[WFB] The Inimitable Stylings of Mike Walker (with full WD article list)

The year, you see, was 1998. I had been in t’obby for almost two years and, after cutting my teeth on the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, was starting to sniff around something with swords, boards, and square bases.*

Mike Walker’s first article for White Dwarf was almost perfectly timed. To a lad who liked Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Spike Milligan, and also happened to be curious about Warhammer, this article was brain dynamite. It was funny**, it was apposite, and it was all paced and delivered in such a way that you couldn’t miss the point even if you were busy laughing at the bits about Kim Basinger and Goblins with silly names.

From brain dynamite to brain tape, Mike’s articles kept on coming out every now and then, petering out in the same month that I was off to university. Perhaps that accident of timing accounts for a lot; it’s the secondary school years that cement our sense of nostalgia out here in Middlehammer-land, and mine were, in a small way, guided by the irregular transmissions from a double garage somewhere in soggy Wiltshire. This was Warhammer the way I was playing it, on temporary boards laid over kitchen tables and double beds, and later the pub-in-the-club above the Hyde Park in Plymouth. Army lists may be quite cutthroat but characters had silly or at least referential names and it was the daft circumstantial moments rather than the brilliant tactics that made the longest impressions.

I’ve read and reread them over the years***, and a few years ago when I was writing for the now-defunct House of Paincakes Blog Network, I happened to mention Mike Walker in passing while talking up the relaunch of White Dwarf.

To my eternal delight, the man himself materialised in the comments. Not just to say thank you and gaze mournfully toward the garage door where, presumably, Dug Bugman and co. still languish in ancient toolboxes – ho no. Mike was courteous enough to provide a full list of his contributions to White Dwarf over the years, which I reproduce here (well, down there) along with some of my own hopefully-helpful notes on what’s in them****.

  • 224 (August 1998) – First Encounters of the Warhammer Kind – inc. The Battle of Newberry Pass scenario
  • 226 (October 1998) – The Battle of Iron Axe Ridge – a scenario for large armies on small tables
  • 230 (February 1999) – Thump & Grind – tactics for beating Skaven
  • 231 (March 1999) – Putting the Ploy in Deployment – a five step program for putting your models in the right place – before you fight, remember to SCRAP!
  • 232 (April 1999) – Fighting with Cold Blood – tactics for playing with and against Lizardmen
  • 233 (May 1999) – Like a Rat out of Hell – Battle Report, Mike’s Dwarfs vs. Gareth Hamilton’s tournament-tuned Skaven and some frankly dodgy rules calls. Mike wuz robbed!
  • 236 (August 1999) – Top Gear? – Chariot tactics and test drive
  • 241 (January 2000) – A Touching Dilemma – [not sure about this one, don’t have the issue any more]
  • 246 (June 2000) – The Gentle Art of Getting Fired – tactics for units that shoot things
  • 253 (January 2001) – Dicing with Magic – a walkthrough of the sixth edition WFB magic system
  • 254 (February 2001) – Unnatural Selection -approaches to army lists and setup for Mike’s league report
  • 256 (April 2001) – Dansing with Wolves – Mike’s league report, part one, and a kick in the eye for anyone who thinks Ravening Hordes was “balanced”.
  • 257 (May 2001) – It Ain’t Easy Being Green – Mike’s league report, part two, and a review of his Orc and Goblin army list
  • 258 (June 2001) – Fifteen Ways to Leave your Cover – how to ensure satisfactory terrain bunging
  • 260 (August 2001) – To Kill a Bloodthirster – if you need to be told what this is about, you are beyond help
  • 270 (June 2002) – The Strong, The Short and The Small – [Dwarf tactics, IIRC, but I don’t have a copy to check]
  • 273 (September 2002) – Pale Riders – Fast Cavalry tactics and comforting advice for Dwarf and Skaven players
  • 282 (June 2003) – The Black Art – [something about Mike’s brief dalliance with a Vampire Counts army, if anyone has this issue I want it]
  • 290 (January 2004) – Extreme Measures – on the perils and pitfalls of measuring, guessing and wrangling ranges
  • 297 (September 2004) – How to Lose at Warhammer – which I read right before I went off to university, and it might have been the same one that had the Army of Sylvania background in it, so in case you’re wondering how I turned out to be the way I am, blame this issue of WD.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for a series at least as opinionated as Stillmania, and just as influential on the minds of young hobbyists (or at least me), there it is. Dig ’em all out, there’s a fan archive that will get you started (look, they’re not available through legitimate means and I’m sure as hell not buying cranchity old mags at collector’s markup, I have some standards) and have a butchers.

I’ve got to go now. The clouds have temporarily lifted from South Wales, and since I haven’t the faintest idea how to make hay while the sun shines, I’m going to do the next best thing and paint a Liche Priest. Come back next time, when there’ll be much more late-Nineties White Dwarf nostalgia and a sudden attack of the challenges…

*Memo to self: Swords, Boards and Square Bases would be an ideal name for the other sort of Middlehammer blog, the sort where you go boss-eyed and froth every time someone even says “Age of Sigmar”.
**I think it still is, but in some key respects I have never stopped being twelve. If I stop and think about it all I am of course far too mature to find the names “Wobblebottom Rumblebelly” or “Bugman’s Ultimate Response Patrol” at all amusing, but if you start thinking like that you end up far too mature to be playing with toy soldiers at your age, so – I’d watch out for that sort of thing if I was you.
***The ones I can still find, anyway. My original White Dwarfs were practically given away at a car boot sale just before I went to university, along with my second edition 40K and fifth edition WFB stuff. I should regret this more than I do, but eighteen year old me was delighted to pass them on to a twelve year old newly-minted hobbyist and honestly, I hope he still has them somewhere.
****I took a lot of things from Mike, including my love of footnotes and deeply unhelpful titles. I know titles like WFB MIKE WALKER WARHAMMER MIDDLEHAMMER FULL ARTICLE LIST WHITE DWARF L@@K would be better for baiting the clicks and optimising the search engines, but gosh it would be so boring.

