Category Archives: Things I think I think
Why do you?
A good friend asked me why I study the Civil War. I’m going to expand on her question a little, because I don’t just study the Civil War, I study almost every major 19th Century War. I’ve read about the American War of Independence (which is really REALLY an 18th Century War) the Napoleonic Wars, the Mexican American War, the Civil War, of course, the Franco Prussian War, all the wonderful Wars of _________ Unification, Crimea, Spanish American, and even WWI, which is the true End of the Long 19th Century. A lot of my focus is on the Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, and WWI.
Part of the reason I study the Civil War so much is that I always have had a fascination for it. Ever since first learning about it I studied it. Of course, growing up in Florida you learn to worship at the Church of Bobby Lee, something I’ve managed to break from rather conclusively. I’ve been to Gettysburg twice, and believe me I can help you plan a trip! I’ve visited Stone’s River and have plans to visit the Peninsula next year to retrace the 7 days. I consider myself very well studied in the militaries of the American Civil War. This doesn’t make me a master of the Civil War, there is a lot that goes into it. I’m familiar with a lot of the industrial changes that enabled the war, the system of private contractors and government foundries that armed the armies, the railroads and the sordid deals that kept tracks being laid during the war, the changes to the agricultural system that fed the North (and provided food to export to Europe during crop failures there) and the centralized decision making of Jefferson Davis that hurt the Southern economy so much.
I study it because I love learning more and there’s so much more to learn. Let me give you an example. Name 5 US Army generals from the Civil War. Most of my readers (those that are left anyway) can probably manage that. How about 5 more? Get as many as you can. Now start naming rebel leaders. I bet most of you can name more rebel leaders than US Generals. And the US Generals won!
I study it because it lies at a completely fascinating intersection of technology and strategy. Railroads and Telegraphs changed strategic planning, troop movements, and supply. Industrialization made arming and equipping troops possible on a grand scale. Improvements in metallurgy and innovations in weapons design changed battlefield tactics, but command and control in the field hadn’t caught up, leading to some of the worst trench warfare the world would see for another 50 years.
It’s a war that was written about. A lot. Some of these guys wrote letters like they didn’t have jobs. Henry Jackson Hunt, chief of artillery for the Army of the Potomac filled a Banker’s Box with letters just in 1863 (and UGH why didn’t they invent the damn typewriter a few years earlier…) His file at the Library of Congress is 4,500 items, in 14 boxes filling 5.6 Linear Feet. Just imagine that! And he’s only one player, and probably not one you’ve heard a lot about unless you follow me on twitter.
I study it because, for all that, it’s poorly understood. The Lost Cause movement has sadly done immeasurable damage to our understanding of the war, it’s causes, and turned it into a rallying point against the very people freed by the sacrifice of so many in the war.
I’m going to go off topic a bit and state some simple truths about the war. The southern states seceded over the issue of slavery. Their articles of secession, their constitution, their speeches, their letters, and their behavior on campaign all clearly state this. They tried to change the history books after the war and were very successful, but the only rebels fighting for States Rights were under the command of States Rights Gist. One of the armies in the war was the United States Army, and army that still exists, and in which I served SOMEWHAT more recently. The other killed the men serving in the United States Army.
While not every US soldier enlisted and fought to free the slaves, in fact the majority did not, from 1863 on Emancipation was a stated War Goal for the United States. Even before then the United States Army engaged in local liberation of slaves under the Contraband policy. The rebel leaders screamed bloody murder over this attack on their property.
I study the Civil War to learn more to more convincingly amplify these truths, and to better arm mysefl to fight back against people defending the indefensible.
At the same time, I study to learn more about the United States, and how the leaders worked, though, and fought during the war. Even as we find today, the military is a conservative (though far less politically connected) instrument, and its leaders didn’t want change, or wanted to minimize it. Look at the difference between McLellan’s stance on slavery, and even the contraband policy vs. that of the Shaws or even actual Conservative politicians-cum-generals like Ben Butler or Dan Sickles. Interestingly Butler was most definitely NOT an Abolitionist until he recognized that the slaves were incredibly useful to the rebels in a military sense, at which point he very quickly changed his stance on the basis of expediency. Something many more professional officers missed. Butler was WILD.
I study to learn about people like MG Gordon Granger of Juneteenth fame who… wasn’t actually that great on the issue of slavery, and wasn’t great on the issue of emancipation as it turned out, and it’s important to learn about this and talk about this because even though emancipation became the law of the land, it was hastily done, poorly handled, and did a LOT of damage to the black communities even as they were supposed to be lifted to the status of equals, as in “All men are created equal”.
And finally, I learn about these wars as a whole because they are fun to read about. Because the big red and blue lines and arrows on the map make sense in a way, I doubt the movements on the ground ever made sense (or even aligned that well with the actual movements of the troops but that’s a story for another day).
Warhammer 40k: Indomitus
Ok, I know I’m a bit late to the party but now that the Dark Angels book has come out I want to talk a little bit about a couple things. First, the game is different. The rules changes from 7th to 8th edition were huge, but somehow I feel the game has changed more, and more for the better from 8th to 9th, even though the actual changes weren’t that big. I still don’t like some things (proliferation of invuln saves and mortal wounds being 1 and 1a) but the game focuses a LOT more on objective play and scenarios. You have to build an army that can do a LOT more than just kill things (while, you know, still killing things). Marines going to 2W is, well, about 7 editions overdue in my not so humble/biased opinion. Terminators hit 3W which is very spicy, even with significant 2D weapons out there, firstborn marines are back with a vengeance.
Xenos haven’t had much to get excited about. Necrons got a pile of new stuff and they climbed the tier list, kept their flavor, and, I think, brought some new life to the lifeless robotic hordes. Aeldari are hoping for a similar pass, but they got a bit of a pass with Ynnari (which then got nerfed out of existence) and a handful of new models for Howling Banshees and Drazzhar. While Aeldari and Orks both BADLY need new models, I’m not holding my breath.
