Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Restarting the Revolution: How to run the grot rebellion under the new codex?

Some time ago I started on a grot revolutionary army, heavily inspired by Soviet Russia. Down with the nobility, down with the boyzoirse and all that jazz. I have painted all the infantry in a simple colour scheme with barely any individualism at all, which I am happy with, and have assembled and undercoated 4 of the 6 vehicles.

The original 2000 point list was basically:

Yarrick, as the revolutionary leader. His heroism and hatred of orks made for the perfect grot rebellion leader.

A commissar lord and two commissars - other true believers to help keep discipline.

2 full size infantry platoons - as in command squad, 5 squads, each with a lascannon.

3 manicures (designed to look like katyusha rocket trucks)

3 deathstrike launchers (designed to look like topol icbm vehicles)

Now I haven't yet reassessed the points, I know my infantry costs will have dropped by a couple hundred points, but my vehicles are probably more expensive, so it may balance out. Model wise the vehicles and commissars are set, I have 10 lascannon, I have 94 basic guardsmen, I have 18 that can be used as squad sergeants/veterans/officers (no special weapons though) and one regimental standard. So I have a little wriggle room, but not a great deal. The question becomes, what doctrines best suit these revolutionaries?

I have three front runners, and I'll run through my reasons, in fluff, orders, strategums, and doctrines.

Strangely I have not included armageddon on this short list... I now it is where Yarrick is best known, but he isn't confined to it, he is a commissar after all, and the style of their warfare (mechanised) didn't suit the poorly equipped rebellion look of the army.

I have also disregarded Catachan ... they don't like commissars and, I'm using grots for guardsmen, I'm not gonna try and say they're strength 4... :P

Contender 1: Mordians.

Fluff wise, there's not a lot going for these guys and the theme.

Orders, the mordian order allowing rapid fire weapons to target characters that are not the closest could certainly fit with the theme of targeting the nobility rather than the proletariat.

Strategums, the volley fire order would certainly be useful for an army toting so many lasguns... sheer volume of fire and "quantity has a quality all of it's own"

 Doctrines, models in base to base have +1 leadership and improved overwatch. This fits nicely with the well drilled, backing each other up, sheer volume of fire ethos I've been going for here.

Contender 2: Valhallans

Fluff wise, they hate orks. Boom, score one straight away. Life is also cheap on valhalla, and life is cheap for grots, so we're looking very good here.

Orders, following up on the life is cheap background, you can shoot at units that are engaged with your units, do you do risk harming said units. Oh well. This fits in nicely with the brutal life expectation in the source material of both grots and the soviets.

Strategums, another wave of a troop unit that has died. Now admittedly, this would be better with a good quality unit or possibly a large mob of conscripts, but I could certainly write the latter into the list if the need arises. This again fits very well with the style of the army.

Doctrines, less casualties to moral checks - when I first looked at this, I felt it was pointless given the prevalence of commissars in this army. Then they changed how they work, and suddenly this grim resolve looks a lot more tactically useful to me.

Contender 3: vostroyans

Fluff wise, well the models clearly look like they are inspired by the same source as my own army, and the background of them being from a forge world fits with the background of the planet my grot revolution took place on.

Orders, firing into someone who has assaulted my unit at point blank range sounds fun, although I struggle to find a link for it to my theme apart from sheer desperation.

Strategums, similarly, adding +1 to hit to a unit is nice, but the pride in themselves for overthrowing the boyzoirse is a tenuous link at best with this theme.

Doctrines, heirloom weapons... I simply like this because of the fact the bulk of my force is made up of very classic gretchin from a very old 40k set, and it tickles me to count these antique models as being equipped with heirloom weapons...

By the looks of it we have a clear winner here, the only doubt I had about the Valhallans at first codex reading having now been overturned by the commissar neutering faq. It's not set in stone yet so if anyone thinks I'm wrong and wants to convince me please do. It'll be a while before I get the rest of those vehicles down anyway, 2 of the remaining unassembled ones are essentially scratch builds, copying the prototype made from bits, plasticised, a deodorant can and a toilet roll tube... they've been low on my to-do list for a loooooong time...

