Stop me if you have heard this one before: middle-aged man gets back into the hobby during lockdown, after a 25 year break. His girlfriend thinks he is having a mid-life crisis and refers to everything from Blood Bowl to Dungeons and Dragons as 'Monsters'. As in, 'will you watch a film with me tonight or are you having some Monster time?' and 'some more Monsters came in the post for you'. I say hey baby, it's a tank. 'Whatever' she says, 'how much money are you spending on this stuff anyway?'
Actually my path back to Monster land started the year before, when a friend bought the old Man O' War box-set and a few models off ebay. I got myself a basic paint set, painted a Sea Dragon, and I was hooked again. After a few games we realised that Dark Elves were over-powered, which brings me neatly to the subject of this blog: Warhammer 40,000 as it is today, from the perspective of someone who last played when Squats had an army list, and my preparations for the Leicester GT in December, which will be my first ever tournament. I will be picking an army, getting it ready, playing some practice games and finally doing a trip report of the event itself. Along the way I hope to relate my impressions of this game and what it has become (i.e. a great big monster).
Last summer, as I emerged, blinking, from my cave of blissful ignorance, like Ash at the end of Army of Darkness. I found not an alternate ending, but a scary new beginning. The dawn of 9th edition coincided with my new-found enthusiasm for painting and modelling. As a kid, painting was a chore – I just wanted to play the games – but now I find it fun and relaxing. There were no such things as podcasts back then, and 40k content was limited to print. Now I can happily paint for as long as time allows, and let Luetin09 fill me in what I missed (orks are mushrooms now?!). I bought some vintage Space Marines off ebay and ordered the Core Rule Book. My first impression was WOW look at that artwork, and what a great job they have done presenting the background. The rules though…
All the 40k rulebooks currently on my shelf
The core rules are fine. They are nice and simple, easy to remember, and there’s no charts or tables. I like the different weapon types, and the semi-random troop movement. Even the stat-lines are easy. The jarring thing for me is the way these rules are presented, very dryly, seemingly by a team of rules lawyers. There are no examples or explanations. For example, why is the advance roll random? Is it to represent troops moving cautiously under enemy fire? Well say so. What the hell is a Smite, in non-rules terms, and why does every Psyker know it? When you explain stuff like that it adds more weight to the rules, and aids memory. A few examples, even diagrams, of how the rules work on the table would not have gone amiss either. I don’t care if it would make the book longer. Most of it is border art and photos of impossibly well painted minis anyway. But wait, there are three ways to play! Open Play looks good, I thought, I bet most people will just play that. I mean, who wants the admin of Narrative, and just how much of a competitive scene for Matched Play can there be? Oh boy was I in for a shock.
They play 40K for money now, in Las Vegas.
If you had told the guys at the West End Neighbourhood centre, while they were playing 2nd edition on green gym mats with polystyrene hills, that a) Leicester would have a purpose built basketball stadium and b) it would one day host a 360 player 40k tournament that sold out in 48 hours, they would have thrown a Vortex Grenade at you.
I have quickly realised the sheer scale of the game now, not just in terms of the number of events and the content being produced by fans, but also how big and overwhelming the rules actually are. 9th edition was not a fresh start, but rather it carried over tons of material from 8th. I will tell you how I am getting to grips with this in the future but for now lets just say I was daunted.
My ambition grew from painting a small force of vintage models for fun, to putting together an
army of 2000+ points. I was paying sometimes £12 a model on ebay for Rogue Trader era Marines, and although these were cool, if it carried on it could get very expensive. Instead I decided to collect an army that it was easier to buy cheaper models for and the Eolian Desert Fighters were born. Inspired by a line in the core book about the Knight Worlds in the Imperium Nihilus keeping the watchfires burning, making them a planetary defence force in my fluff would also excuse some of the non-standard wargear. By the time the tournament rolls around I should have around 4000 points to pick from. However I have a dilemma as I am also close to completing a Space Marine army. A friend was kind enough to give me the models from the Assault on Black Reach box, which he had painted but never used. I added a few more second hand squads and vehicles – badly painted and damaged but cheap – sprayed them all black, did some dark blue trim and Malal* style skulls and called them The Brotherhood, so they have an excuse to fight anybody. So now I have a choice to make: what to bring to the GT.
Pros: Lots of units to choose from, kind of competitive, with some cool tricks. I will probably run them as a Krieg/Tallarn/Lambda Lions mix to get all the cool stuff I want.
Cons: Lots of models to move about, a semi-complex force and strategy, and using alternate models could throw up unexpected problems. For what I want to run I will also need to buy 3 army books that may be out of date soon.
Pros: Easy to use, fewer models to account for, all official GW, and only one book to buy.
Cons: Not very competitive – they are all ‘first born’ with basic vehicles. Not too much of a
drawback since it’s my first tournament and the goal is to have fun, meet some people and hopefully win one game out of five.
I will have to see how my practice games go if I can get some. I am certainly planning to learn with the Marines to start. Next month I will let you know my progress, and relate my experiences so far in wrestling with the Monster. Later on I also I can also do a bit of a guide to Leicester, mainly the pubs.
aka PaddyMick on Dakka Dakka and other places
*ask your grandad.