Thursday, December 25, 2014

End Times: Thanquol

The Horned Rat does indeed giveth.

The new Vermin Lord is supposedly as large as the Nagash model.

The January release schedule is as follows:

10th (preorders Fri 2nd) is the new Vermin Lord

17th Thanquol End Times book and mini

24th new unit, armoured rat ogres called Stormfiends plus clam pack Warlord and Grey Seer and re release of old Warlock Engineers

Exciting times ahead for everyone's favourite race. It sounds like Thanquol might finally have made it after all his sterling efforts over the past twenty years. And to think that there were people who laughed at his plans for world domination.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Skaven Confirmed For January

The latest White Dwarf contains the inside back teaser

"They Came From Below" 

Merry Xmas from The Horned Rat!

Happy Holidays

Just like to wish all readers a happy holiday break.

If you are traveling please take care and make sure you arrive safely.

I've got 12 days off and have a number of hobby projects planned. I'm hoping I can rope eager young Dunns to help me with the biggest of these!

I'll be posting thru the break so check back in between your festive break

Monday, December 22, 2014

WHFB Tournament Attendance in 2014

As it is the end of the year I thought that I would have a look at the WHFB event attendance data for 2014 (and compare it to the previous year).

The data only contains Singles events and only those that are ranked -10 or more people.

I’ve taken the data from the Fields of Blood Rankings page which provides as complete a record as you are likely to get. Included is info for Inepticon although I’m yet to get the results.

The data has been split into three regions – North (Taupo and above), Central (south of Taupo) and South (big island below Wellington). I have done an event count, totalled attendance and calculated the average event size.

Here are the numbers:

As you can see 2014 saw an extra four events in New Zealand. The North lost one but the other two regions saw increases – Central +2 and South +3. The overall numbers of people attending events was largely the same – small overall decrease. This meant that the average size of events in 2014 decreased relative to the previous year (drop from 21 to 17). The drop in the average was greater in the Central region (around 5 participants per event).

From the viewpoint of a tournament players it is great to see an increased number of events. Having choice and variety is excellent. I’d be happier if we also saw an overall growth in numbers though. As a Tournament Organiser, the drop in average attendees is worrying. To put things in context the loss of five participants typically means about $200 less in entry fees which starts to impact the financial viability of events – especially if they are outside a bigger convention.

Hopefully in 2015 we’ll see overall attendance grow and also see the average size of events recover.


Rundown to Holidays

Two more days of work and then I am off for 12 days. The rundown to the break has definitely started.

I've had a funny December so far. Rather than being a period of purchases, I've spent the month selling off surplus stuff. Over the past few weeks I've sold an Ultraforge Dragon, the Fortress of Redemption and a Realm of Battle Gameboard. This has swelled the coffers most satisfyingly but the money has stayed "un-reinvested" as there is nothing pressingly required. Interestingly I think this year represents probably my least spend on new product - virtually all purchases have been books or iBooks.

Hard to see that changing in the short term. The next End Times release is up for purchase in early Jan - and rumoured to be Skaven - but it would need to involve new plastic kits for me to open the wallet apart from the ibook.

Over the first part of the break I'm looking to build my last plastic purchases - the Blightkings and Maggoth Lord. The Blightkings are going to be used as Nurgle charioteers.

I've also got my Tablescapes table and if the weather is good then that may well see some love.

Other than that the Mortis Engine and SotT still are unfinished on the painting desk and my undercoated Pestigors need some love.

Yesterday also saw me do a seasonal cull of Warhammer podcasts. There were a number of shows I have given up on. I appreciate all the efforts that people go to in putting these together but with a general blossoming in the numbers of offerings I've needed to get more picky. I've kept subs to those I enjoy the most and hit the delete subscription on the others. Generally those cut were casts where there was a large proportion on their own local tournament scene and tournament reports which while occasionally interesting can struggle for relevance to a wider audience. My playlist now comprises Heelenhammer, Bad Dice, Pointhammered, Skull Bros, Garagehammer, Kiwihammer, Hobby Craic, Jaded Gamercast and The Black Sun. As they vary from weekly to spasmodically, it provides plenty of listening.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Army Rating - December Update

Time for the quarterly update of the Army Ratings based on the rankings from the UK, Australia and NZ. These were last done in September so let's see how things have changed.

There is some jockeying in the UK with DoC pushing Dark Elves out of top spot. Small rise for WoC and similar drop for Ogres. The interesting development is the debut of Wood Elves in the Top 10. I expect we'll see them move up over the next few months.

