Friday, January 29, 2010

Writing a battle report worth reading.

Da Masta Cheef of Da Long Wayz Dezert Groop recently tried his hand at writing a battle report and was honest about it being a "learning experience". I swung by and was giving some tips, got long-winded (as I'm wont to do) and decided to spin my tips into a new post for all to read.

So how does one go from this:
to this?

Well, focus and figs helps, but clicking on the links will tell you even more...

Now I've also written a battle report here or there and think they're fairly easy reads. Here's a few tips I've picked up over the years:

1. Fiddle with your camera before the game. Take the time to read the manual, adjust the auto-focus, set it for the right lighting mode, etc. Nothing can ruin a good report as quickly as bad pics.

2. Don't try to photograph everything. At the start of each player's turn, take two only pics of the board. One is for posterity and the other a backup. Then put the camera down! Don't try taking more pics unless there's something particularly epic. Too much camera time slows down the game, write-up, and reading.

3. Use images. If you forget to take a pic, have a cheap camera, or otherwise don't have an image? Make one. Use something like Vassal or Powerpoint to recreate the battlefield. (Though asked to C&D publishing by GW, the Vassal 40k module is still around if you do some creative hunting.) Many people are visually inspired and it will help break up the "wall of text". Even if you're just posting a funny "FAIL" pic, it's better than nothing.

4. Write down notes. Don't expect to remember everything, especially if you're writing the report days or weeks later. At the end of each player's turn, document the BASIC items that happened. Keep it simple: "X shot Y, 6 dead. Z had fail and broke. Right flank push looking weak." Remember that these are also just notes, not an outline. You don't need to publish every single little detail, just the critical or spectacular ones.

5. Involve your opponent. Documenting a game will slow things down until you get good at it. So make sure your opponent is okay with the process from the start. Better yet? Get them to help! You'd be amazed how many people are willing to help out on something like this. When they're a participant in the process they can help with notes, remind you to take pics and otherwise not be bored with the process. Also, you're taking an hour or more to play a game against them... why not take an extra 5 minutes or so to get their post-game analysis? Not only will it help your report, it will also improve your game.

6. Be honest. Win, lose, draw... don't let the outcome or a bad ruling change your report. Admit it, accept it, learn from it and go on with life. Try to keep a fairly neutral voice when writing. Compliment good gambits from your opponent. You don't need to gloat and you never know who might be reading. It was a heck of a surprise when I found out the owner of my FLGS and some of the guys there read this blog...

7. Don't sweat the little stuff. The real reason you should be there is to play game. If you get a little behind, bored or otherwise find it impinging on the game experience? Maybe you're trying for too much detail. Forget about it, enjoy the game and fill in the details later. We don't need a blow-by-blow recounting of things anyways.

I'm sure I could say more, but I think those are the main points... Cheers and see you next time!

***Pics above courtesy of Toy Master's War Journalist, DLWDG's report and SandWyrm's stellar battle report.***

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shadows in the Warp

So what does Shadows in the Warp really mean? Well for one, that you're way too close to a big, nasty bug... But for those of you still wanting to cast or running those big bugs, here's the math-hammer:

Shadows in the Warp forces Psychic tests on 3d6. Additionally, if any of them are double 1s or double 6's, the Psyker suffers Perils in the Warp. So really, it works similar to Eldar Runes of Warding*.

Unmodified Ld 9: 80.6% Success, 13.9% Failure, 2.8% Perils & Success, 2.8% Perils & Failure
Shadows in the Warp Ld9: 37.5% Success, 47.7% Failure, 7.4% Perils & Success, 7.4% Perils & Failure
Unmodified Ld10: 88.9% Success, 5.6% Failure, 2.8% Perils & Success, 2.8% Perils & Failure
Shadows in the Warp Ld10: 50.0% Success, 35.2% Failure, 7.4% Perils & Success, 7.4% Perils & Failure

So what are you really looking at? 2.6 times as many Perils tests and a pretty harsh drop in Success. It's not quite as painful as Runes of Warding, about as successful as Space Wolves's Runic Weapons (but with more Perils), and better than a normal Pyschic Hood. Psykers near a big bug might want to cast that power a little farther away or just skip on it entirely.

*As an interesting side note, running these numbers made me note an error in my Runes of Warding post. I'd love to blame Colonel Corbane's Multiple Edition Syndrome, but it really was a case of thinking one rule entirely replaced another. The reality was that it only replaced PART of the rule and that I was short changing myself. Heh. I knew blogging could improve my game...

***Image borrowed from Matthew Jue's art page and will be removed if asked***

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Eldar: More Jetbiker Sculpts

Continuing my quest to upload some more of my stuff, here's a Jetbike Farseer and three Jetlocks I did up several years ago. These were done shortly after I completed early sword-wielding version of my Farseer. So these were some of my early forays into larger sculpts. This was also prior to my getting a second lamp, so the source lighting is a little painful. Still, maybe they'll inspire anyways. Plus, I think it's good for people to see that everyone starts somewhere...

