Saturday, 22 October 2011

Returning to the 41st Millennium

So, what did I do with those GW vouchers? I decided to take the plunge and return to the 41st Millennium. Since I got my gaming boots back on last year I'd more-or-less ignored 40k. The main problem for me - on the surface at least - was the dominance of vehicles in the majority of the current armies. When I used to play (back in the mists of times), vehicles were very limited and were little more than what are now referred to as 'dedicated transports'.

The way that 40k worked for those of us playing the wonderful mess that was Rogue Trader, and the rather more organised 2nd edition, was as a predominantly skirmish-based game. We could set up a number of buildings and terrain pieces on a small board - say, our parents coffee tables - and spend an hour or so pitting a couple of squads against each other. 

But that was the olden days. Reading through gaming blogs and seeing battle reports from tournaments it soon became clear that, in those environs at least, a large number of heavily armoured and armed vehicles was an essential spine to a competitive force. The idea of buying, painting and fielding maybe eight very similar tanks just does not appeal to me on any level.

(Perhaps if I was to play epic scale, but really, that's not something that ever got my juices flowing). If that was the way that 40k played, I just wasn't interested.

Of course, although we might buy GW products, we don't have to buy into everything they put out, and neither do we have to follow the tourney crowd and take army lists and math-hammer them to the stripped down logical conclusion where a force is simply designed to win at all costs. Dr Bargle is very good of reminding me of this, although he's perhaps more interested than I in the retro-style-mashing of gaming systems. I myself wanted to be convinced that current 40k was a viable gaming proposition, given my preferences.

It was in this spirit that I went into my local GW store yesterday and put down a challenge to the staff: "sell me something" I said. And what a very good job they did. After talking through my current fantasy armies and spending a few minutes weighing up an Ogre Kingdoms battalion box we arrived at the tricky subject of 40k. I outlined my concerns, which they talked though with me, and then suggested that I try the game first-hand, which I'd guess is their No. 1 sales tactic!

More the 20 years had passed since I'd last moved a Space Marine on the tabletop. But I was pleasantly surprised with how the rules had developed and it didn't take long for me to realise that current 40k was a system that I could feel comfortable playing - the mechanics are smooth, shooting doesn't have to dominate gameplay, and vehicles don't have to overtake squad-based tactics. But which army to choose?

In the past - and I mean when mullet hairstyles were in fashion - I had Space Marines and Orks. I didn't really want either of these because the modelling and painting possibilities are either limited, as with Marines, or something I've recently tackled, as with fantasy battle greenskins. For a while I toyed with the idea of Chaos Space Marines - lots to work with there, good fluff, tactical diversity - but I settled on Dark Eldar.

For some time now I've been looking over the recently up-dated Dark Eldar range and envying the opportunities they presented. Some of the miniatures are simple breathtaking. I'm also sold on the way that they play - you can't hang around with these guys - you need to get them into the melee action quickly because they won't last long in an open firefight.

Another area where style and tactics is in perfect harmony is with the vehicles. No rust-bucket tanks for the Dark Eldar - oh no! Their transports are all open, angular, full of fantastic aesthetic detail - in sum, they're a model-junkie's dream!

With a battleforce box sitting on my desk I've got a long, long way to go with this army, even before I get to try them out on the tabletop. But I'm making my way through the codex and really getting into the narrative of the Dark Eldar - something that I've discovered has been fully and extensively revamped to go with the up-date of the miniature range.

And I'm really looking forward to getting started on the Raider model - what a great centre piece for one of the shelves in my display cabinet! (Oh yes... haven't mentioned that DIY project to the wife yet...)

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