[WFB] Battle Reports: The March on Caerdydd

Once, perhaps, this had been a Good Place. There had been grand towers and a safe harbour; a shining light of civilisation in the grim darkness of what the inhabitants, in their folly, called the Old World.

Then the elves had left. And then others had come. Columns of them, marching in perfect step, their ragged uniforms hanging loose on old bones and mouldering grave-meat, the howls of wolves in their vanguard and the shriek of a thousand bats in their train.

Lord Ruthven spurred his horse, more out of habit than anything – the beast would do as it was bade by an effort of will, but he wanted to put the boot into something today and by all the Powers, the horse was right there. Trotting up the wide old steps of the curtain wall, it bore him to a vantage point, and came to a halt without a hand on the rein.

He had not been wrong. To the north, a trail of destruction marked the ride of the Chaos hordes – trees felled for crude bridges, buildings toppled purely because they were in the way. Their wake offended his eyes – it was like a void in the world, the Winds of Magic deformed around one almighty Presence at their head.

Yet as his eyes turned to the west, he saw the dragonship riding at anchor. Ulthuan had come to punish the previous year’s raids; Ulthuan had come to reclaim its own. The High Elves were striking their camp by the shore already; they would be at the Shrine of the Old Ones well before dawn.

Lord Ruthven kicked his horse again, this time out of sheer frustration, and drove it into a canter, riding back along the column. Where was the degenerate when he was needed…

“Varney! Take your knights and ride north! Hold the hill forts until sunrise, no matter what comes your way. I ride for the Shrine!”

There were interlopers in his domain.

This would not do.

They have come, as the prophecy hath foretold. They have arrived in a land of permanent gloom, of mist-shrouded valleys and muttering suspicious yokels, where a castle looms ominous from every craggen hilltop. Am I talking about Wales or Sylvania? Does it really matter?

Look at them. Look at their foolish, optimistic little faces.

By the time I had risen from the crypt and invoked the black arts of Trafnidiaeth Cymru to deliver me, Daemon Dan Wilson’s Hordes of Chaos were already ready to Breakthrough. A third of the Chaos host would have to get them behind me in order to break the line and win the day (and as luck would have it, that’s 666 points’ worth, an ill omen if there ever was one).

There’s rather a lot of them, aren’t there?

Daemon Prince: Mark of Khorne, Soul Hunger, Aether Blade, Master of Mortals
Exalted Hero: Mark of Khorne, shield, barded Chaos horsey, Sword of Might
Aspiring Hero: Mark of Khorne, shield
16 Warriors of Chaos: Mark of Khorne, full command
12 Chosen Warriors of Chaos: Mark of Khorne, full command
5 Knights of Chaos: Mark of Khorne, full command
5 Chosen Knights of Chaos: Mark of Khorne, full command, Banner of Rage

Subtlety , as you can see, is not a priority here.

We do not throw games to beginners.
We give beginners the stand-up fights for which their souls cry out.
We tailor and we’re proud of it.

Sir Francis Varney: Blood Dragon Vampire Count with extra magic level, Cursed Shield of Mousillon, Ring of the Night, Black Periapt and Blademaster (Necromancy: Invocation of Nehek, Hand of Dust)
Emmanuelle: Wraith with Cursed Book
Rosenkratz: Necromancer with extra magic level and Book of Arkhan (Necromancy: Invocation of Nehek, Curse of Years)
Guildenstern: Necromancer with extra magic level and Staff of Damnation (Necromancy: Vanhel’s Danse Macabre, Curse of Years)
First of Foot: 18 Skeletons with spears, light armour, flag waggler, drum bonker
Templehof Militia: 15 Zombies
Templehof Levy: 15 Zombies
Black Monks of St. Herod: 5 Spirit Host bases
Old Knights of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights with barding, full command group, and Banner of the Dead Legion
New Knights of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights with barding, full command group, and War Banner

The battle-lines are drawn up…
Rosenkratz has had a splitting headache ever since that Daemon-thing gave him the side-eye, and he has utterly forgotten how to cast spells. No… Khorne is here, Khorne is watching, and Khorne demands valour and strength at arms! And who is Rosenkrantz to argue, when he stands alone against a charge that has ripped his bodyguard out of the world?
Hounded by a curse that won’t seem to shift, these Warriors of Chaos meet the Undead counter-charge head-on. Though Varney cuts down their Hero before he can finish saying “I challenge you to a duel before the Blood God’s gaze!”, they are made of sterner stuff, and hold…
The Daemon descends, and Varney orders his skeletons to part their ranks. This one is for him. This was the battle he was reborn to fight. In a flurry of steel and claws, the air heavy with the Cursed Book’s foul aura, Varney fights the Prince of Daemons to a standstill; each can land a blow or two upon the other, but the killing stroke eludes them. Khorne is watching, and permits no Hand of Dust be raised – so Varney has to do this the hard way…
Carnage has ensued. The levies of the Black Cross lie devastated, the Black Monks banished, but the back of the Chaos invasion is broken as the Prince vanishes to realms best left unmentioned. While the Chosen Knights are still at large, victory belongs to the Undead!

