Tag Archives: Warhammer

Do GW games expect too much of the player?

A small Empire patrol ready for a minor skirmish.

I bet that headline is something you don’t read every day, but I don’t mean “too much” intellectually or tactically or whatever.  This is just something I’ve been thinking about recently.  The GW flagship games are expecting more and more from the hobbyist in terms of commitment.  As discussed in this article about scale, they attempt to mash together a skirmish-game level of detail with squad-level game scale.  Historically this is because they started as skirmish games, but some bright spark noticed that skirmish games inherently limit how many models you need to buy.

Nowadays the “standard” game of a GW game is going to involve several hours, probably close to or more than a hundred models on each side (give or take; depending on the factions being fielded) and all of these models are supposed to be assembled from multi-part kits and painted.  This is all fine I suppose.  It’s traditionally how it’s been done in toy soldier wargaming.  But is the modern gamer really capable of committing this much energy to one game?  I definitely don’t think so, based on my experience.  Now that gaming has stopped being a sporadic activity and become a way of life for many, the number and sorts of games available have exploded.  You can either try and keep up, or stop calling yourself a gamer, because you can be damn sure there’ll be plenty of people out there ready to tell you that you lack the gamer cred to even have an opinion unless gaming takes up a significant amount of your time.

But are companies like GW expecting too much from us?  I can see at least two ways of looking at this.

Yes, they are operating on an old-fashioned model from before the “gamer revolution”.  Modern gamers (most of whom, statistically, are adults) just don’t have the time to commit the amount of energy these games demand without exluding other games they want to play.  There are many other games with an equal, though different measure of depth and player satisfaction that don’t expect anything like the creative energy and sheer monetary cost.  Video games for example, as Fulgrim discusses here on Tears of Istvaan.  GW and companies like them need to adapt or die.

No.  Games Workshop games and other mixed-scale miniature games are for kids.  The company is assuming you are obsessive, play only their game, and have plenty of free time because you are a kid: You aren’t out drinking, or working overtime, or at a party, or playing another game because it’s better suited to pick up and play and you only have an hour.  The company only seems to be expecting too much because you’ve made the mistake of thinking that you, as an adult, can successfully balance the demands of their game with the rest of your life.  It’s not meant to be like that.  You’re meant to play Warhammer as a gateway to adult games.  That’s their niche, and the ridiculous scale and cost in time and money is the signal that sensible grown-ups shouldn’t be playing.

I don’t think it’s that easy to tell which (if either) of these is the right answer to the question.  I’m leaning towards no, I have to say.

I only just noticed Warhammer Fantasy Battle unit fillers

That’s the old Warhammer spirit! Creative modeling and a dark fantasy feel.

I just read this post on House of Paincakes, from Jungles of Lustria, and it really interested me.  I don’t play Warhammer Fantasy Battle these days so I hadn’t realized that this was going on in the community, but seriously, what a great idea!  Apparently there’s some controversy, some people think it’s cheating or whatever, but unless you love being punished by Games Workshop and think we should all line up and take our medicine I can’t see how you could object.

This looks to me like an obvious adaptation to the increasing problem of scale in Games Workshop’s flagship games.  It really warms my heart.  Companies will naturally try to push you into spending as much money as you can bear, but the humble consumer will always find a way around their tricks eventually if the price is seen as exploitative.  Unit fillers solve the problem of the wallet- excruciating, game-retarding number of models WHFB requires these days, and simultaneously encourage imaginative modeling.  Win-win!

If only 40k wasn’t a fake skirmish game I could make some for my Imperial Guard platoons . . .

Gaming Thoughts: Scale in Wargames

Or, why being good at 40k doesn’t make you a good general.

This really interesting post over at Gaming All Areas got me thinking.  What is it that we want our wargames to do exactly?  What do we think they do?  When it comes to Games Workshop’s (and to a lesser extent Privateer Press’s) big fantasy and sci-fi games, I think I have an answer to the second question.  And I think these games don’t actually do what we think they do.

Right.  Assuming that made sense to any of you so far, I’ll explain a bit further.  In general, we want games to be enjoyable, and we want them to measure some ability we have so that the winner is not just randomly determined.

Many of us I think assume that a table-top wargame is meant to be, in some sense, a simulation of being a commander on a battlefield.  Different games do this in different ways.  Before I get to the main point I’d like to divide wargames up into three broad categories and quickly describe what skill sets they test.  These aren’t officially recognized industry categories or anything – they’re just my categories.

Strategy games:  These are games like Risk or the Avalon Hill games.  They deal with the movement and placing of whole armies and resource/territory management.  They test our ability to plan to the big picture.  Terrain is unlikely to play much of a role, if at all.

