Posts Tagged ‘40k’

40K Campaigning
40K Campaigning avatar

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Since one of the most fun aspects of the 40K hobby is reveling in the game’s morally ambiguous and gothic universe, it is only natural to attach narratives or backgrounds to the battles we wage. I find that creating a cohesive flow of missions can go a long way in giving a realistic feel to games, making victory, losses, and events a sense of purpose.

 Here are some observations I’ve made on how to make a campaign work.

Dig into the lore in your codex and find something that appeals to you. These ideas are meant to be basic so that you can apply any army’s flavor to it easily. Keep in mind that a good campaign should never have a one-sided story; in other words, there needs to be a goal for both players. One player shouldn’t be sidelined to portraying a one-dimensional villain to the other player’s heroic army—both players should have a story element which drives their play throughout the missions. Here are a few iconic plots:

  • Territories: War engulfs entire continents as the two armies battle for land and resources.
  • Siege: One army launches an all out attack against an enemy stronghold. Missions recreate various aspects of the siege.
  • Unexpected Threat: An army explores a planet previously thought uninhabited, but in reality is occupied by a secret force of an enemy army. One army must escape the planet before the opponent can capture them and use their resources against them in future battles.
  • Old Enemies: The two leaders of the armies have faced each other before, and wage a war of vendetta with the only goal being to personally kill the other. Battles emphasize elite subterfuge and board-clearing annihilation.
  • Behind Enemy Lines: A small strike force of one army infiltrates the opposing army’s lines on a covert mission. These battles recreate the steps the strike force must take to succeed on their mission—or escape with their lives.

Consider how many games you want the campaign to span. Since 40K games take hours to resolve, it’s better to keep things concise. Four to five games is about right, since it gives you room for variety, but also keeps the focus of the story. Also, vary the size of the lists in these battles to emphasize different mission types and strategy—and for the sake of variety!

The best campaigns I’ve played in follow a branching “tree” organization, which gives you an ordered structure but allows for the narrative of the campaign to adapt based on the results of missions. To prepare for this, get a basic idea of what the story is, then develop a logical series of missions based on the results of mission types. For example, after an Annihilation-type mission, the next mission might pose one army as pursuing the fleeing army. The winner of Annihilation game is trying to cut of their escape, while the loser of the Annihilation game is simply trying to get off the board.

 Missions, Objectives, and Scoring:
One of the coolest things about campaigns is that it’s a perfect excuse to play unique mission types. Getting creative here changes a lot in how the game plays, and allows you to create unique lists which you might not normally use in a straight Kill Point game.

 One thing that becomes important is the scoring of the missions. It’s generally not advisable to keep the score limited to wins:losses, because one player may jump ahead early on which will make subsequent games irrelevant. Rather, use a point-based system which gives room for players to accumulate points without necessarily “winning” the mission. This will allow players to turn losses into success in the long term, as well as offer the possibility to keep the campaign’s score more competitive for the game’s duration.

 Another fun consideration is applying veteran abilities to your units which will carry through the story. These are listed on page 263 of the hardcover 40K rulebook, and are a lot of fun because they can give your units a personality and legacy.

 Weird Stuff:
Campaigns are the perfect excuse to create your own unique rules and mission types, so get creative. So long as the new rules are balanced for fairness they can add a lot to your campaign. Exploding objectives, hidden units, special equipment, shifting terrain… it’s all fair game.

 In the coming weeks I’ll be posting a model campaign, along with story elements and new missions you could use for your own games! Until then, find some cool elements in your codex to start generating ideas for a plot!

Discuss this article in the forums

40k – Art of the Charge
40k – Art of the Charge avatar

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

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I’ve been posting a lot of Imperial Guard articles recently, so it may not seem like I’m qualified to talk about what makes a successful charge.  Well, being an IG player on the receiving end of Wych, Kroot, and Ork charges, I’ve picked up a very important lesson on what makes a charge into a successful combat: when it ends.

As an IG player, the best-case outcome of me getting charged is that I sacrifice an infantry squad and shoot my attacker to pieces in the following turn.  This doesn’t always work out so cleanly: if the defending squad survives the first round or doesn’t break, combat can drag on.  This can lead to the terrible outcome of combat ending just before your opponent’s turn, which you don’t want.  Let’s examine the distinction between a combat resolving in your and your attacker’s respective turns.

Your Turn

When a combat ends in your turn, you have no way to react to a radically altered battlefield.  Whether you won or lost, there is only one unit on the field where there used to be two.  Anything in a 12″ range may be in danger, depending on terrain and other tricks (faster units, fleet, etc.)  Because of the I-go-you-go system in 40k, there’s a problem when the combat ends on your turn: you can’t react to it.

Your opponent will have a full turn of moving, shooting, and charging before you can do a single thing.  This could mean moving the tip of the spearhead out of rapid-fire range, pulling back to buy them another turn.  It could mean blasting the tip of your own spearhead to pieces if you were the one charging.  It could mean that they get to assault another squad of yours, allowing them to pinball around your deployment zone with relative impunity.  This is the worst-case scenario, because you never get a chance to shoot them up.  Your best option is to counter-charge with other units in your deployment zone.

