Monday, August 29, 2022

Some New Mark VI Space Marines

Horus for Hope! A new 20-man tactical squad reports for action in the Horus Heresy. Plastic 28mm models from GW.

Earlier in the month, I shared some thoughts about the new edition of the Horus Heresy rules. Now, let's turn to the even-more-fun stuff: the new plastic miniatures. The new "Age of Darkness" box set comes with quite the haul of plastic - I've barely made a dent in it! But I have been painting, and no surprise to the first subject - some of the new plastic Marines in Mark VI Armour. Space Marine tactical squads can be as large as 20 models in size, so I thought it would be fun to kick off with a full-sized pack of 20 models, accompanied by one of the new Preator figures. Here are some pictures, along with some thoughts on the new models. 

New "Beakies" Return

New plastic marines, ready for battle.

The new Mark VI Marines are, overall, very nice IMO, and I have generally really enjoyed working on them. The "beakie" Marine is a classic thing, an iconic image of both 40k and 30k. For an old salt like me, working on these figures in 28mm evokes quite a lot of nostalgia for the original "Space Marine" game, which featured scads of tiny beakie in 6mm size. 

While I do love these models, they certainly have their frustrations - let's look at a few of them...

So...How Tall Are They?

An issue that caused a great deal of concern among the 30k community was the idea that the new Marines would be re-sized. GW has form here, and their silence in the face of the concerns only served to inflate them further. Those of us with established collections were concerned, with some justification, at the possibility that GW would see screwing us all as being in their commercial interest.

But in the end, the level of concern did not match the reality. These new Marines are taller...but it is only slight, and IMO well within the margin of scale creep error that already exists within the previously established Horus Heresy figure range. It is most noticeable when compared to the old resin Mark VI Marine models from Forge World, and unfortunately it is also most noticeable when compared with some of the older specialist troop figures from the range - such as the Reavers in the case of the Sons of Horus.\

Sergeant on the right, vox-casting Marine on the left (although I had neglected to add the little comms accessory to his helmet...oops).

It is not just that the new plastic Marines are taller...they are also standing up straighter in many cases, at least, that is how I see them - they are less "hunched" than the plastic Mark III and Mark IV marines. I wouldn't mix armour marks between squads, but I am personally not bothered by the inclusion of these guys and, say, a nearby squad of fellows clad in Mark IV plate.

Vexillary Marine, ready to inspire his brothers in battle against the deluded followers of the so-called "Emperor".

FWIW, I also don't believe the sizing on these figures was driven by commercial gain. I'm not giving GW any charitbable credit, not at all - they are a profit seeking business, of course. But after seeing an interview with one of the designers, this all strikes me much as a flight of artsy designers being quietly convinced that their view on the size of the model is correct - and if all of the the other hobbyists out there don't like it, well, it's a shame they are all wrong...

But I also know that wargamers are a particular lot - I respect that. So the size difference may still bother you, even if it doesn't get to each their own, after all. I'll just say that at the end of the day, the size difference did not bother me, and leave it at that.

The Studded Shoulder Pads - Multi Part - WHY?


Maybe the relative overall size of these new figures did not matter so much, but the artsy shits got carried away in one particular area. The studded shoulder pad, a common feature of many Space Marine models over the years, is a core part of the new plastic Mark VI models. But, for some incomprehensible reason, the studded shoulder pad is in two parts, meaning you have to glue the f***ing things together! On WHAT PLANET is that an improvement, FFS?

I have seen some "reasoning" online to the effect that a one-piece shoulder pad with the studs would otherwise, due to issues tied to tooling, plastic injection-moulding, have had studs of SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT DEPTHS. In other words, they would have been JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHER ONES. Again, this is just pure artsy nonsense...

So, assemble these figures, you will need to get the hang of putting together the studded shoulder pads, and doing so in a way as to avoid a terrible seam on the model that will be hard to manage because of the studs...but after some practice, like anything else, you get used to it. So not the end of the world - but just a reminder that artsy designer types need to be supervised closely by normals... 

Hands Moulded To The Guns

All hands are now attached to the more spare hands...

Another change that bothers me more than the change in size is the decision to mould BOTH hands to the weapons. This means that assembly of the Marine is MUCH fiddlier than otherwise necessary. Like the stupid shoulder pads, you get used to it after some practice, but it is a b*tch keeping track of which arms match which bolt gun, and the small stud on the shoulder is not much of a precise guide, so it is easy to f*ck up. It's not easy to spot (I hope) in the pictures, but you will see a few wrists that don't PRECISELY line up with the hands holding the bolt guns...but as a group, it's good enough.