Ok, now to talk about the DA releases a couple weeks ago.
Dark Angels are R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T now. Like, hellooooooo meta. No more excuses for getting my head handed to me anymore. Automatic free Transhuman Physiology (never wounded on a roll of 1-3 no matter the weapon’s S)
Basically the Deathwing and Ravenwing are both troops if you put them all together in a detachment, and you can take a Vanguard/Outrider detachment as a Battalion (i.e. no CP cost) if it has your warlord in it, which is just… YES! The only problem is doing 1 of each to give you a classic Black & White army leaves you with only 8 elite slots and YOU WANT TO FILL EVERY ONE OMG. I’ve been making lists for a game next week and just… EVERYTHANG is good. Plain old Deathwing? Knights? Bladeguard? Champion? Ancient? Ravenwing Apothecary that works in both detachments and is the BEST APOTHECARY IN THE GAME? Relic Terminators? Deathwing Command Squad? Probably the only stinker is the Deathwing Apothecary because he’s so completely outclassed by the Ravenwing version. The Ravenwing rejoices in speed with so much elan it’s probably going to make any White Scars die-hards just give up. ObSec, great weapon options, and really useful stratagem kit that lets them deliver a ton of firepower as well as their jink invuln save (5++ 4++ if they advanced) is just brutal Oh yeah and a top notch Psychic discipline that gives you buffs, debuffs, tactical fuckery and just seems SO good thematically.
The big downside is that you are going to be a small elite army. There’s some real potential to be outnumbered by everything except Knights. Fortunately you can just pile in obsec units. Deathwing Terminators, Terminator squads, Close Combat Terminator squads, and Relic terminators can all be obsec, as can Bikes and Outrider bikes. Greenwing exists, but why? I mean I literally have an almost completely mechanized battle company and I just can’t see it hitting the table without some serious nerfs to Deathwing and Ravenwing. But, there was a clear swing and a miss in the releases. The Patrol Box.
That…. That isn’t a Dark Angels box. That’s a bunch of random crap painted Dark Angels colors and thrown in a box. They didn’t even bother to use the Plasma Inceptors, just the Assault Bolter version, with a combat squad of intercessors, a Dread, and a Chaplain. No thanks. You know what box WAS a Dark Angels box despite GW not marketing it as such?
In 8th edition I complained (correctly) that Dark Angels were little more than slightly different Ultramarines painted Green. Clearly GW has someone specifically reading my blog who saw that and acted on my criticism to differentiate them better. Good job. Because now we have a whole box of Dark Angels painted Blue.
I’m not even kidding. The Captain, the Lieutenant, the Blade Guard, the Blade Guard Ancient, and the Chaplain all can be Deathwing. The Outriders are Ravenwing, the Judicar can SADLY be in neither, and will be relegated to Greenwing detachments despite being an awesome model with amazing rules. The eradicators are a rare bright spot in the Greenwing, being excellent with the DA special rules, and the assault intercessors are good for learning how to paint, I guess, because assault marines are just awful and assault marines without a jet pack are even worse so why even bother putting them together.
The False Heresy
The Emperor was clearly surprised by the Horus Heresy. He had JUST entrusted Horus to the role of Warmaster, he had embarked on a massive project that would require nearly all of his attention. His key components for this were Horus, as warmaster, taking the mantle of leadership for his military operations, and Magnus, who would be filling in the Golden Throne running the Astronomicon and helping protect the webway gate beneath the throne.
Let’s rewind a bit. The Emperor struggled greatly to bring the Primarch project to fruition. He simply didn’t have all the tools and knowledge he needed to bring forth 20 beings so mighty as to enable him to carry out his plans for mankind. He simply couldn’t bring forth the generals who would lead, and help create (in every sense) the armies that would carry out this great campaign. So he does what anyone would do when work piles up and you never make any headway. He took a vacation. Specifically he headed to Molech. A minor world with a neat little gate that made for the perfect tourist attraction.
During his visit the Emperor did what any reasonable tourist would do when stressed about work. He made a deal with the Dark Gods he planned to destroy to enable him to finish his work project. What hasn’t been stated, and can only be guessed at, is what exactly the bargain was, specifically, what the Emperor’s payment would be. I’m going to place a bit of a wager here and say that the bargain was twofold. First the creation would be imperfect, the beings so created would be scattered across the galaxy, and only brought back only with great effort and loss. The real doozy though? The second part. I’m going to hazard a guess that the wording was along the lines of “Some” of the primarchs being lost forever. If you look at the abilities of the Primarchs they had a lot of overlap. There’s artisans and generals, tacticians and strategists, empire builders and savage destroyers. The Emperor clearly designed them with losing “some” in mind. During the great Crusade, sometime before Corvus Corax and Alpharius were rescued, two primarchs and their legions disappeared.
The lack of information regarding the pair is so scant as to call it “reading tea leaves” is an insult to the accuracy of tea leaf readers everywhere. I’m choosing here to read a lot into the phrase “The forgotten and the purged” so let’s take a moment and do that. By referring to The forgotten and The purged (emphasis mine) it seems to indicate that one has been forgotten, and one deliberately purged. I think that gives some indication of how they might have been lost. Being Forgotten doesn’t seem a terribly harsh punishment. Harsh, yes, but I think it represents a failure not of judgement, but something in their basic makeup. A mutation so atrocious that they could no longer be tolerated. Sanguinius alludes to this when talking to Horus and stating that if their “Red Thirst” were to become common knowledge, there would be a third missing statue at the walls of Terra.
