Necrons progress

Hey everybody!
So I’ve been playing quite a bit of 40k over the last four weeks – at least, a lot of 40k for me! – as I attempt to get better at the game, though more importantly, getting better with my Necrons!

I’ve talked about this at length on the blog already, of course, but Necrons are my first army, and I always have such affection for them as a result. It’s always around late August/early September when I really feel that nostalgia flooding back, and so I’ve launched myself on something of an offensive to try to play with my beloved first army more, and try to get the proper feel for them in 8th edition. I’d played them three times during the Index days, and then just twice in very small-point games earlier this year, benefiting from the Codex.

All of these games used a basic build of Catacomb Command Barge, Cryptek, two units of gauss Immortals and one unit of tesla Immortals (in varying numbers) as the basis of my battalion. I also chose the Mephrit dynastic code that has been my standard way of thinking about Necron builds since earlier this year, but mainly forgot about its effectiveness – as well as forgetting about my warlord traits and relics. Because that’s what I do!

Game One
So back at the end of July, having moved to the Wirral, I went to check out the local store here with a longtime gaming buddy Kev from my local Games Workshop, and we ended up with a 2 vs 2 game, 500 points each. It was me and my Necrons alongside my buddy’s Harlequins, against the unlikely pairing of Ultramarines and Death Guard.

Outcome: Draw (victory points)
Notable moment: Tesla Immortals taking out a Daemon Prince of Nurgle
Learning points: Keeping Immortals close to the Cryptek to aid with Reanimation Protocols! Also – Wave of Command is too useful to forget!

A four-player game is inevitably a bit of a mess, as everybody has got all of their bits going on. Given the slow speed of the Necrons, compared with the Harlequins, I didn’t have a great deal to do for a lot of the game. My attempt to move my Triarch Praetorians up the field saw them draw all the firepower the enemy could muster at them, which was interesting to me, as I kept hearing the news that they are actually amazing, and need to be taken out as soon as possible. As a result, they didn’t do anything, but it’s useful to hear these sorts of things!

Game Two
At the start of August, I played a game against a relative newbie JP, who was running Word Bearers. 750 points this time, so in addition to my tried-and-tested battalion of Catacomb Command Barge and Cryptek, and three units of Immortals (two gauss, one tesla), I had the Praetorians and an Annihilation Barge, so that was fun!

Outcome: Draw (though it came close to a Necron victory)
Notable moment: Triarch Praetorians wiping out ten marines in one round.
Learning points: Wave of Command is too good to forget about – shame I forgot about it for the entire game! Also, ending the battle with 6 CP is a waste!

This game was a lot of fun! It helped that my opponent and I really got on from the off, so that made for a really good game. I have a (very) nascent Word Bearers army of my own planned, so it was interesting to see what was going on with them! As a relative newbie, though, I quite the fact that the game wasn’t particularly fast-paced, as we had the time to think through the rules and whatnot. Of course, I still forgot Wave of Command, much to my chagrin, but you can’t have everything, I guess!

It was interesting, to me, to think about how I hadn’t appreciated aspects of the rules such as tesla weapons being assault weapons, so I can freely advance my Immortals up the board for the additional range with merely a -1 to hit penalty, (which would have been negated, of course, by Wave of Command!) Time to think about some better tactics…

Game Three
Last week, we upped the points value to 1000, which allowed for a few more interesting units to be included in the list. Well – I basically swapped out the Praetorians for two squads of Lychguard (one of each configuration) and some Deathmarks, which were a bit of a meta-choice as I knew JP included terminators in his list. I was hoping to make use of some of the special rules for these “new” units, to see how they work and so on!

Outcome: loss
Notable moment: Lychguard grouping up to destroy some Chaos Marines – it didn’t quite go to plan, though it was a hell of a moment!
Learning points: Still only used Wave of Command once! Can’t believe it. I still need to remember my CPs and stratagems!

We were playing a Maelstrom of War game this time around, which is something I really enjoy as it hearkens back to my formative days of learning how to play 40k via battle reports. I’ve only been able to convince people to play MoW games twice previously, so it’s always fun to get them in! My cards were just dreadful though, and I think that’s probably why people tend to not play them very often at my store.

The Lychguard sadly got taken out a little in overwatch, so they didn’t get to hit with their full force, but it was as gratifying as it ever has been to see the warscythes make mincemeat of the enemy. I think the sword-and-board Lychguard need to be used more defensively, though, as I wasn’t as impressed with their prowess as I have been with the warscythes. I’m thinking it might be more interesting to have a squad of ten with scythes going out into the wild, while keeping the five with shields back with a high-value HQ or something.

Game Four
My fourth game took place yesterday, and I was playing against Kev’s Harlequins this time. I’ve played Kev often to know that he is a very good player, with armies that run really synergistically. I’d hesitate to call him a power gamer, but nevertheless, his lists tend to be tuned and optimised, so I was a bit hesitant! But he’s also into Necrons, so I found it quite formative to play against him as he knows the army well.

Outcome: total loss (tabled turn 4)
Notable moments: Canoptek Wraiths are amazing!
Learning points: Canoptek Wraiths are too amazing to leave camping objectives. Also, I’m still forgetting Wave of Command. And – OH MY GOD! – I forgot Reanimation Protocols!