This first was a Farseer I've not ever put on the web. Again, I wanted a more dynamic pose than the slouched normal Jetbike look. Still, he's not quite as daring and only rising up enough to cast his spell.
Here's the initial fit test. Most of the basic pieces are in place but there's little to no glue and no sculpting yet.And BAM!, here's the nearly completed model! Sorry, I didn't have much "in progress" on this guy. Most everything was single run sculpts anyways.
The right "casting" hand was taken from an old Guardian arm. Two of the fingers were CAREFULLY cut with a very sharp X-acto knife and then bent to give shape. The middle snapped anyways and was repositioned with some glue and filler putty.
The left arm was also a Guardian arm. (I think...) The upper arm just wasn't converting right, so I just sculpted the whole thing. The legs were also converted from a Guardian's. I don't like the "feel" on that foot position, but it wasn't enough to redo everything.
And here's another view. The right foot was later bent to fully touch the footrest. He also got some other clean-up on the neck and back of his jacket, but otherwise was done.

Then there's Warlock 1...
Here's the basic wire-fit version as usual. There's hidden heavy pins running through most of the model, but concealed by other parts at this point. I promise I'll show more on that sort of thing sometime.Here a basic spirit stone was added to his chest and other filler sculpt done. His head was from a miscast Ranger I had around and the sword from a Howling Banshee.
And here he is with the simple vest/jacket done. The main torso used was a Guardian. Legs and right arm were from a normal Jetbiker.

And Warlock 2...
Another guy sourced from the same basic kit as Warlock 1. Again, dry fit and nothing spectacular here...
And here's the raw sculpt of the runes on his chest. I hadn't really learned fine line control and I didn't shave his chest down, so they REALLY bulked his armor out. Hah. I hadn't realized that bottom line was off-center either. :-p
And here's the final. The coat/vest thingy reduces the bulk of the Rune Armour, but it's still a little off. It was a great learning experience.

And then my favorite of them all, Warlock 3...
Here's the raw wire fit. Note the pin visible at left elbow and how her head is "floating".
Finished version from the front, and a cameo of some of my noble Dwarves! (I still miss them every now and then, but would never have finally quit Fantasy if I'd kept them...)
An over-exposed view from her right. The head was taken from an old Wood Elf Wardancer. I still consider it one of the best female elf sculpts I've ever seen. Has the right touch of "otherworldliness".
Sadly, I screwed up on an alignment cut when removing the head from the original fig. In the process I managed to whack off the bottom 1/2 of her jaw. I tried resculpting the piece but couldn't get the GS to work for me. Every attempt just looked off. So I sculpted over the entire flaw and just gave her a rebreather mask.
My first attempt at blending hair. Wow, it was much easier than expected. It was literally just "stipple with a bit of flick down and in when removing the blade".
And a close-up of the final.

Cheers and hope you've enjoyed this rattle around my images folder!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Space Wolves: Land Speeders

Visionaries of the early 20th century predicted we'd all have personal flying cars by now. They were only mostly wrong... now everyone can have models of the flying cars predicted in the 41st millenium! So easy, even a Space Viking can fly one! These figs are "affectionately" known as "The Hockey Puck of Doom", "Flying Rollerskate", or even "That Damned Model I Couldn't Assemble Without 4 C-Clamps, Rubberbands, and JB Weld"...

You can check out my more mainstream article for the Space Wolves blog over here.

A quick look between the Space Marine and Space Wolf Codexes will show that this unit was not a simple cut and paste job... after all, they switched up where the "Typhoon" upgrade was listed and added "per model" to all the costs! What, you were expecting SW specific "Wolf's Eye Targeters" or "Missiles of Morkai"? Sorry, but excluding page layout, the Space Wolf Land Speeder has exactly the same options as a Vanilla one.

For those few of you who have no idea how a Marine Speeder works, they are a classic example of build dictating play. When we exclude the "waste of time" builds, we get two basic styles:
1. Suicide Speeder. Typically takes a Multi-Melta, is usually fielded solo, and is considered disposable. They Deep Strike in hopes of nailing an enemy tank, blocking Line of Sight or Movement, and any other annoying thing you can think up. Optionally, they sometimes also take a Heavy Flamer as a backup weapon for Weapon Destroyed results or opponents with no tanks.
2. Long Range Support Speeder. Typically takes 2 Heavy Bolters or a Heavy Bolter and Typhoon Missile System. Assault Cannons and Multi-meltas can be used, but aren't recommended due to their medium-short range. They are often seen fielded in squadrons to minimize KP and Force Org use. These units use speed and range to hose down the enemy. It's worth noting that the Typhoon variant is that the missile pods are ventrally mounted, placing them much higher than the chin-mount. A Rhino in front of the Speeder would block the chin mount, while one in front of a Typhoon is enough to confer an Obscured cover save, but not grant it to the Speeder's target. (I'd show it in pictures with real models, but damnably I can't do this. I built my Typhoon back in 3rd before there was a model and used under-wing slung pods...)

