Who Shall Lead? Part Five: Space Marine Captains

The Fifth Edition Codex: Space Marines changes the way a 40K player chooses the heroic characters who will lead his army. The previous editions' multi-level Independent Character options and near-limitless choices of Wargear from the Armoury are no more; instead, the new Codex presents an unprecedented number and variety of pre-constructed Special Characters—then encourages players to pick the one whose gear or abilities most suits that player's preferences, and use him as a 'template,' over which the player can lay his own Chapter's names, colours, history and background. And amongst the Special Characters available as HQ choices, nowhere are the options more varied than amongst the HQ type the new Codex *clearly* intends as the leader-of-choice for most V5 armies -- Space Marine Captains. Where other HQ choices have had their statistic lines bumped down a bit, Captains are actually stouter than in previous editions; and the Codex presents a total of five Captain Special Character types, plus the generic-build entry--more than the other four HQ options combined.

Which Captain suits what army-build/playing-style best?

SICARIUS: The Ultramarines representative feels the most like a traditional Space Marine Captain, from previous editions--only jumped-up on steroids. He brings army-wide Leadership, confers to another squad the ability to retain one of the Veteran Skills which might have characterized them in previous editions, and is awesome in assault against the foe. Sicarius weighs in with the Mantle of the Suzerain, a suit of Artificer Armour reducing his Save statistic to 2+ *and* adding the Feel No Pain special rule to his Iron Halo 4+ Invulnerable Save--making Captain Sicarius one of the most survivable characters in the game (though he remains vulnerable to the Instant Kill *if* an opponent can fight through all those saves with a Strength 8 or higher attack, just once).

His armament of plasma pistol and Talassarian Tempest Blade complement his survivability by making him one of the most fearsome close combatants in the ranks of the Adeptus Astartes; the Blade's ability to forego all Sicarius' attacks in favour of a single strike which will Instant Kill anything it wounds is an awesome odds-evener in these days of daemonic and monstrous creatures immune to such a fate, even from Force weapons, and grabs one's attention for considering Sicarius as a monster-killer--but wielded simply as a power blade with Sicarius' Weapon Skill of 6 and four attacks (five on the charge, plus the inbound plasma shot) makes Sicarius most formidable as a rank-and-file opponent slayer...doubly so, since his own vulnerability to being Insta-Killed is lessened against most such opposition.

Sicarius adds the Surprise Attack special rule allowing his side to reroll their attempt to seize initiative, the Rites of Battle special rule conferring his Leadership to the entire army for Morale or Pinning tests, and--most significantly--Battle-forged Heroes, which allows a player fielding Sicarius to give one Tactical squad a Veteran Skill upgrade. Those missing the previous edition's Traits system should give Captain Sicarius a long look as the template choice for their army commander based on this special rule alone: granted, it affects only a single Tac squad, but being able to carry over some ability which characterized your previous era army could be a big deal, toward retaining your sense of that force's identity in this new age. Against such positives, the only downside to choosing Sicarius is his cost: at 200 points, only the Terminator-armoured Imperial Fist Lysander is as expensive as Sicarius, among the five template characters presented in the new codex. For those points, however, Captain Sicarius will provide players one of the most familiar, most potent, most threatening and most survivable leaders available to a Space Marine army--and grant them a measure of their former identity, in the doing.

LYSANDER: the Captain of the Imperial Fists is as expensive as Sicarius--and even more survivable. The only issue with choosing Darnath Lysander as a template for your own force leader is that his special rules conflict with each other, in dictating his best battlefield role--making it difficult to get maximum effect from everything he can do.

Lysander is equipped to lead from the front, in hand-to-hand combat: he has Terminator Armour and a Storm Shield for a 2+/3+ set of Saves, and the mighty Thunder Hammer Fist of Dorn--mastercrafted, striking at Strength 10, with a +1 to the result roll on the Vehicle Damage Table. Add his ability to make units in his army Stubborn and the enormously impactful Eternal Warrior, and Lysander has the special rules to increase his assault effectiveness. Much moreso than Sicarius, Darnath Lysander is a serious vehicle- and monster-killing character template.

However, perhaps his most interesting rules are best used if Lysander is held back from close combat. He can Bolster Defences like a Techmarine (an artifact of his Legion's legendary seige expertise, doubtless)--and if he joins a squad any included model may reroll 'to hit' rolls with bolt weapons, courtesy of his Bolter Drill special rule. Imagine a Heavy Bolter Devastator squad fighting from an entrenched position with Lysander amongst them: horde armies beware!

But a player choosing to field him this way is foregoing Lysander's essential assaultiness (because he wields Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield, the master of bolter discipline hasn't even a gun of his own to fire); and a player who wades into the enemy with Lysander surrenders the shooting benefit he could bring to a ranged-combat-oriented squad.

The closest thing to a happy medium, of course, would be to place Lysander in the company of his fellow Terminators, who with Storm Bolter and Power Fist as standard weapons suffer some of the same cost penalty for being good at everything that Lysander does. His Bolter Drill will make their Storm Bolters even more effective, and he will certainly increase their impact come the assault. Sadly, none of the heavies available to Terminators are Bolter weapons...leaving such a unit likely to be either shooting ineffectively with small arms fire at vehicles or monsters worthy of their Hammers and Fists, or using the latter in massive overkill assaults on hordes as follow-up to their fire volley.

One tactical use for Lysander which should see some play is as a counter-assault unit for shooting-oriented Space Marine players bedeviled by infiltrating, outflanking or other 'sneak up from behind' opposing army builds. Lysander directing fire from that aforementioned entrenched Heavy Bolter squad--then detaching to deal with Space Wolf scouts intent on ruining a gun line's day, should prove more than reasonably entertaining for the player leading with the Terminator Captain of the Imperial Fists.

And at the end of the day, Lysander is the only option, other than a generic build, for a Space Marine Captain in Tactical Dreadnought Armour. For Terminator afficionados, that alone will be reason enough to field him.

Lysander is good, make no mistake; his rules just make him so expensive it will be difficult to consistently maximize that effectiveness, for such cost.

SHRIKE: The Captain of the Raven Guard suffers no 'mission diffusion' contradictions in his equipment or special rules; Shrike is the template for the player looking to have his commander lead the proverbial mobile infantry assault--and lead from the front.

With jump pack and master-crafted, Rending twin lightning claws, Shrike is equipped to get to the fight with immediacy and to make an impact once there, with an Iron Halo Invulnerable Save to provide him staying power. His special rules confer Infiltration to himself and any unit in his squad (now doubly-useful in V5 with the outflank option), and his Chapter Tactics rule exchanges the standard Space Marine Combat Tactics for Fleet--a huge bonus for assault-oriented armies.

Shrike is expensive at 195 points--but the closest similarly equipped Captain built from the generic Codex entry is only going to be 40 points less without master-crafting, Rending or Shrike's Infiltrating and Fleet special bonuses. Using those latter two rules effectively can be tricky for some players, who might find merit in building the less-expensive version...but for most players looking for their HQ choice to be a swift and deadly combat machine, leading an elite, highly-mobile group of similarly motivated units, Kayvaan Shrike is the strongest Captain template candidate. He will not be an answer against opposing vehicles or monsters, as a choice like Lysander would be--but let Shrike get in amongst opposing infantry, with a Fleeting assault-oriented army at his heels, and he will undo many a foe.