Purging seems to hint at something greater. Something so far from the orthodoxy that it was hunted down and exterminated with prejudice. Leman Russ talks about Astartes fighting Astartes before the Horus Heresy and I believe he shows more than a little relish in it. This and references to being the “Emperor’s executioners” and his actions in dispatching squads to keep an eye on all the Primarchs during the opening stages of the Horus Heresy (including some that had already turned traitor… oops) hints that he had more than a little involvement in the purging. Purging also implies removing a taint. I think that this taint was the taint of chaos. I believe that one legion went beyond the arcane learning of the Thousand Sons and become so lost to warpcraft that they had to be destroyed as chaos worshippers.
So imagine this, you are the Emperor. You have created your Primarchs, completing the Dark Gods portion of the payment. They were scattered during your creation of them, and during your reclamation of your instruments, “some” were lost, one to incidental corruption, one to more diabolical corruption. Great! Now that that’s all behind us let’s deal with the biggest threat to stability (Orks) and make with the Empire Building! My trusty son Horus will be of great help in seeing that all this comes to fruition!
Fall of Cadia and 8th Edition
So currently there’s a lot of chatter about two things upcoming in the 40k universe. The fall of Cadia and the upcoming 8th edition. The fall of Cadia is coming hard on the heels of the Siege of Fenris and continues that story. Magnus has patched things up with Ahriman, sort of, and the word of the sorcerers was teleported in toto to Prospero. Abaddon the Armless is attacking Cadia and I have a feeling it might actually work this time, what with the campaign being called the Fall of Cadia and all. Living saints are showing up with the Imperium getting its own “Party Float” model. Seriously. She’s this close to being a Protectorate Warcaster. Guilliman is on his way back, just to piss off everyone who doesn’t like the Ultrasmurfs, even though he’s mortally wounded and “slowly healing” in stasis while the Lion is just napping. For ten thousand years. What can I say he naps like a pro.
So the grimdark story is moving forward. GW hasn’t called it the “end times” because, well, that would trigger everyone who liked Warhammer Fantasy before
GW RUINED IT FOREVER reimagined it in a new format. This is especially key with a new edition looming on the horizon. First let’s do some accounting. 20 Primarchs. 2 lost and expunged. The Lion is napping (LIKE A BOSS), Fulgrim and Perturabo are demon princes, Khan and Russ are taking extended tours of Chaos-affiliated architecture, Dorn and Ferrus Manus are dead (ish. more on this in a bit) Konrad Curze and Sangy are dead, dead, dead. Angron is a demon prince, Guilliman is apparently already on his way back (unenthusiastic yay) Mortarion and Magnus are Demon Princes as well, Horus is as completely destroyed as you can be, Lorgar is an especially whiny demon prince, Vulkan is a Perpetual, supposedly he’s dead but the guy has plot armor like whoah, Corvus Corax is MIA but with a HUGE asterisk, and I am Alpharius. Or Omegon.
So the Imperium can expect to see the Lion, and Guilliman for sure, and Russ, Vulkan, Khan, and Corax wouldn’t be a stretch. Dorn and Manus would be a stretch but Dorn is in that “Have you seen a body?” “Well, we have a hand, sir” category. If they want him back he’s back. Manus would be more of a stretch but also is a huge opportunity. First off he’s a very popular Primarch for not being one of the “major” legions/chapters. He’s boosted by having THE best model among the Forgeworld Primarchs (Seriously, check it out) and the stories of what has happened to his head lead to the potential of a Robot Nixon style return. What would make this delicious is the fact that he actually abhors the replacement of flesh with steel, which seems the kind of suffering GW loves to inflict on its tragic heroes.
Corvus Corax is much more likely to come back, and he’s an interesting one. Last seen headed for the Eye of Terror he hasn’t been confirmed dead, and while his last action seems suicidal, he’s very much not. He’s an extremely dedicated servant of the Emperor, in fact he’s a bit of an ideologue, much like Lorgar in his blind faith. He also has an amazing wealth of knowledge of gene-seed and space marine creation, thanks to his efforts rebuilding his chapter. He could be a huge piece of rebuilding the Imperium after the coming apocalypse.
Chaos can bring Fulgrim, Lorgar, Mortarion, Angron, Magnus, Perturabo, and possibly half of Alpharius Omegon. Most of them don’t need much introduction, they are Demon Princes and if GW wants them in, they will be in. Alpharius Omegon was supposedly killed, half by Dorn, half by Guilliman. I don’t believe it for a second. I do believe that they have the potential to be the second largest spoiler in the whole shebang. Who is the biggest? Magnus the Red.
No. Really. I’ll explain. Here’s what I see happening, Cadia falls, the Black Crusade spills out headed all across the galaxy. As Abby’s ships approach Terra the Golden Throne fails and the Emperor dies, coincidentally banishing Abby’s ships to the Eye for a time, and possibly even creating a mini eye of terror (the Eye of Terra if you will.) The Demon Primarchs have fanned out, many taking over their own kingdoms and the regular Space Marines are on their back foot. Guilliman is building another Empire. He’s done it before. Vulkan shows up to help with War machines, Corvus Corax shows up to help create more marines, Russ shows up to help kill everything, and shortly before Terra get whomped, The Rock shows up to try to defend Terra. And intercept a certain Fallen. Cypher shows up not on Terra’s walls, but at the Rock. Walking in as if he owns the place he hands his pistols over and carrying the Lion’s Blade he waits while every Inquisitor Chaplain descends on him, only to be stopped by the Watchers in the Dark. The Watchers lead everyone to the depths of the Rock, past even Luther’s chamber, to where the Lion lays sleeping. Cypher lays the Lion’s sword on his Primarch’s chest and asks “Father, why did you abandon us.”