Their Turn

If combat ends at the bottom of your opponent’s turn, things are different.  You get to dictate what happens.  If you’re on defense, then you can proceed to shoot the snot out of whatever just ate a squad.  You can maneuver delicate squads out of harm’s way, or initiate a charge of your own.  Be wary of this trap, because sometimes by focusing on the immediate threat you’re giving the rest of your opponent’s army precious time to get into position.

If you’re the attacker and combat ends in their turn, then you get the same options.  You can now splash into another unit, dodging an entire round of shooting.  It used to be in older editions that after winning a combat you could immediately consolidate into another squad, initiating another combat.  We don’t have this option anymore, so the only protection a squad will get is a d6″ move into cover.

Planning the Charge

It’s so simple to design your squads and do some mental math to prevent this from happening.  As always, you’ll be at the mercy of the dice, but never underestimate how helpful it is to plan this from the beginning.  The biggest factor is squad size.  If you’re going to charge with Assault Marines, consider how many of them are going to be “too killy.”  If you’re going to win combat on the turn you charge with them, then you’ll get shot to pieces in your opponent’s upcoming turn.  It’s better to go with a smaller squad that will take two rounds to whittle down your target.  Of course, you also have to consider survivability and getting them in combat, how well they can use terrain, etc.

Save yourself some points.  Do some mental math and figure out how many MEQ’s and GEQ’s you can kill per round of combat with your assault-focused units.  If you can expect 3 dead marines, how long will this combat take?  Which player will have the advantage afterwards?  If you need to buy time or speed up the process, you can consider throwing another squad into the fray.  Likewise, if your opponent doesn’t consider when combat will end, make him pay for it.  If you know that your squad will get slaughtered or routed in one turn, let them take the charge.  Sacrificing a unit for a free round of rapid-fire shooting can be a valid tactic.

Discuss your charges and counter-tactics in the store forums

Imperial Guard Command Squads
Imperial Guard Command Squads avatar

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Having spent the last article talking about the oft-underrated Scout Sentinels, I want to talk about something that almost everyone has in a respectable Guard army: Platoon Command Squads (PCS).  The PCS differs from the Company Command Squad in three main ways: you can have more than one, they have less orders, and they don’t have veterans (and thus fire at BS3).


No, not this guy.

These are a few important things to keep in mind as I talk about how I like to equip my PCS’s in-game.  A PCS is a squishy blob of Guardsmen that can easily get expensive, but still needs to provide some value.  I use the PCS in one of the following ways:

Static Firebase

This PCS is meant to sit still and support a gunline by providing orders.  Plop it in cover, so you’ll get some kind of save, in between other squads that will sit and shoot.  Equip it with a heavy weapon, preferably an Autocannon or Heavy Bolter to keep the costs down.  A Lascannon will cost almost as much as the basic PCS, and remember you’re firing at BS3!  Some people will add special weapons to complement the heavy weapon (grenade launchers for AP4 heavy weapons, plasma guns for Lascannons) but this starts to get really pricey.  Remember, they’re only 5 Guardsmen, and their support to the rest of your squads (read: First Rank Fire/Second Rank Fire!) will make them a high-priority target.  I’m less inclined to use this model, because of the value of mobility in 5th Edition and the expense required to make this unit powerful in such a role.

Close-Combat Support

This PCS moves alongside infantry squads, or more commonly an infantry blob.  The idea is to give them order support as they move into rapid fire range, or to get a charge.  A PCS escort can give them a better go-to-ground save, make them run faster, or get 50% more Lasgun shots.  I run this sometimes alongside a 20 or 30-man infantry squad with a Commissar for morale.  They’re great for taking and holding objectives, for rolling oodles of dice against elite units, or as a tie-up unit.  I equip this squad with Laspistols and close-combat weapons, which are free and give them an extra attack, and a power weapon for the Officer if I can afford it.  This gives some teeth to the blob in close combat, and can bail them out if need be.  Meltabombs can be a good idea to ensure that your unit doesn’t get bogged down by a silly Sentinel.

Special Weapon Squad

Depending on how you play it, being able to fill the squad with special weapons is an exciting prospect.  Things like Plasmaguns or Meltaguns are too expensive in my mind, especially given that you’re rolling at BS3.  There are two intriguing options, however: flamers and grenade launchers.  Flamers are a great choice because they’re dirt cheap and allow you to ignore the PCS’s mediocre BS.  Not rolling to hit with a S4, AP5 template weapon is a big deal to a little Guardsman.  Any time you can drop 4 flame templates on a squad, even if it’s a T4/3+ body, you’re going to do some damage.  God forbid you get to use it on Orks, Eldar, or other Guard.  I’ve tried using the flamer squad as a counter-charge unit: feed someone a sacrificial Infantry Squad in combat so that when the combat ends, the flamers open up.  This requires a bit of timing and luck to pull off, because you must ensure that your PCS is in range to let loose with the prometheum, and on your own turn.  This may work well as an escort unit, as described above.