In Oz the real story is the demise of WoC (counter to UK) as they drop three places. The Wood Elves continue their rise.

NZ - the smallest of the three communities - sees DoC fall from 3rd. Dark Elves take out the top spot as a number of players have piled onto the Brolock train. Again the big mover is Wood Elves, up four spots.

The consolidated table makes note resting reading. (Just repeating - for Neil you get 10 points for a 1st Place, 9 points for 2nd etc. Each race has a score from 0-30).

It really is a story of Elves and Chaos.

Both Chaos armies have taken a small hit but the big four remain well above the rest of the field. Empire retains its 5th Place (small increase) but is now being threatened by the rise of the Wood Elves that have added 9 points in the quarter. The return of Ballistic Skill shooting has been well and truly confirmed.

Both Lizards and Ogres have taken a hit points wise and there are distinct gaps opening up - Top 4, next 2, Lizards, the rest.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Period of Calm

The last couple of weeks have seen a period of calm descend on the Warhammer World.

After the blitzkrieg that was the release of the End Times - Nagash, Glottkin and Khaine - the December lull has eased over the world. Visit any of the major Internet forums and they basically have run out of anything to say. The Ragers have raged themselves out. The Boosters likewise and it looks like perhaps they are focusing less on Warhammer and more on real life.

The books have been a bombshell, it's fair to say and I've found the community (worldwide not NZ specific) really interesting. From the first "are these official", through the FAQ and then onto the magic rules in Khaine, it has been a roller coaster.

Some of the initial booster who pushed the Nagash book as "This is new Warhammer" on their podcasts or on forums have gone very quiet with the release of Khaine. I remember saying at the time to be careful what you wish for - specifically in regard to combined armies - and I think that has probably proved to be the least of the concerns.

For me, the Legion of Chaos list has probably proved to be the most palatable but that is really because we've had the context of the Hordes of Chaos within gaming memory. The guys experiencing the most butthurt IMO are the High Elf players as their whole pantheon has been torn up and put back together like a ransom note.

As for the rules. Well I think that the mega characters remain a problem in the current context of people playing 2400 point games as the norm. This is especially true without the use of scenarios. The other rules I'm willing to wait and see. We are part way through a five book release. I can see what they are trying to do with the magic system and think it might be any interesting development - less certainty in relying on big spells.

I'm really looking forward to the Skaven book. I'm sure there will be rage, denial etc but change is good. I'd rather GW tried these things here so went we get 9th Ed mechanisms have been tested, retained or thrown away.

Roll on early January.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"The Filth is Strong in this One"

Jack sent me through some pics of his latest painting. Previously he had painted Medusa and Dreadlord on foot but it's good to see that he's disabused himself of such frivolities and is now concentrating on "proper" DE units.

Peg Master #1

Peg Master #2

Dark Steed Master #1

Dark Steed Master #2


Friday, December 12, 2014

2015 - The Year of the Rat

The first GW release of 2015 will be the next End Times book.

Not sure as to its name but most importantly it covers the Master Race as well as having rules for dungeon battles.

hopefully we'll get new rules and units to make us competitive. I'd even accept a boost up to mid-tier.

End Times Fluff (Spoilers - So Be Aware)

So last night I finished reading the fluff in End Times: Khaine......and I'm not sure what I think.

Malekith has been rehabilitated by history.....all the torture and destruction of the past 6000 years was necessary in a CIA kind of way. Ulthuan is gone and the remnant elves have decamped to Athel Loren where the various factions - Wood, High and Dark - all live uneasily side by side. The darkies contend themselves killing Beastmen while the Forest Spirits look on grudgingly.

There are a raft of dead characters - probably more than remain living. The two most important survivors are Malekith and the Queen of Ho, Alliarelle (having hitched her wagon to first Finubar, then Tyrion and now Malekith, she's a survivor at least).

What does it all mean?

Well three books/races are now one. And I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm no fan of the PEGs but I thought that they each had a distinct character and individual play style and now.......

GW have done this before with Gav Thorpe's bastard child the 4th Ed Chaos Space Marine Codex which destroyed the Chaos Legions in 40k. The success of FW's Horus Heresy reboot would suggest it is a path that is fraught with danger. Certainly the popularity of CSM in 40k plummeted with Thorpe's abomination.