Shrike's only real disadvantage is a codex limitation, rather than any flaw in his character entry: he cannot be backed up by the best close-combat Space Marines available. Neither the Command Squad entry nor the Honour Guard (should a player really wish to make a powerhouse unit and join Shrike to a jump-packing Chapter Master) allow for upgrading to jump packs at this time, and Vanguard Veterans give up their Heroic Intervention special rule if joined by an independent character. That leaves Shrike leading a standard Space Marine Assault squad, and said unit's lack of access to additional power weaponry has always made them an inferior choice to most opposing armies' assault specialists. They therefore will simply not provide Shrike the maximum backup effect possible (though a sergeant with a power weapon, power fist, thunder hammer or combat shield--or a pair of lightning claws of his own!--leading them will go a long way, as an equalizer...and having Shrike amongst them, granting them outflank to hit what they want and Fleet to get the charge, will still make them an effective choice).

VULKAN: There has been much renewed interest in the Salamanders, with the release of the new Space Marine Codex. Forgefather Vulkan He'stan is why.

If there is a reason the other outstanding Captain templates are not being universally embraced by players, it is probably because Vulkan is even better--and for several points less. Vulkan is as or even more survivable than the other Special Characters (possible save the ultimate tank Lysander), his relic weapon provides increased effectiveness against vehicles and monsters (the kind of things a Space Marine Captain *should* be destroying, in many players' minds)...and Vulkan's Chapter Tactic special rule is an absolute deal-closer: master-crafting *every* Thunder Hammer in his army, and twinlinking every flamer and melta weapon type, is just enormously combat effective.

It is difficult to find fault with Vulkan: a 2+ artificer armour Save, which he will rarely have to take because he also has a *3+* Invulnerable Save from his dragon-scaled Kesare's Mantle; a Strength 6 master-crafted power halberd as his melée weapon (with digital weapons to make *sure* when it hits, it hurts) and the equivalent of a squad heavy weapon in his Gauntlet for a sidearm; and a Chapter Tactic which is both obvious in the benefits it confers yet does not ram a specific play style down a choosing player's throat. The only real issue a player will have to address (if not playing Salamanders and using Vulkan *as* Vulkan) will be working out a background for his templated version which explains all the character's 'wonderful toys' without being boringly derivative...and frankly, that kind of challenge is part of the fun of a DIY chapter.

Vulkan being so iremediably Salamanderish *will* deter some players from choosing him, nonetheless; and the specific virtues of the various other HQ character template options will have their adherents; but barring either, Vulkan is going to find his way tocommand of many new fifth edition Space Marine armies--painted green and breathing fire or not.

He is that good.

KHAN: Kor'sarro Khan may prove to be one of the least-used Captain templates in the new Codex; that is understandable given the other options available, and given that what he specializes in is a difficult army construct for Space Marines to excel--but also unfortunate, because he does what he does with a maximum of 'cool' and a very reasonable minimum of points.

Khan can be fielded in two versions: with or without his special relic bike Moondrakkan. The bike option is the construct which seems to be what causes most players to consider Khan, and that makes sense: it is characterful (he is a White Scars special character) and at only 10 points more than the cost of an ordinary Space Marine Bike for a generically-built Captain, Moondrakkan confers to Khan extra movement (he can Run instead of Shooting) and the ability to Assault at the end of that extra movement (via Fleet). These are outstanding benefits for the cost, and anyone considering a bike-themed Space Marine army would be well-advised to lead it with Khan on Moondrakkan--but it does increase his total cost to 205 points (translating him from the most economical Special Character Space Marine Captain to the most expensive), and perhaps most importantly, it does not at present confer the ability to Run or Fleet to any squad Khan might be attached to/leading...which means, to benefit from Moondrakkan's special rule to maximum effect, Khan is going to have to ride alone. While his movement will likely be so flexible he should still be able to combine charges with other supporting units most of the time, this *is* still an extra complication for a fielding player; and more importantly, not belonging to a unit leaves Khan vulnerable to the character-assassinating machinations of one's opponent.

A more appealing option, though less obvious, is Khan on foot, without Moondrakkan. In this configuration, Khan is only 160 points, but retains all of his equipment and special rules except Fleet. That means he and any unit he joins may still Hit and Run and Furious Charge, and Khan still wields the mighty power sword Moonfang, which causes Instant Death on any To Wound roll of 6, regardless of an opponent's Toughness. All this, and under Khan's leadership all squads in his army which possessed Combat Tactics exchange them for the ability to outflank--including squads in dedicated transports! Those are exceptional, completely army-changing special rules, for 45 points more than an similarly-equipped generic-build Captain. They won't be for every player--in which case, 45 points saved is a not-inconsiderable sum--but for a mobility-based Space Marine army, Kor'sarro Khan is the Captain of choice...astride his bike, or not.

SPACE MARINE CAPTAIN: As with the other HQ options in the new Codex, there is still a place for a custom-built Captain. A player can build a Terminator-armoured or bike-riding Captain with different weapons fit-out and at a significantly-reduced cost from either Lysander or Khan, or one with a jump pack for less than Shrike; a Captain on foot with no more addition than an exchange of his chainsword for a power weapon is still frightfully effective, and only 115 points--130, if upgraded to artificer armour--and of course a player wishing to field a particularly-equipped model (twin lightning claws, as in Sicarius' previous incarnation, spring to mind) fortunately still has this route to go to. At the end of the day, a Captain built from the generic listing is going to be the choice for the player of predominantly shooty armies, both because the template characters all have a close-combat focus and because it is simply more cost-effective, as the points-saved translate to more firepower. Any player considering a 'lead from the front' kind of Space Marine Captain would do well to look at the five Special Characters, and see if any of the bonuses they bring to the table mesh with what the player intends; the bang-for-the-buck difference is considerable.


Who Shall Lead? Part Four: Masters of the Forge

Techmarines have filled the most bewildering variety of character roles in Space Marine armies throughout the game's editions—from independent single-Wound gadabouts to Command Squad-upgrade only unit components to Elite choices improvable to HQs under certain conditions—but in 40K V5, they are more diverse than ever, available as Elite options, leading units of mechano-organic servitors, as Heavy Support choices, manning awesome Thunderfire Cannons...and as an alternate army-commanding HQ choice, in the form of the new codex's Master of the Forge (in fact, it would be possible under this codex to field *eight* Techmarines in one Force Org, an escalation of the type's versatility never before achievable...and one I expect to face on a tabletop very soon *if* I don't get there first!).

The Master of the Forge is envisioned as a Chapter's most senior representative of the Cult of the Omnissiah and the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars. As such, he has access to gear available to no other Space Marine. A Master is similar to the other support HQ options—the Chaplain and Librarian—in points cost and limited stat line, but his options arguably make him more viable than either as a single or lead HQ character...and the conversion and design ideas which occur around the concept of a Techmarine-led army certainly inspire!

There are disadvantages to the choice, of course, and the most obvious in the context of this article series is that there is *no* Master of the Forge special character template in the codex, to give players an alternative to building one from the generic listing. It would have been interesting to have seen an Iron Hands Iron Father or Mentor Legion Forge Master special character, or to have seen Forgefather Vulkan He'Stan built from the Master of the Forge template instead of the Space Marine Captain...but absent such missed opportunities, a hobbyist seeking a Master to lead his tabletop force must turn to the generic listing.

Here there are build disadvantages, as well, some of them glaring. The Master of the Forge has no basic close combat weapon. He has no access to any kind of Invulnerable Save; he cannot even take Terminator Armour or a Storm Shield as wargear. He can be equipped with a bike, but a jump pack is not an option for him. And while his stat line is improved from the Librarian and Chaplain in two areas—a superior Ballistic Skill and an Artificer Armour Save of 2+—his Weapon Skill is reduced to Space Marine standard, in trade.

