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What do Hannibal, and Robert E. Lee have in common?

They lost.

They were also very unlikely to ever win.

Hannibal and Lee won famous, shattering victories. They won seminal battles and frequently dictated the course of entire campaigns if not wars with impunity for extended periods of time. They dominated the battlefield, imposing their will on the enemy. Yet they lost.

There were operational reasons they lost, Hannibal had no ability to breach the walls of Rome, or to besiege it. Lee never had the resources to force a major decision. But that wasn’t the extent of it.

They didn’t have the ability to string victories together to break the will of the enemy to fight like Scipio Africanus, or Grant and to carry through on their battlefield victories to conclude their wars.

Hannibal entered Italy and proceeded to destroy every army the Romans could scrape together time after time. To the point where the Romans more or less sat behind their walls and ignored the armies as much as possible. Hannibal could win all the battles he wanted but he couldn’t break Rome’s will.

Lee won victories just as devastating but he lacked the capability to string these victories together. On occasion he simply left the field and failed to seek a final decision, settling for driving back the Federal armies, but he never could turn A victory into victory for his “country”.

The US has won nearly every battle in the Vietnam War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet at the end of our contribution to the Vietnam war the North Vietnamese overran the south at about the same speed as they could drive through it. Iraq is as stable as a 3 year old doing cocaine and it’s an open question whether the current regime in Afghanistan could hold a PTA meeting let alone the determined Taliban offensive that is in the offing. We are a great nation for winning battles but we have forgotten that you have to win the war. We assume that if you score enough points time will run out and you can dump the gatorade and go hit the showers.

To win you have to set your goal and work backwards. Hannibal knew he had to take Rome but once his siege train was lost in the Alps he never reconstructed it (and it might not have done any good against Rome’s walls) and Rome is a rather hard city to besiege. Lee never could make the assault on Washington DC or destroy a Federal Army enough to let him inflict serious damage on the North to force a decision, instead scoring victories then letting the Union lick its wounds until the next time. America hasn’t set a goal since wrapping up the show on the U.S.S. Missouri and since then we have spent a lot of time accomplishing very little.

“But Corelin” I hear you ask “This is a gaming blog. Why are we talking about this stuff?”

Because it’s my damn blog! GET OFF MY LAWN.

And because it’s important in gaming. Sun Tzu famously said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” I realize quoting him is a bit pompous. You may have read my blog before, it happens. Hannibal, Lee, and every US General since Ike put down his stars has forgotten this lesson. They go into battles prepared to win but not wars.

EvE Online has seen this as well. When I was in CoW our “Planning” was lucky to get 20 people with the right ships/fights in anything like the area we were fighting in. The Russians on the other hand were famous for getting the ever living snot knocked out of them for months then suddenly winning the whole damn war. Goons take meticulous planning to the level of any modern organization to turn their cavalcade of clumsy cohorts into a well-oiled machine. Admittedly a steampunky, lurching, “who knows what that bit” does machine but it gets the job done.

When you are getting into a game you need to set goals, and you need to at least be able to figure out how to reach them. FF XIV has lots to do and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by choices. EvE has an even bigger menu and higher bars to leap to get there. Minecraft is a mind boggling game with nearly infinite possibilities (your world is about the size of Neptune) where you can get lost for days until you realize what you want to do, or just give up.

On the tabletop you are given objectives. You know what you have to do to win you just have to do it. And keep your opponent from doing it. The same rules apply though. Just because you have an objective doesn’t mean you are past step one. You have to define the objective in a way that your force can accomplish it, and hope they can. You have to plan what you will do to overcome your opponents moves and then you have to execute.

Have a plan. Stick to it. And let me know if you want me to write a post on how Lee was a terrible General.

For the Emperor!

So I’m delving back into Warhammer, fantasy and 40k.  40k helped IMMENSELY by the fact that I still have about 75% of what I need for an army from when I left the army.  I’ve always enjoyed the visuals and the fluff of 40k more than Warhammer Fantasy.  Fantasy is often a more nuanced game, but 40k has made LONG strides to even things out since the last time I played in 3rd edition.  I’m also a rather more mature person myself, and capable of seeing the improvements, and what they mean for my marines, especially with a shiny new codex released on Saturday.  