The other option is Grenade Launchers.  No other hand-held weapon for the Guard can move and shoot 24″, which alone makes it an interesting idea.  Sure, you have to worry about rolling to hit, but the ability to lay down 4 blast templates or lob 4 Krak grenades is pretty exciting.  It’s also great for terrorizing AV10 vehicles and transports, namely those threatening Trukks and Raiders.  This unit, which costs the same as the flamer unit, can move as an escort and lob supporting fire along the way.  They can also bounce around a static gunline, providing support where needed and keeping the advancing tides at bay.


The PCS is something that most armies are going to have to buy.  It’s still a squishy group of guardsmen, but since it doesn’t carry the same expense, ballistic skill, and powerful orders as your CCS, you can afford to be a little more blasé with it.  Don’t be afraid to leave the protection of the nest, but remember that they will fall in a single round of shooting, which can affect the rest of your army.  A lot of these tips and guidelines change when you start talking about your CCS, so remember the difference between them when you’re writing your list!

Discuss it here, in the forums.

Imperial Guard Scout Sentinels
Imperial Guard Scout Sentinels avatar

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

If you’ve been following my (Re)Starting 40k Series then it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the lowly Sentinel, as a model.  I mean, look at how beautiful it is:

Every pistol you see here can harm it.

I mean, I love an AT-ST lookalike as much as the next guy, but my tendency to build armies around the models I like best leaves me in hot water on the tabletop.  After all, these units are 35 points of Armor-10 paper mâché.  I’m going to discuss a few of the options you have available if you want to include these little guys, and some of the drawbacks you need to think through before you take the plunge.  Please note that I won’t be discussing Armored Sentinels here; that’s a debate for another day.

Small Games

Sentinels are great in small games.  Below 1000 points, be sure to bring other vehicles.  In small games, people can’t afford many vehicles and anti-vehicle weaponry, so the Sentinel’s survivability goes way up.  They can be used to tie up infantry, since hidden powerfists are usually too expensive for such games.  In larger games, a lone Sentinel can easily be punched in twain by a bored Sergeant with a powerfist or a plasma pistol that has nothing better to shoot at that turn.  As a result, I’m not sure Sentinels will scale well into full-sized games.  Moreover, in larger games you may need those Fast Attack slots!  This leads me to…

Fast Attack, Squadrons, and You

The first thing you’re going to wonder is whether you even have room to fit Sentinels in your army.  The Fast Attack slots are pretty valuable for the Imperial Guard, as every time you choose to take a Sentinel squadron, you’re limiting how many Valkyries, Vendettas, or Hellhounds you can take.  As I put it in Part 3 of my column, you’ve got to worry about what else is in your army.  If you need your Hellhounds for anti-horde, then Sentinels won’t be doing a better job.  If you need your Vendettas and Valkyries to shoot high-priority targets or scoot infantry around, Sentinels can’t do that either.

If you do want to  include some Sentinels, one option is to put them into a squadron.  I would highly advise against it though.  As mentioned, they’re paper thin.  Anything S4 and above can touch them, meaning masses of small-arms fire or tough hand-to-hand troops will ruin your day.  The real problem comes with the S6-S7 weapons, which can tear through a Sentinel and also usually come with a larger number of shots (Multilaser, Autocannon, Assault Cannon, etc.)  Having 3 Sentinels in a squadron will allow your opponent to target one squad, making extra shots spill over onto other models.  If you have extra Fast Attack slots, putting each Sentinel in a lone squadron prevents this.


When you can, outflank.  Being able to come in from the side of the board, and choose exactly where, makes it really easy to get side and rear armor shots.  While you can’t rely on getting the side you want, there’s a 2/3 chance you will.  Don’t count on your Sentinels coming in as soon as possible.  Don’t count on them to pop that artillery piece on Turn 2.  Don’t count on them entering from the left flank and tying up that 30 termagant swarm.  Most importantly, your opponent won’t count on them just showing up in the backfield and wreaking havoc on their precious rear armor.  If Sentinels disrupt the enemy’s gameplan, they’ve done their job.  If they tie up a squad or blow something up, it’s gravy.  Remember, this guy is only a 35-point investment!


Being so cheap to take, we need to keep these Sentinels cheap.  There’s also the consideration of poor ballistic skill, which means that single shot weapons are too unreliable as your Sentinel may not live to see two shooting phases.  This narrows down your weapon choices to the default Multi-laser, the Autocannon, and the Heavy Flamer.

The Heavy Flamer isn’t something I’d normally take.  An Imperial Guard army should have no trouble dealing with masses of infantry, due to the huge number of shots (and templates) they can bring to bear.  That being said, a Heavy Flamer could be worth the meager cost if you know you’ll be facing such armies and want to soften up a tie-up unit.  The best part is that it allows you to ignore the Sentinel’s paltry ballistic skill.

Autocannon vs. Multi-laser is a heated debate.  Numerically speaking, you can expect the same number of penetrations at BS3 against AV10, which you should be seeing a lot of thanks to outflanking.  On the one hand, the Multi-laser has the advantage of being cheaper and having more shots (thus making it less susceptible to a fluke roll).  On the other hand, the Autocannon has additional range, better penetration against AV11 (in case you hit side armor or some tougher vehicles), and can do some damage against 4+ save troops.  On the other hand, it costs a bit more.  Both are great options, and you should consider whether you need the points or the additional firepower, based on what else is in your army.