The other problem this creates is that it severs the interoperability with the previous plastic models. The previous Mark III and Mark IV kits were such that it was relatively easy to swap out different variants of bolt guns, heavy weapons, packs, etc. This can still be done with the new Mark VI, but it would be much, much more of a hobby project. 

The wrists are tricky to match up, but hopefully mistakes are not TOO least not on these two...

Once more, it is easy to sense GW pursuing its selfish commercial motives - after all, to have support weapons or heavy weapons for your new Mark VI Marines, you are likely to need the specific new weapon kits, which feature weapons with both hands, sculpted to match the specific arms. The previous Forge World kits, or spares from your plastic Mark III or Mark IV kits, will not work without a lot of hobby work (you would need to procure extra hands, for starters - possible, but a real hassle, and then carefully match with the arms etc).  Still, this again feels like another artsy commentary by the designer - I know many gamers have different views about weapons with or without moulded hands on them, and there are good arguments on both sides.  

What's With The Toes?

Pointy toes on your Space Marines!

There is another kind of odd feature on all of the new Mark VI marines. They have toes! This is something once seen on the odd character figures. But here, they are present on all of the Marines. I don't mind these...but it is kind of weird to see the toes on ALL of the models...

Pointy Bits!

Pointing to hope? Or "for" hope? I guess we'll find out on the gaming table...

Have you ever wanted bayonets for your Space Marines? Or, even better, CHAIN-AXE-STYLE bayonets? This kit has got you covered! You can kit out your entire box with bayonets, OR chain-axe-style bayonets! These are fiddly, but they do fit, and considering how small the pieces involved are, actually connect pretty well. I went for bayonets with this first squad...will see if I stay with it for others...


For the Warmaster!

So, reading this, is may sounds like gripes abound, but they exist in a context of great overall excitement, at least for me. There are some frustrations, some things I wish they had done differently, or that the artsy intents of the designers had been controlled by grown ups, but on balance, I LOVE these kits. I have loved the "beakie" Marine since I first saw the old RTB boxes, and have been waiting for a long time for GW to finally revisit them. Whatever gripes I have, they pale in comparison to the fun of bringing a bunch of beakie Marines into the collection. So many of these elements pay homage to those old original plastic Marine figures - the studded shoulder pads, the bayonets, the look and feel of the helmets and the cabling on the armour.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Back to the Minotaurs!

 Quite some time ago I was working on my Space Marine repaint project -The Minotaurs. I have a few units left to complete and resolved to complete them all before the end of September. Most of the remaining units are vehicles. but I have on infantry unit remaining. These are Vanguard Assault Marines armed with power weapons and storm shields. The Minotaurs have a strong Sparta theme going and Pop Goes the Monkey have numerous bits available specifically for the "not"-Minotaurs. The spears, shields and heads are all from PGTM. The bits work perfectly and my only complaint is that the resin used by their manufacturer (Shapeways) is quite brittle and I've already had one spear break off. 

I also finished my 3rd HQ unit, the Librarian with jump packs. This model has gone through quite the ordeal. The legs are not his original legs. Those were removed long ago so his torso could be placed on a space marine bike. For the re-paint I decided to give him legs again. the originals were long gone, so I had to find a suitable replacement from my bits box. He's now re-legged and equipped with a jump pack from PGTM.

Next up will be a Rhino and Drop pod.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 8, 2022

GW's Horus Heresy - Second Edition

The new Horus Heresy rules have arrived!

The new rules and miniatures for the Horus Heresy are here! In fact, they have been "here" for well over a month, and yet I have been a bit too distracted to blog about this - kind of odd given that there are over 200 posts on this blog with Horus Heresy content...but in between work, making preparations for Toronto etc, there hasn't been as much time as I would like for blogging. But enough excuses! I am excited to dive into the new "Age of Darkness".  As a huge fan of the game and the setting, I have lots of meaningless and not-that-relevant thoughts, which should make for some ideal online content!

There are great models rolling out for the new game, but to shake off my blogging rust, I thought it would be more fun to start with some of my thoughts and reactions to the new rules. 

So, What Changes With The New "Age of Darkness" Rules?

TL/DR: Not much - but also a fair bit.

Let's elaborate - the Horus Heresy rules engine, the one ultimately codified in the "red books", stood for several years as a slightly-modified 7th edition 40k. Even as 40k had veered off into the 8th edition, the Horus Heresy stood pat. When news broke that a new Horus Heresy rules edition was in fact coming, there was a lot of concern in the HH community that the new Heresy setting would be fully "brought into line" with the now-9th edition the 40k rules. This would mean bringing in things like "wounds" for vehicles, as well as the mind-harmingly complex web of stratagems and command points that underpin the 9th edition of 40k. 