To which the Lion awakes and responds “I left you to defend our homeworld, to safeguard the future of our legion. Why did you fail in your charge.” A few seconds later the scene is re-enacted a few rooms over in Luther’s chamber, with much of the last 10,000 years of Dark Angels history being revealed as, literally, the Lion gave a shitty mission brief, leading Luther and the Fallen to believe they had been abandoned, when they had, in fact, been trusted with the most important mission they could be given. Coincidentally this leaves the Dark Angels and the other Unforgiven as a highly unified force, which the Lion absolutely would not hesitate to wield in the tradition of the Space Marine Legions of the Crusade era.
This is a band aid on a sucking chest wound though. The Imperium has basically fallen. The Emperor is dead, Primarchs are empire building in the rubble. Chaos is expanding and all of reality hangs by a thread. The loyalist Primarchs, Guilliman, The Lion, Russ, CC, and Vulkan, all gather on Ultramar. Discussions go round and round on how to proceed. The Lion is the new Warmaster. Guilliman is the Emperor-regent, CC and Vulkan are helping rebuild the armies, and Russ spearheads the charge. However while they can try to patch the sinking ship they find themselves stuck at a dead end.
At this point they are joined by three more Primarchs. Dorn, Khan, and Magnus. No, I’m not kidding. In my vision of 40k, Dorn was rescued/captured by Magnus, who has no great love for Tzeentch or Chaos, and might very well be open to returning to the Imperium on his own terms. Dorn has intimate knowledge of the Golden Throne, from his time as guardian of the Imperial Palace, and Khan is intimately familiar with the Webway, which was a large part of the development of the throne. Magnus is willing to fulfill the Emperor’s role for him, as, basically, the ass in the throne, provided the other Primarchs work to restore his legion.
Most of the Primarchs are more than willing to participate, but one of them, Russ, is absolutely incoherent with rage at the thought. He has just returned to find Fenris shattered, by Magnus, and even were that not the case he would not countenance letting the traitor return to the fold. However, Russ has few friends at the table, and his Chapter has been shattered leaving him with even less power than that. Magnus pours oil on the waters by asking that Russ be his guardian, and, if he shows any moment of disloyalty, his executioner. The Wolves and the Sons were always the smallest of legions, and while their hate for each other is legendary, they have both always been utterly loyal to their leaders.
This gives the Imperium a rudder. With a new leader, Big Papa Smurf, a new Warmaster, the Lion, a cabal of technicians, and a new guiding light in Magnus, as well as flipping two of the most devious cards in the Chaos deck (Cypher and Magnus) the Imperium has the initiative. Just in time for the return of the Emperor.
Of course Chaos won’t take this lying down. Alpharius Omegon may or may not be loyal to Chaos, or the new Empire, or anything else at this point, but the rest of the Primarchs are in it to win it, and their power is terrible to behold. While I don’t doubt that any of the Primarchs could have taken down Primarch Lorgar back in the Heresy era (a wounded and exhausted Corvus Corax nearly did it during the drop site massacre) I doubt any of them would be quite so succesful about taking on Demon Prince Lorgar, and Lorgar lagged far behind his brothers in martial skill. I shudder to think of the power that Perturabo has picked up, even as a “undeclared” champion of chaos. Now imagine the power of a Mortarion, Angron, or Fulgrim, all martial masters with the backing of their own Chaos God. Yeah I’ll pass on that, thanks. Added to that, the Marines will be stretched very thin, and the resources of the Imperial Guard will be taxed to the limit without the web of trade, resources, and administratum support the Imperium had. Guilliman will likely be occupied full time just re-connecting the Ultramar sector.
So here’s how I see it. Chaos will establish lodgements all over the fallen Imperium, with bickering warlords squatting in the ruins of humanity’s greatest empire. At this point the loyalist Primarchs reunite and play all their cards to build the Ultramar Empire, with the ability to strike hard, but not widely, and not often. Chaos has won incredible gains, but now faces a foe far more focused, and more driven, at a time when its own power is badly divided.
But enough lore.
My first thought is “Please don’t fuck this up”
My next thought is “You know, they keep talking streamlining. Do they mean streamlining or do they mean abstracting?”
Currently there’s a couple hundred “USRs” between the BRB, the codexes, the campaign books… yeah there’s a lot of special rules. That list needs to be pared down. Preferably to a couple dozen. This alone would accomplish a lot.
There needs to be some balance changes as well. Right now vehicles are usually not taken unless they are free, or deployed en masse by specific armies. Vehicles should be key factors. You need a balance between them dominating the field, and being too dominant, but it shouldn’t be a “how can I get free transports for my troops” games with formations. On that topic, WTB Rhinos/Razorbacks.
Now let me talk about something I would LOVE to see. Something that would make the game a lot faster, and help balance melee vs. ranged combat. I’m stealing this idea from Epic 40k, which is still GWs best ruleset. Firepower. That’s right, Firepower. Instead of rolling to hit, to wound, and then dealing with a myriad of saves, it will not die, and regenerating, we abstract all of that. Every weapon gets a firepower rating. Better yet every model gets a firepower rating. An ork gets a 1. A guardsman a 2. A tactical marine a 3. Add together a whole unit’s firepower and look at a chart to see how many dice you roll, modified by the targets cover and concealment. Then you roll against the target’s defensive value. Terminators would have a defensive value of 6, marines might have a defensive value of 5, an ork, aspect warrior or tau a 4, a guardsman or guardian a 3, and a gretchin or swarm creature a 2. For example a marine tactical squad with 10 bolters has a firepower of 30. The chart gives them a rating of 15/11/8 against targets in the open/soft cover/hard cover. So against a guardsman squad in the open they roll 20 dice, with a fair chance of blasting them off the table. Against a squad in hard cover they inflict a handful of casualties, and all this is done in seconds. Special weapons might add a special rule to the attack, for example a fixed number of dice regardless of cover (flamers) or additional dice against certain targets (lascannon against heavily armored targets for example)
I doubt GW will do this, but I’d absolutely love to see it. It much better captures firefights as troops blasting away at targets of opportunity rather than single, aimed shots.