So despite all this, is there any difference between Wolf and Vanilla Speeders? Yes! One nice thing about the Space Wolf Codex is that we don't really get Attack bikes. Why's this nice? Because there's no need to debate Landspeeders versus Attack Bikes. Instead, we have Landspeeders versus Thunderwolf Cavalry, Swiftclaws, Skyclaws, and Fenrisian Wolf Packs. We also have Wolf Scouts for mid-game anti-tank tactics, matching many of the benefits of a Suicide Speeder. Still, they might be a good option if your force has a decent amount of other vehicles to protect or draw fire off your Speeders. I could see a unit or two of Support Speeders forming a mobile firebase in support of a heavily mechanized force.

In the final analysis: Like many other things in the Wolf Codex, the quality of result you get from Speeders will be very conditional. The overall composition of your force, their strategic and tactical use, and even the composition of your opponent's force will drastically affect this. While you may see Speeders from time to time, I doubt many Wolf Lords will favor them over the more "Wolfy" units otherwise available.

***Images courtesy of Break Taker and Turbo-Squid***

Blogging independently?

Greetings everyone... I hope you'll forgive me a not-quite-40k post. I've got a poll up that I'd like some feedback on. The long and short of it is that I've been invited to write for a 40k agglomerate site. They shall remain nameless for the nonce. Check that. During the time writing this, I've managed to get invited to a second one... Hah!

I've got a decent number of followers here. I'm also not writing for profit, hits, pseudo-fame, or some misguided Pygmalion complex. I write to get these things out of my brain and on "paper". It helps me be a better player. If publishing them helps the next guy, so much the better. It also gives me something interesting to do when I'm bored at work. But as the wise Lao Tzu says, "A wise man knows he doesn't know." I'm not the platonic ideal of an armchair general... I miss things, make mistakes and am ultimately human. One of the best ways I've found to mitigate this is by having others read my ideas. Thus having a larger audience is good for more than just the ego boost.

Now, there's hundreds if not thousands of 40k blogs out there. I'm not really doing anything that someone else isn't too. Maybe I cover it a little differently, with more math, or just my own little spin and models... but there's still a lot of background noise out there. The blogs I see with any regularly high followings fall into one or more of three key groups.
a. Star Power. Typically these are older and more established blogs doing some sort of "guru on the mountain" thing. I have this rep for Eldar on Warseer, but certainly not on the blogosphere or other sites... nor am I sure if I want it. The role tends to be aloof and unassailable, dispensing nuggets of wisdom to the unwashed masses and immune to reproof. It kinda stifles free debate, especially if the author wants to categorize things into black and white.
b. Blogfeeds. Groups like FromTheWarp help a lot to be more than just talking to myself. One of the big things I like about FTW is that Ron is all about external reference, high bounce rate, and just covering his basic costs. If he happens to pick up some extra traffic or commissions, that's just a side-effect. This cannot be said of all the feed or rings out there... Still, with almost 500 members, distinction is difficult to achieve.
c. Agglomerates. These are a central site on which several authors post, joined because of similar locale or interest. This has the advantage of screening out the detritus posts, sharing out the work, tapping a broader spectrum of talent, cross-pollination between authors, and theoretically sharing to a larger audience. There's the downside of pressure to perform, content uniqueness, and conflicts of interest... such as if there should be a profit and if/how it gets shared.

So my thoughts come down to this:
1. I can say thanks, but no. I stay here, do my own thing and see what comes. This doesn't really increase my audience, but I also avoid a lot of potential headaches.
2. Join and put all agglomerate specific articles on that site and my other stuff here. I get the bigger audience, but I might be scrambling to keep this as anything more than a "my models" blog, especially if I join two or more.
3. Join and post agglomerate articles there and here. It probably wouldn't drive traffic here, but would get that wider audience idea. Of course, it might mean having to stay on topic a little more...
4. Join as an 'honorary' author... which is to say, do my own thing, but allow the site to harvest any content they feel would be agglomerate appropriate. This would mean no pressure to post as the decision of "appropriate" content is up to the agglomerate editor rather than me.
5. Something else I haven't thought of?

Cheers and thanks for any feedback!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

E-mail In: Eldar at 1500

Iggy from Sword of Vaul (and owner of the Banshee Exarch to the side) wrote in today with:
Hey Dverning, I really liked your comment on my blog regarding 'coming in with a left hook' - aggressive play, which I love more than anything. I was wondering if you might have any suggesions as to what I could build for a competitive 1,500 [Eldar] list? I've got everything down in my larger lists, but at 1500, I can't seem to cover all the areas I'd like. If you have any sample lists to try out I'd really appreciate it.

