Friday, September 11, 2009

Wolf Claws Mathhammer

Warning! The interpretation of the tabular data below is thoroughly wrong. I'll clean it up soon enough.

With the impending release of the Space Wolves codex, a new piece of wargear has come out: Wolf Claws. After looking through a preview copy of the codex, I've confirmed the rumors on the internet. Wolf Claws are lightning claws, except that you can choose to re-roll the to hit instead of the the to wound roll, but this choice must be made at the beginning of each close combat.

Mathhammerwise, my initial thought was that you should always reroll the roll with the worst chances. I.e., if you were fighting an Avatar and needed a 5+ to hit and a 6+ to wound, you should go with rerolling the 6+. But if you were fighting a squad of aspect warriors, and you needed a 4+ to hit and a 3+ to wound, you should reroll the 4+. I wasn't sure of that, though, so I ran the numbers. And that initial intuition was wrong.

Below are the actual numbers. In the first column, you'll see the target numbers. In the second column, you'll see the chance to succeed. Third column, the chance to succeed with a reroll. And the fourth column is the important one: it's the _increase_ in likelihood with a reroll.

2+  0.83  0.97   0.14
3+  0.67  0.89   0.22
4+  0.5   0.75   0.25
5+  0.33  0.56   0.22
6+  0.17  0.31   0.14

Thus, when picking what you want to reroll, always reroll the number that's closest to 4+. If you're fighting an Avatar, reroll the 5+ to hit instead of the 6+ to wound. If you're fighting an Aspect Warrior, reroll the 4+ to hit instead of the 3+ to wound. But if you're fighting a Blood Claw (3+ to hit, 4+ to wound,) reroll the to wound instead of the to hit. Got it? Good. Because that 11% difference between a 4+ reroll and a 2+ reroll isn't insignificant over the long run.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stripping for Fun and Frugality

Articles about stripping miniatures are fairly common on the web, and one more can't hurt.. Right?

When I originally acquired my Witch Hunters army, I knew I'd have to remove the gobs of paint before I did anything with them. This resulted in me spending hours on the porch with oven cleaner, gloves, a plastic container, and a tooth brush. It sucked.

Then I decided to give Simple Green a try. I had more models to strip, it was winter, and I really didn't want to deal with noxious chemicals (or the too-small cleaning gloves) again. I purchased a spray bottle's worth from the grocery store, and the rest is history.

Below is a photo log of the stripping of four Fire Dragons purchased from eBay about a year and a half ago.

Above, you can see four Fire Dragons of the older style. The previous owner apparently used them well, as they show quite a bit of evidence of handling. Compounded with the fact that I don't field minis other people have painted (except for my Orks,) they're a prime target for the Simple Green bath.

This would be my technical setup. A used plastic multi-vitamin container, filled with enough Simple Green to cover the minis, capped with aluminum foil to prevent evaporation. The self-locking tweezers on the picture to the right are for arranging the minis to get below the surface level and to remove them without wasting Simple Green.

I usually let the miniatures soak for 24 hours before toothbrushing them, but I've had success with as little as 15 minutes (yes, minutes!), with three days being the maximum time I've used. Bare pewter does tend to lightly tarnish if exposed to Simple Green for a long period (half a day plus in my experience.)

Above, you can see the miniature immediately after removal from the Simple Green. After about 48 hours of soaking, the paint is already rubbing off just from handing it with my bare hands. Next step is some thorough scrubbing with a toothbrush, with plenty of rinsing.

Four Fire Dragons, stripped, dried, and displayed for your pleasure. You can see a little bit of tarnish on the second and fourth from the left, but it's largely cosmetic -- and something that will be invisible once the minis are finally painted. These four took about fifteen to twenty minutes of gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush.

Simple Green Pros

- Non-toxic, to both the environment and yourself. Simple Green is biodegradable, and it doesn't have the nasty habit of destroying your lungs or hands like brake fluid or oven cleaner. This means you can use it indoors, without a gas mask, and without gloves.
- Strips very, very quickly. 15 minutes will allow you to brush a large chunk of paint off of the mini, if not all of it.
- Reusable. That vitamin container of Simple Green has been filtered through a paper towel to remove sediment and topped off as the level went down, but is mostly the same as when I started stripping.
- Weakens Super Glue. If you wanted to break apart the mini for better access to nooks and krannies, this will help a little bit.
- Safe on plastics and pewter. The big three - Simple Green, brake fluid, and oven cleaner - all have a reputation of being safe on plastic and pewter, but there are strippers out there that can melt plastic.
- Cleans your sink. After stripping the minis, I generally give the sink of a quick brushing with the toothbrush. ;)

Simple Green Cons

- Can tarnish pewter. This hasn't affected my painting, but it may be offputting.
- Weakens Super Glue. If you didn't want the mini to come apart, it's going to be weaker after the stripping. Careful.
- Doesn't remove paint underneath Super Glue. If the assembler went crazy with gluing, you might have to chip away to get at the paint underneath.