In Summary

You don’t see many netlists making use of Sentinels, reserving those FA slots for a Valkyrie/Vendetta.  True, a Vendetta can bring 3 twin-linked Lascannons to the fight.  But for around 2/3 the cost, you can have a set of outflanking walkers that can take potshots at rear armor and tie up weak infantry.  Of course, the Vendetta’s usually a high-priority target, whereas Sentinels usually fly under the radar (once).  At the end of the day, a Sentinel can add some awesome tactical options to your army and some more pretty models as well.  If you plan accordingly, they’re a great unit to take!

Discuss Scout Sentinels in the forums

(Re)Starting 40k: Paint up!
(Re)Starting 40k: Paint up! avatar

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Up until now, I’ve focused on some gaming aspects of 40k: picking an army, learning to write lists, etc.  But once you’ve got 500 points planned out, it’s time to pull some plastic and paint them up!  As a result, I’ll be showing you how I’m going to paint up my Imperial Guard army.  Some people prefer to come up with their army’s background (sometimes called fluff) before coming up with a paint scheme.  After all, having an identity and story in mind makes it easier to build, convert, and paint the characters and units of your army.  I prefer to work opposite: I paint up something I know will look respectable on the table, and come up with background from there!

Keep in mind that if you’re painting a very numerous army, such as the Imperial Guard, you can expect to do a lot of painting.  Speed may be your priority here.  The important thing isn’t necessarily that you have Golden Demon skills, but that you have the patience and planning to get a lot done.  Pick simple schemes, plan on using washes if possible, and don’t worry if each model isn’t perfect.  By nature of playing a horde army, you’re going to take a lot of casualties, so they won’t spend much time on the table!

For my IG, I really wanted to do an urban, sort of arctic camouflage pattern.  Here’s an overview of what we’ll be making:

For this, you’ll need these paints (I use GW, use what you prefer):

  • Regal blue
  • Scorched brown
  • Dwarf flesh
  • Shadow grey
  • Space Wolves grey
  • Boltgun/Chainmail/Mithril (your choice)

Step 1: Basecoat

Your first goal is to get a base of regal blue down.  If you have a spray paint that’s a dark blue, that’ll work wonders and save you oodles of time.  If not, just prime black and thin out some of the Regal Blue and cover the entire model in it.  I’m a big fan of gluing down a sand or something before painting, that way the primer helps get it, but to each his own.  You should have something like this now:

Step 2: Skin and Accessories

Do a coat of Scorched Brown over the heads and hands of your guardsmen.  I’d also advise using it to hit any canteens, sheathes, etc.  If you’re painting a sergeant with no helmet, get the whole head!  I like the color of Scorched Brown for hair, so no worries there:

Step 3: Armor, Helmets, Camo

Now the easy part.  Paint up some Shadow Grey (the darker, bluer one) and paint the armor.  Get the shoulder straps, and under the arms.  Also get the ankle cuffs and helmet.  Next, start dabbling on the camo spots!  The Shadow Grey should show up just fine on the Regal Blue, so you shouldn’t need to worry about doing multiple coats, and you can thin it a bit.  Make different shapes and sizes, and make sure to go in different directions.  I personally like the look of a blob that stretches across folds and in creases, as it adds a bit of depth.  Finally, take a tiny bit of paint on your brush and lightly drag the side of the brush on the top edges of the lasgun.  This will keep the gun from looking like a blue blob in the model’s hand, and should get you familiar with edging (which we’ll need soon).  Here’s a few shots of how I do the blobbing and camo:

Step 4: Finish the Skin

I’m a big proponent of painting from the inside out, because I’m pretty sloppy and tend to mess things up when I try and get in close…especially when you’ve got a hundred of these guys to whip up!  So I’d recommend doing the skin now.  Take some dwarf flesh and hit the face and hands.  I’m not great at staying in the lines, and I don’t advise trying to paint the eyes.  After you’ve painted your best of the fingers, hands, and face do a wash with some really watered down Scorched Brown.

Step 5: Edging and Camo

Now you’re going to need to crack open the Space Wolves Grey (the one that’s almost white).  Hopefully you’re more comfortable with edging, because we’re going to be doing a lot of it.  The same way you did on the lasgun, paint the edges on the armor.  This includes the hard edges on the back, the shoulder pads, the straps between the shoulders/head, and the pad things on the side of the helmets.  Also make sure to throw some paint on the Imperial Eagles you see on the chest/helmet/lasgun.  Finally, the same way you did with the Shadow Grey, do some camo dabbles.  Mix it up a bit…make sure you’re not just making vertical or horizontal streaks.  Let some blobs overlap, but not others.  Allow some blobs to have tiny holes in them through which you can see the Regal Blue or Shadow Grey underneath.