Well, I'm a self-confessed competitive player who favors aggressive tactics. He also asked quite nicely and buttered me up. How could I not respond?

Iggy, you're quite right... 1,500 is "interesting" as you have just enough points to really unhinge a list (Seer Council, V-spam, etc) but not quite enough to fully cover all the basics. For a good and recent article on the "basics", check out SandWyrm's "The 4 Things Every 40K Army Needs To Have." The one place I'd change his article? I think anti-tank could be a single category with the caveat that you have the capability to apply it no matter your opponent. Instead, I'd put in a 4th category of "Defense". This is the ability or redundancy to survive your opponent's attacks and still retain an effective force. There's a number of ways to create this in a list and might be worth it's own article later...

Normally I play 1750, but every now and then there's a need for smaller or larger list. Here's some of my 1500 point tournament lists:
Pure Mech
Farseer, Doom, RoWarding 95
2x 5 Fire Dragons in a Wave Serpent w Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken 380 (80+110 each)
2x 5 Dire Avengers in a Wave Serpent w Bright Lances 390 (60+135 each)
5 Dire Avengers in a Wave Serpent w Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken 170 (60+110)
5 Dire Avengers in a Falcon w Holofields, Spirit Stones, Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken 225 (60+185)
2x Fire Prism 230 (115 ea)
1500 even. This list completely forgoes close combat in favor of maximal shooting and tank durability. The biggest downside to this list (other than cost) is that it's 15 KP. The upside is that I've yet to face an army that enjoys facing 8 Eldar Skimmers at 1500. The Farseer is kept in the Falcon and could run Guide just as easily. Optionally, swap him out for a basic Autarch if you want to play Reserves Denial and don't need the anti-Psyker.

Flaming Mech:
Yriel 155
2x 8 Fire Dragons, Exarch upgrade w DB Flamer & Crack Shot in a Wave Serpent w Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken 510 (145+110 each)
5 Fire Dragons in a Wave Serpent w Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken 190 (80+110)
10 Storm Guardians, 2 Flamers, Warlock w Destructor in a Wave Serpent w Bright Lances 262 (127+135)
5 Dire Avengers w Wave Serpent w Bright Lances 195 (60+135)
Falcon w Holofields, Top Scatter, Chin Shuriken 175 (DAVU mounted here)
1487 and only 6 tanks, but the added punch is entertaining. Again, note the lack of CC options. This list looks to hit hard from Reserves and ask questions later. Optionally, drop Yriel for a cheap Farseer (for anti-Psyker mostly) or a cheap Autarch (for Reserves Denial) and then up the third Dragon squad with Exarch and all.

Farseer, Jetbike, Doom, Fortune, Spirit Stones, RoWitnessing, RoWarding, Singing Spear 188
9x Guardian Jetbikers, 3 Shuriken Cannons, Warlock w Embolden & Singing Spear 281
2x 5 Fire Dragons in a Wave Serpent with Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken 390 (80+110 each)
10 Howling Banshees, Exarch upgrade with Executioner, Acrobatics & War Shout in a Wave Serpent with Top Shuriken, Chin Shuriken, Spirit Stones 312 (192+120)
10 Storm Guardians, 2 Flamers, Warlock with Destructor in a Wave Serpent w Bright Lances 262 (127+135)
3 Guardian Jetbikes 66
1498 for a more mellow and "traditional" list with only 4 Skimmers. There's a decent bit of CC in here in case you make a mistake, but it comes at cost of redundancy. Reserves Jetbikes are your objective holders while the rest of the list pushes forward. Jetbikes play "Poor Man's Seer Council" with Fortune & Doom, using Jump-Shoot-Jump tactics. This is for when I want some variety from stock mechanized play.

By no means are any of these perfection nor are they guaranteed to work with your playstyle. Still, they're ones that work for me. Cheers and hope this gives you some ideas.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Space Wolves: Swiftclaw Biker Packs

Shiny chrome bumpers and detailing, a 40K CC engine, slouchback seats made of real Kraken leather, 4' wide tires, and a pure Fenrisian steel frame? No, it's not the latest from some bad Discovery Channel show, we're talking about Swiftclaw Biker Packs!