My list has changed again, this time bringing scarab swarms and Wraiths in place of the Lychguard and Deathmarks.

Canoptek Wraiths are a unit that I haven’t used since 7th edition, and I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was going to do with them at first. But they were fairly impressive, I have to say! Even if the Wraith Form ability has been nerfed to prevent them from charging through buildings, it is still a hell of an ability, and well worth the inclusion of these gribblies in my list! They are quite a hefty chunk of points, as I had kitted them out with the guns because I was originally planning to go Sautekh with my dynasty. I see a lot of advice with regard to ditching the guns, of course, but it’s always handy to have a particle caster in melee, as it’s just an extra attack if needed, and I think there should be a case made for just one transdimensional beamer, simply because it’s important (I feel) to have the ability to dish out mortal wounds.

I am so annoyed with myself for forgetting about Reanimation Protocols in this game – I mean, it’s like the defining trait of the army! I think I need to think of myself as a total newbie when it comes to playing Necrons, and try to forget about my history with them. Kev suggested making notes on my army list with the sequencing, starting with Reanimation Procols, Wave of Command (or My Will Be Done), and then into the movement phase, etc.

I had two big units of Immortals, both of which were tied up in combat in fairly short order as it happens, nullifying their effectiveness. So annoying! There were a lot of learning points in this game, but I think when playing a melee-orientated army, I need to think about my own melee capability, and not assume that I’ll be able to weather the storm simply through staying true to my nature (massed firepower).


The Future
So where do I go from here? First of all, the crib-sheet idea of getting my sequencing down through note-taking is gold, and I will definitely be employing that in future games. Both of my opponents in these games have armies that have some significant melee presence, but I can’t rely on the fact that I might be able to dodge out of combat and stick to shooting people. Praetorians and Wraiths are a decent start – I think Lychguard might be too specialist at lower points levels – but I’m thinking about points efficiencies here, and I might be making some radical changes to my general list soon enough!

Also on Friday, I bought a box of Necron Warriors. Shocking, I know! Well, for my entire 40k career, I’ve written these guys off as being horrible-looking models, and have stuck to Immortals as my troops of choice. However, if I’m going to be playing in the big leagues, or at least if I’m gonna be building out from my core list, I really need to think about these. 110 points for 10, as opposed to 75 points for 5 Immortals, is pretty decent, and there are some intriguing possibilities that I’ve been mulling over for my next couple of games, that might see some decent stabs at a win!

I’ve had the C’tan Shard of the Deceiver built for over four years now, it seems, and in that time I think I’ve managed to prime him and nothing more! I’ve never seriously looked at the C’tan Shards, mainly because the cost is almost prohibitive, but now really is the time to be looking at pretty much the entire book, and see what I can do with all of my little plastic people. The Deceiver has a special ability called The Grand Illusion, which allows me to re-jig my deployment with him and/or D3 other units, so long as they end up more than 12″ away from the enemy. How interesting, given that Necron Warriors are armed with rapid fire weapons: a blob of 10 can be dishing out 20 shots, hitting on 3s and wounding – most likely – on 4s, with -1 AP. Not bad for the basic troop choice! D3 other units guarantees at least one unit of Warriors can be re-positioned for optimum rapid-fire goodness, but the option to also bring some gauss Immortals is also really interesting. The trade-off, of course, is do you move them out of the range of Wave of Command, which could have had them hitting on 2s?

Certainly something to think about!

Rerolls are hard to come by for the Necrons, it seems, but the Triarch Stalker is a model that I’ve talked about before on my blog as being useful for this, as a unit only has to be targeted by the Stalker for other units to then get rerolls of 1 in that shooting phase when they target the same unit. I have two, one of them is having the paint stripped so I can start again, but I think I need to get a move on there!

I’m still really keen to get on with painting my Doomsday Ark as well, a model that I keep hearing so much good stuff about online. Given that this is almost three years in pieces for me now, I think it’s probably the time to get moving at long last and finish this thing off!

I think the only casualty of moving house was the Tomb Stalker, my first Forge World experience and still one of my all-time favourite models. I do have a second one waiting to be built, but I think it would be remiss of me to not attempt to revive this guy and see if I can perhaps bring him up to date with the rest of my army. I’m hoping that I could maybe use lots of thin layers of paint just on the top of the carapace, to bring him into the dark grey and blue scheme I have now, rather than the gold and green of my last attempt at a Necron army!

I’ve only used the model once, and he did precisely nothing but draw fire, so I’m thinking it might be time to try again with this guy on the tabletop.

Necrons

I have a lot of plans for the future for my army, including all of the above but also moving into Destroyers, and even Flayed Ones! I’m actually thinking, much the same as my Drukhari, I’d like to have at least one of every model in the range. So I’ll doubtless be picking up all of the named characters once again! So that’s exciting.

In fact, my entire future with the army is exciting me – I don’t think I’ve felt this way about Necrons since those heady days of 2014! Stay tuned for some serious thoughts on my list building once again, as I delve into the pages of the codex! You know you love my rambling thoughts blogs!

Getting started with Necromunda

Hey everybody!
It’s my 900th post, and I wanted to do something kinda special to mark the occasion. As it turns out, Blood Bowl isn’t the only game I’m finally getting into! I’ve talked about Necromunda a few times on this blog already, so I think it’s about time to take a look at the game in more detail. Think of this as something of a sequel to last year’s brief overview blog!

