Friday, 30 December 2011

Codex: Squat Stronghold - Progress at Last

I have wisely spent the festive period (and a dull week working in Glasgow) coming up with some great ideas for my meisterwork, Codex: Squat Stronghold. I won't be revealing all my secrets here now, as I'm really hoping to get the Codex itself to a point where I can publish a first online draft in the next 6-8 weeks, but you'll find below a list of things that I have been thinking about and developing recently:
  • Full Warhammer 40,000 timeline, from 9,000 B.C. to the 41st millenium
  • Comprehensive description & background material for the Squat race
  • Detailed history and back-stories
  • Unit types
  • Stats for all units
  • Special rules for all units
  • Style of play analysed and worked into army design & unit rules
In particular, I have made major progress with two things:


For me the most important thing to get right is to give the Squats a valid and realistic reason still to exist in the 41st millenium. We all know (and I for one personally despise) the lazy cop-out explanation that the Squats were eaten by the Tyranids. What utter bunkum! It is totally unplausible for the Tyranids - a race that exists only to consume biomass - to expend time and energy on devouring worlds that are devoid of any indiginous life, and populated solely by a relative handful of frontiersmen, miners, traders and warriors, all of whom live in inpossible-to-detect subterranean cities. 

Ok, calm. Rant over... 

One main aim of the codex is to create a more satisfying backstory for the Squats, one that doesn't ask the reader to suspend their normal, rational beliefs (such as one can when reading science fiction). One of the most important things when writing fiction is to ensure that a character's motives, decisions and emotions are realistic - so that, even though he or she may exist in a fantastical universe, their reactions to a particular set of circumstances are entirely rational and realistic. This is in fact one of my major grumbles with corporate/primetime TV, and Eastenders in particular. It is not that I object that much to soaps and dramas per se, it's just that the protagonists' reactions are usually either totally disproportionate to the severity of the given situation, or their decisions are completely at odds with what I would consider to be a rational or logical thought process. This in fact led me to deliver a ten-minute rant (on Christmas Day evening, and directed at my pregnant girlfriend and her mum, no less) on why the current kidnap & subsequent house-fire Eastenders storyline was utterly unbelieveable and why 'real' people would never make those decisions. To their credit, the girls laughed at me, told me to shut up and continued watching. So I collected my toys and placed them back in my pram. Ahem. 

Soooo.... Long story short, I have come up with several different backstories to explain the Squats' continued existence in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They all start with the invasion of the Homeworlds by Hive Fleet Nemesis and the Imperium's abandonment of the Squats to this fate. The different variants of the story then seek to explain how the Squats survive the Tyranid scourge. Suffice to say that so far, Chaos, the Demiurg, the Ultramarines, the Warp itself, and countless others are all involved in the story!

The second major aim of the codex was to develop a totally unique style of game-play for the army. Very quickly I decided that the Squats would most likely favour a stoic, break-us-down-if-you-can attitude in war, so the army is designed to be a lot like Jose Mourinho's Chelsea team - very strong defensively, but with a vicious counter-attack ready to strike on the break.

To that end, I have developed special rules for many of the specialist units to suit their defensive nature. The psychic units - Living Ancestor and  Spirit Lords - have powers which allow army units, or even scenery, to be moved around prior to the game, during deployment. The engineering units - Guild Engineers and Sappers - allow vehicles and weapons to be upgraded with either universal special rules or the ability to twin-link shots, or re-roll scatter dice for example. The Sappers also allow pieces of scenery to be rigged with mines and boobytraps, thus ensuring the Squat player has a good chance of whittling down the enemy before they reach the doughty defenders. 


Hopefully then, I've whetted your appetites with a few tasty morsals to tease you until I've fleshed out the Codex a bit more. Til then, keep watching this space!   

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tyranid 'Drop-Spore' Army Increase to 1850pts

I am due to attend the Caledonian Uprising at Maelstrom in Mansfield in January, and army lists need to be submitted by 22nd December - next Thursday! To say I am in a quandary would be an understatement. The list needs to be 1,850pts, with Special Characters allowed - all to suit the prevalent ETC tournament scene, it would apprear.