Swiftclaws are another Blood Claw variant, this time on huge-ass motorcycles. Not only were they victim of the same unfortunate naming schema as their bretheren Skyclaws, much of the unit analysis remains the same too. What we get is a mostly another copy/paste unit, so go look at my Blood Claw article for their effectiveness calculations. Let's look at what is different:
1. Cost. 3 Swiftclaws = 5 Blood Claws or 4.17 Skyclaws. Said another way, once you hit 3 Swiftclaws it's cheaper to just buy Blood Claws in a Rhino. Consider that carefully before you buy a large squad or two.
2. Bike Movement. Yeah, you can't jump over terrain like a Skyclaw, but your normal move is still just as fast. Even better, you've got the option to Turbo Boost! This save means your bikers are that much more likely to survive battles on planet Bowlingball Prime.
3. Biker Toughness. Holy crap, they're T5? Nope, that's Thunderwolves. Bikers are 4(5). Not that the distinction matters too much as only Attack Bikes have 2 wounds. Still, do remember Instant Death rules before you allocate that Lascannon wound to your Attack Bike.
4. Bike Bolters. Now your Blood Claws can pretend to be Grey Hunters with Bolters of their very own! They've even been given twin-linking training wheels to mitigate that BS3. With Bikes being Relentless, it's almost like a Bolt Pistol too! Just be warned that Headstrong can still hamper your shooting.
5. Attack Bike. Hooray! With their mighty BS3, I'm sure that one heavy weapon will instantly be the envy of the pack and the life of every party. (Can you tell I'm underwhelmed?) Their main advantage is as a cheap way to get another wound.
6. Squads of 3-10. Well, I guess if you took a full pack and spaced them out, you could Screen a huge slice of the board. Hmmm... (read farther below)
7. No Mark of the Wulfen option. So sub-human ferals with talons for hands can operate Bolt Pistols and Jumppacks, but not a bike. Seems fair.
8. Meltabombs. Note that everyone has to get them though. The main use of these is to make the whole pack more expensive.

Swiftclaw packs remind me of teen dating... full of mixed signals, hasty fumbling in the dark, and mistaken impressions fueled by reputable sources like internet porn sites. Bikers are a unit designed to be fast, mobile and SHOOTY. They zip around, shoot lots and only swoop in for the kill after weakening the enemy. In turn, Blood Claws are meant to be a shock assault unit that's constantly on the charge; shooting is a secondary to non-concern. The combination of the two styles is underwhelming at best. You end up with a fast moving assault unit that's isn't cost-effective for either role you've paid for. I just don't see Swiftclaws really having a good use in most armies.

Still, the keen among you will note that I said "most" armies. Where I think they can shine? Cavalry armies. Why? Because they can Screen. But aren't Fenrisian Wolves a third the cost? Yeah, but do F-Wolves have T5, a 3+ armour and the ability Turbo Boost 24" with a 3+ Invulnerable cover save? I thought not. Use your Swiftclaws to zip out fast and form your front line. Their size and squad status will give saves to most any unit behind them. This can be a critical item for Turn 1-2 where your Cavalry are humping across the field at a 6+d6" pace, especially in a Dawn of War scenario. That BS3 doesn't matter when Turbo-boosting since they can't shoot anyways. Yes, there's other issues such as competing for a Fast Attack slot with Thunderwolves, but I think the strategy is worth it for a single large unit. (Notably, this benefit extends to Infantry armies too. I just don't see it as high as those usually Shooty rather than Assaulty, have spare bodies, and/or have cover to rely on.)

So, what upgrades would I suggest? Unless you think you need an 11-man unit, start by giving most of your Attack Bikes to any friends that play White Scars or Ravenwing. They'll be of more use there as Wolves lack Attack Bike Squadrions. Then follow the same rules as for Blood Claws: don't bother with plasma, only take flamers or power weapons if your army needs it, and consider a meltagun and/or powerfist.

As to Leadership, with a Ld8 and a 3d6" Fall Back you don't want these guys running if you can help it. I would consider some form of leader a minimum requirement. A Wolf Guard is nice even if you have an IC; I'd probably give him a Power Fist, maybe a combi-melta and then call it good. A Wolf Lord or Battle Leader can be good with these guys, but still doesn't seem optiomal when a Thunderwolf Mount is just a little bit more. I like a Rune Priest for as the squad lets him get up close and personal quickly. This is mainly of effect for his Runic Weapon, but might also be nice for his Powers. But with the emphasis of this unit on rapid movement, Screening and multiple assaults... as long as you have anti-Psyker covered elsewhere, I think the Wolf Priest edges the competition out due to Preferred Enemy and Fearless.

In the final analysis: These guys aren't likely to be in any OMGWTFBBQ internetz lists, but they are a good choice in virtually any army if you know how to use them. Just make sure you include them and use them for the right reasons. They are not a shock-assault unit, but instead a speed bump or distraction. Within the right army and a touch of guile, I think they can be serious game winners.

***My original image was a dog on a unicycle with top hat, but then I remembered the atrocity that is Biker Mice from Mars. (Copyright Criterion Limited)***
(Wow, these really go faster when I'm not doing all those damned graphs... Cheers and hope you've gotten some good ideas.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Space Wolves: Skyclaw Assault Packs

Axe wielding, genetically engineered, Viking themed super humans clad in furs and power armour not enough for you? Well how about you strap a JETPACK on that bad boy? Is that concentrated awesome or what? Today I turn my critical gaze to those Space Wolves so desperate to get into battle that they're willing to ignore walking like Russ intended. They lock themselves to an anti-gravitic generator and two large turbines, then go jumping out of a perfectly good Thunderhawk. Okay, so that does sound kinda fun...