This game turned on a handful of dice rolls, but it didn’t feel like that – not at all. It felt tense as hell, largely because Dan had a good dozen dice to throw at every combat, and I had similar numbers for every spell. But mechanically, it came down to:

  1. Me rolling two Curse of Years spells at the start.
  2. Me casting one Curse of Years with Irresistible Force, and the other with a Miscast that cast the spell with Irresistible Force, in turn one of all things. Dan spent most of the game trying to Dispel these but couldn’t show a ten to save his life, so they stayed in play and whittled down his infantry until he removed the Necromancers the old-fashioned way – by ramming Chaos Knights into them.
  3. Dan failing one crucial Instability check with his Daemon Prince right when backup was on the way, his Chosen Knights having spent slightly too long chewing through Spirit Hosts, raised Zombies, and not-raised Zombies.

Meanwhile, within the ruined city proper, Lord Ruthven prepares to contest with the High Elves for the ruined Shrine of the Cytherai in a Capture scenario. Intrigue at court meant the People’s Prince Ben Panting would have to leave after the minimum four turns… and that wasn’t the only intrigue that held him back.

Prince Thanadin’s expedition advances in column, driving for the ruined Shrine, with skirmishers from Nagarythe covering the flanks…

Prince Thanadin: Elf… Prince… on a barded Steed, with Armour of Protection and the Amulet of the Purifying Flame
Cerith: Elf Mage, with extra magic level, a barded Elven Steed, the Seer honour, and a Dispel Scroll (High Magic: Flames of the Phoenix, Vaul’s Unmaking, Drain Magic.)
Daveorn: Elf Mage, with extra magic level, the Pure of Heart honour, and the Ring of Fury (Light Magic: I’d like to say I could remember but he never got to cast anything.)
10 Archers
10 Archers
20 Spearmen with full command group
10 Silver Helms with shields, heavy armour, full command group and the Lion Standard
20 Swordmasters with full command group and the Banner of Ellryian
8 Shadow Warriors
2 Repeater Bolt Throwers

Lord Ruthven’s Redoubt prepare to contest the ground; such precious ground, saturated with Dark Magic, must not be given up without a fight!

Lord Ruthven: Von Carstein Vampire Lord with extra magic level, barded Nightmare, additional hand weapon and the Carstein Ring (Necromancy: Invocation of Nehek, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre, Curse of Years)
Romuald: Von Carstein Vampire Thrall with heavy armour, Battle Standard and Walking Death
Mama Haeckel: Necromancer with extra magic level and a Power Familiar (Necromancy: Invocation of Nehek, Hellish Vigour)
First of Foot: 30 Skeletons: light armour, spears, full command group
Local Yokels: 10 Ghouls with Ghast
Children of the Night (assorted):
2 units of 5 Dire Wolves
1 Bat Swarm base
1 Spirit Hose base
Old Knights of the Black Cross: 6 Black Knights with barding, full command, and Banner of the Barrows
New Knights of the Black Cross: 6 Black Knights with barding, full command, and War Banner
Wailing Nell: Banshee
Wuthering Nancy: Banshee

Once more, unto the breach, dear friends…

Sadly, we didn’t have as much photographic evidence for this one, so you’re just going to have to trust me when I say that Ben… did his best.

Intrigue at Court shafted him by putting Cerith in charge of the army, which left the Silver Helms vulnerable to a stereo performance from my Banshees that ripped a rank off them. That rank would be crucial, because it meant he couldn’t quite amass the combat resolution to get past my Ethereal units (who were supported by the nearby Battle Standard), and his Silver Helms spent the rest of the battle pinned in place by wailing tarts.

Things started to turn around when he cast Flames of the Phoenix and barbecued my Ghouls, and Vaul’s Unmaking to make the Power Familiar go away, but rapidly turned back around when both the Archer units broke in the face of Black Knights and a Curse of Years killed half the Swordmasters off. Daveorn helped by Miscasting his second spell, killing a Swordmaster and injuring his daft self into the bargain, which meant the Curse got him too.

A charge from the First of Foot routed the rest of the Swordmasters, and left the Skeletons and Lord Ruthven parked squarely in the middle of the Shrine while everyone else was fighting ghosts. Had the game gone on a little longer, the surviving Black Knights would have been lined up for some rear charges and, one would hope, thus turned the tide.

I actually felt a bit bad about this one. The Power Familiar in my army was a bit much, and I failed to notice Ben’s utter lack of magic weapons when putting Ethereal units into my army. (In my defence, I expected more magic missiles than what he could bring to bear – the Ring of Fury in particular was a letdown, only doing one wound on one Banshee during the entire battle.)

However! Both the lads seemed to have a nice time, and both remarked on the comparative cleanliness of sixth edition and how it’d be nice to play a 3000 point game of this thing at some stage. I’m down if you are, gentlemen. I may even bring the Dragon.

[WFB] Warhammer For Adults: the New Testament

This weekend, Ben Panting Esq. and the Faithful Dan are crossing the Border and playing some Warhammer Fantasy Battles on my home turf: which means a) Wales and b) the King of Editions, the Edition of Kings, WFB Sixth Edition. This above all things you must recall, else nothing that follows may seem wondrous.