I'll knock up a list at some point.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

It's For Your Own Good! A History of the Imperial Commissariat

Unless you live under a rock (or, perhaps, don't play 40k... but if the latter why the hell are you reading this blog anyway?) you will know that Commissars have been much discussed of late. Having been recently nerfed, there is a debate raging about whether things have gone too far. But before I put my two cents in on this, I thought I would explore back through the history of commissars, to see what their long-standing influence has been, to best gauge whether they have been nerfed too much compared to what they used to do. From my own recollections, their role has changed greatly over the years, but I went through my codex history taking some pictures to back my thoughts up.

So first up a blast from before my past - I never used this guard codex, it is actually from before I played 40k, I only have it because someone was throwing out some (very) old books and I took it to have a bit of a look at what things were like before I joined up, laced my boots, popped my imperial primer in my breast pocket and hefted my lasgun to face the enemies of our glorious emperor...

Looking at this they started with a very simple role, hopping around from squad to squad providing a morale boost in key areas. I couldn't find anything in the rules regarding summary execution, jus the morale boost. For no downside whatsoever! They didn't do much, but they had no drawbacks.

My own induction to the guard came with this codex in particular, although of course it was alongside the standard guard codex. I can't seem to locate my standard codex of this era, I think it was more used and didn't survive (damn paperbacks) as I was catachan about half the time, but whether catachan or not I needed the standard codex.

I do remember the basic rules at this time. They had a LD of 10, compared to most officers 8, maybe 9. And at the first failed morale test, they'd execute the guy in charge, and retest on their, better leadership. This lead to a deliberate playstyle at the time of giving officers absolutely no equipment, seeing the unit fail the morale test and going "oh, no... right, commissar takes command, you've just made my army better." As at the time most guard units could test on the leadership of a nearby officer, it was a welcome change to see the commissar step up. This is where he started to have an impact beyond his immediate squad.

I did always love this particular special rule for catachan armies, and was pleased to see it at least mentioned in the fluff in the latest army book.

So in this edition, the commissar was absolutely useless... until you failed that morale check. Then he made the squad better than it was under the officer, and if in a command squad the surrounding squads too. This strange state of affairs lead to opponents either hitting the commissars squad very hard to make sure to take it all the way out, no morale test... or just focus on hitting other aspects of the army and watch as an increasingly frustrated commissar sat on the bench grumbling how he could do far better if only they'd force his commander to take a morale test...

Next we have a codex I have a great deal of love for - the skills and doctrines codex. Having lost my independent catachan codex, I could at least still fashion something similar with the traits and drawbacks system.

This also radically changed the usage of the commissar for me. First off, a commissar now provided a benefit before taking over command - a nice leadership bonus to represent his focusing of the officers attention. Tied in with leadership value being communicated down vox lines, it was not uncommon to have an entire Leadership 10 guard army. I remember frequent arguments with friends... "There is a dread daemon prince towering over them, why don't they flee?!?" "Well, there's a guy on a walkie talkie saying that he'll shoot their commander if the commander tries to run away, so they should probably just follow his example..." This was a massive boost for the entire army, and if someone tried to break the lynchpin by gunning for the command squad, I could usually set it up to be well hidden, resilient, and if they DID force a morale check... up steps the commissar to take command...

In this edition voxes were reworked (boo!) to being related to the new orders system, rather than a leadership boost. Which massively changed commissars role once again. No longer there to provide a bulwark of leadership for an entire army, they could now provide a short range aura effect (for lords) which not only helped with morale, but also with orders. Vox links gave squads rerolls on orders, but those lovely heavy weapon squads couldn't take a vox. What's a guy to do? On leadership 7 they'll fail the order half the time. Go stand a commissar lord in the nest of heavy weapon teams, and just watch how clearly they receive your instructions now. It's like he is a locus of calm, softening the sounds of battle to make your officers voice a clarion call...