The "Age of Darkness" does NOT go this route. While there certainly are changes, the new edition of the rules, the "Age of Darkness", still has a very familiar core at its heart, an IGOUGO rules engine with familiar stats, approaches to the game and the resolution of things like shooting, close combat etc. Variations are achieved via special rules.

Templates are still part of the game, as are scatter dice. The Dreadnoughts may have wounds now, but all other vehicles maintain their armour values and armour facings (thank god). Arc of fire is also still a thing for vehicles, meaning the weapons on the vehicle needs to be, like, able to point at a target before you can use it (thank god). Shooting and close assault are all broadly similar to the previous rules approach, and resolved in broadly similar fashion. 

Bottom line - if you were familiar with the previous Horus Heresy rules, the "Age of Darkness" will be very familiar, and you will be able to get comfortable with them very quickly. 

Even so, "Age of Darkness" is not EXACTLY the same as its predecessor either...there are some differences. Here are a few of the things that struck me as notable differences. 

Reactions - A Crack In The "IGOUGO" Monolith?

From its earliest iterations, the Warhammer 40k has always been built around the basics of "IGOUGO" - one player takes their turn, then the other takes their's a pretty basic approach to wargaming. There are other ways to do this...GW itself has shown that, with rules systems like "Epic", or "Warmaster", or even "Kill Team". But when it comes to 40k, GW has stuck doggedly - too much so, some might say - to the basic IGOUGO framework, and seems terrified of ever moving 40k away from this.

That is why I find this new aspect of the "Age of Darkness" exciting - the "Reactions"! In this game, you have the opportunity to react with your units during your opponent's turn - to move, to shoot, and to brace for assaults. I think that is great - here we have what appears to be a crack in the IGOUGO monolith!

Now, a word of caution. It's a crack in the monolith, not a collapse. We are talking baby steps here...these reactions are limited in number. Your turn will still feel like "your turn", and in a "standard" game of around 3000 points, most movement/action by your opponent will be unimpeded. But the reaction mechanic still introduces a pretty interesting new element to the game IMO, and you will need to plan a carefully as you go through your own turn.

Generally, you have one reaction per phase in the turn - movement, shooting and assault. Warlord abilities increase this number in specific circumstances, and the different Space Marine Legions all have special reactions available to them (usually just once per battle). But these reactions introduce the possibilities of return fire and - my favourite - overwatch fire, among other possibilities. I see this as very positive, and it is this aspect of the game that look forward to the most.

Psykers Go Back In The Box

Just as the mysterious Warp itself, the prominence of psychic powers on the tabletop seems to wax and wane through the various editions of 40k. One edition will add a "psychic phase" to the turn, and provide a wide assortment of various psychic powers to choose from, giving psykyers a big role to play on the tabletop. Then another edition comes along and knock all of that back, rather as if one of the fictional Imperium's inquisitors had approved the rewrite...

With "Age of Darkness", we see this pattern play out once more, and the psykers have been "put back in their box", so to speak. The psychic phase has been binned (again), and the roster of possible psychic powers has been greatly reduced. Psykers can still have an impact, but not at the same scale, and with a much higher points cost. I think this will particularly notable for its impact on the Thousand Sons: sure, all of their infantry units get the "psyker" keyword, but this is simply a marketing trick of the "keyword" nomenclature, and doesn't confer the ability to use any psychic powers. Why call them "psykers" if they can't do anything psychic? Pointless.

Anyway, you will still have the chance to deploy, or encounter, powerful psyker characters in the new 30k game, but expect them to be more limited.

So, So, Many Special Rules

The recent editions of 40k have been notable for their large number of special rules. The previous 30k rules had quite a few, and if you liked all of them then I have great news - the special rules are back, and they brought some new friends! No unit type and no phase of the game can escape the grasp of the special rules, which run on for pages and pages...

The Language Of The Lawyers

The proliferation of special rules is notable not only for their raw number, or the fact that they appear to procreating, but for the tortured and circular language that speaks to the mania of rules-designers obsessed with special rules.

There are many examples, but this language from "Shrouded" is one of my favourites:

This is not a Saving Throw and so can be used against attacks that state that "no Saves of any kind are allowed". Got that? So, you have zapped an enemy with a devastating weapon that allows "no Saves of any kind", but this "Shrouded" thing might still apply.