Sixth Edition is unfamiliar territory to both the lads, and Ben in particular has taken every opportunity to sound out the greater Middlehammer movement and seek counsel. Which means he’s had a lot of advice from former tourney-heads. Which in turn means he’s been applying that advice and fine-tuning his list for what he might expect from me. Tailoring it, almost. And back in the day the very thought of list tailoring had me spitting into my snakebite and black*: that’s what Beards and Cheesers and Bad People do! A Good Player can build a Good List and Take All Comers! So say the forums and so mote it be!

And in the context of the time, I was right. But in the context of now, I am wrong. Allow me to explain.

Let us bring Dan into the equation. Dan is playing Hordes of Chaos. He is playing Khorne. And he is a little short for models and wants to use his Daemon Prince, so he has assembled a 2000 point army in which every unit is Marked and many are Chosen. Every unit has immunity to psychology until beaten in combat, at least one bonus attack, and generates an additional die for a Pile of Denial that stretches into the low stratosphere. He has more Dispel dice than my previous list had Power.

In short, purely by playing what he wants to play in the manner in which he wants to play it, knowing nothing of the King of Editions, the Edition of Kings, Dan has tailored a perfect Vampire-brutalising list. To give him a decent and rewarding game rather than the damp squibs I usually churn out when undertuned**, I will have to do likewise. Tailor into him and his collection. It’s the decent thing to do. He’s using what he has; I have the luxury of choice.

When I was a lad, playing fifth edition, I did not. Nor did anyone I knew. And so we ran our regular pocket-money-and-birthday-present lists into each other, because that was all we had the capacity to do. It was rare enough at first for anyone to even bother with points and an army list. I was happy if we had, at least on paper, a fair fight, and so week after week I sent my Chaos Warriors trudging up the field into hails of bows, bolts and bloody High Magic spells, or lurching after Skinks who merrily hovered within eight inches but without ninety degrees for the entire duration. Because that was the only way I could play at all: constrained by the figures.

Later, in those heady glory years of playing sixth edition with my first serious disposable income, the chief constraints were not the figures, but the available space and time. Games were played in GW branches or clubs above pubs, on four foot by four boards with, generally, a queue to use them. There was no time to write up a list on the night – we’d hold things up – and so the games were pick up affairs at modest scale. 1500 points standard, with the occasional top heavy 2000 pointer so we could use Vampire Lords and Dragons and such without crowding the board. But we could get a Border Patrol in, and when we were building new armies or pressed for time, we did. And if there was a Mordheim league or similar on, we’d play that for a month instead. And I played, week after week, because that was the only way I could play at all.

Later still, as a starving graduate student, when the King of Editions had collapsed into “if only Pitched Battles are played, then only Pitched Battles shall be provided!” and my army was showing its age, I tried building another with the limited means available. I had 1000 points of Chaos Warriors, again. The local store played exclusively 2000 point Pitched Battles in preparation for the tourney scene.

If I wanted to play at all, I had to borrow half an army and play with some jank I hadn’t made my own and learned and honed through the slow process of scaling up from Skirmish band to Border Patrol to 1000 to 1500 in scenarios that were built for mismatches to baby’s first 2000 point game – and my opposition would be loaded for bear, as the saying has it. And if that was the only way to play, I wasn’t interested, and WFB began its slow decline into second hand armies, a morass of trading and swapping and desperately searching for the game I had loved in the game it had become.

Now, I am an adult. I play my irregular games in modern, spacious gaming centres, on twenty-four or even thirty-two square feet of sleek neoprene, with a CHAIR. Each! Maybe even a side space for rulebooks, templates, casualties and the midgame pint***. Such, such are the joys. And these games are scheduled weeks in advance with other adults. They are anticipated, pondered over, thirsted after, and gleefully reported on. These games are a big deal. They should be more than the constantly, carelessly shovelled takeaways of the pick up game. They are more of a fine dining experience; a nice treat****.

And this is what makes me think. Dangerous, I know. It reminds me of the admonishments of Brother Ranz, of yesteryear, that a wargame is not escapism: it is played in the real world with and against your chosen opponent. With… and against. With… and against. With… And it’s that With that matters.

When one is an Adult, you see, playing Warhammer for (and against, and with) other Adults, one takes responsibility for fun, rather than expecting the game system to guarantee it. If the Faithful Dan is bringing a Pile of Denial that reaches such a grand extent, and a Daemon Prince, it falls to me to provide a force that can contest with his, that can make the game worth playing.

Back in the day, when we all stuffed our face with the unsatisfactory kebab-stuff of the pickup game twice a night three nights a week, we could afford to write off the duff ones. But now, when every game is arranged with care and anticipated for weeks if not months, we can – nay, must – curate those games to ensure that they are worth playing.

We may wish for an unequal contest. There are scenarios for that, which curate the experience and frame it. That is well and good. What is neither well nor good is the complete stomping that comes out of the blue, when both participants have prepared for their own different sense of a game – and prepared separately.

Which means that my outdated sense of the Ultimate Spirit of Warhammer, derived from Stillmania and authentic Middlehammer as it may be, is still wrong. It is born from a gaming culture and game circumstances of yesteryear, when we all did this all the time. Here and now, walking the one list into every game is leaving too much unplanned and unprepared for. It is on me, and you, and all of us, to play With each other and properly curate our battles, so that when we come to play Against each other we actually have a good time.

Here, for reference and record, is my own sense of the Ultimate Spirit of Warhammer (Revised Standard Version).

The perfect game is arranged a month or two in advance. A scenario is chosen and unless teaching and learning are the goals, it is not a Pitched Battle. Army lists are constructed through a discussion; what do we want out of this game and how can we be sure we get it?