In 40k game terms, Skyclaws really are just Blood Claws... in the sky. (Okay, the naming convention is silly: Blood Claws + "in the sky" = Skyclaws? There better have been a lot of beer involved in that decision.) These units share exactly the same basic statline, weapons, and unit rules. Thus they have the exact same assault profile. Their cost/effect ratios are also similar enough that I don't care to run them. If someone REALLY wants them, maybe you can convince me to modify the graphs.

Though most are subtle, there's still a few differences:
1. Jump Infantry! This rule is really the only major difference and the key reason to take Sky Claws. This gives them the ability to Deep Strike and move like Jump Infantry. This remedies the biggest problem with Blood Claws: mobility. Yeah, they're stuck out in the open rather than hideable in a tank... but you can also move 12", shoot and still charge.
2. Cost 3 points more per guy. Yeah, that's it. Costs less than buying the squad a Rhino.
3. Squad cap of 10-men. You're not trying to fill up a Crusader though, so this isn't critical.
4. Access to only one special weapon. As with Blood Claws, Skyclaws are a close combat unit. The special weapon is there as a holdout or opportunistic weapon, not a primary consideration.*
5. Can only be led by an Independent Character, not Wolf Guard. Honestly, this was probably an oversight but we're stuck with it. Even though Wolf Guard can get Jetpacks, the Wolf Guard Pack Leaders ability does NOT allow them to lead Skyclaws. There's also no option for an upgrade character such as Lukas. So if you want to keep your Skyclaws from being Headstrong, you're flying an HQ choice in with them.
6. Fast Attack rather than Troops. Skyclaws can only contest rather than capture objectives, don't fill mandatory Force Org slots, and will cap at a max of 3 units. Additionally, they're vying for slots against some other strong contenders.**

*As their upgrade choices follow the same pattern as Blood Claws, my advice remains the same. In short: don't bother with either type of plasma; flamers and power weapons only if the force needs that; melta, p-fists and MotWulfen will be your staples.
**Why take Skyclaws rather than Thunderwolves? First and foremost, you can almost buy three Skyclaws for the price of one Thunderwolf. The T-wolf is certainly stronger, but more attacks might fit your need better. Second, Skyclaws are much easier to hide behind a tank or terrain, presuming T-wolves are all about the size of Canis. Third, an average 2-turns of Move/Run and Move/Assault will see the Skyclaws an average of 2.5" farther. Perfect Run/Fleet rolls will have the units move the same distance. This is probably minor though as either unit should have covered some 30"+ of board. I'm not saying any of these are critical reasons to support Skyclaws over T-wolves, but certainly ones that might sway a judgement.

Overall, Skyclaws are just a flavor of Jumppack Assault Marine. While they do have WS3/BS3, this is greatly balanced out by Berserk Charge. As long as your Skyclaws are on the offensive, they will outperform their similarly costed Vanilla Marine counterparts. Skyclaws are good for throwing out a lot of basic attacks, can threaten most tanks in a pinch, and have options to pack a nice assortment of weapons. They're an okay bodyguard to a Wolf Lord, but he doesn't really do much to bolster their weaknesses. A Wolf Priest is a favored choice of many generals as he gives the unit Preferred Enemy against one enemy Unit Type. The common consensus is that the re-roll will help balance out their WS3, even though math shows that's not normally true. My personal preference is for a Rune Priest because of what the squad provides him: a combination of mobility, ablative wounds, and CC punch. He provides them with a balm to Headstrong, some hard-hitting Shooting, and another power weapon. They'll often end up "in the thick" too, so his Runic Weapon will be well placed to shut down enemy Psykers.

In the final analysis: Skyclaws really aren't that bad. They don't seem suited to spamming multiple units, but that's a Blood Angels thing anyways. However, a decent size unit or two might mesh well into your army and playstyle. They're not the most exciting new thing out there, but they're solid enough to warrant due consideration.

**Image courtesy of Looney Toons, of a favorite character***

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Farseer on a Jetbike

So a recent inquiry got me thinking about my blog content and things I've been meaning to do, but for whatever reasons not yet done. One of those things "to-do" is moving over some posts I pseudo-blogged on my Flickr a few years back. So to start, here's the big one: my Eldar Farseer on a Jetbike "Reboot". I've shown the final product in my Sculpting 101 (and to the right), but some of you might enjoy seeing the process of how I got there too. I could probably stretch this out to several posts, but that seems like cheating...