Those concerns addressed, however, the positives a Master of the Forge offers are many. His excellent base save has already been noted, courtesy of his Artificer Armour; add to that the wondrous bag of kit which is the Servo-harness (two additional power fist attacks, a flamer and the twin-linked plasma-pistol plasma-cutter, both of which he can fire in each shooting phase) and the Master of the Forge is extremely well-armed for his 100 point cost. It gets better when his special rules are considered: the Master is still a Techmarine, and so may repair damaged vehicles due to his Blessing of the Omnissiah, and is likewise able to Bolster Defenses, reinforcing the Cover Save of a single specified piece of ruin terrain by +1. Often lost because it is not mentioned in his narrative page in the front of the codex, but rather only in a small-text box in his later Army List entry, is a third Master of the Forge special ability: as Lord of the Armoury, any Master included in a Space Marine army gives the player the option of taking Dreadnoughts of *any* variant as Heavy Support choices, as well as Elite choices (intrigued by the earlier mention of an eight-Techmarine army? How about a six Dreadnought force, instead...). That is a tremendous amount of value for 100 points; investing in a power weapon (it says 'power sword' in the entry, but given how long Techmarines have been carrying power axes as their traditional weapon in the 40K universe, I don't think that needs be literal) is almost mandatory—and a good value for the 15 extra points—and adding digital weapons for another 10 will offset the reduced Weapon Skill somewhat, but a player is still getting a very versatile HQ choice for a comparative points bargain.

The only question becomes how best to use the Master, in this configuration. He is extremely potent at shooting, with that high Ballistic Skill and the ability to fire two weapons a turn, one of them twin-linked...but all of those weapons are comparatively short ranged, meaning involvement in an assault is almost inevitable, if he closes to use them most effectively. With a bolt pistol, a power weapon (or even a Thunder Hammer) and digital weapons purchased, he is not ineffective at close combat—in fact, with those two Servo-harness power fist attacks added, he is downright scary on the offensive—but should he come up against power weapon, or fist-wielding opponents (or the equivalent, like Monstrous Creatures, against which his own fists would be most effective), his lack of an Invulnerable Save will make him terribly fragile. V5 makes managing close-range firefights more possible than in previous editions, in the hands of a skilled player...but it is still a truism that once models get close enough to do the kind of shooting the Master excels at, a determined opponent will almost always be able to get to grips with them.

Fortunately, the Master's economic points price means that losing one in such a fist fight needn't be an army back breaker. It might even allow a player to afford a second HQ choice...such as Librarian, joined to a unit with the Master, and providing a measure of invulnerable protection to them all on the advance, via the Force Dome psychic discipline....

There is an alternative kit-out option for the Master of the Forge, however, which alters his focus completely, and which makes him an especially attractive HQ option for a player building a ranged-combat-intensive Space Marine army. That is the Master equipped with a Conversion Beamer.

Old disciples of the hobby, who have seen bits of marginal lore and arguably goofball equipment come and go throughout the game's five (plus) iterations, love it when something ancient and seemingly long-forgotten reappears in a new edition. So it is with the Rogue Trader era Conversion Beamer, an 'arcane mechanical relic' which certain Masters of the Forge will draw from their army to unleash hell upon the foe, if the circumstances ever become sufficiently dire. The addition of the Conversion Beamer option to the Master's list allows a player to drop all of his other shooting weapons in favor of manning one of these pre-Heresy artifacts—and very nicely streamlines the Master of the Forge's tabletop play focus, in the doing. A Master with a Conversion Beamer is most effective at distance; he will therefore be deployed well back from the assault front, ideally in cover (where his Bolster Defenses special rule will become doubly important) but with good fields of fire. And his mission will be to shoot; if he is doing anything else through the 5-7 turns of the game, things are probably not going well for his army. That means that, other than the extra 20 points it costs to switch out his Servo-harness and side- or shoulder-arm for the Beamer, a player need consider investing no more points in his Master of the Forge, not even for a close combat implement—as noted, if he is fighting, things have gone pear-shaped for the plan. The place such a 120 point HQ character would have in a shooting-oriented army is obvious, and especially as it leaves that many more points to devote to more guns, should become a very common choice to lead such a design. It bears consideration for other army builds, as well, however: such a Master could provide the core of a very effective fire base for a hammer-and-anvil style movement-themed army, especially as a secondary HQ behind a combat-monster dropping the hammer, and might prove economical enough to lead a small cover-fire/counter-fire element in a mostly assault-oriented force. In terms of efficiency and effectiveness, it is one of the most narrowly-focused Independent Character options in the game.

(I should address the one mini-controversy about this Master of the Forge build which has [as of this writing] not been officially errata'd by the Studio, and that is whether or not a Master which switches his Servo-harness for a Conversion Beamer is left with nothing, or is—as the Techmarine on which he is based would be—reduced to the default Servo-arm, which would leave him with one power fist equivalent close combat attack while he manned the Beamer: from a background standpoint, I cannot imagine any Techmarine, especially the highest-ranking, leaving for the field without some version of his tools of office; and he does retain the Blessing of the Omnissiah special rule even if he kits with the Beamer. So for friendly games, and in fact any game in which an opponent asks me, I allow him to default to the Servo-arm...but for competitive or tournament games, including any I neutrally adjudicate, I would have to rule in favor of any opponent who objects presently, as nowhere in the relevant listings does it specify subtracting the Servo-harness from the Master defaults to a Servo-arm. I suspect we will know for sure when the Conversion Beamer-armed miniature is released :)

Who Shall Lead? Part Three: Librarians

Of all the Hero choices available to a Space Marine player to lead his Chapter into tabletop combat, none have changed so much, through five editions of the game, as their dedicated psykers, the Space Marine Librarians. In V2, the avowed era of the 'super character,' arguably no Hero rivaled the Librarian, whose statistics at the ultimate level of Chief Librarian were the equal of any in the game, whose choices of Wargear cards included some of the best of all possible options, and who had an entire game play phase—the long-gone Psychic phase&mdashentirely to themselves; V3 shattered that, reducing Librarians to under-statted, over-costed HQ lightweights with almost-nonexistent Psychic powers whose wargear was even more overpriced than they were—you never saw Librarians in V3 Space Marine armies unless the player was simply an inveterate aficionado from a background standpoint, and even then their most characterful gear stayed in the Armoury. V4 attempted to remedy this vivisection with some success, returning some psychic disciplines, making essential gear like Psychic Hoods and Force Weapons standard equipment (at a more reasonable price break) and generally restoring the Librarian's battlefield puissance sufficiently to see their occasional return as an HQ choice in some armies.

Librarians in V5 represent both a further advance in such improvements *and* a step back toward previous diminishments.

On the positive front, Librarians continue to have both essential, characterful bits of wargear standard—the Psychic Hood and the Force Weapon—and even more positively, now have the best selection of psychic powers available since the halcyon days of Second Edition.

Unfortunately, both the Psychic Hood and Force Weapon are less worthwhile in V5 than they have ever been, and Librarians are more vulnerable to self-inflicted damage from using those multiple power options than they have been since V2's days of the dreaded Daemonic Attack card draw. *And* they suffer the same reduced stat line which afflicts Chaplains (see part two).