On the day, the big game is teased and trailed with some warm-ups. A Skirmish or two, perhaps a Border Patrol before lunch. The afternoon is the Big Game, a stout 2000-3000 point affair ideally. Play proceeds at a gentlemanly pace without any “gotcha” moments or playing for the draw because it’s a bad match up.

It’s all over by teatime, and the outcome and the pitch for the next game can be discussed over your choice of hearty meal***** and adult beverage. Paid for by the winner, to ease the sting of defeat.

I haven’t quite pulled it off yet. But I live in hope.

* Half lager, half cider, dash of blackcurrant, all from the cheap end of the bar. A foul concoction beloved of goths, students, and anyone else with a minimal desire to remember tonight tomorrow.

** My 4000 point game with Ben was just such a disappointment, and an object lesson in what happens when army lists are not prepared in mutually inclusive detail. Of course, Cheater Panting had two generals, and full control over the best magic deck in fifth edition, so some of this comes down to administrative error and a little can be blamed on the system, but mostly it’s on us for not explaining what our armies did and what our circumstances were.

*** Of shandy, because my liver isn’t what it used to be, possibly because of the snakebite and black.

**** I was waiting for a breakfast order while I wrote this. Can you tell?

***** Or, if you’re me, a cheeseburger shorn of bun, chips and layers of sauce, forced to rely on its own flavoursome properties or lack thereof. No-carbs-where-poss diet, see?

[WFB] Three Lists of a Thursday Night (Sixth Edition)

The first is simple enough: a to-do list, if you will. All in, the Mantic miniatures I own amount to 1200 points and will make a fine, upstanding start to a greater Tomb Kings force. They’re already primed, unlike the rest of my wastrels, and I’ve just this moment had a bit of a revelation about how I might like to proceed with this project. It involves using exactly one (1) Citadel Miniature, that being Neferata, and building the rest of the army out of stuff that’s currently available from companies who are actively making things. I mean: the only reason I went looking for Citadel chariots in the first place was because Mantic don’t make them, but now I know Tabletop Miniatures Solutions exist…

That seems like a pretty righteous solution. But in the meantime, here’s an army/to-do list:

Various Empire of Dust miniatures, spray-primed a nice sandy colour.
Nothing else remains, beside that great decay –
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Hero: Tomb Prince: 152
light armour, Crook and Flail of Radiance

Hero: Liche Priest: 160
Cloak of the Dunes, Hieratic Jar

Hero: Icon Bearer: 107
light armour, Icon of Rakaph

Core: 10 Skeletons: 90
light armour, bows

Core: 10 Skeletons: 90
light armour, bows

Core: 20 Skeletons: 210
light armour, standard, musician, Champion

Special: 3 Ushabti: 195

Special: 3 Ushabti: 195

Rare: Screaming Skull Catapult: 110
Skulls of the Foe

Total: 1199

Basic tactic is And Let The Heavens Be Darkened With Arrows, right out of the book: castle up around the Catapult, let rip with as much firepower as I can get up and in the air, and counter-attack with the Skeletons and Ushabti once the enemy are within scrobbling distance. The Prince is kitted out to strike fast and first, the Liche Priest to flee if the formation becomes insecure and also to potentially whack out an extra Incantation if necessary, and the Icon Bearer to put a bit of hustle in the Skeleton Warriors if they end up out of position.

The second list is a response to Mr. Panting’s little challenge. As he aligns himself with the King of Editions, the Edition of Kings, he’s asking those of us who were right all along to produce a 2000 point army list that we like. I produced a lot of 2000 point army lists back in the day, some more likeable than others, but here’s the current one that’s tickling my bristles. It’s an Army of Sylvania, by the way:

Lord + Hero: Vampire Lord: 439
Level 3 Wizard, additional hand weapon, barded Nightmare, Aura of Dark Majesty, Book of Arkhan, Ring of the Night

Hero: Necromancer: 140
Level 2 Wizard, Spell Familiar, Dispel Scroll

Hero: Vampire Thrall: 159
Army Standard, heavy armour, Walking Death, Talisman of Protection

Core: 30 Skeletons: 355
Light armour, spears, standard bearer, musician, Champion

Core: 10 Ghouls: 90
Ghast

Core: 5 Dire Wolves: 50

Core: 5 Dire Wolves: 50

Core: Bat Swarm: 120
2 bases

Special: 5 Black Knights: 141
Barding, standard bearer

Special: 5 Black Knights: 141
Barding, standard bearer

Special: Spirit Host: 130
2 bases

Rare: Banshee: 90

Rare: Banshee: 90

Total: 1995

There are several ways to play this one. It can form a block around the Skeletons, with the Dire Wolves, Bats and Spirit Host screening for the Skeletons, Vampire and Knights behind, and come on in waves; it can refuse a flank, with the two Swarm units set up there to interfere and press while the cavalry stack on one side and push like billy-o. Unlike many of my original lists, this one lacks the top-heavy hammer of the single Knight unit in favour of a combined arms approach. It also has a certain amount of baiting, switching and speedbumping capacity, with two Banshees and the Ghouls able to chill within 12″ of the Army Standard and make themselves useful. Incidentally, the Vampire Lord will probably take the Lore of Death, naturally hoping for that good Doom and Darkness (it stacks so well with an army that has two Banshee screams to play with).