Story-wise I'm not sure I buy the whole Exodus vibe and certainly it is hard to see any peace and prosperity for the Elves with Chaos Ascendant and Nagash ruling the roost. The battle between Chaos and Order is only just beginning.

What is does mean is that it is now very difficult to effect a reset given the Khaine book. Any attempt to go back to pre-ET would have all the authenticity of Bobby Ewing in the shower (Wiki it kids!)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

ETC 2015 Army Restrictions - Draft 1.0

Last week the first full draft for 2015 ETC Army Restrictions was released to an eager world.

The reaction to this document in some quarters would see it as being as heretical as when Martin Luther first nailed his reformation teachings on the doors of the church.

To say there is a split in the ETC community is probably being kind and as is the case with internet warriors all sorts of hyperbole is being thrown around - comparisons to the Axis, an Iron Curtain descending across Europe (I kid you not!).

The key criticism is that the rules have no external balance and will exaggerate the Rock-Paper-Scissors aspects of Warhammer. In addition, they result in a game no greater in skill than Yahztee (personally this one amuses me as there is little or no change in the Magic system being used cf 2014).

Anyway, it appears that schisms are forming, democracies are being challenged and barricades manned.

You can check out the cause of all this angst over the page.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NZ Masters - 40k and Flames of War Photos

I also took the opportunity to snap some photos from the 40k and Flames competitions.

The 40k competition was hard fought coming down to a VP tiebreaker to determine the winner.

There were two Eldar armies - one Iyanden and the other vanilla - as well as two Astra Militarum forces.

Here eventual winner Dean Bradley maneourves his Inquisition force versuses the Iyanden.

Josh Evans up against Frank Redmond's Ultramarines.

And here Space Wolves battle the evil Necrons.

The Flames of War tables looked good as always. Late War saw a mix of armies with a bias towards Germans. Russell Briant had three Jagdtigers running around while Mike Haycock's Panzer Lehr had swathes of antitank guns.

Second place Simon McBeth (above) beat last year's Master Mike Haycock (below) in the last round. This allowed Bede Bailey to take out the event.

Here are some shots of the various tables.


NZ Masters - Fantasy Photos

On Saturday I took some photos of the Fantasy event as it kicked off.

The first round saw the two Dwarf players drawn against each other. There ensued much grumbling. McCrae (near camera) looks ready to castle while Antony (head in hands) looks like he's lost the will to live.

John Willenbruch and Jeff Kent get ready to deploy for Dawn Attack.
Sam Whitt (Dark Elves) and Peter Williamson (Woodies) look forward to three hours of avoidance. Peter managed a crushing victory which unfortunately for Sam set the tone of his weekend.

Dan Butler (red shirt) and Kelly Gragg in a WoC-off. Dan won this battle 16-4 but then things spiralled quickly to "dire" for the rest of the weekend. Kelly recovered to finish 4th with a list that had Vilitch, Scyla and Throgg.

Greg Greenfield and James Brown had an elf-off in round one. James won and went on to win the event.

Looking back up the hall.

Next view shots give you an idea of some of the tables. We play TLOS and have Mysterious Woods. Most of the buildings on show are Tabletop World, trees are GF9 and hills home made.





Monday, December 8, 2014

7th Annual NZ Masters Weekend

The 7th Annual Fields of Blood New Zealand Masters were held over the weekend and we have new 'Masters" in each period.

In Fantasy our new Champion is James Brown who took his Teclis-led High Elves to a resounding victory. James scored 92/100 points which showed his dominance over the weekend. He effectively won the event in the 3rd Round when he beat Second Place Peter Williamson (Wood Elves) 19-1. Antony Kitson steamrolled his way to the podium beating John Willenbruch 18-2 in the last round.

The battle for the Wooden Spoon was very intense. In the last round Sam Whitt had to beat Dan Butler by at least 13-7 to jump in. He fell just short but given only two points separated the bottom three is a testimony to the tightness of that race. I witnessed both Sam and Dan have awful runs of luck all weekend.

From an umpiring point of view everything went really well. There were a couple of curly questions but we managed to work through them to everyone's satisfaction. Unfortunately for me, I had picked up some sort of bug Friday so had a splitting headache all weekend. I sat there at times chugging back water and trying to keep my coffee down.

Thanks to all the players for making it such a relaxed event. Full sports for everyone!

We also had 40k. Luckily I had talked Hagen into running it and he did a great job. It was very tight with Dean Bradley winning it on VPs from Josh Evans.