The summary execution rule was still there to hit the highest leadership ability, and I do remember a funny tale from this time as a friend played Creed, Yarrick and Nork in one uber squad... an uber squad that failed a morale test. So Yarrick shot Creed. Nork then beat Yarrick to death. The unit then failed the reroll and ran away anyway. Three heroes of the imperium lost in one bad afternoon...

We then came to the first Astra Milita-fuckit... last guard codex before the age of indices. In this one the commissar became less focussed on killing the officer core and you had a degree of choice over who he shot. There was still the chance your opponent could have him execute the sergeant (or a special weapon trooper if he wanted to be extra cruel, the gun costs more than any guardsman) but we are back to a shooting meaning a passed test as opposed to a reroll. The Lords also still have their aura, but have lost the effect on orders.

This brings us to the index and codex, which gave us the much maligned "shoot one pass the test"

Now I can see both why this was thought characterful, and also some problems. Shooting one guy to pass the test was, by this point, well established as part of how commissars work. However, that had always, to that point, been for THEIR squad. There was even a brief time when commissar lords were IC and basic commissars were squad upgrades, like sergeants. In this age of aura effects and characters not joining squads, a single dude being able to provide such coverage to so many units was probably a bit too effective.

I can also understand why they've tried to alter it. Shoot a guy, get a reroll does have historical precedent, AND the caveat of "the first time" means he only effects one squad. So I guess he can be insurance for a couple but he can only work on one.

The problem with this, is that in prior times of reroll, there was always a chance to pass. Whether that be trying to pass on HIS leadership which was better than the recently deceased officers, or even when you've taken an absolute hiding and need a double 1 to pass, that slim possibility. But now we are in an era where sometimes, morale checks simply cannot be passed. If a unit of 20 conscripts takes 8 casualties, their leadership of 4 means they are losing some more regardless. I'm hoping for a 1, and I get it... but because there is a commissar nearby, I MUST execute a guy, then reroll... let's say I roll a 6. I have gone from losing 5 more guys, leaving me on 7 (not great but potentially still useful) to losing 10 more guys, plus the one I shot, leaving me on 1 survivor. The commissar should NOT cause an outright panic like that, that is precisely what he is supposed to prevent.

How would I fix it? One of several ways.

Option 1, make it a choice. The commissar can choose to intervene with one squad per turn, but he has to decide before they roll for the morale. That way I can avoid wasting him on a lost cause.

Option 2, Have an improved roll. Whether it be "first squad per turn" or a chosen squad, the unit that the commissar "helps" rolls a D3 for the morale test. This means that even in the case of the "can't hope to pass" he could still prove useful in stemming the tide of fleeing troopers.

Option 3, give him a drawback. Let him keep his trigger happy ways where he makes a squad auto pass, but there is a downside. Each time he does so, roll a dice... on a 1, the squad decides "frak this" kills the commissar and the original morale test stands. People may be more receptive to him being effective if there was an obvious drawback... force enough morale tests near him and pretty soon the trigger happy son-of-a-bitch will find himself the victim of a friendly fire accident.

Sadly, with the FAQ recently out, I can't see them changing course on that one again any time soon, so sadly commissars will not be a feature of many of my armies. For my catachans that makes little difference, I had deliberately taken none in my catachan lists so far simply for fluff reasons. It is a little annoying for my "Grot Revolution" as this is a soviet style guard army that is lead by Yarrick and has several commissars. But I still have to work out how that list works in 8th edition anyway, so I'm sure I can tinker around and find something to do with them.

Anyway, that's my two cents on the commissar debate, let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

It's close to miiiiiiiidddnight...

So a couple of months ago I mentioned a Halloween scenario and, by complete co-incidence, last night I ran it...

Now this was originally from 4th or possibly 5th edition, so I had to do a fair amount of work to bring it up to date, and I didn't have time to playtest, so just winged it. So, now the game is done, what feedback can I give?

Well, the zombies won, so it was probably a little too difficult.