The Basics
Necromunda Underhive is a skirmish game where players control the members of a gang, vying for supremacy in the Underhive. At its most basic, the game is quite straightforward, consisting of three phases in each round. To begin, players roll off to see who gets Priority for that round, then all the fighters are readied.

The Action phase sees each gang member activated, alternating between each player. Each fighter can take two actions. There are a number of different actions available to players, grouped into basic actions (which can only be taken once in each activation), simple actions (which can be taken more than once), and double actions (which take up both action slots for the fighter). So for instance, moving is a simple action and so can be taken twice, while shooting or fighting is a basic action that can only be taken once, and charging is a double action (though it does allow for a fighter to make a free fight action if he or she ends that charge in base-to-base contact with an enemy gang member).

Resolving both shooting and close combat attacks works exactly the same as regular 40k, whereby fighters make a ballistic skill / weapon skill check, and if it is successful, make a roll comparing the weapon strength to the target’s toughness and referring to the usual to-wound chart. The target gets the chance to save against the attack (unless the weapon’s AP value negates that), and damage is inflicted. If a fighter is reduced to 0 wounds, they are taken out of action. There is an end phase which, in the basic rules, is only there to mark the end of the round.

Advanced Rules
At its most basic, that’s it! There are a number of scenarios in the main rulebook that add a few special rules to the game, but overall victory is still attained by taking gangers out of action. However, there are a number of Advanced Rules that feature in the book as well, which really add a layer of depth to the game that can be somewhat confusing at first, though seem to be well worth adding in to give the game that all-important depth.

Within the Advanced Rules, there are rules for activating groups of fighters at a time – activating up to two additional fighters when you activate a Leader or Champion – as well as a host of additional tidbits that make combat so much more interesting (and deadly!) Rules for running out of ammo, firing two pistols at the same time (flying through the air is optional), stray shots, as well as assisting and interfering in close combat attacks all add to the tactical nuances that make the game so appealing. There are also detailed rules for suffering injury at the hands of rival gangs.

The End Phase comes into its own with the Advanced Rules. If any gang member is seriously injured, the gang will need to make a Bottle Test, which functions similarly to the Morale phase of regular 40k, with the exception that you’re looking to compare the dice roll + number of gang members injured or out of action with the number of gang members who started the game. You then get to make a Recovery Test to see if those fighters can recover or succumb to their wounds. When a fighter is initially wounded, others close by need to make a Nerve Test to see if their bottle goes. In the end phase, those fighters who Broke have the chance of Rallying.

Gang Composition
The main Necromunda Underhive base game comes with two gangs, Escher and Goliath, each of which came with pre-populated fighter cards that dictate how to build the models to make a named gang. When founding a gang of your own, each gang has options for how many of each type of gang member you can include as a start: Leader (usually one), Champion (usually two), Ganger (usually no more than the combined total of other gang members) and Juves (usually unlimited). Each type of fighter costs a number of credits to purchase, and of course their wargear and weapons also cost credits. The main rulebook gives 1500 credits as the limit for a starting gang, though 1000 credits seems to be more normal in the few brief conversations I’ve had about the game.

Fighters can sometimes have access to skills that give them additional options during the fight. Weapons have traits that can give even more options. It all begins to feel a little bit confusing (and not a little unlike 7th edition 40k!) In this respect, then, I think it’s a really great thing that GW have given us the basic rules to use as something of a primer, to get used to things before adding in all of the more complex stuff. Of course, Necromunda has had so much released for it up to this point that it begins to feel much like a sandbox game, but I’ll get to that in a bit!

There are also Tactics cards available for each gang. These cards are split between generic gang tactics, and gang-specific cards. You create a deck of them at the start of the battle, shuffling the generic ones with those of your chosen gang, then the scenario you’re playing will dictate how many you can use, as well as whether you get to choose your cards or have to choose them at random.

Of course, I say these cards are available for use – GW has not been able to keep them in stock, and most of them are no longer available for purchase. While sometimes the card packs and dice sets they put out with a new release are somewhat bonuses to the main event, these cards actually have new and additional rules to them that make it quite difficult to get into the game if you haven’t been there for each release. I suppose it’s always possible that there are just supply problems and GW are trying to put these right, but for now at least, it’s going to be difficult for newcomers.

Necromunda makes great use of terrain, and while the base game does involve some scatter terrain placed onto a tiled board, with all the rules needed for encountering it in a variety of ways, there are rules for multi-level gang skirmishes that take place among the gantries and chains of environments such as the Sector Mechanicus terrain.

With the release of the Palanite Enforcers last weekend, there are now seven gangs available to use in the Underhive. GW have also given us rules for Genestealer Cults and Chaos Cults in the game, two of the more convincing factions from regular 40k that make the most sense for use here! I’ve talked at length in previous blogs about just how much I love the more regular factions like these, which consist of just average folks (if Genestealer Cultists can be called “average”!) that have that indescribable grim-dark feel to them. I mean, it’s arguable that these factions are more 40k than Space Marines or Tyranids! All of which just adds up to yet more reasons to love this game!