Thanks to all the 40k guys for supporting the event. Everyone seemed to enjoy it so Hagen must have done a good job.

In Flames of War I was looking after data input. Michael Haycock (2013 Master) led until the last round when Simon McBeth beat him in a tight battle. This allowed Bede Bailey to slip through to win the event - and accolade of 2014 Master. Simon and Michael finished equal on points but Simon snagged Second by virtue of winning their head to head game.

I was very happy with how the weekend went. At one stage I looked across the hall and you could see 32 gamers fighting their battles and there was a real buzz in the room.

Next year's Masters will be held in Hamilton. Isaac Henderson has kindly put up his hand to run the event


Friday, December 5, 2014

To The Victor, The Spoils

At lunch today I picked up the trophies for the Masters. I ordered them five weeks ago and the leave them to the last 24 hours to do them

Here's the trophy for the winner of the Fantasy event.


Looking forward to the battles over the weekend and seeing who comes out on top.


Games Workshop & Focus Change

Earlier in the week one of our local gamers, Rex Foote, posted on his blog concerning his decision to switch away from GW games. The decision was motivated by what Rex saw as a lack of customer commitment by Games Workshop, the company. Well, that's my take on it anyway.

I would say that for anyone who follows Rex's blog that such a decision would not have been a surprise and I believe has been coming all through 2014. There have been numerous posts detailing growing frustration with GW and its "practices".

The blog post elicited a lot of comment from local gamers. To say opinion was divided would be a true understatement.

Rex's main point appears to be that Games Workshop treats its customers very poorly and that that is no acceptable - especially in the hobby based game industry. The counter argument advanced is that Games Workshop is a business and is employing standard business practices to maximise their return to shareholders. And overall the customer service they provide is very good.

Well my point of view, not surprisingly, lies somewhere between the two views.

Overall I think Games Workshop produces fantastic models. Of course there are the odd "fails" but IMO overall the standard is so much higher than other miniature companies that there is no comparison. I'm sure some people will say "Wyrd"-this and "AoW"-that but I think they are kidding themselves (Aside: that's perfectly valid as aesthetics will influence your view). Overall GW are the industry leader in my mind.

Now that comes at a cost. It is far too simplistic to say "GW can't justify charging $100 for a plastic kit". Those arguments are generally based on the narrow view of raw material cost. Feeding into this are the costs of plant and machinery, development of IP (GW Design Studio plus supporting cast e.g. Heavy Metal, White Dwarf etc), distribution network and GW's own real network. I know that the cost of developing a plastic injection mould die was around GBP 300,000 in not an inexpensive process. On top of this as a public company must provide a return to its shareholders through either a dividend stream or an accumulation of Retained Earnings.

So that means there is a significant "cost" to bringing a plastic model to market. I'm not sure everyone always appreciates that.

Against that GW does so many things that annoy the hell out of me. Again a lot of these may be because they are a corporation and require a level of controls that smaller producers can avoid. As an Antipodean, their tax policy gives me the shits. It also acts as the gateway drug to dissatisfaction with GW in this part of the world. As a result of this policy we had the "Rise and Fall of Maelstrom Games" as orders first flooded this purchase mechanism and then were choked off by a change in GW's distribution policy.

However I can live with that because as an internet savvy customer (don't laugh Jack), I can circumvent GW's blunt controls to cauterise the Ends of the Earth levy.

What does annoy me more is the flip/flop nature of some of the Company's decisions. White Dwarf has been an example of this over the last five years. Their web presence is another instance.

Where I do feel they have let me down - and yes I think I have reasonable expectation of entitlement - is ongoing rules support. I believe that  customer support does extend to rules support and that consumers should expect FAQs/Errata where problems are identified. Now the apologists will say that we are given mechanisms (It's a toolbox/Work it out with your opponent) but to me that's lazy. They have enough people within Corporate that have links to the wider community to know problems exist - and that they are a canker. The frustration is that they would take likely less than a day's work to fix. And yes I see it as a Customer Service issue.

All in all I love the GW hobby. I love the rules and the models. Although I have some hesitancies around End Times I'm happy enough to view it as a WIP system which we are part way through. As the other books arrive we'll see the entirety of the system.

What I would say to people like Rex who are shifting their focus. Keep your armies or models that you've piled hours of love into. You can then always come back as circumstances and your view changes - hopefully coupled with your issues being addressed by the company.