But once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. Alternatives thronged my mind. I was briefly tempted by the Von Carstein theme force, but let’s stick to armies for which I actually have the models (dangerous, I know) and revisit an old friend with a new one:

Lord + Hero + Hero: Vampire Lord: 735
Level 3 Wizard, Zombie Dragon, Summon Wolves, Earthbind, Wolf Lord, Book of Arkhan, Wristbands of Black Gold

Hero: Vampire Thrall: 154
Army Standard, heavy armour, Spectral Attendants, Earthbind

Core: 19 Sylvanian Militia: 215
Spears, standard bearer, musician, Champion

Core: 11 Dire Wolves: 131
Doom Wolf, Scouts

Core: Bat Swarm: 60

Core: Bat Swarm: 60

Special: Black Coach: 175

Special: Black Coach: 175

Rare: 8 Drakenhof Templars: 290
Barding, standard bearer, musician, Champion, Drakenhof Banner

Total: 1995 points

Yes, I’m back on this bullshit again. This one has everything and then some, and it’s never even heard the words “top heavy”. The Lord starts in the lines to give everything a good yeeting forward, then flies out to join the cavalry for a mass push in turn two, popping Summon Wolves for the extra unit of D3x2 right when she can Danse them into some unsuspecting fool. The Skeletons plod upfield, helping out any Coach which bogs down, and are gradually Grave Markered into an unyielding tide. And if any other Grave Markers go off and spring some Skeleton Crossbowmen out of the ground like daisies, well: the more the merrier, eh?

I don’t know if it’s good, but it’s got three Terror-causing models, Magic Resistance coming out of its ears, and casts four Invocations and hopefully two Danses per turn. And a Dragon. At the very least, the games will be quick…

[WFB] I Have A Problem

Would you like to see my Problem? This is what my Problem looks like.

Last year, I hit on the idea of taking a Tomb Kings army to a sixth edition tournament in Essex, at the start of March THIS year. Circumstances have conspired against me and I haven’t been able to make the tournament, but I have still ended up with… all this. From different manufacturers, in different scales, primed different colours, but all adding up to a potentially v. interesting second army. Playable under fourth to eight edition rules, tactically distinct from my Vampire Counts while still running off the same reliable Undead core I know, love, and arguably can’t play WFB without. In particular, those SAGA Revenants provide a Liche, and 48 could-be-zombies could-be-ghouls. Wild thoughts of a Followers of Nagash army, a tip of the hat to Total War, are even now athrong in my noggin regions.

The only snag? My case foam is full of damn Vampires, and their associates. And I don’t exactly play stacks of WFB any more. A man in my position looks at large collections and wonders… is it worth it, or should it be liquidated? But it would be nice to have a spare army to host games with, and a big force to draw on for big games of the sort I’m more free to play now.

What would you do if you were me?

YOU WOULD PULL OUT YOU FINGER AND BUILD MORE DAMN SKELLIES IS WHAT YOU’D DO.

After a sleep-deprived night in which I was once again graced by Nurgle with Uncontrollable Flatulence (my first Chaos Reward, earned long ago when I first stepped on the path to damnation and running strong this weekend), I am learning all about a) multi-pose archers and b) regiment bases, none of which have featured prominently in my hobbying to date. Teddy did nearly leave the pram on a few occasions but at last I have sixteen plastic bowmen together, along with four ‘heavy’ horsemen mostly done. I’ve used all my Beastman skulls on the ‘heavy’ cavalry, on the grounds that something has to make them tougher than normal and they’re not wearing any sort of actually visible armour. If anyone asks, they’re clearly devotees of a ram-headed god of knocking your nut into a wall until either it breaks or you do. Them being Skeletons, I predict the latter.

My rough and ready plan is to use the relatively resilient Citadel plastics as an “away” army I can bung in a case and afford to abuse a bit. The more brittle and temperamental Mantic figures require more delicate handling (and superglue to fix) so I’m planning on treating those with a little more care, saving them for bigger games (maybe eighth edition, where the Tomb Kings seem to want swarms of relatively low-level characters to provide bonuses to their key units).

I’ve also – did I mention I didn’t sleep well last night? – remembered that Wargods of Aegyptus exist (and they do neat, chunky Ghouls, as well as a range of exciting animal-headed mummies and even a unit of chunky lads with spears who could pass for Tomb Guard), and discovered Tabletop Miniatures Solutions, who do a range of stuff which more than adequately fills in the eighth edition range of large monsters and additional character types. And there’s the rather excitingly posed Reaper Bones skeletal giants, too… Far better to give money to people who make things than people who hoard things for years and then charge triple RRP for them like they’ve done anything to earn it, if you ask me.

This army’s at the risk of turning into an incoherent mess, but I think as long as I stick to a simple colour palette based on Zandri Dust and things that look good over the top of it, it should all tie itself together. It’s a nice excuse to break out my favourite Polished Blue again, as well as that Totally Not Hawk Turquoise I’ve been looking for an excuse to use up…

Let’s have a little throwback to my Corehammer days and play ourselves out with a tune, eh?

The Power of a Good Pledge

As you’ll already know if you’re following my nonsense on the Twitters or the Instagrams @propergoffick, I’m doing the #hobby300 challenge. It’s very, very simple: you do hobby, in some form or another, for 300 days out of 365. Even scratching your arse reading old White Dwarfs counts, if you want it to.