Melee needs love too. Badly. Delivering enough troops to melee and having enough left to do anything is very hard in 7th edition. Go ahead, charge a Dark Angel or Tau force and see how many dice your opponent brought with him. In addition it’s just not that deadly. Getting rid of toughness/armor and just giving a defense score helps, and if my firepower suggestion is taken, it’s relatively easy to tune the firepower/dice chart to set whatever balance you want. Need more melee? Firepower generates fewer dice. Think melee in the year 41,000 is silly? DICE FOR THE DICE GODS!
Ok this post is up over 2200 words.
Why Aren’t We Doing More?
So I spent a lot of today driving, which means hearing a lot about Syrian and Etrurian refugees. I know this is going to be an uphill battle because Etrurian isn’t even a word. Hearing what these people are going through is rough. It’s especially rough because, while I didn’t expect to have a lot of sympathy for them; I find I do. The reason I feel sympathy for them is the strangest thing. It’s because I’m Jewish.
Because I’m Jewish I know a lot about the Holocaust. I know how the world turned a blind eye to everything that was going on in Nazi Germany and how they were executing Jews, and Poles, and the Roma people, and Slavs, and Homosexuals, and Dissidents. I know about the experimentation, the starvation, the forced labor, the humiliation, the abuse, and the endless, endless executions.
Because I’m Jewish I know a lot about how the Jewish people after the war were shifted from place to place as “DPs” who couldn’t return home for fear of “retribution” and who couldn’t go anywhere else because there was no place to go until Israel was formed.
Because I’m Jewish I know a lot about how so so many refugees tried to escape before the war started, before things got SO bad and were turned back time and again. Particularly heart wrenching, although not at all unusual, is the plight of the passengers of the S.S. St. Louis. These people were trying to get into Cuba temporarily while they were trying to get full asylum in the U.S. Cuba reneged on the deal, the US blocked any attempt to land there, and finally they returned to Europe where most of them ended up in Belgium, France and Holland where their refuge was temporary; some escaped to Great Britain to find a final, useful refuge.
I’m afraid I don’t know a lot about Etruria but I’m a lot more confident talking about Syria. Al Asaad and Al Baghdadi are awful people. They are the kind of people that could give lessons to Atilla the Hun, Stalin, and Hitler. Al Asaad is using chlorine gas and indiscriminate bombing on his own people, and the depredations of ISIS are well known.
These refugees are risking life and limb, entrusting their lives to criminal gangs in a desperate hope of not being gassed, or beheaded, or forced into a war they don’t want to fight, or being burned alive, or being raped to death, or having these things happen to their wives, or children.
So I asked my Rabbi, why aren’t we doing more? We are giving money, we are giving aid, but we should be opening our doors. We should be pressuring our leaders, our congressmen our senators, our governors to act, to say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” When we were desperate, when we were alone in the world, when no one in the world wanted to help us, when the only ones we could trust were ourselves, we promised we would never forget. When it was over we said Never Again.
It is time to honor that promise. It is time to say “When we asked, you didn’t help us. Now we ask again, help them.”
No, it won’t be cheap. Good things aren’t. No it won’t be easy. Good things aren’t. Yes our enemies will try to use this against us. That’s why they’re enemies, but at the same time we will be showing the hollowness of their “morality”. We will be saying “We will fix this, we will help you, we aren’t the same as you but once we were and we remember when no one wanted us, we remember when we were the outcasts, we remember when there were no doors open. We will open our doors.”
Because Never Again should MEAN Never Again.
Star Wars Armada: Thoughts on the Core
So the Core Set in Armada is pretty darn deep. It’s got a lot of layers and interactions that really push my expectations for a “core” set. Today I will write a bit about each ship and one upgrade for it that affects how it plays, as well as the two fleet commanders.
Victory Class Star Destroyer – I want to call it the cheese wedge but that might be a bit pejorative. In the learn to play scenario it gets handled pretty rough but at 180 points things are a lot more even and this ship thrives. It pushes a huge wedge of fear in front of it, about 120 degrees of hate. Even its broadsides can cripple a corvette, especially if it took hits on the way in. Adding the Enhanced Armament card gives it a massive broadside that will really force the rebels to step carefully even when flanking you. The gunnery team just adds insult to injury by letting you fire from the same zone twice, albeit at a different target. Both variants are nasty, and the squashed nature of the blue band makes the Victory I a really intriguing choice, especially with the assault missiles.
TIE Fighter – I like to call this a Space Inferiority Fighter. The goal isn’t to dominate the fighter battle, it’s to prevent the enemy from capitalizing on his dominance. These fighters will quickly get hacked from space, and while they might do as much damage as they take, they cannot take as much. Their role is to protect and pounce on mistakes and that’s all.
Howlrunner – This is a real interesting card. The way I’m reading it she doesn’t boost herself, and X-Wings likely have enough firepower to cancel her birthday real fast, so she really is best used sitting at range 1 from a blob of ordinary TIEs turning them into really nasty heavy hitters. 4 blue dice with a re-roll can wreck things.
Grand Moff Tarkin – Or as I call him, Grand Moff Token. In a 180 point battle with one VSD he seems priced right at 38 points (a Corvette is 39) put three or four Imperial ships on the battle and he’s a freaking steal. He gives so much flexibility to the Imperials that it’s insane. Look Motti and Screed look good, but Tarkin has it all over them. The Imperials don’t need to be tougher, or hit harder, they need to be able to make small adjustments that they couldn’t predict three turns out.