This fig started back in 3rd edition when I decided I needed a JetSeer. I had a few extra jetbikes but my only "spare" Psyker was an Eldrad model. I also knew I didn't wanted the lounging pose typical of the current jetbike riders. I wanted something more active, upright, dynamic... and thus an Idea was born. I sat down and chopped Eldrad into pieces for his head and torso. As a side effect of repositioning his head, I had to reculpt the left side of his face. Then I replaced his arms and legs with Guardian bitz and some repositioning. There was a fair bit of drilling and pinning to make sure the armature could support the metal upper pieces too. Then I sculpted some details such as a loin cloth, fills, runes, a couple spirit stones and other such. I ended up with something that looked a little like this:
Notably, this was my first (and last) experiment sculpting with White Stuff. It's been relegated to gap filler. I was still fairly happy with the final product, excepting the hilt and how he was gripping it. I considered it good, gave him a basic paintjob and used him for several years.

Then along came this new idea of blogging about your 40k hobby. There was this up and coming new site I'd been reading called "Way of Saim-Hann". Fritz decided to promote by having a little contest. The only rule was that it had to be a Jetbike Mounted Eldar HQ. I figured I'd just take my Farseer, do some more paint detailing and then throw it into the mix. But as I was considering this, I came across the blog of some guy named Ron at From the Warp who was also doing up a fig to enter. He didn't even play Eldar! He was doing the fig for the competition and a friend's new army. (And oh did it show in his initial choice of wargear... a bike Autarch with a powerweapon? Sheesh. :-P Thankfully, he welcomed suggestions.) But the kicker was that he had some pretty solid concept sketches... We went back and forth raising the bar, commenting and critiquing along with a group of like-minded bloggers. Ron ended up taking first with his solid conversion and excellent paintjob on this Autarch. But I've realized I don't care about having won or not... The prize was more Eldar, something I didn't need but Ron's newbie friend did. But even more so? The blog community banter continually pushed things to that next level. There result was a number of truly excellent entries. My final product was of a much higher scope and quality than I would have attempted on my own. I ended up with the only model I've been happy enough to actually pit into CoolMiniOrNot. The glory of such a great competition, my final fig, and the skills I acquired along the way were worth more than any mere prize. (Yeah, I would have been happy to win, but it wasn't... necessary. Hopefully you understand.)