I’ve also joined the Brush Wielders’ Union, in an attempt to break through the Pile O’Shame (I’ve never really had one of these before – must be coming up in the world if I can afford to have miniatures just sitting there). Instead of big grand resolutions for the whole year, which invariably fizzle by the end of February in the absence of any short term milestones to tie them to, I’m going quarter by quarter, proper turning hobbies into jobs territory. Capitalism must be so proud of me. Anyway, Q1’s mission is to assemble the Goblin and Undead Blood Bowl teams (I went all-in on the Undead team, because I’m a slave to my appetites. Bought the custom pitch and everything) and also finish everything I have on the table for the Vampire Counts. This amounts to:

  • 10 Ghouls
  • 5 Dire Wolves
  • 1 Black Coach
  • 1 Zombie Dragon
  • 1 Army Standard Bearer (still needs modelling)
  • 1 Witch
  • 1 Necromancer
Mordheim Bad Caster Crew, together at last
Someone has to take charge of this nonsense.

It’s started pretty well. I’ve patched over the Master Necromancer’s chips, sallowed his skin, drabbed his robes, and generally brought him into line with the fairly mediocre quality of the original army. Same deal with the Witch, who I’ve been meaning to paint up as a third Necromancer for years: it’s all about getting stuff done and looking coherent together, matching the low-effort paint jobs I put in at the age of eighteen. Which is all to the good, since I can’t really be arsed doing high-effort paint jobs these days.

A Battle Standard Bearer, Bearing the Battle Standard, and friend

Showing here are a couple of efforts to really round out the sixth/seventh edition lists. The second Black Coach is an option for Von Carstein theme forces, the Army of Sylvania, and for any old Vampire Counts army under seventh edition rules, so it makes sense to have two of them together. I’ve also finally picked up the Von Carstein upgrade pack, which means my new/old Battle Standard Bearer can finally have a banner top. I know Wight Lords are better for most Bloodlines, but I really rate the Von Carstein Thralls; their Bloodline powers allow for more static combat resolution stacking and/or magical interference and that helps the army a lot.

Of course, this leaves me with twelve (12) decidedly late-period shields on my hands. Now, back in the day I was a very salty boy about the lack of visual coherence between the Vampire Counts ranges of then and now, to the extent that I sold the army rather than modernise it. Things are different now, and the reason they’re different is visible in the background there.

Tomb Kings. Work with me here. Basically, I was working on a Tomb Kings army, to be done with Mantic miniatures and to sit on the side doing its own thing. But I needed Chariots, and I couldn’t find any better than the old GW ones, so I started eBay trawling for those. And then I lucked into an old Battalion set, so that’s more Chariots and some Skeleton Heavy Horse and some Skeletons that are… actually in scale with my old Vampire Counts army… and that’s when it started.

Basically, there was a lot of potential.

The current plan is to build the Battalion as two units of 16 Skeleton Archers, and stick the remaining 4 Skeletons onto my spare Steeds, which have plumes on and therefore make worthy mounts for unit champions and standard bearers. Those then join the 8 Heavy Horse from the Battalion (who will be made up with all the helmeted heads and armoured bodies I can put together) and give me two units of six, which happens to be the exact number of modern angled batwing shields I have lying around. I’ll also have three units of Chariots, plus one spare, which (when I glue Krell to the back of it and find the top of Kemmler’s staff) will give me all the bits I need for a small yet aggressively formed Barrow Kings army – Tomb Kings without the Egyptian aesthetic.

It’ll also give me Skeleton Archers and Horsemen with which to put together a fourth edition list if I want to, and a load of spare swords that I can use to bring my old Skeleton Warriors into line as light armour/shield line infantry. And those same units open up Blood Dragon or Lahmian theme forces, too! And there’d be enough elements of the new kits in there for me to finally feel like my Sartosan Vampire has a place to belong. It’s all falling into place quite nicely.

Of course, that has left me needing some new horseys for the Black Coaches. Enter these antiquated plastic dobbins, who have come out looking a bit like My Little Ponies (Friendship Is Dark Magic edition). This is an awkward bit of legacy around my Black Knights being on purple ghost horses as of seventh edition, but now that I have some other Black Knights, I’m going to reclassify those old lags as Blood Knights, repaint their horses, and repaint these horses so they look a bit less silly.

They are a bit chunky for the Black Coach yokes, but I’m sure I’ll figure out a fix for that in time.

Various Ws in P. Spooky dobbins, dead dogs, horrible Wraiths…

Of course, this has left me with some Egyptian-looking Mantic undead who are now a bit surplus to requirements. I’m not sure what to do with them. I might put them (and my Age of Sigmar starter set) up for sale, or I may keep them around as alternatives to paint up if and when I feel like it. I’m currently edging towards “sell”, if only because this many undead feels redundant, and I’m only really happy when I’m adding stuff to my old army and playing the rules sets I remember from adolescence, rather than trying to keep up with the modern Joneses.

Well. Mostly. There’s still those Blood Bowl lads, after all. I don’t dislike the new Undead. It’s just that they look out of place next to my old figures, which is why I’m starting to think I should save them for skirmish games. That would scratch the new-school itch without hooking me into army-level building projects for games I don’t actually want to play.

If you squint, you can see the results of some Coach conversions in back…

Keep your eyes on eBay (once again, @propergoffick) over the next few days. I’ll probably have some stuff going up.

What Is Middlehammer?

Right! That’s it! I’ve had enough! Everyone sit down, pin back your earholes and listen. I’m laying down the law and anyone who still disagrees after this is wrong.

(You are, of course, entitled by the Great Powers of Subjective Experience, Relativism, Bullheadedness and Free Speech to be wrong, but you’re still wrong.)