Nebulon B Frigate – At first I was really not feeling this ship. It seemed like neither one nor the other. I was half right. It is neither one nor the other, it can’t brawl, it can’t snipe, but it can fence. It has enough speed that it has to be respected, it has enough toughness that it can’t be alpha’d off the field (without a LOT of luck and poor management) and it can keep up the pressure with guns, fighters, and provide a healthy bit of support. The upgrades here are all about the engineering team and Redemption title. That’s a lot of engineering. Your tokens are now worth 3 (can heal a hull point!) and the dial command can repair a shield, and repair a hull point. That’s a LOT of fixing. I’m not nearly as big a fan of the support version as the Escort variant. 6 points is not nearly enough for the lost anti fighter weaponry and losing control of a squadron as well.
CR90 Corvette – At first this ship seemed like a beast. Cheap, blindingly fast, hard hitting, and it appeared fairly tough. Until I compared it to the standard that mattered, the firepower of a VSD. It can be alpha’d off the table even in the side arcs, and two rounds of fire will be enough to crush it. You have to maneuver it perfectly to get the most out of it and I haven’t gotten the trick down yet. Even getting into the rear arc doesn’t help much as I tend to go whizzing out of it the next turn. That being said I have some ideas to put into play next time and we will see if I can get the hang of this mean little bastard. Princess Leia is going to spend a lot of times hanging out on these little buggers. They pick their command right at the start of the turn, and she can send it to one other ship. Your Nebulon B needs to repair RIGHT FRIGGING NOW? Leia’s on it! Time to ensure you’ve got the firepower to crack that VSF? Leia’s your gal. Of course she’s a bit of a fire magnet so even though Electronic Countermeasures is expensive, it allows you to use that key Evasive card all the time, or ensure that you have Redirect when you eat that big shot at range one.
X-Wing – A real qualitative difference between the Rebellion and the Empire right here. This fighter can win the Starfighter battle and carry through to do something useful with it. Slower, Tougher, Harder Hitting, and MUCH more effective against starships this ship makes TIEs cry in the corner even costing more than 1.5x the TIEs cost.
Luke Skywalker – Nasty little bastard he is. Underestimate him you should not. His black dice when attacking large targets and ability to skip capital ship shields moves this squadron firmly into the “bomber” column. Sure he can wallop TIEs as well as another X-Wing but you really want him dropping crits onto capital ships…
General Dodonna – … And this is why Dodonna has one of those “Wombo Combo” abilities. This conniving bastard lets you turn over the top 4 damage cards WHENEVER you deal a face up damage card to an enemy and then pick which one to inflict. Look the crits in this game are downright nasty, this card means you can REALLY ensure you get something your opponent will hate when you score one. On turn 2. Against a fully shielded VSD. With Luke (Or with Dodonna’s Pride).
This is just a taste of the tactical depth this game has. There’s other combos already possible that are just nasty, and looking ahead at the spoilers shown on boardgamegeek I can see even more that I’ll be using (I’m looking at you Yavaris and Adar Tallon, and Raymus Antilles, and Garm bel Iblis)
New Year, New Thoughts
Ok It’s a new year I should probably talk a bit about what my plans are and how they affect the blog. First off I just can’t play EvE anymore. It doesn’t attract me, it isn’t fun, and I don’t have time for it. Hanging out for 30 minutes to wait for a fleet that takes 2 hours to engage to lose my ship in the first moments because I’m way up in the alphabet just sucks. Unfortunately this rather trashes the central trunk of my blog as EvE Online is by far the easiest game out there to write about. But if I wanted easy I’d play WoW so let’s see what I am playing.
Well, actually…. WoW
The game is in a great place at the moment. The devs have done a good job of distilling the game down to the essence of what they want it to be, finding engaging things for you to do, and letting you do them. They’ve made everything from leveling to raiding accessible and other than how flat and dull PvP feels for me everything just works. I’m working on alts right now and have my 100 arms warrior just cleaving the hell out of things.
Revan is an interesting subject for an expansion and I hope they do him justice. I’ve heard some dark things and the early part of the story is frankly bizzare. My Sith Jugg is a Dark Lord of the Sith and one of the most powerful beings in the Empire and you are afraid of him because… you think he’s a pirate? WTF. I hope the writing gets better. Gameplay wise I’m happy with it. I feel more powerful, the tuning was well done and I hope to see more developments like that.
Awwww yeah. Nothing says fun like little painted men. I’ve got some plans for this year, including hopefully a journeyman league run in the summer. Currently paging through the Cryx book for one off games and trying to assemble Terminus. Seriously PP models that big need to be plastic.
Star Wars Armada
It’s on. It’s on and popping. Pre-ordered and drooling over it. Cannot wait.
LotRO and EvE and STO
These are the back benchers right now. LotRO just had an awful producer letter that neuters my desire to play it, EvE is too much time-sink for too little boom-boom and STO will get some play time but… it needs some oomph. I think they are starting something good with the BOFF revamp but I want to see better and more innovative content. And better writing. Watching the entire crew of a Scimitar pour energy fire into a guy wearing a T-shirt was painful. Like, Shatner-esque
So what to write about. WoW is probably the only game with more digital ink spilled than EvE and I don’t feel I have anything to add. I’ll certainly opine on things that happen in the game if they climb onto my radar, SWTOR has some possibilities, and of course there will be pictures of miniatures as they get assembled and painted. General gaming news certainly has some possibilities and obviously snarking about everything will probably be part of it but… we’ll see.
Lawful Stupid vs. Stupid Evil
Star this one is for you.
So, been getting into the whole Star Wars thing again and of course the repeated face-planting of the Jedi Order comes up. One of my friends point out that the Jedi are the epitome of Lawful Stupid. People so painfully lawful good, so incredibly cut off by their own perspective that they literally cannot get out of their own way. I counter with the fact that the Sith are Chaotic Stupid and no less troubled by their own worldviews and the bizarre structured chaos that was the Sith Empire, concentrated down into the Rule of Two and then the Rule of One.