One wonders why the evident pervasive distaste for psykers in the Design Studio: Psychic Hoods now only defend out to 24" away from the possessing Librarian—a real problem against back-of-the-table-behind-terrain lurking Eldar, especially given the Librarian's increased vulnerability should he choose to lead from the front (about which more below)—and Librarians who suffer a Perils of the Warp wound are now the *only* instance in the game I can think of where a protective Invulnerable Save must be rolled *twice* to be effective (when a Librarian has access to an Invulnerable Save at all, which is more limited than it used to be). Worst of all is the fate of the Force Weapon: this once-great equalizer, which could throw fear into any opponent with its ability to summon the ferocity of the Warp into a Librarian's hands and potentially defeat even the mightiest multi-Wound enemy, was chiefly and specifically designed to battle the monstrous manifestations of that same Warp: Chaos Daemons. Now, any model which is immune to Instant Death from high strength weapons is also immune to Force Weapons...and of course that includes *all* Daemons, courtesy of their new Codex.

Without digressing into a rant about any or all of this, which given my passion for Librarians I could pretty obviously do :), a player considering taking a Librarian as an HQ choice needs to recognize these inherent limitations to one's effectiveness. They mean that, for all their increased psychic options, in V5 as the two editions previous to it Librarians will appear on tabletops far less often than the other choices available, except in three circumstances: as a secondary supporting HQ for a dominant army commander (like a Chapter Master, see part one), as a multitasking HQ option for a very experienced player who likes to win by making other aspects of his army perform to maximum effectiveness...and, as always, because some players simply like them, and the aspects of the 40K background they represent, too much not to use them.


As with Chaplains, the new Codex: Space Marines provides only one Special Character template for Librarians. Tigurius is a character with a long history in the game; he is a good choice for inclusion not just because of that nod to his long history, and not just because of the Codex's intentional Ultramarine emphasis, but because the Librarians' downrated statistics do not measurably impact him as he has never been an over-the-top combat machine. In fact Tigurius has stats identical to those of a generic Librarian, offering no variety there—but he has always had two of the potentially coolest pieces of wargear in the game, and both are well-represented by this new incarnation: the Hood of Hellfire is a Psychic Hood allowing Tigurius to use an extra third power each turn, and the Rod of Tigurius is a mastercrafted Force Rod. Tigurius adds two special rules: Master Psyker means he knows *all* the V5 psychic powers (uprating the Hellfire Hood's special rule significantly, as knowing them all means there will be a high likelihood of getting three good opportunities to do something psychically each turn) and Gift of Prescience allows a player fielding Tigurius to re-roll any Reserve rolls each turn—including, if he chooses, successful ones.

All of which means for 80 points more than the closest similarly equipped generic Epistolary, you get access to all powers, the use of one extra each turn, re-rolls on your Reserves, and a single rerolled missed 'to hit' roll.

Is templating your Librarian from Tigurius worth that? Although it is less a no-brainer than choosing virtually any of the other Special Character templates for their obvious advantages, I think it *could* be worth doing—depending on the kind of player you are, and how you intend to use him.

Tigurius will appeal to the player of 'jack of all trades' type Space Marine armies. His Reserve re-rolls will allow such a player to always have the unit he needs available when and where he wants it, and his multiple-times-a-turn access to every kind of psychic power will give such a player the most possible movement, shooting and close combat options. Tigurius will improve the on-table efficiency of highly mobile, Terminator-heavy, or Tactical Squad dominated Space Marine armies...and will confound opponents confident of beating Space Marines because they've seen every trick in the Codex Astartes.

The problem with using Tigurius effectively in this manner is threefold:

  1. Most simply, a player intending this approach has to know his rules, and be able to both think multiple turns ahead and stay focused on the given mission's objectives
  2. Tigurius' 230 point cost is a chunk, and will take some of the assets the player intends to use with the Chief Librarian's abilities away—the classic catch-22
  3. Tigurius' limited statline, lack of Invulnerable Save and 2—and only 2—Wounds means he cannot wade into the opponent's costliest unit and swing his way to earning his points back, as most Space Marine characters (certainly those costing over 200 points!) are generally expected to do

Especially in an era where many secondary missions award extra victory points for assassinating an opposing army commander, Tigurius is a precarious HQ choice, his cost not even considered.

Tigurius' optimal role is probably as a second HQ choice, acting as an adviser to a more 'lead from the front' sort of character who could take on the role of army commander; that would allow his fielding player to avoid exposing him to the hazards of the front line, and use his supporting abilities to maximum effectiveness. Unfortunately, Tigurius' cost is so prohibitive he is only likely to see such use in Apocalypse-scale battles...but a player of Space Marines emphasizing shooting or movement would do well to weigh how he might fit into their scheme, even at lower points totals.


Even moreso than in the case of the Chaplain, building an HQ choice from the basic Librarian option is attractive. The current codex clearly envisions Librarians as support options for another, primary HQ choice, and in such case economy of points matters; choosing the generic Librarian without any upgrades provides everything a hobbyist might seek in such a role, as the Psychic Hood and Force Weapon come standard, including access to one psyker power, for 100 points. The only 'essential' missing is any kind of Invulnerable Save...but the only way any Librarian *can* add that is to switch to Terminator armour (not an unreasonable investment at 25 points, or 40 with a Storm Shield, but with all the limitations inherent in opting for Tactical Dreadnought Armour, and still a significant points upgrade) or use the psychic power slot on Force Dome. That *isn't* a bad power...but for a basic Codicier-level Librarian, it becomes his only one—and upgrading to an Epistolary to get a second is 50 more points. I don't anticipate seeing a lot of Epistolaries on tables, unless a player opts to make a Librarian their primary HQ choice...and in such case, even if they tool him up with Terminator Armour and Storm Shield and devote his two psychic power slots to other purposes, they will be facing some of the same limitations using Tigurius presents—a lot of points wrapped up in a limited stat line—at nearly the same cost but without Tigurius' myriad special effects (though at least you could afford him the Invulnerable Save through wargear which Tigurius lacks).

Fortunately, for those of us with longstanding respect for aspects of the 40Kverse Librarians replicate on the tabletop battlefield better than any other, some will still try...

Who Shall Lead? Part Two: Chaplains

From the advent of the third edition of Warhammer 40,000 in 1998, the field leader of choice for Space Marine armies has been the Chaplain: standard-equipped with both an armour-negating power weapon (in his Crozius Arcanum) and invulnerable save (in his Rosarius)—the first purchases other HQ choice Characters regularly made from the Armoury—a Chaplain rarely required more than the investment of another point for a bolt pistol and he was ready to lead on the tabletop...and lead from the front!

40K V5 adds some extra considerations and caveats to that general principle—not least of which, the 'powering down' of the basic stat line suffered by both Chaplains and Librarians in this new edition—but Chaplains remain an excellent HQ choice nevertheless, especially for beginning players or players looking to keep their Character/HQ expenditures to a minimum, in favor of other unit choices.


The new Codex: Space Marines provides only one Special Character Chaplain template—but it is a good one: for only ten points more than the cost of the closest similarly-equipped generic Chaplain build, the Cassius template gives a player the Infernus wargear (a mastercrafted combi-flamer loaded with special Hellfire rounds), plus the excellent Feel No Pain universal special rule and—perhaps most significantly—a superhuman (even for Space Marines!) Toughness of 6. These latter represent in the specific Ultramarine Character Cassius the extensive bionic rebuilding he underwent, and players looking to build their own Chaplain on the Cassius template should consider how (via their background or choice of model) to explain their Character boasting such similar incredible statistics. Cassius nevertheless represents *such* a significant upgrade over the generic Chaplain for the points that I expect to see a great many hobbyists undertaking that effort.