Step 6: Metal

Whip out whichever metallic paint you decided to go with and start painting.  Make sure to get bayonets, lasgun barrels, the little rods on top of the lasguns (takes a bit longer but adds a lot more color to the gun).  When you’ve done all that, take a bigger brush you don’t mind drybrushing with, and drybrush the metal over your sand on the ground.  Most people stick with a gray/white highlight combo but I personally feel like a futuristic theme should have more metallic rubble.  Plus it complements the small amount of metal on the model quite nicely.

Step 7: Accessories

If you feel like it, go ahead and paint a lighter brown (snakebite leather or such) over the leather accessories to give them a bit more color.  I personally don’t think it adds much and takes too much time to worry about now, so I put that all off for later.  Also, grab some Dark Angels Green if you wish and put a few coats on the grenades.  Lightly take your metallic color and paint the pin and primer devices on the grenades.  If you do it carefully and well, it looks really slick.

Step 8: Touchups

Now’s the time to go back over and fix any little slip-ups you may have had with the brush.  If you messed up the edging on the armor or painting the face, go back with Shadow Grey.  If you splotched a bit on the lasgun, go back and cover it up with Regal Blue.  The nice thing is that for the most part, the only touchups you’ll need to do is with those colors.

Share your painting tips and critiques in the forums

(Re)Starting 40k: Starter List Exercise
(Re)Starting 40k: Starter List Exercise avatar

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Warhammer 40k Logo

Let’s go through an example of writing a 500 point list. If you’re just joining this column, I’d recommend you read the earlier parts (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) to catch up on starting your new force.

There were 3 guidelines I pointed out in my last article.  You should consider these points whenever you tweak a list:

  1. Consider what’s already in your army.
  2. Consider the point value of a unit or upgrade, in relation to your whole list as well as other options your codex gives you.
  3. Consider how you plan to win with every unit.

To recap, I want to hit 500 points, starting with the mandatory HQ and two Troops choices:

Company Command Squad

Alpha Platoon 
   Platoon Command Squad
   Infantry Squad
   Infantry Squad
Beta Platoon
   Platoon Command Squad
   Infantry Squad
   Infantry Squad

What does this army need?  Some direction!  I see a blank canvas of infantry squads, bristling gunlines waiting for a purpose.  We need to consider a few problems: killing infantry, killing tanks, and taking objectives.  That is, after all, how you win games!

Killing Infantry

We’re going to devote one entire platoon to killing infantry.  In a 500 point game, most armies can’t afford to field a ton of transports, walkers, and tanks because they’re also required to take 2 Troops and an HQ unit.  The Imperial Guard can merge squads, allowing you to consolidate potential kill-points (KP’s) for missions where no objectives are on the table.  Likewise, a 20-man blob squad can require a lot of firepower to take down.

If we’re going to move this blob squad around, they won’t be able to use heavy weapons.  A good idea for squads that will roam around is assault weapons: grenade launchers and flame throwers.  I’ll opt to equip both infantry squads in the platoon with flamers, allowing them to get up close and personal and not be hindered by their poor ballistic skill.

Of course, Guardsmen aren’t infallible.  In order to protect this squad I’ll want to keep their Platoon Command Squad (PCS) moving with them, to help them along with orders.  As they’ll be supporting an assault-oriented “hammer” squad, it makes sense to equip the PCS with laspistols and CCW’s, instead of the standard lasgun.  I’m also going to throw in a Commissar with a power weapon, to ensure that the squad always gets to roll at a high leadership and gets a “free” reroll.  Let’s review our objectives:

  1. What else is in my army? Right now just plain infantry, so it’s ok to specialize this platoon.
  2. What kind of points are we talking about? We’ve only added 55 points to our army, but given it some serious teeth in terms of holding objectives or dealing with enemy infantry on a 500-point game’s small board.
  3. How will I win? By burning them, or by squatting on an objective and using orders to keep morale and cover saves up.

Killing Tanks

At 500 points, you likely don’t have to worry about seeing too many tanks.  Still, you want to be prepared for transports, walkers, or “that guy” who does bring a tank.  Plus, a lot of weapons designed to kill light vehicles can work in a pinch for killing infantry!  I’m going to shape the other two squads into anti-tank squads, giving them both an autocannon.  I’m a big fan of the autocannon, because it gets a couple shots (which is important with BS3) and has relatively high strength and low AP.  It’s great for popping Dreadnoughts, Transports, and more.

I’ll also add a Scout Sentinel, with an autocannon, to keep in reserve.  This allows you to outflank, so you can show up on a side table edge and take potshots at exposed rear and side armor.  You can also tie up weak infantry (be careful for hidden powerfists!) ad infinitum, if they’re not prepared for it.  Let’s ask the same questions:

  1. What else is in my army? A lot of anti-infantry stuff.  Adding 3 autocannons gives some serious punch against transports and walkers, but we have to be careful because as of now we only have one vehicle, and that will likely draw the ire of every high-strength weapon pointed our way.
  2. What kind of points are we talking about? This adds another 65 points to our tally.  The Sentinel is a big investment at almost 10% of our list, but can be our only means of silencing enemy artillery or tying up hordes.
  3. How will I win? These units buy time for your objective-grabbers to get into position, as well as keeping enemy units honest by denying big shooting lanes.