Let’s talk a bit about Jedi failings first. In the prequel trilogy they suffer from a blindness to the oncoming threat. They understand it as a waning of their own powers rather than the actual conscious action of an opposing force, like, the Sith Lord they take direction from. Their desire to fix the entire galaxy in a static state overwhelming any sense of an external force working change. Their philosophy at this time was… laughable. Never mind Obi-Wan’s “Only the Sith deal in absolutes!” line (I name you Darth Sandrobe); let’s look at some of the problems they face. First they use a power that apparently features an extremely seductive aspect of raw power that can only be accessed through “Dark” emotions, rage, jealousy and hate. Rather than teaching the Jedi to handle these emotions they must either be bottled up forever (THAT always ends well) or unleashed completely (Like a poorly parented teenager). No middle ground. Once again absolutes and Sith people. Jedi must be perfect, full stop, while anything else is Sith. This leads to many of the greatest, most powerful Jedi being thrown into tougher and tougher situations where any faltering moment has the potential to turn them into a Dark Jedi or even a Sith. I wonder why the Jedi have a sense they are getting weaker?
The result of this episode of willful ignorance is Order 66, with the Jedi murdered by their own clone soldiers, the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire with Darth Sidious at the helm (formerly Senator Palpatine) and Darth Vader (The Jedi’s “Chosen One” and champion) wielding the whip. Had the Jedi encouraged pragmatism and a willingness to learn to control emotions and not subdue them, perhaps Anakin doesn’t become a Sith lord. Had they considered an option other than their own weakening powers as the Sith lord used his own power to blind them, perhaps they catch the snake coiled at their feet. Had they re-considered the wisdom of an easily given, impossible to rescind order that would demolish their own force, they might have escaped annihilation at the hand of their own troops. Unfortunately they wandered around, blind to the doom approaching them, and paid for it.
The Sith aren’t a lot better. In the Old Republic days the Sith Empire had a strict hierarchy that suffered from one key weakness. Promotion was mostly by means of killing your superior. This resulted in plenty of times where the Sith would win a battle and their finest leaders were promptly backstabbed by scheming juniors or promising juniors who jumped the gun were put down by their masters. While this crucible did result in some very powerful warriors rising through the ranks it didn’t exactly encourage great wisdom in the higher ranks, merely power. Darth Bane dealt with this by instituting the Rule of Two. Only two sith, a Master and an Apprentice. The basic foundation of this system was that the apprentice would grow in power and eventually kill the master and find their own apprentice. That’s some dedication right there. Maybe not the brightest candle in the box but certainly a bold one.
The end result of this is a dying Vader tossing the Emperor down a really really long shaft. Also I’m sure there’s an OHSA joke in here somewhere. That is not enough guard rail. Now this doesn’t end the Sith but there’s a pretty big discontinuity in there now. The One Sith at least restored the numbers of the Sith Empire, and instilled a great level of discipline in them but was sooooo over the top evil that it hardly had any greater power to challenge the new Jedi Order than the old Empire had.
I know this has been a roaming ramble of a rant but I think I’ve at least made my point that the Force doesn’t make you smart, and that excessive use apparently causes brain damage.
If I ran it…
So GW posted one doozy of a letter to investors. I mean. Wow. Look at THIS whopper. If he wasn’t leaving he should be thrown out anyway.
Games Workshop has had a really good year.
If your measure of ‘good’ is the current financial year’s numbers, you may not agree. But if your measure is the long-term
survivability of a great cash generating business that still has a lot of potential growth, then you will agree.
W ell, sure. If you ignore some other facts. Successful, capable competition, stagnating internal ideas, technological advances threatening production. Everything is lovely!
He also announces he’s stepping down. Thank. Almighty. God. For those not paying attention that’s their chief lawyer and their CEO.
So I thought of what I would do if they picked someone more capable. I figure there’s got to be 4 to 5 billion people who could do a better job running GW than the buffoons right now, and for once that’s not hyperbole. This company is still operating like the economy is going great, there’s no source of information on alternatives or their own activities, and that local brick and mortar stores are unnecessary to their operations. None of these things are true, and their inability to realize this is leading them down a dark spiral, and they are even ignorant to this fact.
So what would I do? Well first off the whole pricing structure needs a radical restructuring. Prices for GW minis are absolutely ridiculous even granted their high quality. The prices for the books are even worse. I would operate on the theory that bringing new people in is absolutely essential to the game. Books would receive between a 50 and 75% price slash. If that meant selling them for a loss then so be it. People without books are people not playing my game. I want this to be the marketing scheme for next year:
The second thing I want to do is change how the boxed armies are done. I think GW is inching in this way already (look at the dwarf one for example) but they need to really look at how things are being done outside the company. They can outprice Privateer Press handily and still attract fans. Their games are good and their fans are rabid, but they need to encourage more people to pick it up. Here’s my ideas for their established products:
- Get rid of Finecast. Yesterday.
- Reprice all books to 25-50% of their current cost.
- Better staff and stocking at GW stores. These places should be destinations, palaces of GW hobbies with examples and demos going on every hour. Not sad slovenly stores stocking the most basic material.
- Stop. Suing. Everyone. It pisses people off and it is being done far in excess of what is necessary to preserve copyrights.
- Every Box like the Dwarf Box! Useful models, a good solid core and a little something extra tossed in. Islands of Blood is another great example. For $100 dollars you get at least 3-4x what you pay for AND the rulebooks.
- Box sizes should equate to regiments. 20 for elite infantry, 30 for line, 40 for swarms. Pricing will also be going down. 3$ for elite minis, 2$ for the rank and file, 5-7 for cavalry.
