pair of Las/Missile Dreads in a squadron).

I played three games, one against Chaos Marines, one Necrons, and one Eldar/Haemonculus Covens. All three games were fun and exciting, which hasn't happened in a while.

It was the first time I'd played games since June when the new Marine codex dropped. I wasn't sure how it would go with the change to Ultramarines and the new formations. Lots of good stuff in the book, but how would the Demi Company shake out?

Turns out the updated Doctrines are amazing. Rerolls in just about every turn of the game when you use Ultramarines and a Demi Company. The FLGS plays Maelstrom missions, which are HUGE for the other benefit of the Demi: Objective Secured on EVERY unit. ObSec on Assault Marines and Dreads? Yes, please!

The only problem is that you're still relying heavily on bolter-armed Marines to carry the bulk of your army's work. I didn't kill much in any of my games, and won largely based on scoring objectives and maneuver.

Playing Ultras and doing pretty well (third of a field of 8, two wins and a loss), throws a bit of a wrench in my plans to switch to Raven Guard. Raven Guard were buffed in their Chapter Tactics, but the formation bonuses don't mesh perfectly with them. My story behind my potential Raven Guard force was supposed to be an urban combat force. Urban bases, armaments focused on hab block fighting, and lots of cutting and reposing of models for dynamism. I don't know where to start. I have my unit of five Scouts already, so I can go in several directions. I can add an HQ, and immediately have an Allied detachment to add to my Ultras. But none of the HQs mesh properly with Scouts. None ever really have. So I'd want to add another slot to the Allied detachment. I could add Assault Marines or Vanguard to capitalize on the other half of the RG tactics which is specific to jump packs.
Alternatively, I can focus instead on beefing up my Scouts and build a 10th Company Task Force, which has fun rules with Stealth for anyone who infiltrates for the whole game (until they move in any way), and Precision Shots for the first game turn. Problem is, Scout models are boring as hell to build and paint. I've tried to make them as interesting as possible with weapon swaps and such, but there's only so much you can do.
I could also strike out away from the Scouts and build something new entirely like a First Company Strike Force with three units of Vanguard/Sternguard/Terminators. Or start on the long haul towards a Demi Company or Strike Force Ultra.

I have no real idea what I'll do yet, though I'm open to ideas or suggestions.

The other question I have to ask myself about my Raven Guard regards models and bitz. Rven Guard are always associated with Mk6 Corvus armor. You can now make full sets of Mk6 from plastic kits, unlike in the past where you had to buy Forgeworld or convert pieces. I'd originally intended to have all my power armored Raven Guard in Mk6 armor, head to toe. I have helmets for a squad and a half or so, but not enough torsos or backpacks. My hobby finances nowadays are non-existent, so I can't be buying tons of bitz to complete Mk6 armor sets.
How crucial do you think Mk6 is to a Raven Guard force? Is it worth my time to save up and slowly build towards a "pure" force, or should I not bother? Perhaps I should focus on Mk6 helmets for everyone instead, leaving the rest of the armor as whatever bitz I have available, while mixing the occasional non-Mk6 helmet and bare head into squads? If you parked two identical, non-Horus Heresy, Raven Guard armies next to one another and one is pure Mk6 on every model, and one is not, would you even notice? Would the pure Mk6 one look better?


Sorting Bitz

I finally found a few spare moments for 40K stuff last night, after all the farm planning, late season planting, and chicken raising. We've got twenty five meat birds and a dozen potential egg layers (some will turn out to be roosters) on the farm this year. I'm reframing an old shed into a coop, and am almost done after only spending less than fifty bucks or so on it.

Anyhow, I sat down for an hour last night and...sorted bitz. When we moved house, I just dumped everything into a gallon storage bag from the little hardware bins I'd had them sorted in. Putting them all back in the right bins is a chore, but strangely relaxing. It also allows me to take stock of all the stuff I've got and haven't looked at in ages. There's definitely some things that need to be purged or simply thrown out. Reclaimed shoulder pads and backpacks with glue in the attachment points, snipped off plasma pistols, etc.

There's no electricity in my painting room yet, since the house was built in 1800, and running wiring up there is expensive. If I find time to paint, it'll have to be at the dinner table or on the couch like I used to do years ago.

I'm still tossing ideas for Raven Guard lists around in my head. Hopefully I can put pen to paper soon.


Forces Redeployed

Yet another fly-by status update by me.

After a complete nightmare process of closing on the sale of our old house, and then a much more pleasant closing on the purchase of our new house, we're officially moved and owners of our farm. All of my 40K stuff is still packed up in boxes waiting for me to find time to unpack and arrange it all. So, no painting updates for a while. I've got a field to mow and plow, seeds and seedlings to plant, and chickens and rabbits to acquire and build shelters for. So much work! When you add my new hobby of attempting to restore old antique tools to working condition and learning some timber framing for my farm buildings, 40K time is going to be hard to come by.

I am excited to start building models based on the new Space marine codex, which I bought the weekend before we were supposed to move. I really like the changes and formations, though I'm very disappointed about Fast Attack drop pod cheesery, but I think we all saw it coming. I'm also a little torn on how damn good the Ultramarines have become alongside the rules for the various formations. BY my math, an Ultramariens army that is made up of at least one Gladius has enough doctrines stashed to reroll to hit in every turn of a seven-turn game. You get one set of each of the doctrines (Tactical, Assault, Devastator) for being Ultramarines, another full set for taking the Gladius formation, and another Tactical for the mandatory Demi Company that's part of the Gladius. Seven doctrines available to reroll SOMETHING every turn. Oh, plus every single unit taken as part of a Gladius has Objective Secured, or is that just for the Demi-Company? Regardless, it's damn good.

Despite how awesome Ultras are (in my opinion) now, I'm still planning to push forward with Raven Guard. I'm just not quite sure of which direction I'll take them. I need to sit down with the codex and think about it when I have free time.


Hunting Wabbits!

Just a little note to those of you who actually read this blog on what passes for a regular basis, it's going to be very, very quiet in here for a little while. I'm moving homes in a week and a half, and just haven't got the time to paint or play until we're all settled.

Consider me on a short hiatus. See you again soon.