Grabbing Objectives

This problem must be solved in two respects: using troops to grab your own objectives, and using fast or resilient units to contest enemy-held objectives.  We have a whole platoon dedicated to grabbing and holding objectives, and your defensive-minded squads should hold the ones in your own territory.  We even have a Sentinel, who can sweep in from a flank and contest an objective or keep scoring units tied up.

We need more mobility though, so I want to add a Chimera.  Equipping it with a pair of heavy bolters, as well as a pintle-mounted heavy stubber, gives us a pillbox for our second PCS.  It also gives them the ability to zoom across the table and grab or contest an objective late-game, if needed.

  1. What else is in my army? Having another vehicle out there could help draw fire from the Sentinel.  We’ve got plenty of anti-infantry and anti-tank, and the Chimera fits the soft spot in between, with a bunch of S5 shots and some S4 shots that can be dealt out on the move.
  2. What kind of points are we talking about? 65 points buys us one of the best transports in the game, and it really shines at this point level.  You can move a squad around, effectively increase their command radius, and dish out 3 S4 and 3 S5 shots on the move.  Talk about a bargain!
  3. How will I win? By moving a PCS to where they’re needed, adding order support or just loads and loads of firepower.


Altogether, we’ve walked through a 185-point addition to our list.  This puts us at a sparkling 495 points, giving you 5 points to add some zing to a command squad, or upgrade another unit as you see fit.  Hopefully this process has shed some light on how to think through your changes, and I can certainly assure you that it gets more complicated and more rewarding as you move on to higher point values!  Check back soon as I show you how I’m going to paint up this little force.

Our final list:

Company Command Squad

Alpha Platoon 
   Platoon Command Squad (LP/CCW)
   Infantry Squad (Flamer)
   Infantry Squad (Flamer)
Beta Platoon
   Platoon Command Squad
      Chimera (Heavy Bolter, Hull Heavy Bolter, Heavy Stubber)
   Infantry Squad (Autocannon)
   Infantry Squad (Autocannon)
Sentinel (Autocannon)

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(Re)Starting 40k: Your First List
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Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

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Welcome back to (Re)Starting 40k.  If you’ve missed the earlier posts (post 1 and post 2) of mine, I’d advise you take a look at why 40k is worth getting in to, and how to pick an army to start with.

With that in mind, you’ve got to start your army somewhere.  Due to the force organization chart outlined in the rulebook, I’d advise you start with at least an HQ unit and two Troop units.  The goal is to hit a nice, round 500 point mark.  This may require the addition of a few more units or upgrades for some squads, depending on the race you’ve chosen.  Necrons, for example, can’t fit much beyond their HQ and two minimal-sized Troop squads in 500 points.  Imperial Guard have a bit more wiggle room, however.

Whatever you want to add to your list, whether you’re trying to hit 500 or 1500, I would advise that each modification to your list answer the following questions:

  1. What else is in my army? This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself.  If you’ve already got 3 Heavy Bolters and you’re trying to hit 500 points, maybe your remaining points are better spent on some anti-tank weaponry.  Don’t just look at heavy weapons: think about special weapons, which ranges you can cover, and at what ballistic skill.  Most armies will reward you for specializing squads, so consider how many squads you have kitted out to kill hordes of light infantry, light vehicles, heavy vehicles, and so on.
  2. What kind of points are we talking about? This question should address the cost of the unit, both itself and relative to the rest of your army.  A 200-point Terminator command squad may be a good idea in a 2000-point game, but be too pricey in a 500-point game.  Likewise, you have to ask yourself how much value the unit gives you relative to your other options.  Imperial Guard Stormtroopers, for example, are just too expensive in my opinion when compared to Veterans who can do most of the same stuff.
  3. How will I win with this unit? Don’t just assume that because a unit fills a unique roll and does it relatively well, that it’s a good addition to your force.  A whopping 2 out of 3 objectives for the standard missions require you to move and grab objectives.  These objectives mean you should think about mobility, and whether a change helps you capture or contest an objective late-game.  The last objective focuses on kill points, which should make you question whether a unit will do more damage than it takes.  You need to do that calculation in terms of kill points as well as regular point costs, meaning that suicide squads can be a wash at best.

You could write a hundred pages about building an army list and still have a lot left to say.  By no means do I consider myself an expert at making a list, nor do I claim that the above three principles are the only things you need to consider.  They are, however, very helpful questions to ask yourself when you’re adding to a list.  Let’s take a look at my first Imperial Guard force, which starts with two troops and an HQ:

Company Command Squad

Alpha Platoon 
   Platoon Command Squad
   Infantry Squad
   Infantry Squad
Beta Platoon
   Platoon Command Squad
   Infantry Squad
   Infantry Squad

This list, which packs 55 models, only comes out to a bit over 300 points.  If you’ve got the Imperial Guard codex handy, take a look at it.  If not, imagine playing against this army.  What does it need?  What can we afford to add in 290 points?  Would we be better off using veterans instead of an entire infantry platoon as one of our two mandatory troops?

It may seem overwhelming, but use the above template of questions to try and determine which direction you’d take this army.  In my next post, I’ll flesh this list out to 500 points and explain my decisions with respect to those three questions.