Squad-level games:  These include many historical games like DBA and DBM, and also some sci-fi games like Games Workshop’s Epic.  They test our ability to command a battlefield full of troops, maneuvering and placing units to support each other and attain objectives.  They are more detailed in describing the troops and terrain than strategy games, but they don’t often get down to the individual soldier’s level.

Skirmish games:  These games do get down to the individual soldiers, sometimes even to the point of keeping track of every grenade and clip of ammo.  I include games like Mordheim, Necromunda and Infinity in this category.  These sorts of games place us in the position of a squad leader.  Terrain will most likely be integral to these games, and troops have a wide variety of movement and maneuvre options available to them.

Obviously these games all have things in common.  They’re all wargames after all.  But the three types test our abilities in different ways.  For the purposes of this article I’ll ignore Strategy games and talk about the other two.  You also might notice that 40k and (to a lesser extent) Warmachine don’t fit neatly into either of the two latter categories.  This will be important later. Continue reading

Book Review: Nemesis

By James Swallow

I’ve been thinking of writing a book review for a while now, so I thought I’d review a book I read a few weeks ago.  It’s not really a new one, but time is a bit plastic here on the interwebs – kind of like the warp – so I don’t think that matters so much.

In real life my work is mostly heavy reading, so I tend to pick up Black Library books when I need something fun to read, based solely on whether the subject matter interests me.  I certainly don’t read them all.  There are a few exceptions – I’ll read anything with Caiaphas Cain, for example.  In the past I’ve also particularly enjoyed Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn and Ravenor, the Shira Calpurnia novels by my fellow Canberran Matthew Farrer, and the books of another fellow Aussie, Henry Zhou.  I don’t really go for the ones about Space Marines of any kind, or books about the Heresy.  I guess I like the original recipe pessimistic vision of the 41st millennium the way it is, and I just don’t really like the idea of demi-gods flying around having superman battles against each other with giant hammers or whatever.

That means that Nemesis was an unusual choice for me.  I’m very interested in the Officio Assassinorum but not really interested in the Heresy era.  In the end the coolness of the assassins won out and I gave it a go.  I’d heard interesting things though about Nemesis being more of a detective novel, like Farrer’s Arbites books.  That turned out to not be entirely true.   Continue reading

Funny Search Terms

One of the features of WordPress is a little thing that reports the search engine terms people used to find your site.  Sometimes the things that have brought people to Warp Signal really crack me up.

Yesterday, someone found me by googling “photos about sexy naked adepta sororitas.”  Yeah . . . sorry to disappoint you mate.

Someone else got here with “the bell of lost souls community sucks.” Sounds like someone tried to be reasonable and polite in the wrong place!  Nah just kidding BoLS, you guys are alright – unfortunately the same can’t be said for some of your followers.

Every single day (I kid you not), I get hits from Dune fans, leading them to my most popular post of all time.  A couple of weeks ago someone found my article while looking for “dune movie sex scene.”  Given that there aren’t any explicit sex scenes in Dune, I don’t like to imagine which characters they were hoping to find involved in said scene.

A few others I’ve had in recent weeks:

“games workshop is a horrible company.”  Are you asking the internet or telling it?

“steampunk alita.”  Wow that’s . . . awfully specific.  Good luck with that one.  Oh wait.  I made one of them.

“night eldar fairy.”  Wait, what game are you playing?  World of Warhammer 40,000: The Peter Pan Crusade?

Sometimes I really hate the internet.  Other times, I love it 😀

After action report: The Invasion of St. Arkham, part IV


Khazak turned and took one last look at the battle raging behind him.  He could see the dark shapes of a pair of leman russ tanks crawling through the dust and smoke, and his earpiece picked up the crackling voices of a platoon of the St. Arkham 44th.  They were advancing to intercept the astartes who were beginning to surround his position.

“Sir?”  The pilot’s voice was tinny inside his imposing full-face helmet.  It was good to hear the Cadian accent.

“Lets go.”  Khazak nodded.  He strode into the roaring Valkyrie, and was met by his old friend Darkon.  The man’s face was grim and his sabre was drawn and held loosely at his side.  Darkon had saved Khazak’s life on many occasions, and had the scars to prove it.

“We’ll get you out of here, sir.  I swear it.  The Lord General will come back and wipe these traitors off the map.”  Khazak closed his eyes and leaned back in the seat.  Were the marines traitors?  It didn’t seem likely.  He supposed that in the end, it didn’t really matter.  It was his duty to get out, to rendezvous with the Lord General, and it would be done.



