Over the last week I've been working on getting my Eldar allies ready for the Midwest Massacre GT, and that's meant painting Eldrad, a unit of Dire Avengers, and a pair of War Walkers. I've been mostly focusing on the first two, as I figure the War Walkers should go pretty quickly (and I've started on them already). Eldrad I've been having some fun with, because I want to keep him somewhat Ulthwe-colored, but I wanted him tied into the blue/yellow/bone that makes up the Alaitoc color scheme as well. What I've gone with is black and bone for his underrobes and helm, and a blue outer cloak with yellow trim, as well as some blue details on the helm.
The outer cloak has been particularly interesting to work on.
I decided to try something a bit different, so I added a starfield look to the outer robes. I started by blending the robes up from dark to light blue, and then using a stippling brush and my thumb to flick spots of white paint onto the robe. It gave me just the effect I wanted; a little bit of blue wash in the folds and crevices of the robe to tone those down, and the results are something I'm very happy with. As far as other details, I'm going with red soulstones and green jade on the staff and sword. I haven't decided on colors for the random bits and trinkets hanging from his sleeves and staff, but I have a feeling that in the end, he'll look almost 2nd-edition-y with his technicolor farseeing dream coat.
In other news, Games Workshop released the next set of FAQs for Sixth Edition, and the Tau FAQs had a couple of important updates. First, Target Locks work again, which is great news for squads of Broadsides. Why they errata'd them to not work before, I have no idea, but it's nice to see that GW regarded that as a mistake as well. The other big change of note was to Disruption Pods, which now grant the Shrouded rule at distances of 12" or greater from their shooter. This beats the old Disruption Pod hands down; sure, you don't get a straight 4+ cover save, but you go from 5+ cover stationary to 3+ cover (thanks to Jink) while moving. Move flat-out, and your Piranhas can get 2+ cover. Disruption Pods went from must-have in 5th Edition, to not all that good in 6th Edition, to absolute must-haves once again. I'm already reworking my lists to get these pieces of wargear back in; I'm thinking about trading off the Blacksun Filters from the mid-range units and saving them for the big guns just to free up the points.
Games Workshop has just announced that the Island of Blood starter set for Warhammer Fantasy Battles is available for pre-order, and I know at least a couple of my friends (namely, WDR and Hooligan from the Undergopher podcast) are planning on picking up a couple. WDR has been on a big Fantasy kick lately, and has been talking up the game to anyone in our group who will listen. It's understandable; Fantasy was his first Warhammer gaming love, and from everything I've heard the newest edition is very good. He's even managed to get me to contemplate getting into the game, to the point where I've been on GW's website pricing out various options.
However, I just don't see myself taking it any further and actually putting anything in a shopping cart. I enjoy wargaming, and I've been pretty happy with Warhammer 40K, but crossing over into Fantasy-land just doesn't click for me. Why is that? What makes me so adverse to getting into square-basing? Let me break it down a bit.
- I'm cheap. WFB is not an inexpensive game, especially compared to 40K. There's the fact that the standard army is 2000 points, as compared to 1500 for 40K, and from what WDR has told me, even that's starting to give way to 2500-point armies. That's not a small investment, and when you consider that units in WFB generally cost less points-wise than they do in 40K, you're having to buy even more minis to fill out that point budget. Even the newer, mostly-plastic armies start to get expensive. Take Skaven, for example. Two Island of Blood sets and a Skaven Battalion box gets you a good number of minis - 120 Clanrats, 20 Plague Monks, 6 Rat Ogres, 2 Warlords, 2 Warlock Engineers, 2 Plague Wind Mortars, 2 Warpfire Throwers, 2 Master Moulders, and 3 Packmasters. It looks like it'd be a decent-sized force if it were a 40K army, but in Fantasy, that doesn't even crack 1500 points. And that's roughly $220 of plastic (assuming you split the starter sets with someone). it's enough to get you started, but it's not a complete army by any means. Granted, it's still a good deal, but that's thanks to the starter set; most armies won't be that good a deal.