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(Re)Starting 40k: Picking an Army
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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

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Note: This is Part 2 of my series.  Part 1 is also available.

So you’re getting into 40k.  Whether for the first time, or as a repeat offender, you’re going to need to get your fix.  The first thing to consider is what army you’ll want to start.  The rich background of the Warhammer 40k universe accommodates the whole gamut of options: vile demons, stoic superhumans, crafty aliens, or the lowly human being.  To pick your starting force, I would recommend you research three topics for each race:

  1. Playstyle. If you’re unfamiliar with 40k, this can be tricky.  Nonetheless, it’s easy to imagine what kinds of decisions you’ll be making.  While each race can be played in numerous different ways, they all tend to have a common theme.  Space Marines, for example, are known to rely on their resilience relative to other armies.  You need to consider if you want the speed of a Dark Eldar army, the firepower of the Imperial Guard, or the bone-crushing might of the Orks.  Consider the versatility of a race, but also make sure you’re willing to play to their strengths.
  2. Model count. This dimension affects all aspects of the hobby.  A force like the Orks, with tons of models, will be able to shrug off massive casualties.  On the other hand, they will take much more energy to assemble, paint, and transport.  Gameplay speed and convenience is also somewhat determined by the size of your army (in terms of model count).  Smaller, elite armies are less of a hassle to get a game going with, but you’ll certainly feel every loss on the tabletop.
  3. Aesthetics/Background. Though these are two separate concepts, I’m grouping them together because in my experience people tend to care about neither of these or both of them.  I personally find I make the best progress with an army when their aesthetics appeal to me.  Likewise, being able to get “in the mindset” of your little plastic men is certainly a fun experience.  Whether you see yourself as a relentless tide of ravenous Tyranids, or a solemn warrior monk Ultramarine, your army is an extension of you and should reflect that.

So with that being said, I’m determined to make an Imperial Guard army!  I asked myself about those three things and came up with some interesting answers:

  1. Playstyle. The Imperial Guard are weak as individuals but strong as a team.  They can bring to bear some of the biggest guns, and some of the biggest numbers of small guns.  They can play infantry horde, mechanized, air cavalry, or with oodles of tanks.  There are few things you can’t build an Imperial Guard army to do, one of them being an aggressive close-combat force.  That being said, I tend to shy away from close combat, so this suits me well.
  2. Model count. The Imperial Guard will often bring a lot of models.  Lowly guardsmen make up the bulk of your forces, and you’ll have a lot of them.  Given their poor toughness and armor, that’s a good thing.  I tend to be a little reckless with my units, so having the ability to shrug off a few models is appealing.  I don’t mind assembling and painting them, and the best part is that when I take heavy casualties I can blame their poor statline!
  3. Aesthetics/Background. There’s something appealing about being human in a universe filled with horrifying monsters and building-sized aliens.  The Imperial Guard are one of the things that keeps the hyperbolic 40k universe from seeming too far-fetched.  The Cadian models are absolutely gorgeous, and I love the Sentinel model as well.  Being excited just to see the models of your army is a good sign, because it makes you far more likely to paint them and get them to a table.

How can you not love this?!Courtesy of Games Workshop

Hopefully this article has given you a bit of direction in picking a force.  Whether you’re totally new or a returning veteran, it’s a good idea to know why you’re playing an army.  Stay tuned next week, where I start walking through the principles of constructing an army list.

Tell us how you decided on your favorite army in the forums.

(Re)Starting 40k: Getting Into It
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Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

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Hi everyone, I’m Drew Gidwani and I’m starting this column for CMO.  I want to focus on starting 40k, but I should disclose that I’m not new to the hobby.  I’ve started, stopped, and restarted 40k a half dozen times since I started with 3rd Edition in 2002.  First, I want to explain why I’ve dropped out and what I’ve been doing in the meantime.  It’s also important to explain why I keep coming back!

I found my interest waning in 40k with each new edition.  There always seemed to be a drastic rule change, a new codex, or change in locale that made the game drastically different from the one I knew.  The “Rhino rush” loophole was fixed by the trial assault rules (later officially in 4th Edition) and replaced by the “Fish of Fury” loophole.  Codices went through a new trend of custom traits/doctrines/whatever, all of which disappeared as soon as they surfaced.  I found myself with a ton of models or armies that were based on these trends or loopholes, ending up with an army that couldn’t be used in the next edition.

As a result, I tried my hand at other hobbies.  I dabbled in other tabletop games like Warmachine and Flames of War.  I tried card games like Magic the Gathering.  All of these are great games, which like everything, weren’t perfect.  I tried my own hand at making a variety of skirmish-level tabletop games, and even designed a CCG of my own.  In the end, I found myself longing for the rich 40k universe, the beautiful art style, and the gratifying feeling of rolling a ton of dice and scooting a bunch of models around.

