Getting Tabled Is Good For You

Here’s a quick re-cap if you are new to the blog: I am doing monthly posts charting my progress towards playing my first GT this December. I got back into the hobby during lock-down after a short break, between the 2nd and 9th editions of the game.

I took two significant steps on the path to glory this month: deciding on an army and playing a game with half of it. My first game of 9th edition, in fact, but more on that later.

The Space Marine Codex is a beautiful object for which I was happy to pay £30, but I would have settled for a soft cover if GW produced one. The artwork is great, although I wish they would credit the artists like they used to. Page 23 made me laugh – it is a recreation of the famous Rogue Trader cover, of the Crimson Fists defending a hill – except in this one they are Primaris marines, and they don't seem to be breaking a sweat. A reminder that to be a true hero you have to be vulnerable. Much like Jervis Johnson, who is retiring this month. Say what you like about him – and everyone’s got an opinion on the rules he wrote for their favourite game – but he put himself out there. It’s a shame that the next guy who gets 4 studs implanted in his head* may not be known for a body of work when he retires since every book is now credited to the Warhammer Studio. I get that loads more people have an input now, but film productions manage to credit everyone, and there has to be a director… anyway, I’m sure GW has a good reason.

None of my army are Primaris, and at first I wanted them to be pure rebels, fighting against Bob’s crusade, but reading the codex inspired me to come up with some better fluff. I'll be mercifully brief with this I promise, and keep my head-cannon gunpowder dry for the inevitable fan-fiction novel.

  • The Broken Skulls are a successor chapter of unknown founding. Their symbol is a skull with a crack at the top and a missing jaw.

  • They were caught on the wrong side of the rift, in the Imperium Nihilis, and the chapter was dealt severe losses by the forces of chaos.

  • The Librarius declared a holy war and that the chapter symbol should be painted half black until the rift is healed. In their desperation they have actually done a deal with chaos god Malal, granting them greater power to fight the other gods.

Their first battle, and my first game for 25 years was a 1000 point Incursion using the latest mission pack. I arranged the game through Leicester All Scars hobby club, who play at Tabletop Tyrant. If you are going to the Leicester GT, it’s not far from the venue, in case you rage quit on day one and decide to buy a new army.

The chap across the table from me was called Rohan, and I couldn’t have asked for a better opponent for my proper re-introduction to the game. He talked me through the set-up and order of play, letting me know if I had missed something, offering advice where relevant and discussing the game while keeping it flowing.

One thing that was strange was how small the board is now. It seemed overcrowded with models and I can’t imagine a 2000 point battle being much different. In 2nd edition we played on 6’x4’ tables and rarely fielded more than 80 odd troops. Also, has anyone else noticed there doesn’t seem to be any intact buildings in the 41st millennium any more? Or hills. We fought over the contents of some shipping containers that somehow survived whatever destroyed the town.

The game itself? Well in Blood Bowl we would call it a Pitch Clearance, and it would be celebrated by both coaches. The more blood the better. My list was purposefully very simple: three tactical squads, a dread, some termies and a lieutenant. His was a well balanced Death Guard army led by a demon prince, featuring 20 pox walkers, 10 plague marines, some termies, and a couple of small vehicles. It took about three turns for them to spread their sickness across the whole battlefield, killing every loyalist. I was out matched and out played but fortunately this was what I expected. The mistakes I made, such as hurling my lieutenant into the blades of his lawnmower, and not being ‘wholly’ within stuff, felt incidental to the fact that I didn’t know the missions and didn’t have a plan. But that’s not what these first games are about. I need to re-learn the basics, and by that I mean the really basic stuff, like using a tape measure. Hopefully the rules and even some tactics will start to sink in as I go along. I did find myself remembering useful things from battle reports, so that my gracious opponent did not have to explain everything. Plague weapons re-rolling 1’s to wound did not come as a surprise, but the Emperor’s finest being like grass in the face of a fetid Flymo certainly did. Luckily the rest of my collection – which I will press into service soon for a 2000 point game – consists of such ultra-competitive units as the Predator, Bike Squad, and Assault Squad (without jump packs!).

My reason for settling on Space Marines as the army I will take to the GT is two-fold:

1. If I decide now, I can play as many games as possible with the army, and maybe add some new units. Another Predator at least, for when the one I’ve got is destroyed. Rohan told me that they usually last until the end of the Devastator Doctrine, if you manage to win first turn.

2. Unlike my Guard, they have a 9th ed codex. Ironically I feel the Astra Militarum may be the more competitive choice, given the models in my collection, but I don’t want to buy a codex that will soon be out of date.

I like that I will be the first-born under-dog as well, since then I have no expectation of winning and will be able to enjoy myself more. I’ve even made a little side mission for myself: if I take the Warp Ritual secondary it feeds into my army’s narrative of the Librarians getting up to shady stuff. I hope to win one game in five, hopefully against an all-Primaris force, just to prove the old marines can still hack it. In the meantime I’ll be looking to get it in more practice games. I think I am going to need them.

Next month I will take a break from talking about my progress with my army and the game and give my thoughts on the game in general, as well as the wider hobby, and why, now it’s back in my life, I can see myself loving it for years to come.

All the best and see you in September

Kieran Lyons

AKA PaddyMick on Dakka Dakka

*I don’t know what the lore is now, but in the original Rogue Trader book it says space marines get a stud implanted in their forehead for every ten years service. Which is presumably why Bladeguard Ancients are never modelled with their helmets off.

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