There is also the very 7th-edition tendency to define rules as meaning other rules, and using phrases that sound like rules just for the sake of using them, standing in for some simple common sense language - the most common examples of this kind of writing are found in the various Legion-specific sections of the army books. For example, with the Emperor's Children, they cannot simply write down that an Emperor's Children Warlord can select a legion-specific warlord trait...they have to make it a "rule" - "Exemplars of War". 

Or, if you want to have more fun, go and parse the difference between a "Rending" weapon and a "Breaching" weapon...

For God's Sake, Hire An Editor

Hey, some people like special rules. Maybe I should just chill on those. At least they put all of the special rules into a single section of the rulebook, where you can look them up, right? 

JK! Of course they didn't! Back to my little challenge above - you will find the rules for "Rending" weapons in the main rulebook. But what about the "Breaching" weapons? Well, you'll need to look in your army book for that! I mean...why put all the rules in one place? Where's the fun in that?

Look, these books are beautiful to look at, but they are torture to use as actual gaming aids. Hoping for that one alphabetical list of all the weapons? 

Keep hoping - it doesn't exist in these books. The weapons are broken down by subtype all of the bolter weapons on one page, all of the volkite weapons on another page, etc. etc.

Wondering how grenades work? Good luck finding the rules for Grenades - they are "wargear", and not "weapons"...

Still Looks Like Fun

For all of the gripes I have about the proliferation of special rules, the turgid circular rules-lawyer language and the baffling layout and editing decisions, I think there is still a very fun set of rules to be enjoyed here. Unfortunately, Northern Ontario gaming folk do not seem all that interested in 30k gaming, so it may be some time before I finally get to try it out, but I think these rules will be an overall improvement on the last edition - in particular, I can't wait to see the "reaction" mechanic live in a game, and see how that impacts the game. 

Thanks for reading - if you are a fan of the Horus Heresy, I hope you are managing some games too, and I hope the new rules work for you!

Monday, August 1, 2022

8th Army 1/48 Grant from Blitzkrieg and Battle Honors Infantry!

Well, the M3 Grant from Blitzkrieg Miniatures arrived and now here it is, painted. What a great looking tank, so characterful and evocative of the Western Desert, isn't it?

This example is in 1/48 scale and like all of the Blitzkrieg models in my collection, it was composed of very few parts, and assembly was easy. I did, however, split the hatch into its component halves so I could assemble the model with a crewman. He's attached with a small rare-earth magnet so he can be removed.

Painting was quite straightforward - the model was basecoated with AK Light Earth and after much dithering, I decided on a camo scheme... this was painted in with Vallejo German Uniform and lightened up considerably with GW Death World Forest. There's no decals of course so I painted in the fender insignia for the Royal Scots Greys of 22 Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division (the famed "Desert Rats"). The jerboa looks faintly recognizable I think. The tac sign and fender shields are GW Mephiston Red with Evil Suns Scarlet highlight.

I did cheat a bit by using decals from the decal folder for the tank's serial number on the hull.

Jerboa and "40" marking on rear fenders too. The model's camo and markings are based on Glen Porter's excellent build of a Mirage 1/72 M3 Grant.

As this is an 8th Army vehicle I felt compelled to add copious stowage, including some handy tarpaulins fastened to the sand shields. These are seen on lots of desert vehicles as the crew used to stake them out for shade. There's also a few odd bits of other stowage added here and there - jerry cans, tarps, packs, that sort of thing. The stowage is mostly from Value Gear but some of it is from Tamiya's 1/48 kit.

I think the model looks pretty good accompanied by some Perry infantry.

And speaking of infantry... here's some more, but metal this time. These are some ancient Battle Honors "25mm" models I've had for ages - they came to me probably 15 or more years ago in the same trade as the Afrika Korps desert armour. I just tuned up the paint a bit and based them to match my Perry stuff.

Boys AT rifle team.

A couple of section leaders with Thompson SMGs fitted with drum mags.

A couple riflemen.

3" mortar and crew.

Boys AT rifleman and Bren gunner on the move.

Size comparison with Perry Miniatures 8th Army dude - not bad. I quite liked the old Battle Honors WW2 ranges (pretty much my entire Waffen-SS force is from BH) as they were quite characterful. Unfortunately the range was acquired by Gaddis Gaming and the prices were cranked through the roof (now $30USD for 10 models)... presumably the profits are NOT being used to maintain the Gaddis website, which really is awful. Too bad as the BH models were cool and I'd buy some more (maybe command models?) but probably not at $3USD apiece. 

In any event, tally ho!