- Army books brought up to date for legacy armies, Brets, Skaven, Vampire Counts, Tomb Kings, look there’s a lot that needs some love.
- 1 Book for Marines. 3 Tops. Not a dozen. (Not counting CSM)
- Price reduction on boxes. Box sizes are ok. 40 bucks for 10 basic tactical marines isn’t.
- Rebalance everything. I mean a serious balance pass. Fliers especially but every army needs a good hard look to avoid spamming of OP units.
- Encourage the “skirmish” aspect. Too many games end up like WWI slugfests with neat weapons rather than fast sci fi games with Marines shrugging off loads of fire to desperately try to accomplish their objective.
- Epic 40k will be back. Armageddon was a great ruleset that rubbed people the wrong way. That can be fixed. Big battles in 40k have always been amazing and there’s no reason not to have this product out there.
- Blood Bowl is GW’s best game ever. Seriously it’s fun, it’s fast paced and it needs to be out front.
- LotR… does anyone play this? How much are we paying for the IP? Create some fancy models and move on.
- Necromunda. Am I showing my age yet? This is a hoot of a game and should be re-release with gorkamorka as a twofer. Maybe even a “big scale” 54mm model game. Something to throw down once in a while to mix things up.
Finally attempts have to be made to reach out to the community. A lot of the games biggest supporters have been turned off by GW’s litigious nature, and heavy handed treatment of the humble LGS. This has got to end. GW should be proud of each and every store and should offer incentives to high performing stores, not harsh quotas and minimums. For example a store that runs a tourney every month with a minimum of 10 players gets free scenery packs. X amount in total sales gets a discount on product, or more favorable payment terms. Finally I would practically dismantle the GW website for orders. Let the retailers handle the retail. Every GW sale takes dollars out of the pockets of the brick and mortar stores that host most Fantasy or 40k games. Treat these stores well and they will reward GW with higher sales. Treat them badly and they will wither and it will be more and more difficult for gamers to find a place to play a game. It will be more and more difficult to bring new people into the hobby, and it will be more and more difficult to increase the companies sales.
This was fun. Next up: Privateer Press, and then CCP Games!
Well Why Aren’t There Raiders, Sapience?
So Sapience, the Community Manager of LotRO has announced that Raiders are less than 5% of the Lord of the Rings population, and probably more like 2-3%. I’m not sure what exact methodology was used to determine who is a “raider” but the two definitions I would consider most “normal” are: first, someone who has completed a raid, killed the bosses, looted the chest; second, someone who has completed a raid multiple times. Maybe does things on a regular basis. The second is what I think of as raiders and I would put this group around 2% of the population at best. There isn’t a lot of argument that raiders are a small part of the population. How small is a matter of some question but I’m willing to take Sapience’s numbers at face value.
Here’s the thing. Sapience is saying they don’t make raids because there aren’t raiders. He’s saying the root of the problem is the lack of raiders. That’s not the root. That’s the trunk. That’s not the cause, it’s the effect. Raiding in LotRO is nowhere near where it is in SWTOR or WoW or any other big name game, because the raids suck. Really Bad. The SoA raids aren’t terrible but they are dated. Really really dated. No one knew what they were doing back then, players or devs and it shows. The Moria raids were poisoned by the Radiance system and still don’t feel right, although they can be fun they’ve never really worked even after the disaster that was Radiance was removed. BG and OD were good raids. In fact they might have represented the golden age of LotRO raiding. Two worthwhile raids that people could run that justified a gear grind by granting access to good, challenging content.
Then there’s Risengard. It has the best raid in the game, ToO and the worst in the game, Draigoch. ToO has not been updated to the level cap and people run it. It is still fun, and still challenging. That’s a good raid there. Draigoch probably killed raiding. A buggy, confusing, poorly done mess that results in the boss bugging out more than wipe-quits and victories combined. And it’s still not fixed.
That’s why people don’t raid in LotRO. For the same reason that EvE players revolted over the lack of iteration. Because things get left undone and then the outcome gets blamed on the players. The Rohan raids were more like encounters than raids, they simply didn’t have any grandiose feel to them, and I doubt really affected people’s feelings on raids in either way.
Here’s the thing, Turbine can make great and innovative instances. School and Library probably have more runs per active player than any instance in any game. They are that popular, that fast, and that useful to the players. The Barrows are a lot of fun and the Misty Mountains quests are quite neat. When it comes to 3 and 6 man content the Turbine staff can go toe to toe with just about anyone. I’m going to run down the list of instances you can do on level at the current level cap.
- Great Barrow (3 Instances, 6 man)
- Inn of the Forsaken (3 man)
- Seat of the Great Goblin (3 man)
- Iorbar’s Peak (3 man)
- Webs of the Scuttledells (3)
- Bells of the Dale (6)
- Fornost (4 instances, 6 man)
- Halls of Night (3 man)
- Glinghant (6 man)
- Ost Elendil (6 man)
- Huadh Valandil (6 man)
- Library (3 man)
- School (3 man)
- Sword Hall (3 man)
- Dungeons (6 man)
- Warg Pens (3 man)
- Sammath Gul (6 man)
- Lost Temple (6 man)
- Sari-Surma (6 man)
- Northcotton Farms (3 man)
- Stoneheight (3 man)
So 26 choices at level cap. Twenty Six. All of them are fun, all of them are worth at least a run through, and some are worth going through on a regular basis for fun and profit! You can even get rewards for slapping hobbits!
That’s not even counting the Skirmish and (still buggy) big battles. Both of which can provide an interesting instanced challenge for 1-12 players. They may not be as intricate as a more traditional instance, but they are an interesting challenge and a big change from the current standard of Dungeons or Open World Quests.
Turbine can do good content, they just haven’t wrapped their heads around traditional raids, and they are blaming the players for it.