While each gang was being released across 2018, they were accompanied with a Gang War book. The first Gang War featured advanced terrain rules to allow for the famous 3D-style games, while subsequent books included the rules for the new gang as well as a Trading Post featuring new and exotic weapons that your gang can come across during campaigns. These books formed something of a treasure trove of ideas and really bring out the RPG-style element of the game that so many people love it for.

These supplements were combined into the Gangs of the Underhive hardback book that came out last Christmas, and the updated hardback Rulebook, much to the annoyance of players who had been buying these products as they came out. Personally, I was of the opinion that these softcovers did at least allow for players to, you know, actually play with their miniatures for a year or so, which can only be a good thing.

So far this year, we’ve seen a pair of hardback campaign books released alongside the new plastic kits each quarter, The Book of Peril and, most recently, The Book of Judgement. While featuring rules for the new releases, there are also campaign rules and a whole smorgasbord of additional bits and pieces that can colour games of Necromunda in new and interesting ways. The Book of Peril is possibly most noticeable for introducing the idea of the Guilds of Necromunda as factions, something that has been teased for a while now…

Necromunda Underhive is a game that I’m hoping to play soon, having convinced a couple of people at the local club to give it a try. While the base game is decent enough, of course, there are so many additional moving parts and rules that add so much depth to the experience that it becomes something closer to a traditional RPG than a simple boardgame. The game is so customisable that it really boggles my mind, and I find myself just itching to play it whenever I think about it!

So I’m finally going to be playing some games with this very soon. I’m intending to feature the game quite a deal more on my blog hereafter, as it’s a game that has really captured my imagination right from the outset. Look out for more content as the months go on, and hopefully I’ll even get to try a campaign or two! It’s going to be an exciting few months as the year draws to a close, let me tell you!

Gen Con 2019!

Having somehow missed my annual blog roundup last year, I’m back with a look at the hot new stuff coming out of GenCon 2019 – spoiler alert: some of this stuff is really hot!

There they all go! It’s almost a tradition or something these days to see the geek swarm as the doors open on a Thursday! Wonderful stuff.

Marvel Champions LCG

I want to start with what was, for me, the biggest, most awe-inspiring, and most shocking reveal of the event so far: FFG have got the Marvel license. Well, maybe. I’ve not been able to find any further details on precisely what they can do – I mean, crikey, this announcement just came entirely out of nowhere and I’m still not entirely sure what it means for games. Where does it leave Upper Deck and Marvel Legendary? Hm.

A co-op living card game, to go alongside Lord of the Rings and Arkham Horror, is definitely an interesting move. The cards look similar to the heroes in Lord of the Rings, with their attributes running down the left hand side, and abilities down the bottom etc. The villain AI side of things appears a little more like Arkham Horror and the act/agenda mechanic, with a deck that can either attack your hero or work to advance their schemes.

I am particularly impressed with the news that the core set of Marvel Champions actually includes full playsets of all the cards, going against the grain of all previous LCGs. It’s a complaint that I’ve seen since the dawn of time, though, so I suppose it’s good to see the company work out that niggle!

However. I just don’t feel like I’m in the market for another LCG right now, and given that it does feel like an amalgamation of two other games that I already own, play and enjoy does make me think that I’ll likely pass this one over. I enjoy Marvel superheroes for sure, though not nearly as much as I used to enjoy them, and the theme is therefore just not strong enough for me to want to get this for the experience of playing a game in a specific universe.

On the subject of Arkham Horror, though, we’ve got another game set in the Lovecraft universe – Arkham Horror: Final Hour! This seems to be designed as a quicker game than the others in Fantasy Flight’s stable of Arkham Files games, and focused much more on combat than any of their previous games.

I’m not sure about this one, if I’m perfectly honest! There is still the element of investigation and discovery, as we attempt to find the clues to stop the ritual while beating back a tide of endless monsters and gribblies, and there seems to be a lot of interesting stuff going on from the image of the board up there, but there’s just something holding me back. Previous games have almost been built around the narrative and storytelling of the lore, and bringing that to the fore, while this just seems to be a little more on the punch-and-run style. I’ve definitely got my eye on it, and I think I’ll aim to get in a demo at my local store (as well as finding some videos on youtube in the fullness of time!) before making a final decision…

What else have we seen from FFG?

I gave up with Armada almost as quickly as I picked it up, but I saw these being delivered at the local store and had to chuckle to myself. £165 for a “miniature”?! Blimey. Apparently the base is bigger than the deployment zone, which I find silly, but I’m sure for narrative play it is a lot of fun.


Fantasy Flight Games used to be my all-time favourite games company, with amazing games that I used to enjoy playing again and again. I suppose my own life has evolved and I don’t really have the time for huge afternoons with intricate games anymore, though I’ve also noticed that there is a marked reliance on licensed games rather than sticking with their own stuff. I suppose that’s where the mega-bucks lie, and names like Marvel and Star Wars will certainly bring in the $$$. While there is a small part of me that is sorry to see things like Terrinoth go by the wayside, it’s still cool to see the company have a presence on the scene, and they are still producing amazing products, which has always been a hallmark.

However, I just don’t seem to feel the love for these things anymore. I suppose that’s probably because Games Workshop has sort of replaced them in my heart as favourite games company – so let’s take a look at what they’ve got to offer us from GenCon 2019!