So I’m back.  And I’d like to document a few of the changes I’ve recognized in the landscape, and point out some things that I took for granted before.  There’s never been a better time to be a 40k player, and there’s a few reasons why:

  1. 5th Edition.  The progress towards 5th Edition was frustrating to me for two reasons.  First, I didn’t understand what GW was moving towards until I saw a couple steps forward.  5th Edition represents simplified rules that are meant to streamline gameplay.  Things like true line of sight, squad cover, and vehicle damage have been simplified without losing much depth.  As a result, you’ll play more games and your games will be smoother.The second issue I ran into was nobody’s fault but my own.  I continued to build armies around flavor of the month loopholes or the most popular codex.  When they fixed line of sight, the Fish of Fury technique fell apart.  When they made the newest IG and Space Marine codex, my drop-troop remnant and all-Assault Marine armies were illegal.  The lesson learned?  Play a staple army.  You can’t go wrong with Guardsmen and Tactical Marines.  Those codices will always have Leman Russes and Predators.  Maybe the mechanized trend of 5th Edition will pass, so don’t expect your 8 Chimeras or Razorbacks to be good forever.  Remember to stay with a reasonable army, as defined by historic books as well as the current ones, and you’ll find yourself less frustrated.
  2. Resin models. The rumors around the internet have been confirmed, GW is moving their metal blisters to resin.  What does this mean?  Oodles of conversions and cheaper bits prices.  The scoop is that they’ll be using resin (akin to what Forgeworld uses, although maybe a different mixture) or some kind of resin hybrid.  Resin is softer than the plastic in your troops boxes.  If the rumors are true, this would mean that you could convert some crazy models from the existing blister packs: heavy and special weapons, commander accessories and heads, or additional wargear.  Moreover, a lot of the bits you’d need for conversion would become more readily available because the supply of them is increasing.  Have you priced a meltagun lately?
  3. Growing community.  As someone that’s moved a dozen times in the past five years, I feel comfortable saying that every time I’ve waded into the 40k pool, I’ve come away impressed with the people.  As the newbies of 10 years ago have become veterans, they’ve trained the next generation of kids.  The end result is that not only has the community matured, but the hobby has matured in its own right.  People are playing more in stores and not just in basements.  People are painting and modeling socially, instead of hiding their toy soldiers from their girlfriends.  The hobby is standing on its own, despite the state of the economy, and the players have bonded as a result of it.
  4. Paints.  Whether you prefer GW, Vallejo, or craftstore paints I must point out the new GW washes.  They are simply spectacular.  A white primer and quick wash will do what 5 coats of paint used to.  You can make better-looking models and make them faster, allowing you to play prettier games and play them sooner.

In summary, there’s never been a better time to be playing 40k.  The rules and models are getting better with every release.  The companies and consumers are all embracing the hobby.  Join me on my foray back into the hobby, where I’ll be raising my own Imperial Guard regiment from scratch.  Though I’ll have to break out of my 3rd Edition mindset, I’m eager to learn the nuances and new strategies of 5th Edition.  Stay tuned and follow me while I:

  • Write army lists to reflect my growing army
  • Model and paint an Imperial Guard company
  • Create a colorful history and background for my regiment
  • Find a local store and take my Guardsmen to the table

Part 2 of Drew’s article can be found here.

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Painting Your Wrack
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Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Last week we assembled some horrific Dark Eldar Wracks. Now no respectable haemonculus would dare send these into the webway without looking appropriately evil and dark. Now I don’t know about you but all that gray is not exactly terror inducing. Okay, enough talk, let’s paint.

Pre-step 1: Paint it Black
Prime the models black and if you wish before you prime, go ahead and put a layer of modeling sand down for basing purposes (this is what I prefer).

Step 1: Skin
Wracks spend most of their time in the lightless obliettes of the hamonculi, so their skin should be appropriately pallid and gross. So I’ll start with a layer of astronomicon grey, then follow up with a leviathan purple wash. When that dries completely give it a drybrush of astronomicon grey and then follow up with a drybrush of skull white.

Step 2: Clothes
Dark Eldar are not known for wearing brightly colored clothes, wracks are no exception. For the wracks that are wearing robes and trousers we are going to make those into dark leather clothing items. Go ahead and start with painting them chaos black. When that dries give it a very light drybrush of codex gray, you might need to do this a few times to get the highlights to show.

For the wracks that are also wearing aprons, start with a deneb stone basecoat, then give a delvan mud wash. After that dries follow up with a bleached bone drybrush.

Step 3: Metal Bits
Now for the weapons and the mask. Paint those boltgun metal. Let that dry completely then apply washes of badab black until they look appropriately greasy and sinister. After your washes dry give them a quick drybrush of mithril silver to bring out the highlights.

Step 4: Bone Growth
My idea behind how I painted the bone growths is that I would blend from the skin tone to a bone color (bleached bone and deneb stone work great) and blend my way up to black to represent all of the alchemical abuse these guys endure under the service of the haemonculi.

Step 5: Details… Details…
Get creative! Grab some purple and some dark red. Using a really fine brush go in and make some veins here and there. Be sure to base your model as well! Get some brown and darker red to make blood splatters on the aprons and masks and sparingly on the weapons. As with any detail don’t go overboard, too many details can make your model look busy and messy. A few well-placed blood splatters will be far more effective than coating your model in gore.

Next time: Locomotives on Legs: My Encounter with Warmachine MKII


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