All Chaplains lead best from the front, Cassius even more so...though it should not escape mention that his artifact combi-flamer Infernus makes him far 'shootier' than most, as well. An almost ideal deployment for Cassius would be in company of a unit of Sternguard, perhaps deployed against a high-value target via Drop Pod. Adding a Cassius-templated Chaplain to the kind of elite, Sternguard-dominated army led by a Kantor-templated Chapter Master (as discussed in Part One) would be all kinds of nasty...

A Space Marine player looking to get as close to the same kind of 'oomph' with a Chaplain HQ choice as he is used to, from prior editions, should examine the Cassius template thoroughly. The Infernus' mastercrafting will even compensate for the loss of Ballistic Skill. Whether as a supporting second HQ choice, or a good-value-for-the-cost single one (the Chaplain's traditional role), Cassius delivers.


The virtue of choosing to equip a custom Chapter's Chaplain from the generic HQ entry is, of course, that the creating player is not locked into Cassius' weapon choices, nor limited by what he eschews. The Infernus is good—but does not provide the additional Attack in assault a bolt pistol does. And Cassius has neither a jump pack nor bike nor terminator armour...all of which can serve to either streamline or emphasize what a Chaplain should be doing, to take best advantage of his special rules: charging into close combat. Jump packing Chaplains leading Assault Marines are practically staples of many Chapters. And 25 points is still 25 points—especially relevant since, as noted, basic Chaplains tend to be the HQ preference of players wishing to invest maximum points in other parts of their army.

Finally, the generic Chaplain requires no thinking or modeling to justify Toughness and Feel No Pain—he has just ordinary superhuman Toughness, rather than extraordinary—all of which make the option a good one, still (though any consideration of taking a plasma pistol with the V5 Chaplain's reduced Ballistic Skill and loss of access to mastercrafting becomes the preserve of the true gambler).

Who Shall Lead? Part One: Chapter Masters

The Fifth Edition Codex: Space Marines dramatically alters the way a 40K player constructs his army, particularly how he chooses the heroic characters who will lead it: gone are the previous editions' multi-level Independent Character options and near-limitless choices of Wargear from the Armoury, allowing for maximum customization and personalization; instead, the new Codex presents an unprecedented number and variety of pre-constructed Special Characters—then encourages players to pick the one whose gear or abilities most suits that player's preferences, and use it as a 'template,' over which the player can lay his own Chapter's names, colours, history and background. In effect, Marneus Calgar is no longer just a choice for Ultramarine Chapter players, as in previous iterations of the Codex (and one only available for use with opponent's permission, at that)—he is a sort of 'preassembled generic super commander' set of statistics available to any player whose Space Marines would benefit from such an HQ choice. The name/uniform/background changes...but the rules remain the same.

For longtime players, this takes some getting used to—not just the new way of treating Special Characters (that actually began with Codex: Dark Angels, some time back), but the notion of such radically diminished personal choices in Character construction, as well. It can be a bit counter-intuitive for players new to the game also, however: having to choose from wholly-assembled rules-and-gear packages can require a fuller grasp of the game than taking a basic generic character and adding a piece of wargear at a time once did.

With that in mind, a review of the characters in the V5 Codex is in order, briefly summarizing what their specialties are, and what sorts of army builds they will lend themselves to—a primer of sorts for players new and veteran, to lead them toward the Special Character template who (properly renamed and painted/customized to the player's own Chapter) will help their army play the way they want.

The review begins at the top—with the most powerful HQ Characters available to players of Space Marines in V5: the Chapter Masters...


Calgar is the template of choice for players who prefer assault-oriented Chapters, with a sledgehammer leader fighting from the front. He is expensive—but for approximately 80 points more than the nearest equivalent generic Chapter Master kit out, Marneus adds an extra Wound, an extra Attack (actually two since dual-wielding power fists gives him the extra close combat weapon Attack otherwise denied fist-users in V5), plus the Gauntlets of Ultramar unique wargear, three additional special rules (including the critically-important Eternal Warrior) and the right to take three Honour Guard squads instead of one. He can also take to the field in Terminator armour for an extremely cost-friendly extra 15 points (and the stunning current-production Calgar-in-tactical-dreadnought-armour model is all the reason anyone would need for exercising that option). Marneus' only real drawback is his total cost; players who plan a ranged-combat or mobility-oriented army will likely not get his points worth, and anyone taking him at 1500 points or fewer will be challenged to support him properly, after the chunk he eats up. But that's as it should be: he is a Chapter Master—skirmishes are no place for him!


The player looking to build a shooting-oriented army would do well to consider as a template for his Chapter Master the lord of the Crimson Fists, Pedro Kantor. He also lends to leading a small army comprised of veteran, Elite units...unsurprising, given his Chapter's checkered back story.

For less than 25 points more than the closest-equipped generic Chapter Master build, Kantor adds the 'Dorn's Arrow' super storm bolter gear, exchanges Combat Tactics for Stubborn for all affected units in his army, and adds two special rules which make Sternguard scoring units and give units within 12" of him +1 Attack. That is amazing value—particularly for the player who wants those expensive, Elite Sternguard in numbers, obviously—but also for players who intend to emphasize ranged combat: Stubborn will keep them in the fight firing as long as possible (with Kantor's super gun adding to the firepower), and when they have to hit back, they will do so with increased effectiveness.

Kantor still best fits in larger games, as befits a Master of the Chapter...but an elite, Sternguard-heavy veteran army built around him could prove a nasty, compact little surprise on the tabletop.


A final word should be said about constructing a Chapter Master from the generic listing, here: while veteran players will find the options for doing so somewhat limited as compared to previous editions, and the value the two Special Character templates present are hard to ignore...at the end of the day, this option is the *only* way to get certain gear combinations onto a table (Masters with lightning claws, plasma pistols and non-dual-fist wielding terminator armour come to mind) and is also the only way to get the Master's special rules (particularly his Orbital Bombardment and Honour Guard) at less than 175 points. If your favorite HQ model from previous-edition games is geared a certain way and you don't want to field him as a Captain, the option of building him as a Chapter Master from the generic listing in the current Codex is just as viable as it always was.

Next, 'Who Shall Lead?' will examine the other HQ-option Special Characters in the V5 Codex as template-types: Chaplains, Librarians, Techmarines, and the most important—and most varied—sort, the Space Marine Captains...

Wrath of the Norsemen

'O Sigmar Preserve Us From The Wrath Of The Norsemen'
--Unknown Imperial Priest, Town Cryer 13

The Hordes of Chaos are gone. The Warriors of Chaos are among us. And that little change in wording means everything.

Games Workshop's latest Army Book for the Warhammer Fantasy Battle system goes a long way toward rectifying the distress created when, with the publication in early 2008 of Daemons of Chaos, GW veered away from their much-lauded prior approach toward Chaos army-building--that of allowing hobbyists to use elements of *all* the Chaos forces, whether mortal or daemonic or beastmen, so long as their army emphasized one as primary--and enforced a 'choose an army book and stick to it' model upon the masses. To say it wasn't broadly well-received would be understating; however, the new Warriors of Chaos book presents such a wealth of choices under its one stunning Adrian Smith cover--and does it so well--that most players will be mollified. Unless they wanted to include daemons, of course.