Having recently announced my intention to get into Blood Bowl, I’m really impressed with the timing of this! Lizardmen are perhaps my all-time favourite Warhammer Fantasy faction, and I had been hoping I could pick some up to start my fantasy football journey with them, but alas it was not meant to be! I’ll definitely be picking these up though, as I just love them all!

Some of these skinks do look a little bit silly, though I love that dude prancing across the centre with the sun headdress on! What’s not to love!

So the Mirrored City has been shattered by the necroquake, or something, and the various bands of adventurers have made it out to find themselves trapped within a mountain range known as the Beastgrave. Well, something like that… I’ve still never played this game, of course, but I’m not sure that I like the Beastmen warband, as cool as some of the Gor models are, and the updated Wardancers are really quite divisive, aren’t they?!

I can’t decide, so I think I might wait this one out for now.

The manager at my local store is really excited for this one, though I’m not really feeling the love, either! My first thought was, oh it’s X-Wing in the 41st millennium, but I’ve no real idea what to expect here. Much like Adeptus Titanicus, I suppose I just don’t have the pedigree behind me to want this sort of game when it is so out of whack with the rest of Games Workshop’s products. Necromunda, Blood Bowl, and all the others are at least infantry-based miniatures games, and I can get behind them in a way that titan legions or airplane squadrons just don’t excite me as much.


So far, then, I’m not doing so well out of this year’s Gen Con, am I?! Stay tuned as I update this blog over the weekend with more news and opinions – who knows, maybe I’ll find a game that I actually like the look of!!

The Tree People Project

Hey everybody!
Following my post the other day about Wood Elves and my thoughts on making a small force for Age of Sigmar. Well, that has kinda been ramped up in the last couple of days!

I’m really quite taken with the idea of putting together a combined Dark Elf and Wood Elf force, though of course how that would work remains to be seen. I suppose I’m waiting for the Cities of Sigmar book to come out before I can see how things will go down from there.

In the meantime, I’ve picked up a couple of things for the big tree force, starting with a box of Kurnoth Hunters and the Start Collecting box.

I’m thinking that the trees will be headed up with a Spirit of Durthu. It’s a beautiful model, absolutely stunning, and I’ve been wanting to get one again for a long time now.

I really love this dude, though while I originally preferred the staff, I’ve come instead to prefer the sword. Which is quite helpful, as the official painting guide for this model is for Durthu with his sword:

I am going to stick with my winter theme, though the Sylvaneth Battletome has a whole wealth of colour schemes for the “wargroves” now, and I may well take some inspiration from there.

But seriously, that sword!!

There is definitely something about the Sylvaneth that has inspired me right now. There is an element of nostalgia here, as I think back to my early days in the hobby, when I was probably equally into fantasy and 40k. I’m trying to re-capture that a little bit, I suppose, with the thought of using a number of older, Warhammer Fantasy miniatures. That’ll be where the Dark Elf side will come in, I suppose, and I’ll get to that in due course!

Sylvaneth Kunroth Hunters

For now, I’ve decided to try and get started with this project with these chaps. I want to try and complete one unit per month, and thought these guys would be suitably engaging to try my hand with it to see how far I get! With a baby on the way, I’m not sure I’ll get very far once we hit October, but until we get to that point, I suppose it’s a good way to keep motivated!

So there’s the plan! We’ll see how it pans out…

No longer Standard: Time Spiral

Hey everybody!
We’re going back in time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and another look at one of the classic sets from Magic the Gathering. Today, it’s time to return to 2006, and Time Spiral block!

Time Spiral

Time Spiral is the fortieth expansion set for Magic the Gathering, released on 6 October 2006. It is the first set in the Time Spiral block, the twelfth block set for the game. The set was notable for being the first to include a whole sub-set of cards, much like we’ve seen in recent years with Masterpieces – this time, it was a set of 121 “time-shifted” cards, which were reprints of cards from Magic’s history, using the older card frame but with a black border, and featuring a purple rarity symbol. The idea behind these cards was to represent the past invading the present, as there have been some horrible things happening to Dominaria on the whole.

Two hundred years previously, Phyrexia invaded Dominaria, but was eventually defeated, leaving the plane in ruins. It’s a thrilling tale, if a little on the bonkers side, and definitely something I’d like to feature here on the blog once I’ve managed to get my head around it! One of the important things to know is that Teferi managed to save his home by phasing it all out of reality, as you do, and has now returned to find the rest of the land a salt-sown wasteland. It’s time to get help from his fellow planeswalker Freyalise and sort things out!

Consequently, there is an element of despair to the artwork across this set. The basic lands look really quite grim and forlorn, with rotting forests and desolate plains, swamps filled with the rotting Phyrexian hulks and so on. We also get some factional warfare in the return of Rebel cards, which represent the three factions from the plane of Rath, first explored in Magic‘s third block, the Tempest block (part of the Weatherlight Saga, of which Time Spiral block is considered a continuation). Again, this is a really intriguing storyline, so I don’t want to go into it here, but suffice it to say, there is a real sense of eking out a living in the shadow of the apocalypse, something I always liken to the Midnight expansion for Runebound – while evil didn’t win on Dominaria, it was defeated at such a cost as to leave utter devastation in its wake.