Enough background, back to the fig: I knew I wanted to redo several things about this guy. I had seen this stellar work by Scibor and thought "I could do something like that..." As I'm not one for direct copying, his was an inspiration but I wanted the final to be something all mine. So the first thing to do was sketch. I ran up a dozen little sketches before I had my basic concept. I kinda wish I still had those... it would be amusing to show you how many things did or didn't make the final. So then I broke apart the original fig, cleaned off the nasty White Stuff, got a fresh jetbike canopy and worked up the start for a decorative (and magnetic!) base. After the initial layer of putty we had this:
The above is after my first session of basic sculptwork. In addition to the other changes, I decided he needed a Singing Spear. So I grabbed the sword from that blind High Elf (Eltharion) and stuck it on a bit of wire as a place to start. (I'm sure there's a tasteless joke there, but I'll refrain... this time.) This was also the point of my first revelation with sculpting: "You don't have to do every detail on a piece in one go." It's simple in retrospect that you can add other details later and smooth them in, but prior to this I was trying to do all GS work on an area in one step. Oh, the hours of frustration I could have saved...
Next, I decided to bring the canopy back even farther than the initial plan. To support this, I inserted some lengths of sewing pins to make a basic armature.
Along the way I like to dry fit things together to check the pose and get a little "is this worth it" check in. I'd also finished the sculpt of the face and started canopy details.
Yet more canopy trim. The spear got a butt-cap from the 2007 Farseer's staff and some basic shaping on the shaft.
Here I decided I hated the GS on the shaft and redid it along with some pieces from a DA Exarch power weapon. I also added the spaulders (upper arm armour) that I'd been thinking about from the initial sculpt. This main lines of the spaulder were made with the same technique as the edge of the canopy. The pattern in the recesses was done by placing a thin layer of GS inside the edging and then stippling with the point of a pin.
Added the first rune! It's a combination of the runes for Farseer and Jetbike. Yeah, I'm just that nerdy. (Okay, I'll admit that I had no idea where I was going at this point... I'd been considering doing runes like this across the whole canopy area, but my test pieces just didn't look "right".)
Finished up the Singing Spear using some wrapped copper wire from an old circuit board. I also started the GS on his cloak and doodled my initial idea for the top of the canopy using a fine tip marker. Note the repeat of the Farseer/Jetbike rune. I tried this out when I got to the sculpt phase but I didn't like the the off-set look of the lightning bolt after trying it. So I scrapped that idea for something different...
And here's how the jetbike canopy decided it wanted to come out... I also added a bit from the plastic Wraithlord to the end of the wing.
Same session, different angle. I think I was fishing for commentary on the wing bit. At some point I realized it killed the lines and just removed it.
Ah, the example of what the trim/edging looked like when first applied but before sculpt. I had a couple inquries into how I did it. So I took this pic as an example of the intial putty application. The sculpting was basically pulling out and down from the center of the line to trim down to the amount of putty and basic shape wanted. Then the point of the sculpting tool was pushed in along the bottom to sharpen the line/canopy edge. Then I would lightly run the flat buffing side of the sculpting tool along the tip of the line to flatten. Repeat in sections until finished. (If anyone is interested in the technique but can't make sense of the above, just ask and I can try explaining with graphics.)
A rather blurry pic of the Spear, having been permanently attached to the arm and given a basic hand sculpt. I was actually kinda put out by my sculpt on the hand... the old plastic right hand looked clunky and mis-shapen compared to how nicely this one ended up.
Here I added the detailing to the back of his hand. I also took my wife's advice and enlarged the gemstones on the canopy... she was right too.
And a shot of the center...
Added detailing and a gem to the triangle at the top of the canopy. I also dropped in a spirit stone and some ribbons at the wrist.
This run I'd originally added a kind of growing sine wave pattern to the front part of the canopy left... I was thinking a flame or flamberge or something. But I was only "doodling" in GS and not set on any one thing. I gave up for the night and came back to it the next day, only to see an Astral Serpent staring back at me. A little more putty and he was realized in the flesh, so to speak. Though this became a comedy of frustration... It took me several tries to get the head to satisfaction. Once there, I took this photograph. Then, thinking to work on some other canopy details, I picked it up... and managed to squish the head. So I redid it several times, only to mar it again by fumbling the canopy as I was setting it down to cure. I ended up resculpting that damn head probably 2 dozen times total before I was happy with it again. This was my second big revelation of sculpt: "If you're happy with a detail, set the piece aside and let it cure." Otherwise, you're liable to screw it up and have to redo it.
More on the canopy and sand added to the base.
The canopy was still getting sculpt, but I gesso primed everything else to black. Again my wife came to the rescue and pointed out that an Egyptian stylized eye would really finish out the canopy nicely... curse her for being right again! The sand got a base coat of Scorched Brown and then a drybrush up with Beastial Brown, Snakebite Leather and Bleached Bone.
Codex grey edging/highlights on the base and finished the sculpt on the eye.
And here we skip ahead a couple days... The canopy has been finished and primed. The tan "wraithbone armour" areas have been based Scorched Brown and the red with Red Gore.
Here some color appears on the canopy. Several bone pieces have been lightened up using Vallejo USA Tan Earth. Several gemstones were also done in the "GW style" using Midnight Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Ice Blue for the main and a single dot of Skull White for the "gleam".
Here the wraithbone of the canopy was blended up using Vallejo USA Tan Earth in way more coats than the final effect seems to show. I also did up the canopy gems and basecoated his cloak in Red Gore.
This was the same session as above, but I was playing with the camera angle to see what I wanted for the final composition.
Light bone from a black base is a pain in the ass. I've since switched this to a white basecoat and have found that MUCH easier. So here the canopy is done and the body of the bike taken to Scorched Brown.
More bone... I spent about 4 aggravating hours between this step and the last. I'd hit the "ugly phase"... where things aren't coming together quite as you planned, everything takes too long and you generally just want to drop the project into a dark place and never look at it again. I was frustrated with how his upper shoulder pads were sticking into the air and annoyed with how much time the bone was taking compared to the results I was getting. Still, I pushed on...
and started having things come together. I blended up the main body pieces to Blood Red and did the "reverse glow" on the spear tip using the same blues as on the gems. The effects really made something "click" in my brain. I found myself much happier with the fig... to the point that I got so into painting that I forgot to stop and take progress pics.
Here I went back and touched up my little errors. As I did this, I managed to somehow get wet gesso on my thumb and obliterate the big gem on the canopy. So I got to repaint that too...
The "final". I took a couple dozen photos of the final presentation from different angles and lighting styles... I had to compensate for a crappy camera and all. The best one went into Photoshop and had the colors trued as best I could. Then I erased the white background and dropped in a dropping gradient. I chose blue to compliment the gems and give a ground/sky effect.

Whew... did you actually read all of this? Cheers for getting through that wall of pics and text! (I think I tripled my current pic load with this one post.) Hopefully this write-up was interesting or even a little inspiring. If you have any questions about tools, technique, or otherwise, please feel free to ask.

Irony. Looking back at the details of this project, I'm realizing that rehosting the post isn't the only stuff I've put off regarding this fig. There's several bits of highlight, freehand and other details that I wanted to do on this guy. But I haven't put a lick of paint on him since the competition. I get the feeling I'll be showing this guy again but with some new details.

***Images are all mine, baby!***