The primary credited author of Warriors of Chaos is Phil Kelly. Any Warhammer Armies book or Warhammer 40,000 Codex is necessarily going to be a product of the entire design studio...but it is always worth noting where the buck ultimately stops: if one name begins to be associated with a run of unsatisfactory codices, players should recognize that--and the converse is true. In Phil Kelly's case, he is the author of record of a number of really-well-received force books (Eldar and especially the hilarious new Orks for 40K amongst them), so hobbyist expectations are high...and with Warriors of Chaos, he has delivered again.

There are three things I look for in a new force book; a fourth, if it is a new edition of an existing book (as is the case here): 1) Does it reflect a proper grasp of the force covered; is it 'convincing?' 2) Does it do enough with that force's rules to make a new edition worthwhile, whether by tightening, focusing or expanding? 3) Does it do both with a proper respect toward what has gone before? And 4) Is it at least as good a version of the force book as the edition it replaces (and preferably, is it better)?

Warriors of Chaos succeeds wildly in almost every category.

One of the things best things about this Army book is that it hammers home who (or perhaps more accurately what) Chaos Warriors really are--and then builds the entire army list around that concept. Kelly has infused the book with a Norse feel, from the specific--an excellent background section detailing the Old World's northernmost climes, and the history of those who descend from it upon the civilized races of the south--to the general--especially in the grim worldview of those Old World tribes, so very like the outlook of our Scandinavian cultures of the eighth-eleventh centuries, upon whose Viking exploits this aspect of the Warhammer world is clearly based. Kelly's Warriors of Chaos are not paper-thin caricatures come screaming down with pointy-horned helmets and over sized axes...they are a people from a landscape always one extra-harsh winter away from starvation, for whom, because of the fountain of Chaosstuff warping reality at the Old World's pole, supernatural powers are not abstract concepts--they are real. They interfere with the world. They bring power, real power--but power which always comes with a price. Death is everywhere--so life should be seized, and all the glory possible wrung from it.

It is a helluva compelling ethos, for putting toy soldiers on a table spoiling for a fight.

If in its 'iron and steel' emphasis Warriors of Chaos succeeds admirably in evoking the 'force concept,' the way it proceeds to translate that concept into effect via tabletop rules is arguably even better. One of the strengths Kelly has demonstrated in previous force books is a knack for finding ways to massage the existing rules to make the covered army play the way it should, without forcefeeding hobbyists only one way to build armies within that framework. He plies that skill again here: without question, the focus of the majority of armies built from this force book will be Chaos Warriors, as stout a Core choice as is available in any army in the game. But players who like monsters will be able to build an effective--and evocative--army by emphasizing such creatures, and players who preferred to emphasize the 'hordes of frothing northmen' from the previous edition army book will find that an army of primarily Marauders can still be put together with this one, and must still be reckoned with on the tabletop. Where Warriors of Chaos shines, however, is in the rules applications and variations for said unit type: Chaos Warriors and upgrades thereto--from mounted Chaos Knights on Daemonsteeds to elite Chosen to the spectacular heroes at the very pinnacle of such status, the Exalted Heroes and Lords (and the Chaos Spawn which shamble about to illustrate the fate of those who reach for such heights of glory, and fail)--are the heart of this army book, and are evoked masterfully.

Throughout, there is clear appreciation for what has gone before. As he did in the Eldar Codex, where he was tasked with combining what had become, essentially, a half-dozen army lists into one and somehow show proper respect for them all, Kelly always keeps his particular emphasis on the grim-norsemen-become-something-more at the fore, without excluding important aspects of Chaos lore which have been with Warhammer--which have arguably *made* the Warhammer World something unique, something more than just another Tolkien filter--from the start. Almost every major Chaos figure who has ever made an impact in Old World history at least gets a mention in the copious background, and a fair few of them return as newly-statted special characters (including, admittedly, a personal old favorite, in the fallen Scylla Anfingrim).

As well-done as this aspect of the new army book is, it is also where the likeliest objections to the new edition will arise: in keeping with GW's approach toward Chaos as evidenced in both the Daemons books for Fantasy and 40K, traditions of long standing regarding the four Ruinous Powers are no longer in evidence. There are no sacred numbers, no animosities between specific Dark gods...in fact, Warriors of Chaos enthusiastically endorses mixing Marks and Gifts and Magic Items not only within armies, but on individual characters. Chaos is now a true pantheon, in the GW cosmology, and there is nothing amiss for a Champion of Khorne to now possess a Slaaneshi soporific musk to overwhelm with sensation those from whom he intends to take skulls. As a purist, I freely admit this drives me crazy; and I think in the long run, it encourages a 'genericizing' of GW's background, atmosphere and 'feel' which will be bad for the game, and by extension the hobby. Fortunately, there is nothing actively preventing traditionalist hobbyists from restricting characters, units and entire armies to one power, or numbering their soldiers in multiples of six, seven, eight or nine, using Warriors of Chaos. As time goes on, continuing to do so will simply mark out the old grognards, who will smile and acknowledge each other knowingly while the Old World goes on....

A new force book addressing the mortals of Chaos in the Warhammer world was absolutely needed, once Daemons set the new alliance paradigm. That necessity in place, Warriors of Chaos meets the challenge and surmounts it: it is a better army book than the very good editions which it supersedes, well-written, better designed rules wise, broader of choice than anyone could have expected (a new *female* Khornate champion? a positively kaiju-esque super shaggoth? a flying ghost-longship?)...and most importantly, accompanied by an onslaught of beautifully-sculpted new iron-and-steel-clad miniatures, to bring the grim pursuit of martial glory to Warhammer Fantasy Battle tabletops everywhere.

The Hordes are no more. But in their place come the Warriors. The Wrath of the Norsemen is preserved.

Are You Ard Enough?

Games Workshop generally refers to 'The Hobby' by that broad term because it includes so many related-but-distinct activities, each of which has its adherents amongst hobbyists, and finding ways to reflect them all in their Grand Tournament circuit has proven one of the trickiest parts of making those events satisfying to the largest number of said hobbyists. While I believe they've done a very good job of that in their most recent iteration of GT rules, as noted in a previous blog, there is something to be said for the purity and clarity of events devoted to just one aspect of the hobby at a time.

GW recognized that early on with their Golden Daemon miniature painting competition; now they have begun acknowledging the other major aspect of 'The Hobby'--actual tabletop game play--with its own dedicated event series: the Ard Boyz tournaments.

At an Ard Boyz (so named for a particularly combative Ork army unit, which thus lends the circuit its orky iconography), a player is not scored for painting, for army theme or adherence to background or creativity of army list, or even for sportsmanship; so long as he meets the clearly-specified participation requirements, the player advances purely on what happens in his three rounds of tabletop combat.

Hobby events I favour--whether running or playing--have always embraced the entirety of the hobby, and so I have been asked whether I think the Ard Boyz' focus on pure generalship is a good thing or not; I believe context in this question is important--but I also think the answer is unequivocally 'yes.'