To compare, I started my Tau army with a Battle Force and a Megaforce. That was also around $220, but that got me 32 Fire Warriors, 12 Kroot, 3 Crisis Suits, 6 Stealth Suits, 3 Piranhas, 2 Devilfish, a Hammerhead, and assorted Gun and Marker Drones. It's not quite 1500 points, but add a Commander Crisis Suit, and you're within spitting distance, and it's a relatively complete army. You have at least one unit in each FOC group, and you can get a feel for most different Tau units.
- I like smaller armies. Going along with being cheap, I don't like armies with tons of miniatures. There's a reason why I don't play Imperial Guard, or Tyranids, or Orks. The "massive horde of troops" army style just doesn't appeal to me, either in a tactical sense or in a hobbying sense. I'm a slow painter, and the idea of having to paint all the figures required in a Fantasy army does not sound fun. At any rate, I wouldn't finish it anytime soon, especially with two other 40K armies in the queue already.
- I prefer 40K's fluff. I'm a sci-fi nerd first and foremost. That doesn't mean that I don't like fantasy - my D&D shelf at home is a testament to the contrary - but the fluff for Warhammer Fantasy has never really caught my fancy. I don't know what specifically about Fantasy's dark grim-and-grittiness doesn't work for me, but it's just never held much interest. None of the factions really appeal to me either (other than Skaven, for their 'mad science' vibe, and maybe Warriors of Chaos or Dark Elves, but even that's iffy). On the other hand, 40K's sci-fi fluff grabs my attention, and as odd as the fluff can occasionally be, I can discuss it for hours with friends, and I enjoy delving into it. One of these days, I need to pick up a Black Library novel, but I have enough books in my reading queue as it is...
- I prefer 40K's skirmish feel. Another thing about Fantasy that doesn't appeal is wheeling large blocks of troops around. Whenever I look at a picture of a Fantasy battle, there's something about it that feels very static, and I think it's because all the minis are locked into these nice, neat rectangles. I understand that it fits the pseudo-historical style of combat that it's supposed to emulate, but it's something that just holds no interest for me. Instead, I prefer the looser feel of 40K's units and movement. Granted, Fantasy's movement trays make it much easier to move large units (anyone who's played against a mob of 30 Ork Boyz will appreciate that), but I like the freedom of 40K's fluid troop formations.
- I'm running out of space! Let's say that I had the money for a full-sized Fantasy army, and that I overlooked my other issues with Fantasy. I'd still have one more major issue - I have nowhere to put a Fantasy army. As it is now, I'm already storing the largest part of my Tau army at a friend's house. Partially, this is due to convenience - that's where we play - but it's also due to the fact that we're trying to declutter our small house right now. Until we get a bigger place, or I get rid of enough other things to have a lot more space (and we already have a good chunk of our belongings in storage), I've got nowhere to put a third army, especially one the size of a WFB army.
Now, none of these issues are saying that WFB is a bad game, or that I'm refusing to play it because of its lack of quality. In fact, if a friend invited me to play, and provided an army for me to use, I'd give it a go. These are just my personal reasons for not diving into it myself. Of course, I'll be interesting in hearing WDR's response to this...
EDIT: It's been pointed out to me that my math was wrong on the point values on two Island of Blood boxes. In fact, you can get to over 1200 points between the two of them, and adding a Battalion box gets the total up to just shy of 1800 points. Okay, that's a much better deal for $220. Add in something from the Rare Units list, and you could easily hit 2000 points for less than $300. That's not bad at all, so the "I'm cheap" point above is questionable. Of course, I am still cheap, and can't really afford to drop $300 on a new army, but the game itself isn't to blame... as much. If I wanted to play something other than Skaven or High Elves, I'm back to square one.
I'd like to talk to you a moment about Daemonettes.
Several years back, Games Workshop put out metal Daemonette and Seeker of Slaanesh miniatures sculpted by Juan Diaz. These miniatures replaced the old Daemonette line, which mostly consisted of hideous, bald, roughly-female humanoids in leather with cartoonishly-large crab claws. In contrast, the new Daemonette was sleek, lithe, definitely female, and disturbingly alien-yet-attractive. One of their most noticeable features were bare breasts - sometimes multiple sets of them. They fit Slaanesh's theme of being simultaneously deadly and seductive, monstrous and alluring. For years, when you bought Daemonettes (or Seekers), this is what you got.