In summary, I highly recommend concentrated Simple Green for general purpose 40k mini stripping.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eldar Avatar

I just started work on a new project, my Avatar. I realized that I owed it to myself to post, as the painting is getting sort of complicated.. And it would be a good idea to have a log of what I was doing for future reference.

First, some images:

From Eldar

From Eldar

From Eldar

The painting details.

- Prime black, with a Mechrite Red basecoat.

- Cracks start as Blazing Orange and work through fiery orange, Sunburst Yellow, Bad Moon Yellow, and then really hot zones get white mixed with yellow ink. The mix should be mostly white, but should have very noticeable tones of yellow. Too white ends up looking blue.

- Armor plates will start as Mechrite Red, with the edges highlighted with blazing orange (during the initial crack painting. Over this is a mix of Mechrite Red and Chaos Black. The mix should overshoot into the red compared to the end product. Badab Black wash is then applied to the plate. The edges are progressively layered and highlighted with Scab Red, Blood Red, then Blazing Orange again, and then the entire plate is covered (again!) with Badab Black.

You can see why I wanted to detail this. The armor cracks are largely just a progressive highlight, but it took some work to figure out a good coloration of the armor plate that would look hot, but be mostly black.

My opinion on the end result is that the armor plate is damned near exactly what I wanted (I'd prefer a blending approach instead of a layering approach, but I'm human,) but the cracks need to be better integrated. The white needs some colors on top, and the cracks that run into the white are too abrupt.

More updates to come later!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


From Workspace

I guess a rundown of what my workspace looks like is in order. As you can see, I don't really stick to one thing. On the 40k table, you can see some Eldar objectives in the process of being painted (using three different methods of painting,) Krieg in the process of being assembled, Sisters of Battle being stripped (above the paint tile,) and a Soul Grinder waiting for some extra spiky bits.

Out of frame are a bunch more things that I've shoved out of the "clear" space in the middle. To the right is a light and a bunch of sprues and Krieg ziploc bags. To the left are a bunch of tools, including a box of backup paints that I got in a nice little trade. And below is the plastic drawer of parts, ranging from bits and magnets to a lonely Vyper in a drawer.

One thing I've discovered about any project I pick up is that my interest in it waxes and wanes. Therefore, in order to keep on with a hobby that I like, it's best to have lots of projects going at once. Then, when I'm bored with one thing, I can easily pick up another that I haven't touched in a little while.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dire Avenger Tournament List

In the most recent 1,000 point tournament, I fielded an experimental, exceptionally fluffy Dire Avenger list. It's practically a mono-unit list, which gives it a pretty significant downside. But first, the list:

HQ: Asurmen - 230
Troops: (7) Dire Avenger Squad, Exarch w/ Bladestorm, Defend, Power Weapon & Shimmershield; Waveserpent with TL Bright Lances, Spirit Stones, and Shuriken Cannon - 296 points
Troops: (6) Dire Avenger Squad, Exarch w/ Bladestorm, Defend, Power Weapon & Shimmershield; Waveserpent with TL Bright Lances, Spirit Stones, and Shuriken Cannon - 284 points
Troops: (6) Dire Avenger Squad; Waveserpent with TL Shuriken Cannons and Shuriken Cannon - 182 points

Total: 992 Points

The purpose of the list is to be exceptionally mobile and fluffy. The two twin-linked bright lances cover heavy armor, and the shuriken cannons help for light armor. Defend and shimmer shields reduce the effectiveness of close combat armies, massed avenger shuriken catapults cover hoards, and Asurmen acts as my sole close combat unit.