And the most important thing to remember is? This is your hobby/your leisure time. It's meant to be fun. When it stops being that, do as you are doing and change focus. This is likely something that will occur periodically over your wargaming life.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

FOB NZ Rankings - WHFB Updated for Sledgehammer

Sledgehammer was held in Christchurch over the weekend and the results have been entered into the rankings.

Rhys Hodgson continues his recent fine run hitting a career high of #8. This time he used WoC to take out the event rather than his favoured Empire.

Nice to see the Elfpocalypse hasn't taken root in the South.

7th Annual NZ Masters This Weekend

This weekend sees the 7th Annual NZ Masters being run in Khandallah, Wellington. There are three separate events - Flames of War, Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy.

A big thanks to Russell Briant and Hagen Kerr for helping to organise and umpire the FOW and 40k events respectively.

I am umpiring the Fantasy event for 2014, having passed on my invite to participate in the event. The Fantasy field is made up of ten competitors, all of whom were ranked in the Top 16 in the Fields of Blood NZ Rankings.

This year I decided to limit the competitors to 2000 point armies. There were a few reasons for this but they tend to boil down to a view I hold that 2000 points offer some real challenges to competitors. There is very little redundancy when you look to build a 2000 point army. Therefore you have to make hard choices on what you take and what you don't take. This rewards those people who think about their list, who they are likely to play and how they are going to play it. Building on that there is a certain fragility given the lower points from the 2400 point norm. This is especially so with characters, where you find you just can't afford all the kit you want.

I think this has tested the competitors - well, if you believe their tweets. It hasn't been as simple as searching the net for current 2400 point killer list.

So what's been the upshot?

Well I can honestly say that this is the most even field we've seen in the seven Masters so far. I can see any one of 7-8 of the ten players taking out the event (and no I'm not going to name them!). This is a consequence of current ranking, army choice and list choice.

We are seeing 5 Elves, 2 Dwarfs, 2 Warriors and a Bret taking the field. I think we are in for very tight battles and would be very surprised if we see a winning score exceeding 80 out of 120. That means I think the winner will average 13 points per game or less.

I'll be taking pictures over the course of the weekend and you can expect a full report on Fields of Blood this coming Monday.

Good luck to all the competitors in all three events.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

White Dwarf Weekly

Being a bit of a GW fanboy, I have religiously bought White Dwarf for the past 15 years. In fact, when there were separate UK and Oz versions I had subs to both of them.

Speak to any veteran of the hobby and their eyes glaze over when they start to reminisce about the glory times when "Fat Bloke" Paul Sawyer ran the mag - rules, conversions, tactica, fluff etc. Now I accept people always look back with rose coloured glasses but I think 99% of people would say that White Dwarf was very good under his editorship. The Oz version built on this - Dave Taylor especially - and introduced some excellent local content.

Over the intervening time, in a lot of people's eyes White Dwarf deteriorated. Less gaming and hobby content was included and more "Paint Spatter" type articles. Things like "Tale of 4 Gamers" disappeared. GW copped a lot of flak and in late 2012 they did a global reboot of the magazine. The initial months seemed to signal a return to old ways but very quickly it start to feel as though the content was phoned in. The claims of it being no more than a catalogue returned. Certainly I spent less than 10 minutes on some of the later issues and readability was non-existent.

Early in 2014 everything was thrown up in the air again. Changing their model release schedule White Dwarf was moved to weekly. The content was very much tied to the week's releases but with a heavy bias on pictures rather than words. Any writing seemed very superficial.

Over the course of the year I decided that I would give it an extended chance. This was in the hope that the content would improve once they got into their groove. So dutifully each weekend I would go into my local GW, lay down my $7 and pick up a copy. The hope - I believe - from Lenton is that once in the shop I would be dazzled by all the new releases and would fill my boots with new purchases. This hasn't happened. I think I have purchased a pot of paint on one occasion and some static grass on another.

Despite an extended trial - I have the first 42 issues - I've now decided that I'm not the target market and that I can't define any value that I am getting from the magazine. Most of the pics in the magazine find their way onto the net ahead of release and the content doesn't appeared aimed at me (I accept I'm not their target demographic).

So it's quite disappointing for me that something that has been a staple of my Wargaming hobby (certainly the GW aspect) no longer fulfils that need and as a consequence will no longer be a regular purchase. I'm sure that I'll still pick up the odd issue - especially if the rumoured Skaven release eventuates - but for now....."I'm out".