Then, a couple of years ago, GW revised the Chaos Daemon codexes in both Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Coupled with the release of these books was a brand new line of plastic Chaos Daemon miniatures. One of the sets released was a new box of plastic Daemonettes. Taking advantage of improvements in their plastic production process, these new Daemonettes were well-detailed and very customizable, with a good selection of bits on the sprue. However, design-wise, they were a throwback to the old crab-claw Daemonette sculpts. They were strapped into leather corsets and had oversized (but not cartoonishly-so) arthropod claws. Their faces were furrowed and sneering, and their figures were far less feminine than before. As the woman behind the counter at one of my local game stores said, "I like the old models better. These new ones look like butch bikers." You be the judge:
The reason for the redesign, as far as I understand it, was to appeal to a new customer demographic: mothers of teenaged boys. Games Workshop, like any company, is trying to grow their customer base, and one of the markets they've been trying to capture is the 12-to-16 male market. However, those customers don't tend to have their own money. Instead, it's their mothers that drop them off at the hobby stores and fund their hobbies that have the purchasing power. The new Daemonettes, looking less naked and feminine than their predecessors, would be less offensive, and they'd be more likely to buy GW products for their children.
On the surface, this is fair logic. If you're GW, you're trying to make your game a bit more family-friendly to boost sales without compromising too much of the flavor, and if that means using a revised version of an older, more palatable aesthetic for a couple of miniatures, it's a fair trade. I can't fault Games Workshop for making that decision. Given their circumstances, I might have made the same one. However, I have to question how removing some bare breasts from the line would make the game that much more friendly to the moms. You've got Chaos Terminators sticking the severed heads of their fallen foes on spikes and wearing them. Necron Flayed Ones are covered in shreds of human skins. There are Bloodletters and Skulltakers and Fabius Bile wearing a coat made out of faces. Maybe it's just me, but a pair (or three) of visible nipples seems tame by comparison.
Even with the new plastic Daemonettes readily available and decently affordable, the old sculpts are still in high demand. One has only to look at the secondary market on eBay and look at the prices these miniatures are going for. It's not unusual to see a set of ten - the contents of the previous Daemonette box - to go for $95 or more. Seekers are even harder to get a hold of, because no new plastic version was been released after the metal topless version was discontinued. Obviously, there's still a market for the less-family-friendly sculpt, even if the models aren't as customizable as the plastic versions. If the online marketplace is any indication, I'm not alone in my opinion.
Is there an easy solution to this? I don't know. I doubt that the Juan Diaz Daemonette sculpt will ever be re-released; I imagine the molds have long since been destroyed/worn out. I also don't see GW scrapping the current design and returning to a revamped version of the naked Daemonette, as it would be counter to their current marketing plan. I do see a potential solution, though: Forge World. Take the Forge World Keeper of Secrets, for example. It's basically the Diaz Daemonette made huge and cranked up to 11. Since FW is owned by Games Workshop, obviously they realize that there's a chance to sell a more mature-oriented model. A line of resin Daemonettes done in a similar style would be well received, I imagine. Would it be more expensive than the plastic versions? Without a doubt, it certainly would. However, it would beat having to claw your way past auction snipers on eBay, and would still be more reasonably priced. It's a nice idea, isn't it?
Miniature and photography by Saff. Unedited version available here. (Potentially NSFW.) Used without permission.
Apparently, this week is Tau week over at the Games Workshop Astronomican, as they've put up three articles this week on building, painting, and playing Tau.
- Tau Empire: Tactics
- Tau Vehicles Stage-by-Stage Assembly and Painting
- Tau Empire: Fire Warrior Stage-by-Stage Painting
It's been a while since there's been much attention paid to the Tau by GW, so it's been refreshing to see these articles. They're not perfect, though: on page 2 of the tactics article, Fire Warriors are said to have Str 5 AP 4 guns. You be the judge: harmless typo, wishful thinking, or a hint of things to come?