Mechanically, the set gives us a massive eleven keywords, including eight returning keywords from historical sets (that time/nostalgia theme again), two brand-new keywords, and a keywording of Flash. The two new mechanics are Split Second and Suspend, two quite flavourful mechanics that seem to have become quite commonly-seen in formats like Commander, for reasons I’ll go into now.

Split Second is a keyword found predominantly on Instants and Sorcery cards that basically stops the Stack – while the card with Split Second is on the Stack, other spells cannot be played in response, though mana abilities, triggered abilities and special actions can still happen. A common way around Split Second is to un-Morph a creature such as Willbender, who can counter a spell when he is un-Morphed in this manner. It helps that Willbender was included in the set as a time-shifted card, too! Perhaps the most famous card with Split Second is Krosan Grip, though the keyword does occur in all five colours.

Suspend is a mechanic that proved confusing when it first appeared, due to timing issues of when such things could be played. Suspend is keyword that almost acts like an alternative casting cost: rather than paying the card’s mana cost, you can pay its Suspend cost and exile it with a number of time counters on it; when the final counter is removed, it is then cast. It can be confusing because cards with Suspend cover almost the entire breadth of card types, but you must be able to cast the card at the time you exile it – so you can’t Suspend a creature card in response to having to discard a card, say, unless you have an effect in play that would allow that (and Time Spiral gave players just such an effect by keywording Flash, such as with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir). Furthermore, some Suspend cards don’t actually have a mana cost, but must be cast via Suspend – they aren’t considered to be “free” to play. An example of this is perhaps one of the more notorious Suspend cards, Living End. The Professor has an example Modern deck based on this card, which you can take a look at here:

Returning keywords and mechanics were plentiful, due to the nostalgia theme. Of course, having so many keywords in a set means there’s a lot to keep track of, and I think having Storm return in the set feels like a step too far!

Time Spiral storage lands

An often-overlooked part of the set, in my mind, is the Storage Lands. These are a cycle of allied colour dual lands that can tap for colourless mana when they appear, but you can pay 1 and tap them to add a storage counter to them. In later turns, you can pay 1 and remove X counters to add X mana in any combination of the dual colours. Cumbersome, for sure, but with effects like Proliferate from subsequent sets, these lands can fit into decks where counter-manipulation is part of the strategy for a nice additional bonus.

Planar Chaos MtG

Planar Chaos was released on 2 February 2007, and brought a few more keywords to the party, including Kicker and also Vanishing, which works almost like a reverse Suspend mechanic, in that it enters the battlefield with a number of time counters on it, and when the counters have gone, it leaves. A revised Fading, a lot of these cards are creatures who have effects that trigger when they enter and leave the battlefield, which can be quite useful if you can find a way to remove tokens quickly.

There were, in addition, a subset of 45 ‘planeshifted’ cards that are meant to function as part of the set, rather than being reprints of older cards. In Planar Chaos, these cards represent an alternate-reality present rather than the past catching up with the present, and consist of colour-shifted cards – the focus here is on cards that grant a colour an ability it wouldn’t normally have, but still denoting a path the colour could have had from the beginning – perhaps the most infamous being Damnation, the black boardwipe spell. Of course, there is a link for each card to the colour they are printed in – while boardwipes are generally the province of White (and, to some extent, Blue), it does fit into the Black theme of direct removal.

Pretty much all of these cards can be considered colour-shifted reprints, such as the aforementioned Damnation (in black) for Wrath of God (in white), or Brute Force (in red) for Giant Growth (in green); colour references in some may be shifted around to fit, but broadly speaking they are direct call-backs. However, they aren’t technically reprints, but new cards. As such, these cards were considered part of the main set, and so have a more general distribution.

MTG Planeshifted Cards

These alt-reality cards are reflected in the story, where Teferi allies with the half-elf Radha and the artificer Venser to attempt to close temporal rifts that have been opening across Dominaria. In order to close the rift above Shiv, Teferi loses his Planeswalker spark, though this will later prove to be a temporary loss.

Planar Chaos also introduced a cycle of Legendary Dragons in the three enemy “wedge” colours that form something of a mirror to the cycle of Dragons from Invasion (in the allied “shard” colours). These Dragons are notable for being the only way to play Commander in these colours until Tarkir block finally went deep into the wedge colours.

Planar Chaos dragons

There’s a pretty interesting article up on Channel Fireball from earlier this year, where author Josh Silvestri describes Ravnica/Time Spiral Standard as the best Standard, though precisely how much Ravnica contributed to that decision is possibly an interesting article of its own!

At any rate, Planar Chaos was followed by the third set, Future Sight, on 4 May 2007, and in keeping with the time feel of the block, included a subset of 81 ‘future-shifted’ cards that are printed in a completely different border, and often include extremely weird mechanics. The idea behind the future-shifted cards was to represent cards that could be featured in later sets of Magic – much like Time Spiral reached into the past for its time-shifted reprints, Future Sight was reaching into the future for a glimpse of what might be to come with these “pre-prints”.

The border on these cards was one of the most controversial changes in the game, supposed to represent the possibility that the card frame might change again (as it had in 8th Edition), although Wizards have since confirmed that the Future Sight border will never actually be used. It’s almost a similar story with the plethora of keywords introduced in Future Sight. In addition to pre-existing keywords such as cycling, dredge and hellbent, we saw Lifelink, Shroud and Reach become keyworded. The fun begins, however, with the catalogue of entirely new keywords, over a dozen of them, some of which have indeed become actual keywords on cards in present-day Magic.