First I’m going to talk a bit about my goals.  The main objective of my gaming is to have fun.  You’d think that goes without saying, but only if you’d never met a Warhammer player before.  I want to try to find a way to build a force that’s fun to play and gives me a shot at being competative.  Let’s face it, no one has THAT much fun if they are constantly getting pounded into the dirt.  I want to play with painted miniatures.  Now let’s get to some details.  

No School Like Old School

I’ve played 40k for a while folks.  A while.  I have a Rogue Trader book somewhere buried in my stuff.  You know who is on the cover of the book?  Crimson Fists.  

Using an Ork's head as a club.

Using an Ork’s head as a club.

So I’ll be painting them like that.  I also have several of the old “30 Marines for 30 bucks” beakies.  They need to be stripped.  BADLY.  But there really isn’t a better scheme to paint them in than the classic one.  I also have a new airbrush to try out, though at first it will mostly be used on tanks and dreads.  I should mention I’m not big on highlighting.  I like shading, I like a few, carefully selected, highlights to bring out the depth in the model.  I don’t like GW’s over the top HIGHLIGHT EVERYTHING method.  I think it looks cartoonish and overdone, but you have to do something when you’ve hired a dozen painters to paint minis all day.  

I Like New Stuff Too!

So there are a few things that I like that weren’t in Rogue Trader.  Razorbacks are the first thing to come to mind.  6 man transports with a twin-linked heavy weapon, and smoke launchers.  Now at a nice price of 75 points.  Put in a 6 man squad (which can now take a heavy or a special weapon!) and you’ve got a scoring unit that can do a fair bit of damage.  The Stalker and Hunter look interesting, I can see the Hunter’s value in larger games, but the tons o’ dakka provided by the Stalker are where it’s at for me, outside of apocalypse.  Tuesday I have a battle and I’m looking at the following list.

Librarian (Psyker Level 2: Telekinesis) Terminator Armor, Storm Shield, Force Sword 

Tac Squad, 6 Marines with a Flamer
Razorback with Twin Linked Las-Cannon

Scouts, 6 with camo cloaks and Sniper Rifles 

Tac Squad, 10 with a Grav gun, Plasma Cannon, Veteran Sergeant, and Melta Bombs

Sternguard, 6 with a Missile Launcher

Terminator Squad with Assault Cannon
Land Raider Crusader, with a Multi Melta

Predator with Lascannon Sponsons and Extra Armor

Venerable Dreadnought with Assault Cannon

The army is mostly limited by what I have, I’d rather have assault termies, as I have NO CC in my army, I’d also like either some Flyers, or Anti-Aircraft, but at 1500 points I think I’ll muddle through.  I do have a good bit of mobility, the Scouts can camp my home objective, the Sternguard have good range and can hit MEQs hard, the Termies are always good to scare the crap out of my opponent (I might Deep Strike them and use the Crusader elsewhere on the field actually) but they aren’t an ideal squad, and they are pricey.  I do like having a third Troops unit and I’d like to bring the scouts to full strength.  They can be a very resilient unit and have a lot of tools in the box playing baseline defense.  

The predator is another odd duck.  Vindicators are a lot more fun, and throwing 3 of those down, and running them up behind three rhinos could be a LOT of fun, but the Predator is basically there to pop tanks.  

Dread is there to move up and kill things.  It will have a very tough time paying for itself but I can move it into and through cover and lay down some fire with its weapons.  

One of the problems I have with my list is that the Infantry killing power comes from Infantry and Tank killing power comes from tanks.  Usually I would try to do this the other way.  I do have two landspeeders I need to reassemble and they will help things considerably.  Swapping around some infantry weapons and possibly getting a Dev squad (or Centurion Devs) to take advantage of the Imperial Fists Rule could be nice as well.  Tank Hunters for free.  

Having Fun

So my first game is tomorrow after work.  Sadly I close so I wont get to the LGS until after 6.  And I’ll only have a single Tac Squad painted.  I have no idea what my opponent will bring, but he’s a guy with a decent disposable income and SEVERAL armies to choose from so I’m not expecting it to be too nice for me.  I plan to play about every other week, the local group plays on Tuesdays so I shall try to get my half days then!

Base Coated, Shaded, going to clean them up, varnish, then a SLIGHT highlight.

Base Coated, Shaded, going to clean them up, varnish, then a SLIGHT highlight.

Got three more about to the same stage, should have them all done tonight, which will be my first squad.  

I'm using it every time I can

I’m using it every time I can