  • Brother-Captain Gaius – Space Marine Captain, digital weapons, artificer armour, jump pack, power weapon, bolt pistol, melta bombs
  • Squad Lucianus – Assault squad (5), flamer, combat shield, melta bombs, power weapon
  • Aquiline – Land Speeder Storm, heavy flamer
  • Phrixus – Land Speeder Typhoon
  • Squad Vorenus – Tactical Squad (10),meltagun, multi-melta, power fist, combi-melta, rhino
  • Squad Gabriel – Tactical Squad (10), flamer, missile launcher, power weapon
  • Squad Castiel – Scout Squad (5), melta bombs, power weapon
  • Squad Telion – Scout Squad (5), Sgt. Telion, missile launcher, 3 sniper rifles
  • Leontius – Predator, lascannons
  • Invictus – Land Raider, pintle multi-melta


  • Lt. Col. Khazak, Cadian 129th – Company command squad, bolter, power weapon, bodyguard
  • Cadian 129th Grenadiers – Veteran squad, power fist, 3 plasma guns, Grenadiers
  • Lt. Blake, 44th St. Arkham – Platoon command squad, 2 flamers
  • Squad Boxer – Infantry squad, grenade launcher, power weapon, commissar with power weapon
  • Squad Coleridge – Infantry squad, flamer, melta bombs, power weapon
  • Platoon fire support – 2 autocannon teams, lascannon team
  • Firebird, sec. 8th Kasrkin – Valkyrie
  • Anathema, St. Arkham 1st Armoured – Leman Russ Demolisher, multi-melta sponsons, heavy flamer
  • Storm Giant, St. Arkham 1st Armoured – Leman Russ Battle Tank, heavy flamer, pintle heavy stubber


The other day Jay and I played mission four of our campaign borrowed from Sign of the Aquila.  Since I lost the last game I only had 1000 points to Jay’s 1500, so it wasn’t going to be pretty.  I took a hard list (by my standards anyway) and borrowed Jay’s nicely painted valkyrie for the duration of the battle.

Anathema and Storm Giant advance, supported by the St. Arkham 44th and the Cadian 129th Grenadiers.

Since the mission required that I get my commander off the opposite end of the table, I put him in the flyer with a bodyguard and decided to just go for broke.  The rest of my boys were to function as distractions, hopefully take out the biggest threats to the valkyrie, then assault as much as they could to tie the Ultramarines up while Khazak made his get away.  I deployed on the most thinly covered table end and pushed the valkyrie on with my scout move, then trundled my two MBTs forward supported by my platoon, grenadiers and fire support.  I figured I’d try to refuse as much of the superior marine force as I could by sticking to one side and keeping the terrain between us. Continue reading

Iybraesil Eldar

It’s new army time!  I’m sure all of you, if you’ve been in the hobby for long enough, have been taken by an idea for an army that you just have to make one day.  Well for me, that army is eldar and one day is today.  I even ordered my first models this afternoon.

I’ve noticed that people nearly always paint eldar models in vivid clean colours, which I think is a bit odd for a dying race.  I have this really strong image of a Wraithlord whose wraithbone is cracked and pitted, supported by infantry in faded finery.  This was the image that started off my idea.

Whilst flipping through the eldar codex I came across a snippet of information about the craftworld Iybraesil.  It doesn’t say much, which is the way I like it – sketchy information gives you much more creative space.  What it does say is that the Iybraesil eldar worship Morai-heg the blind crone goddess, and are dedicated to exploring the Crone Worlds.

For those who are less familiar with eldar lore, the Crone Worlds are dead or Daemon worlds in or near the Eye of Terror that used to be eldar homeworlds.  This is so awesome that I can’t believe I’ve never come across an Iybreasil army before.  I can envision a small exploratory force, braving the horrific environments of the Crone Worlds to recover their secrets for the good of the eldar people.  Such a force would be equipped for scouting, infiltration and sudden raids, so all of my favourite eldar units would fit the theme: Rangers, Striking Scorpions, and Harlequins to name a few.  I’ve wanted to paint some Harlequins since I was eleven years old dammit, and it’s just never happened for me.

Old school Eldar concept art by Jes Goodwin

Not only that, I can model and paint my Iybraesil eldar the way I described above: hardened, mysterious and exuding faded glory.  Their colours are blue and white, which is pretty much perfect for my idea.  They are eldar who have seen too much.  Not exactly tainted by Chaos (although that is a possibility) but weary, jaded and slightly changed by the bizarre planets they have visited in their forlorn and endless quest.

From a modeling perspective I’m thinking kitbashes of eldar, the new dark eldar, and Warhammer Fantasy Battle elves of all three flavours.  Iybraesil is a matriarchal society so I’m looking forward to building some sexy and/or crone-like character models!

The only slight problem I can see on the horizon is actually gaming with them.  I’ve never played eldar before, and from what I hear they are an unforgiving army that relies heavily on synergy between units.  This would suggest that a themed eldar army would by its nature be severely lacking certain elements, making synergy difficult.  If there are any seasoned eldar generals out there I would greatly appreciate some help with list building.  How would you build an eldar army with a explorer/raider theme that could at least hold its own on the table?

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