Delve returned in Tarkir block as the mechanic of the Sultai, allowing you to remove cards from your graveyard to help pay for a card’s cost, while Poisonous was later re-worked as Infect in Scars of Mirrodin block; these are the most successful of Future Sight‘s possible new keywords. Gravestorm (allowing you to copy a spell with Gravestorm for each time a permanent was put into a graveyard this turn), Aura Swap (allowing you to swap an aura on the battlefield for one in your hand), Fortify (equip for Land cards), Fateseal X (the “hate scry”, allowing you to look at the top X cards of your opponent’s library and put any number on the bottom) and others have not yet returned, although sometimes I think it might be fun if they did bring one of these back!

Famously, Future Sight also features a couple of cards that include references that basically had no meaning within the scope of the game at that point. Steamflogger Boss with its allure of being able to assemble contraptions is probably the one that always leaps to mind, but at the time even the famous Tarmagoyf had reminder text that referenced the still-to-come Planeswalker card type.

In the storyline, the planar rifts continue to wrack Dominaria, with Freyalise giving up her own spark and her life to close the rift linking the plane with the alternative Dominaria (the one full of Phyrexian nasties). The only solution appears to be sending Karn, the only planeswalker known to have traveled through time itself, back to stop the original rents in reality by preventing the archwizard Barrin from casting the spell that obliterated most of Tolaria back in the day, when he was attempting to prevent the Phyrexians from moving on Urza. Finally, the planeswalker Jeska arrives seeking her mentor Karn, and her anger at the situation unwittingly allows her to bring back another of Magic‘s formidable enemies, Leshrac. But that’s a story for another day…

Time Spiral block

Time Spiral block is quite fascinating to me, dealing as it does with this after-the-apocalypse sort of storyline. It forms almost a lynchpin between old Magic and new Magic – the next block was Lorwyn, which of course brought us the original five Planeswalkers that formed the basis of the new heroes and stories. Names like Teferi and Freyalise would still loom large, for sure, but now it was all to be about Jace and Liliana, Ajani and Chandra. Interestingly, Future Sight was actually supposed to feature the new Planeswalker type of card, but the set already had so much going on, and the new type of card wasn’t going to be ready in time.

There is the sense of Magic‘s history that comes out of the set which, when you look through the list of subsequent expansions, is largely quite absent. Up to this point, the game had previously had a storyline that was set on the plane of Dominaria, told through multiple sets and featuring a cast of heroes and villains that had become quite well-established, if not well-rounded. Following the new card frame in 8th Edition, the game jumped around some planes, taking in Mirrodin, Kamigawa and Ravnica before stopping off once more on Dominaria for this block, before moving off into the multiverse and exploring such amazing places as Zendikar, Innistrad, Theros and Alara. It wasn’t until the 25th anniversary of the game last year that we finally had a return to the plane, and caught up with Teferi, Jhoira and the others. It’s almost like the design team wanted to swing by the original plane just one last time before they headed off into the vast potential of new and different planes.

For that, it’s almost a bittersweet set. I really like it for the flavour, whether people think the block has any power or not. There are a whole load of interesting cards in this block, and it’s definitely worthwhile taking a look beyond the handful of cards that keep coming up time and again in Commander or Modern.

Getting Started with Blood Bowl

Hey everybody!
So after a bit of a false-start late last year, I’ve decided once again to try my hand at Blood Bowl. Well, to tell the truth, I’ve been convinced to try my hand at Blood Bowl following the news of a campaign of sorts coming sometime in October. How much of this campaign I’ll be able to take part in, I have no idea, as I’m expecting the arrival of the heir mid-month, but we shall see.

However, I’ve been trying to find out a bit about the game online, and I’ve not really found a great deal of useful information, if I’m honest. It’s also confused with the fact that some info out there is dating back to the old version of the game, and it’s unclear (to me, at least) whether the rules etc are all compatible. So I thought I’d create a sort of sub-blog here on my blog to chronicle this fine journey, as I seek to find out just what on earth I’ve let myself in for!

What is Blood Bowl?
In the game of Blood Bowl, the roar of the crowd and the chance for glory brings together players and spectators from every race in the Old World. On the pitch, tactical finesse meets wanton, brutal violence in a game where anything can happen (and often does!).

That’s how the official site puts it, and from what I’ve learnt so far, that seems to be pretty true! The game was initially produced in 1986, with rules by the legendary Jervis Johnson, and was basically a parody fusion of American Football with Rugby. There is a typically 80s over-the-top vibe from the game, with references to ridiculous violence and outlandish cheating.

Blood Bowl went through four editions up until 2000, at which point the “living rule book” concept took over with updates running through to 2009, bringing some significant changes, mostly along the lines of official teams being added to the line-up.

In 2016, Blood Bowl became the first game to be produced by the newly-established Specialist Games division. Plastic Orcs and Human teams from the starter set have been followed by all manner of classic Old World races, from Dark Elves and Undead to, most recently, Halflings and Wood Elves.

There is a lot going on with this game, it feels. I know a few people who have said it’s like no tabletop miniatures game they’ve ever played before, which is an intriguing prospect for me. I suppose one of the defining aspects of the game is the “turnover” mechanic, whereby a coach’s turn is over as soon as an action they have attempted fails.