Oldhammer: That which predates the coming of the Great Beast called Tom Kirby

Which means the first, second and third editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, and the legendary Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.

Everything produced before 1992 is fair game here and I’m grudgingly going to concede that includes Talisman, Heroquest and Space Crusade because they had an air of the anything-goes, not aggressively factionalised and brand protected pre-Kirby vibe about them. Maybe the original Adeptus Titanicus too. Blood Bowl is Oldhammer in spirit even if it’s survived, thrived, and taken on the aspect of each later period: it transcends all else and endures, magnificent, as quite possibly the best thing GW have ever done.

This period is characterised by big hardback rulebooks, a vaguely interwoven background in which it’s just possible the WFB and 40K universes coexist, by terrible puns and pop culture references, by outsider art, and by a random table for literally everything on God’s clean Earth.

People who like Oldhammer can be aggressively puritan and I for one have not forgotten being one of those Kids for whose Pocket Money GW is Ruining the Hobby, back in the day, but I do like their battle reports and their general sense of humour.

Middlehammer: That which hails from the reign of the Great Beast called Tom Kirby

Which means the fourth to eighth editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the second to seventh editions of Warhammer 40,000, the Black Industries edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and Dark Heresy et al from Fantasy Flight. Also all Specialist Games except Blood Bowl. Anything from 1991 to about 2015, especially if it came in a big cardboard box with rulebooks and swarms of near-identical single-pose plastic models in it.

I’m ruling out Hogshead’s WFRP because it’s a republication of the original and quintessentially Oldhammer game, a wrap-up of a legacy product that’s extremely off brand for the Kirby period and would be replaced before the Great Beast gave up his throne.

This period is characterised by big boxed games, and an attempt to get a big boxed game under the bed of every adolescent lad in the country. At first, things are bright and idiotic; later they’re dark and even more idiotic, once GW figures out that teenage boys like edgy shit. Compartmentalised ‘Army Books’ or ‘Codex Books’ deliver the rules for models in convenient faction-sized chunks.

The period subdivides further into three categories:

Herohammer

Second edition 40K, fourth and fifth edition WFB, Warhammer Quest, Space Hulk, Necromunda, Gorkamorka, Mordheim, Space Marine, Titan Legions etc.

Overpowered characters with a plantation’s worth of Wargear cards, cardboard counters, cardboard datasheets for their vehicles, cardboard vehicles in some places, and cardboard buildings. Game balance for competitive play is an emerging concern but they’re not getting it right yet.

Tends to be the most popular among Middlehammerers, especially the ones who drifted away roundabout the time they discovered Women and Beer. (I never found it that hard to have Gaming, Women and Beer in my life, but then I’ve never held down a Real Man’s Job for more than nine months, so that probably explains a few things about me.)

Borehammer

Third, fourth and fifth edition 40K, sixth and seventh edition WFB. Warmaster, Battlefleet Gothic, Epic 40,000. Black Industries’ WFRP.

A backlash against the dominance of overpowered characters and the overproduction of cardboard gaming accessories. Tournament players are hired to write and contribute to rules and the games enter their most streamlined, balanced state to date.

The core experience is admittedly a bit bland compared to the excesses on either side, but more variants are built into that experience than ever. This is the age of worldwide campaigns that work, Cityfight, Combat Patrol, Kill Team, Warhammer Skirmish, the General’s Compendium, and all that stuff. The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game is not Warhammer but has a distinctively Borehammer feel to it and came out at the right time, so in it goes.

Lorehammer

Sixth and seventh edition 40K, eighth edition WFB. Tournament types are out, Forging the Narrative (or having it forced on you by GW, if you’re a WFB player) is in. Balance goes out the window in favour of Herohammer nostalgia. Armies, models, rulebooks and destructive potential are all embiggened and while things look better than ever, the play experience is best described as an exercise in riding the randomisation waves.

Fantasy Flight’s WFRP and Dreadfleet are the quintessential Lorehammer period gaming experience; they look fantastic but basically play themselves and you’re along for the ride. On the plus side, the Horus Heresy starts to take off and get the rivet counter crowd into 40K. On the downside, GW is still locked into Kirby’s suicide pact with Peter Jackson’s dignity and we get saddled with The Hobbit as an ill conceived ‘battle’ game.

Newhammer: that which emerges blinking into the harsh light of dawn as the Great Beast called Tom Kirby cedes control

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, Warhammer Underworlds, eighth edition Warhammer 40,000 and revived Necromunda and Adeptus Titanicus. I don’t count the PC games here because they’re all self-consciously tied to Middlehammer intellectual properties that might otherwise fall out of copyright. Nor do I include the technically new Warhammer Fantasy Role Play because it’s set in the Old World and is self-consciously modelled on the Black Industries one from 2003. The AOS RPG will be definitively Newhammer though. Fans of Newhammer cannot be blamed. They like something that’s not really to my taste and that’s all there is to be said on the matter.

 

Obviously my tongue is firmly in my cheek throughout all of this and I don’t actually think my pronouncements are world-defining as the Plan of the Old Ones (although I am fat, somnolent, and possessed of a wart, so I have something in common with their chosen people the Slann).

I do genuinely, sincerely think that the rise and fall of Tom Kirby mark a sea change in how GW did business and developed games, and thus serve as useful parentheses around the ‘Middlehammer’ period.

Let me know if I’ve left anything out and I will either steadfastly ignore you or command the Skinks to double-check the ancient tablets and possibly even make… a change… to the ancient scriptures.

Here endeth the lesson.