The core of the army is largely fixed - I will be taking a modified version of my very own 1,750pt Drop-Spore Tyranid force which I had so much fun with at Blog Wars II which Alex of From the Fang organised and ran last month. The 1,750pt army is as follows:

HQ - Hive Tyrant with Wings & Hive Commander

ELITE - 2 x Zoanthropes in Mycetic Spore
ELITE - 2 x Zoanthropes in Mycetic Spore
ELITE - Doom of Malan'Tai in Mycetic Spore

TROOPS - Tervigon with all the trimmings
TROOPS - 10 x Termagants
TROOPS - Tervigon with all the trimmings
TROOPS - 10 x Termagants

HEAVY - Carnifex with Heavy Venom Cannon & Twin-Linked Devourers with Brain-Leech Worms in Mycetic Spore
HEAVY - Carnifex with Heavy Venom Cannon & Twin-Linked Devourers with Brain-Leech Worms in Mycetic Spore

I have tinkered with the list slightly to remove the Tervigon upgrades I didn't use (ie Onslaught), which leaves me with 120pts to spend. I really want to keep with the deepstriking modus operandi of the army (only the Tervigons start on the table, and only then in objectives-based missions) so I do not want to add any foot-slogging units. The army has a decent firebase, consisting of the 'dakka' (I hate that term!) Carnifexes and the Zoanthropes to deal with tanks, and good anti-infantry capability courtesy of the flying Tyrant and of course Doom. All in all, the army works and I'm afraid to tinker with it!

So, what are my options?

I have thought about adding 8 x Genestealers - they are my favourite model in the whole hobby after all, so they don't need any justification! However a unit of 8 is likely to be dealt with very easily, even if they arrive from reserve via a board edge using Outflank.

the other viable option I have thought of is to add 7 x bases of  tunnel-swarming Ripper Swarms, with Spinefists. They complement the deepstriking theme of the army, are multi-wound troops (ideal for objectives missions), have multiple short-range shooting attacks which may surprise a few folks, and can be used to tar-pit strong opposing units for a turn or two.

So, I need your help!

What would you suggest? Genestealers? Ripper Swarms? Or something else entirely?

All positive comments gratefully received!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Sons of Taurus Reveal 'Fandex: Lost and the Damned'

Legendary Legions
It's no secret that I am a big fan of home-grown Codexes, so I was delighted to see that the guys on the Sons of Taurus blog have written their very own Lost and the Damned book.

I've not had a chance to read it yet, but I wanted to share the news of it's release with you so that you can read and enjoy it as much as I hope to!

You'll find the Sons of Taurus blog here:

...And the Fandex here:

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Query: How Effective are Psyker Battle Squads against Space Marines?

One of the units I'm thinking of including in my Squat 'counts-as' Imperial Guard army are Psyker Battle Squads, possibly two units of 6-7 each. I've seen them used to devastating effect against some armies, however I am unsure how well they perform against loyalist Marines, bearing in mind they automatically rally the following turn with their ATSKNF special rule.

Have you used Psyker Battle Squads against Marines? Or had them used against you? Opinions and thoughts gratefully received!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Hive Fleet Nemesis Drops In To Blog Wars II

This weekend saw the second running of the excellent Blog Wars tournament, perfectly organised as usual by Alex of From the Fang. This tournament is fast becoming the highpoint of my wargaming season, with it's unique blend of specially written missions and competitive-yet-fun gaming. The real draw of Blog Wars for me is the missions that Alex has come up with, coupled with the mandatory choice of at least one unique character selected from your codex. In my case, that meant fielding an almost entirely deepstriking Tyranid force, as follows:

HQ - Hive Tyrant with Wings & Hive Commander

ELITE - 2 x Zoanthropes in Mycetic Spore
ELITE - 2 x Zoanthropes in Mycetic Spore
ELITE - Doom of Malan'Tai in Mycetic Spore

TROOPS - Tervigon with all the trimmings
TROOPS - 10 x Termagants
TROOPS - Tervigon with all the trimmings
TROOPS - 10 x Termagants

HEAVY - Carnifex with Heavy Venom Cannon & Twin-Linked Devourers with Brain-Leech Worms in Mycetic Spore
HEAVY - Carnifex with Heavy Venom Cannon & Twin-Linked Devourers with Brain-Leech Worms in Mycetic Spore

The list is unashamedly designed designed to combat my particular nemesis, MSU/mech Space Marines! My regular gaming friends Mick & Gav (of Claws & Fists) & Dave Pooley all play variations of Space Wolves, and fellow Claws & Fists contributor Andy plays Blood Angels too, and I find that I really struggle to crack open their tanks with any Codex I pick from, and with Tyranids the problem is amplified massively. Therefore my Drop-Spore list is built specifically to limit the opponent's shooting opportunities, whilst bringing my forces in close enough to allow me to get quickly into the thick of the action. Everything except the Tervigons and Termagants deepstrike in, and with the Hive Commander rule, most of the units arrive on turn 2 (with a bit of luck!). Depending on the mission, the Tervigons either start on the table (objective-based games) or in reserve (kill-point games). The ultra-fragile Termagants will always start in reserve if possible!