Blood Bowl teams, as far as I can tell, have been released alongside team dice, card packs and thematic pitches, all of which were one-off releases. I find this utterly bizarre; it’s a similar situation to the Necromunda gangs, which came out with cards and dice that have since been discontinued. It feels odd to me that they wouldn’t want to keep these sorts of things in stock, and available to gamers.

I’ve picked up the Shambling Undead team to get started with, seeing as how I’m currently on a bit of an Undead kick in AoS. While I’ve managed to pick up the cards and pitch for a team that was released last winter, I’m still a bit bummed that I couldn’t get the dice. The fact that I can’t get products like the pitch, cards and dice for teams like the Dark Elves has left me thinking that I won’t bother picking that team up now. Putting aside the foibles of the collector, it’s slightly annoying that the pitches and the card packs contain additional rules for the game – rules that cannot be accessed by players coming to the game late.

It’s a rant, I know, but never mind.

There is a lot that I don’t understand about Blood Bowl, and I’m planning to be back here with updates as and when I get through playing the game!

Hobby Happiness: Mortarch of Nagash

Hey everybody!
This past weekend was a little nostalgic for me. I recently moved house, and so was trying to find the best location in which to do my hobby stuff. (For those who are interested, it happens to be the dining table, as the whole room is flooded with natural light and is awesome).

I also spent a good few days building up the amazing Mortarch of Nagash kit, which comes in the Start Collecting Skeleton Horde box, and is the third time I’ve bought this model! Back when the End Times were going on, I picked one up alongside the rest of those releases, but promptly sold it off for one reason or another… I then picked up the Start Collecting box when I had grand plans for a Tomb Kings army, but sold it off when I got rid of all of my Age of Sigmar stuff about two years ago. But having started with Nighthaunt at the beginning of this year, I’ve decided the time was finally right to build up this bad boy and make myself a Legions of Nagash army!

This model brings me immense happiness to finally have it in my collection. Sure, it’s only built, and I still need to paint it – fortunately, Arkhan isn’t actually glued in place, as I feel that would have been a silly thing to do.

The End Times
I first got into the modelling side of Warhammer in the summer of 2014 – in fact, it was five years ago today that I placed my first order on the Games Workshop website. By September of 2014, the End Times had begun, starting with the release of that awesome kit, Nagash:

Of course, I have recently picked up Nagash, as I really fancy having him as an army centrepiece (though at 800 points, I can’t see myself including him very often in an army list!) However, this blog is about the Mortarchs, specifically Arkhan the Black, who will be much simpler to slot into a list.

I just really love these models. I think I’d originally wanted to build up Neferata, because I really love her lore and think the model just looks so incredible and badass, but following my Tomb Kings experiment, I had started to look at Arkhan the Black more as my Mortarch of choice.

While a lot of people didn’t appreciate the End Times for blowing up their world, I suppose I didn’t have that level of hobby investment at the time to feel I had to burn my entire army and post the video up on youtube (well, I didn’t have an army yet, so there is that). Instead, I was kinda bowled over with excitement for how awesome these new models were, and really got quite caught up with the whole thing in a good way. As such, I always look back quite fondly on the End Times, as being the real start of my hobby adventure.

The actual End Times themselves didn’t really culminate until late spring 2015, so I still had the best part of a year to enjoy my time with Warhammer Fantasy, so I do still look back on the Old World with some nostalgia, mainly for the lore rather than the game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

The Model
Holy buckets, this model is amazing! It was a real joy to build up from start pretty much through to the finish. (Unfortunately, the reins on my model were broken on the sprue, and as this part is so small and delicate anyway, it has left them pretty much unusable. Luckily, I still plan to also have a Neferata model at some stage, so I’m thinking I’ll just use those when I come to it, as the two Mortarchs don’t share those parts).

That’s not to say it wasn’t fiddly, as there were several points during the building where I felt a little bit at sea. Also – Arkhan has a sword in its scabbard on his back, Zefet-kar, the Tomb Blade. The scabbard is part of the cloak, but the grip and pommel are a separate part. And they’re tiny! Well, at least his beard wasn’t a separate part, also.

He looks amazing, though, and the dread abyssal Razarak is actually quite sturdy and able to support its own weight really well, given that it is only held aloft on that skeletal tail-thing. Don’t get me wrong, it does wobble a little bit, but it doesn’t seem like anything is about to collapse!

Painting Plans
Now, I’m probably not about to go down the route of all that non-metallic metal on the armour that the studio has. I do want to do a deep blue scheme though, so have been considering using the new Night Lords Blue colour on his armour. I don’t know what to do about the rest of him though – in all honesty, I’ll most likely just end up following the studio scheme of pale bone and pale turquoise skulls. I do want to try out the contrast paints on him, though, so I think that might be interesting.

There’s a real presence about this model, though, and I am really looking forward to painting him up! I started painting two mortal followers of Khorne at the weekend, really because I wanted to try out the contrast paints again, but also because I want to try to get back into painting properly, and trying to get good at it. With moving house, it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve had the time to consistently sit down to paint in an effort to get better, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get back into the swing of things now, and hopefully get somewhere near “decent”!!