The downfall of this list is heavy infantry or strong close combat units and a complete reliance on scoring units to do all of the work. Asurmen did manage to take out a unit of Chaos Space Marines + Mark of Khorne with a Slaaneshi Terminator Lord, but massed attacks and tough monstrous creatures can easily overpower him. The three Dire Avenger units have no ablative armor; once they're gone, the list has no scoring units.

In practice (so far,) the list performs relatively well. The first turn or two are usually spent positioning and firing bright lances and shuriken cannons. Later turns see Dire Avengers pouring out and spraying fire, with the Wave Serpents staying out of reach until end game objective contesting.

At the end of the day, the list is fun to play, fluffy, and somewhat competitive. I would have severe issues against the harder lists in existence, but fortunately our local gaming scene tends to be more fun than beat stick.

The list gets to face off against a Tyranid list of Warriors, a Carnifex, and lots of gaunts with Without Number. Fortunately it's an annihilation game, so I'm hoping to get a win out of it. I'll be sure to post some sort of report.

Trial and Error

One of the biggest difficulties and struggles I've found in 40k is finding tactics or units that reliably work.

When selecting what units should be used and where, I rely partially on mathematical analysis (Howling Banshees will cut down more Marines in close combat than Striking Scorpions, for example,) intuition (the above Banshees have fleet, which helps, but are very, very vulnerable to Heavy Bolters,) and fluff. Fluff and mathematical analysis are pretty clear cut1. The intuition part makes up for the lacking of mathematical analysis, and intuition has to come from some where.

As an example, I've seen people poopoo a unit because it failed them miserably in the first game or two they used it. 40k has a huge chance element. Ignoring this when deciding which unit to use can be somewhat presumptive, as your dice might have been treating you badly (or whatever the luck phrase of choice is.)

My basic point is this: in order to truly grasp the effectiveness of a unit, it needs to be tried in different combinations and multiple times. Any other decision might be made in haste, ignoring potentially great tactics. This means you'll have to grind through many games in many situations, some familiar, some not, and pay close attention to how a unit performed.

Get cracking!

1Okay, mathematical analysis can be as murky as you wish to make it. Operations research commands it's own topic of math, and I've yet to look into it and bring it to bear on 40k. Perhaps I should.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Break from Photos

My original plan for this blog was to have lots and lots of pictures posted. Unfortunately my camera finally died yesterday, so that idea is going to have to wait until I can select and purchase an entry-level DSLR.

I'll likely post some favored list choices and mathhammer in the meantime. Grab your pants - the theory is about to start flying!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tournament Stupidity

Today I participated in most of a tournament (Rogue Trader Style,) so I got to throw down my Eldar in a tournament with some new armies. My list was a fluffy three Dire Avengers squads and Asurmen, all flying around in Waveserpents (992 points.) The goal was to use the Waveserpents as objective contesters and anti-tank (two had twin-linked Bright Lances, one with twin-linked Shuriken Cannons, all with underslung Shuriken Cannons and Spirit Stones,) Asurmen as the close-combat dealy, and the Dire Avenger squads as tar pits and overwhelming fire.

The first game was a win by only a point, as I only had one scoring unit, while the second game was a nearly draw, since my gracious opponent allowed me to take back declaring a charge against a unit of genestealers and allowing it to rally. Of course, if I had remembered the squad of Dire Avengers in a Waveserpent, I probably would have pulled out another win.

Unfortunately snow had been building up, so we were discussing postponing the last game when the power went out. After a judging of paint jobs in the light from the double doors, we all packed up and braved the treacherous drivers on the less treacherous roads.

Things I learned:

  • Asurmen can kick the crap out of the opponent in close combat, even without support.

  • DON'T FORGET UNITS. It was suggested that I use Epic 40k vehicles and squads on the side of the board to represent who is where. Given that I want to get into Epic anyways, I'm probably going to give in to the temptation.

  • A triple Waveserpent list isn't terrible. Even against close combaty lists like a Genestealer list and Khorne Beserkers I was able to fight to a very close loss or win.

  • The downside of the list is the softness of my few scoring units. I usually run very infantry heavy lists, so it's difficult for me to deal with having my squishy, small scoring units be all that I have.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Army Collection

To kick off the overload of minutia, a general overview is necessary. Back when I first started the hobby, I purchased the second edition starter box, containing a load of snap-together Orks and Space Marines. My friend and I played a few long games with a sparse understanding of the rules, then moved on to a different hobby (role-playing games.) Since Space Marines were in big suits of armor and far more high-tech than Orks, that was my choice - but as Space Wolves, at least in paint scheme.