First of all--the Ard Boys events are *free.* Credit for that goes not just to GW but also to every Independent Stockist who hosts an event: because of them, every hobbyist who desires can participate in at least the first round of the circuit, the Retailer-level round, playing an entire Saturday of Warhammer Fantasy Battle or Warhammer 40,000 with challenging scenarios, against new opponents, at absolutely no charge. That is good for the hobby from any perspective. Moreover, the circuit provides the top three finishers at each Retailer-level round the opportunity to play again--for free--at one of several Regional-level rounds scattered across the country (also usually a location provided by an Independent Stockist worthy of support)...and top finishers at those events meet at a national Games Workshop function, usually immediately prior to a Baltimore GamesDay or Grand Tournament, for the climactic Finals--again, without charge. It is difficult to find fault in such logistics (yes, I am aware that players have to reach the various round venues on their own: GW and/or their local stockists are more than doing their part by providing opportunity--it is unrealistic of hobbyists to expect them to get them there to take advantage of it, as well; and yes I am aware that, by relying on local stockists to run the Retailer- and many of the Regional-level rounds, GW runs the risk that some may be administered much better--or much worse--than others: these things *aren't* as easy to administer as one might guess, such retailers are generally doing it for their customers' benefit, so while I would not discourage hobbyists from letting a retailer whose moderator struggled know about it, I would hope they would do so with some empathy for the comparative thanklessness of the job...and of course the reverse is always true: if you have a moderator in your area who does a good job with these events, choose the stockist he is administering for these events when you can, be sure the retailer knows the event was moderated well--and, perhaps, tell the moderator, too :).

Second--though related to the first point--GW generously supports the Ard Boyz tournament circuit with prizes. There aren't many paid-ticket events in this hobby with up to US$150 available in prizes, plus Certificates of Victory for the top three finishers and top-quality, limited-run t-shirts available to participants...and that is just at the Retailer-level rounds. Prizes can become as much a problem as an attraction in hobby events, I've found; the problem specifically arises when the prize becomes the point, either of being there or of how one plays. But at the end of the day, that isn't GW or the Independent Stockist's fault--that is pure-and-simple greed, and that lies entirely within the character of the participant, and where that vice rears its head, things inevitably suffer regardless of the circumstance (I will refrain from digressing to the national economy to make this subcultural point). Suffice that everyone loves to end a day of great fun by taking home something cool, and GW has supported participation in Ard Boyz most generously, to that end.

Finally--tactical skill may be the least-acknowledged of the hobby's aspects across the broad community: when we face an army on the table that is clearly more striking than our own, most of us have little trouble admitting it and appreciating the talent involved in a superior painting or converting or presentation job--but when we lose that game, it is always the dice which betrayed us (or blessed the opponent), or the scenario which screwed us (or favoured theopponent), or the unfairness of the opponent's new/beardy/cheesy/overpowered/undercosted codex or army book...never that the opposition was just a lot savvier at the nuts-and-bolts of move and maneuver than we were. Ard Boyz may not remove any of those rationalizations from the vocabulary--but by rewarding consistently good generals, it might increase the appreciation for their skill by a fraction, at least. From my perspective, that is a good thing: one of the attractive elements of this hobby is the opportunity it provides to continue to stretch the intellectual muscles, and it has always bothered me to see players who excel at that admittedly difficult-to-quantify aspect of the hobby diminished regularly.

Ard Boyz is most valuable in the larger context of the entirety of organized events within the GW hobby, however: if 'outcome-only' events were a big emphasis, something like Ard Boyz might be a circuit I would have concerns about--but the fact is *most* GW organized events, whether official (like GamesDays or the GTs or the Lucky 13s campaign) or independent (like the Adepticon or Astronomi-cons), tend to be of the 'embrace all aspects of the hobby' sort...or emphasize something else, usually painting and converting, like the GDs.

In that context, Ard Boyz fills a definite roll in the hobby--and given its inherent virtues noted previously, it is hard not to view it as a 'good thing', and encourage every interested hobbyist to take advantage of the opportunity to play in one. The Retailer-level round for 40K was completed in September; check the Games Workshop Events website for Regional-level round locations, to be held in October (the North Texas one will be at HobbyAnnex in North Dallas) if you want to come out and see what sorts of armies are 'ardest, in preparation for the 2009 circuit!

Viva Las Vegas GT

Games Workshop's fall Grand Tournament Circuit began 2008 with the Las Vegas GT. With all respect to Chicago and Baltimore, both of which are venues of longstanding tradition for GW--I cannot imagine a setting more fun than the ballroom of the Treasure Island hotel and casino, right on the Vegas strip. The Las Vegas GT hosted 130 Warhammer 40K players, 100 Warhammer Fantasy Battles players and two dozen players of the Lord of the Rings strategy game. It was also the first tournament for Fifth Edition Warhammer 40,000 and for the new Dark Elves army book for Fantasy, and featured a three-round Doubles Tournament on Friday for interested WHFB and 40K players and a Challenge of Heroes (won unsurprisingly by mighty Glorfindal) for LotR. It was nevertheless a smooth and largely crisis-free event, highlighted by a Treasure Island buffet lunch for participants on Saturday.

The real highlight of any miniatures event, of course, is the parade of exceptionally painted armies. Unlike GamesDays, the GTs do not feature separate painting contests, ala Golden Daemon; the models on display at GTs are part of in-play armies. That so many could be painted to such an extraordinarily high standard for use, rather then display only, has always especially impressed me--and did so again at Vegas. Many, especially those which took home Best Appearance and Players Choice Awards, can be seen in GW's coverage of the GT on their website.

This year's Grand Tournament rules package deserves particular commendation: moreso than in recent years, the Army Appearance and Sportsmanship scoring portions were both comprehensively revamped and clarified for participants. GW now has their 'pure generalship' tournament in the Ard Boyz circuit; it is nice, therefore, to see scoring for the GTs re-embrace the many aspects of the hobby which amplify that tabletop experience--and to do so with clear, fair, balanced and comprehensive rules. Credit for the new GT rules package goes to Chris Gohlinghorst and Nicole Shewchuk...both of whom are quick to credit, in turn, the efforts of the hobby community, which has raised the bar for such expectations through independent events.

Army Appearance and Sportsmanship scores in a GT reflect that the hobby does not exist in a pure 'results on the tabletop' vacuum: how a player's army looks while winning or losing makes a big difference in the 'enjoyment of the experience' factor...and how the player and his opponent comport themselves probably makes an even bigger difference in whether or not the game, for both, is fun. Whether that matters to an individual player or not (and I will deal with the 'social contract' implicit in tabletop wargaming at some future point, which I guarantee will draw readers with vehement disagreement :), it is essential to the health and growth of the hobby, and it is good to see it take a complementary but significant place in GT scoring again (along with pretty clear guidelines tp players about how such scoring should be applied).

Ultimately, of course--it *is* still a tournament. Unlike a community event or storytelling-oriented gathering like a Campaign Weekend, the outcome really does matter more than the experience (or at least as much!). And when one general proves unbeatable through five rounds-- and not just unbeatable but unapproachable, taking on contender after contender on the top table and earning maximum-points victories--'who won the most' will still determine the GT's Overall champion. Congratulations to Marc Parker and his Ork horde: he has proved what many hobbyists already suspected--that with a terrific new Ork codex and a great starter force provided by 'Assault On Black Reach,' the orks are going to force players who consider themselves GT contenders to build something more flexible than the pure 'MEQ Killer'* armies which have predominated for some time. That is a good thing for the hobby.

A GT is not for every hobbyist...but every hobbyist should try at least one, someday. They dwarf the biggest Rogue Trader Tournament experiences, and as good as some of the Independent 'GT' equvalents are on the circuit (and some, like the Lone Wolf and Alamo GTs, the Adepticon and Quake City weekends, and especially the Astronomi-con circuit, are very, very good indeed)--there is something about an official GW-run GT that is unique. Its scope, elaborateness and sense of hobby spectacle are something every hobbyist should eventually try, and many will come to love.

Especially in Vegas.