My initial anti-tank threat is of course the two units of Zoanthropes, whose job is to crack open Rhinos, thus revealing the fleshy Marine targets inside. Deepstriking into action inside Mycetic Spores means the two units of Zoanthropes can usually draw the perfect firing angle on the rear aspect of two different transports, almost guarrenteeing wrecked or exploding tanks because of their AP1 lance!

The second anti-tank threat is the two deepstriking Carnifexes, again inside Mycetic Spores. The Carnifexes pose two threats - the first being multiple shooting attacks on their arrival (Str. 9 from the Heavy Venom Cannon and six twin-linked Str. 6  hits from the Brain-Leech Devourers), and second the obvious effects of a subsequent monstrous creature assault on the tank. What's not to like with Str.9 plus 2D6 of armour penetration?!

The rest of my army is based around spawning Termagants from the two Tervigons, which act as multiple objective-grabbing units. In kill-point missions Tervigons are an absolute liability, so must be kept in reserve for as long as possible (not so easy with the Hive Commander's plus-one to reserves rolls!). However in objectives missions, Tervigons - themselves a Troops choice - and their scuttling spawn are wonderful, and frequent game-winners.

So with this in mind, Andy and I arrived at Maelstrom on Saturday morning ready to see what the day would bring...


The first game was a largely-traditional affair, being kill-points and pitched-battle set-up. My opponent was a top guy named Rick, who was using an all-infantry (and largely Terminator) Black Templars army. Not the multi-Rhino mech list that my Tyranids were deigned to beat, that's for sure! However, my opponent seemed wary of my nearly all-deepstriking army so the early psychological battle seemed to have been won. Unfortunately that's the only battle I did win in the first game! Rick's awesome multi-unit Terminator Squad (two special characters and 10-ish Assault Terminators) was incredibly tough to fight against, and in the end my army was whittled down because I didn't have enough AP2 shooting once the Zoanthropes had been gunned down by the Cyclone Launchers and Lascannons in Rick's supporting firebase.

Result: A fun game against a great bloke, but a disappointing thirteen-to-zero kill-point loss.


The second mission, and opposing army, seemed ready-made for my Tyranids. The mission was to grab table-quarters and hold them uncontested with troops choices (or with your nominated Unique Character). My opponent was Commissar Dave and his Imperial Guard. Again, it was a fun game (for me, at least). I have to thank Dave for being so calm, patient and stoic as my whole day's quotient of luck arrived in two turns of shooting, where my Zoanhropes and Carnifexes wrecked every one of Dave's tanks before he had a chance of retaliating. Coupled to that, the Doom of Malan'Tai then sucked the life-force from his foot-troops.

In the end though, the game was won by my Tervigons and Termagants. I was lucky with my spawning rolls, which meant I was able to swamp three table-quarters with at least half-a-dozen small Termagant units. The final battle came down to a duel between one of my Tervigons and Commissar Yarrick. I had to kill him twice, but he finally stayed down and the Tyranids won the game.

Result: A paper-scissors-stone victory for the Tyranids against just the sort of mechanised force the army was designed to work against.


In the final game I was paired against Matt of From the Fang (I always seem to play one of the FtF boys in the last game of a tournament!). The mission was to hold five objectives, which again is something my Tervigons & Termagants should excel at. However, Matt had something to say about this! He poured down a terrific rate of fire from his Predators and Storm Raven, and assaulted well with his Blood Talon-armed Dreadnoughts and Mephiston - a particular highlight for me was the Dreadnought/Tervigon close assault in the early turns.

Later in the game I had managed to disperse most of Matt's jump infantry, and by turn five I was claiming two objectives to Matt's one. However, I was doing this with about four models! Sadly for me the game continued to turn seven, by which time Matt's surviving forces had whittled me down to just a couple of models left, and ended with a climactic double assault between a Tervigon and a Predator, and the Doom of Malan'Tai and another Predator!

Result: A turn five win ended up being a turn seven defeat for the Tyranids in a fun and see-sawing game, where the result hinged on the final dice roll!

In the final reckoning, my Drop-Spore Tyranids ended up a solid fifteenth out of twenty-two. Not bad for an army concept conceived at midnight only eight days ago! In addition I had a fun day and met lots of top guys, so all in all a very good event.

I will also go on record as saying I really like the Special Missions, so please keep 'em in for next year Alex!