The zombies armour save of 5+ followed by the resilient save has not modified well. It was based on their 5+ armour and FNP of 5+ from several editions ago. Of course in that time there were many weapons (flamers/bolters etc) that would completely bypass that armour save, something less common now. There were also ways to bypass the FNP roll, by using power weapons or double the toughness of the target. Of course FNP doesn't exist any more and I borrowed from plaguebearers in my design and perhaps it was a bit too much (although plaguebearers with a 5++ followed by disgustingly resilient will prove to be a real problem to shift)

The consensus on the table was a 6+ save would have been more suited.

World War Z-zombies - I increased the speed of the zombies from an original 2D6 per turn to 3D6 per turn. The 2D6 was set at a time when most units could move 6, then run D6 or assault 6. Very few could run and assault. So the chances were that the zombies on 2D6 would keep up. Now though, you can move about 6" (varies from race to race) advance D6 and while you then usually can't assault, some units can... and if you chose not to advance, you can assault 2D6. That's about 18" per turn potentially, and I felt the zombies needed a bit of a helping hand keeping up, so I gave them an extra D6.

Now admittedly, I couldn't have known that I was gonna roll less than 12 on only about 4 occasions, the two occasions I rolled a collective 4 everyone breathing a sigh of relief and making a break for it... it's a random dice roll. I still think that with the speed of certain units, the 3D6 isn't too much, unless I acted in some way to slow the speed potential of certain units down.

Speaking of which, jump infantry. On original design spec they'd have been disallowed under the "infantry only" rule but now they count as infantry, but with the "fly" keyword. I hadn't anticipated this when designing the rules and only noticed it when picking a team on the day, so I took a squad of 9 stormboyz. This lot could move 12, advance D6, then assault 2D6 (taking mortal wounds for everyone who rolls a 1, costing me a third of my squad on my first charge) orks being able to innately reroll one of their charge dice. This unit could potentially reach the choppa in 2 turns, it was unreal. Luckily for the game, I played it in character. The boyz went hell for leather down the middle making as much noise as possible creating a mass brawl within sight of the choppa. They were all dragged down and turned... leaving a massive herd of zombies in everyone elses path. They all loved that...

On a second attempt I took someone elses suggestion and flew to the top of a high rise building, and then just hopped from rooftop to rooftop, leading a small band of zombies up one building, then back down and up the next, then back down and up the next, as I stepping stoned my way to the choppa. This was way too powerful a tactic, and if I hadn't lost some of my orks after getting stuck in a brawl (a brawl I entered to rid myself of the ork boy tagalong I had "won" slowing my pace and crippling my tactic) I could have beat the end boss and won, instead I got bogged down fighting him and the following back caught up, swamping me once again.

That was clearly too good a strategy. However I am loathe to outlaw the "fly" keyword as that hits a large proportion of tau stuff, which hardly seems fair. Although the swooping hawks pull back and redeploy rule definitely needs stopping. I think the best case would next time not to be crossing a city, but leaving a 40k shopping mall. Necromunda style scenery, nothing higher than one level above street level. Have a doorway to the parking lot where the choppa is waiting. but assume anything before that doorway has a roof, so while you can get up a level quickly, you can't fly high and away. That would stop the sneaky swooping hawks, and mean that while you could gain a few inches safety from the zombies, you wouldn't be able to put yourself 12" of vertical movement away from them.

Ironically the boss zombie himself could probably do with being a little tougher. My 5 boyz almost had him, if the full squad of 9 had hit probably would have.

The powerups could do with a little clearer wording... the chainsaw seems OP unless we say it's one attack only. No you can't ducttape a chainsaw. stuff like that. Also, with the option to ALWAYS take the blue shell unless spawning, and if you're last you can add 1 to the roll, it seems zombie bile would NEVER take effect unless you rolled a double 1 in first place... and even then, you'd probably be better off taking the blue shell rather than the bile. Maybe incorporate the blue shell into the list and just let the bad times roll around every now and again.

All in all though, despite the fact no one won, and we eventually called it a zombie win, much fun was still had. With a few tweaks there is still potential for this scenario. Maybe next year...

But in the meantime...

No one's gonna save you from the beast about to strike...