From Space Wolves

After I stopped playing the game in seventh grade, the Space Wolves languished in a box until I came to Athens for college. Then they came back out in force, where I lost or fought to a draw every game I could get my hands on. I was terrible with the Space Wolves, a fact which I blame completely on their style of play. And their baby blue paint job. The Space Wolves gave way to a 13th Company list, which I was nearly undefeated.

From Daemon Hunters

During the later years of the Space Wolves reign of failure, I started mixing in Daemon Hunters, mainly because the minis looked awesome. They are, unfortunately, very difficult to use - so they too were set aside. The Grey Knights were a blast to paint, mainly because I did it well (a fact that I had to have hammered into my head -- I thought I was simply doing a mediocre job with my typical anal retentiveness.) In the end, I traded the Grey Knights that that I had collected, about two squads, to my roommate for minis in my next army.

From Eldar

After much debate and gnashing of teeth, I finally broke down and purchased the Mega Army Box for one of the most beautiful armies in 40k: the Eldar. The concept way Biel-tan, an exceptionally viable list in Fourth Edition, and I rapidly expanded my collection, aiming for at least one force organization chart choice of every unit in the army book. Since the Eldar have a huge number of unit choices, I currently have well over 6,000 points and more than two large Games Workshop army cases full of the minis. As mentioned above, I was semi-commissioned to finish off my twelve Daemon Hunters in exchange for a squad of Wraithguard and Eldrad.

While my Eldar were growing by leaps and bounds, my Space Wolves were sitting in a closet, taking up precious shelf space. I eventually traded them for a bunch Sisters of Battle and Cadians, something I had wanted to do for a while. The Sisters are currently being stripped of their paint. Since this process is new to me, it's apparently taking about a year to do. The Sisters, however, have definitely been moved to the back burner. Using oven cleaner (as opposed to the newly discovered Simple Green) as a paint stripper was a pain, but I also didn't have much of my next army until recently, which will be a wonderful ally.

Also during the Eldar expansion, I was semi-commissioned to paint a friend's squad of Space Marines in exchange for a squad of Death Korps of Krieg (DKoK). DKoK miniatures are positively beautiful, so this was something I had no ability to turn down. That squad led to more squads and more tanks, so I currently have over 1,000 points of DKoK in various stages of assembly, none of which are in any stage of painting.

Given the armies I had up to this point, it would appear that the Races of Order were my preferred choice, which is quite true. Until the Chaos Daemons came out. Originally designed as a bridge into Warhammer Fantasy (a plan which failed due to simply not liking the game,) I've collected Daemons through purchasing and trading and now have a decent army of all four Chaos Gods. Now with a bit over 2,000 points in a competitive format, my Daemon army is stable.. Until I start focusing in again. There are definitely interesting units out there whose siren call I won't be able to resist in the long run.

And in a recent development, I've fallen for another Army of Disorder. Through a series of backroom, shady deals (it was at a swap meet, which was actually in the backroom of Classic City Comics and Games - not much shade, though,) and some sly haggling, I've acquired a sizeable Ork army. The number of miniatures required to make a decently fluffy Ork list, the sloppyish paint job required, and the haphazard tactics have somewhat pushed me away from the Orks, but sometimes a deal comes along that you can't resist - particularly when it's prepainted.

So, there you have it: a long history of my 40k collection. I've traded and bartered my way out of a Space Marine background, and I currently own Eldar, Sisters of Battle, Death Korps of Krieg, Chaos Daemons, and Orks. While I enjoy it, my hobbying moves at a snails pace -- but I'll be sure to make it look a lot faster by posting far too many pictures.

Introduction to Overload

I'm NegativeK, a Warhammer 40K player at a Classic City Comics and Games in Athens, Georgia.

I got into 40k back in 1996-1997, fell out when I realized how expensive it was, and got back in around 2003/2004. Since then, I've grown quite a collection of stuff, most of which is unpainted (but assembled!) This blog will be a way of keeping track of my hobby, be it too many pictures of assembling and painting, or battle reports and notes to myself on how to play the game.

And note that I really do mean excessive pictures. If I keep this blog going, I expect to have photo records of how I do most things, be it putting the banner pole on, ways of creating Green Stuff Bases, to stripping minis. Hold on, and I apologize if you're not on broadband.