*--'MEQ Killer:' An army list designed for competitive play which maximizes the unit and weapons choices available for defeating a particular kind of opponent--a space marine army, characterized by high armour saves and Toughness, but compensatorily low model-count, often called a 'Marine EQuivalent' because it can include Chaos Space Marines, Necrons and outre variants from other codices, as well. Extremely good at eliminating such army types, many variants of this construct are woefully inequipped to deal with high model-count armies, often called 'Hordes.' +++

Starting An IG Army

"Everyone seems to play either Space Marines or aliens of some sort in 40K, and I understand the appeal, I started in the hobby with Space Marines, too. But I want to play the Imperial Guard. Unfortunately, the IG codex is a little more complicated to put together a starting army from...at least, it seems so to me. Any guidance, for a beginner commissar?"

Though I began as a Space Marine player just like you, and many hobbyists--they really are the icons of the forty-first millennium, so I think we can be forgiven that :)--I too find the gothic soldiery of the Imperial Guard appealing, and have fielded a small force. In my case I've used them exclusively with my Daemonhunters, as inducted Guard. Frankly, that is actually the path I recommend to players new to the IG: assembling a force is much more straightforward than the IGdex's Platoon structure, and while there are some limitations to what you can use, the core forces are available. Take a look at either Codex: Daemonhunters or Codex: Witch Hunters; you will find their 'choose a leader (HQ) and fill out your Force Organization Chart with individual units' methodology very similar to what you've used as a Space Marines player (and the various options for Inquisitors, Imperial Assassins and Operatives over and above the Guard options are extremely colourful, besides).

If, however, you are less an adventurist than a militarist; if you prefer reading Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels to his Eisenhorn or Ravenor series; if you want to start from scratch building a pure Imperial Guard army, codex-legal--it isn't difficult so much as it is simply different. And that difference is both fun, and a big part of what gives the Imperial Guard its essential nature. Far be it from me to dissuade you from such a pursuit; rather, I present the thoughts of one of the hobby's premier Imperial Guard commanders, Mike Major, to actively encourage it! Currently of Winnipeg, Canada and one of the two primary driving forces (along with Christian Augst) of the best event series in the 40K hobby, the Astronomi-Cons (http://www.Astronomi-con.com ), Mike is also a highly successful competitive player, including a Chicago Grand Tournament championship. His Colonel Arcturan Senekal is one of the best known figures in the sub-hobby of '40K fan fiction'--probably *the* best known IG personality. This is what Mike had to say, about assembling a starter army from the current Imperial Guard codex (the bracketed interpolations are mine, for clarity); having your Codex: Imperial Guard handy to reference the many things he refers to is recommended:

"I'd recommend [filling the requisite 1 HQ and 2 Troops choices with] a Command HQ unit, a 25 man Platoon and an Armoured Fist Squad. This keeps the cost and points down while you learn the army. There are a lot of routes to go with the HQ unit, but I think one of the best for a starter player is an officer with a power fist and possibly a commissar with him also with a 'fist. This gives you some solid countercharge punch at a relatively small point and monetary cost. Going heroic senior officer is best for this and I'd add both a trademark item to the officer and/or a standard. Best special weapons for this team would be a couple of flamers or a melta and a flamer. I'd stay away from the vox at first.

The first Troops choice is your Platoon, which consists of a Platoon Command unit and two or more Platoon squads. Platoon Command can either be similarly equipped [to the HQ Command unit] or set up for shooting. I prefer the latter myself as a one Wound Independent Character with a 'fist all too often doesn't ever get to swing. If you go the HtH [hand-to-hand combat-oriented] route, a PF [power fist] is still better than a PW [power weapon] as the LT [lieutenant, or junior officer commanding the Platoon Command unit] is probably still going to be swinging last anyway. May as well hit hard. If you go HtH for the Platoon Command, consider a second commissar with 'fist for them, too.

Platoon tacs [squads] are your shooting support. Give the squads a heavy weapon of some kind. In a small platoon I'd go with either a LC [lascannon] and a HB [heavy bolter] or 2 ML [missile launchers]. Basically you need flexibility. You can always swap out for another LC later as the army grows - or another HB or AC [autocannon] if you've gone heavy AT [anti-tank] in your Platoon Command.

AF [Armoured Fist] squads are fun, maneuverable but fragile. I like them with flamers or grenade launchers and generally give them a heavy [weapon] and a veteran sergeant to keep them flexible and in the fight. The basic weapons load out on the Chimera [their APC, or armoured personnel carrier; the vehicle the squad rides in] is a good one. Give it a heavy stubber or pintlemounted storm bolter and a smoke launcher. Searchlights are good too."

Follow Mike's instructions and you will have an HQ designed to heroically mix it up in fist fighting with the vastly stronger/faster/mightier superbeings, aliens and monsters of the 40K universe--achieving legendary status every time these underdogs win against the odds--and two Troops choices designed to provide a withering firebase, one of them mounted in a nice, inexpensive armoured vehicle to get around on the table top and snatch objectives with. I would reconsider giving the Armoured Fist squad a heavy weapon precisely because my style is to move, that is how I would use this unit--and if they are moving, they aren't shooting--and would definitely endorse the missile launchers as heavy weapons of choice for the Platoon squads: they are flexible, able to fire either anti-tank or anti-personnel, and template weapons in general have gotten better in the newest edition of the game. I am also fonder of power weapons than Mike, as I just hate to hit last. But that is one of the joys of the Imperial Guard--there are so many elements of it, you really can customize it to be the army you want it to be (or, if you follow my first recommendation, *armies*--as a Daemon- or Witch Hunter army plays very differently than straight Guard, with relatively few changes in models).

And when you've built the basic starter Imperial Guard force Mike outlines above--it is time to reward yourself, by making the next addition something special. With Guard, that can be an elite unit, such as storm troopers or Ogryn...but for most players drawn to the Imperial Guard, what it likeliest means is, it is time to add a tank. Not an APC...though the Chimera is a good looking and underrated specimen of one...but a full-on, battlefield-dominating, thunder-belching and fire-spitting monster. For Guardsmen, that means a Leman Russ Battle Tank. There are a great number of variants--not just those available at retail from GW, like the very impressive Demolisher, but the multitude cast in resin from subsidy specialty caster Forge World ( http://www.forgeworld.co.uk )--but your best first choice is the standard Leman Russ, complete with battle cannon primary armament (see above comment about the effectiveness of template weapons in the new edition of the game). Build a Leman Russ, to back up your heroes, firebase and APC. When you've done that, you will be not only an Imperial Guard player, a special enough breed in the Warhammer 40,000 community, but an official and duly sworn member of the treadhead society, as well.

That's when the fun really begins.


Background Music Comes Forefront

Every year, the Dallas, Texas-area Metropolitan Wind Symphony fills the sonorous Morten H Meyerson Symphony Center with movie music. If you are a fan of genre films, including television, their annual film music concert takes on special significance--not just because some of the most memorable and enduring film scoring has been done for science fiction and fantasy cinema, but because the Metropolitan Winds, and their conductor, Randal Bass, enjoy a special relationship with the pre-eminent practitioner of the art, John Williams.

Full disclosure: I am a film music geek. I use the term affectionately--but specifically: 'geeks' are most readily identifiable by their devotion to even the most absolutely minute of details about their fixations, and while I am not exclusively a film music geek (this is, after all, a miniatures wargaming-centric blog, I've already written about GIJoe conventions, and getting me started on comic books is downright dangerous, as I am certain will become evident in time, just for starters)--I am *devotedly* a film music geek. Mess with the objects of my affection at your peril. I warn about this in advance because it is necessary to understand why there were parts of the Winds' concert that I enjoyed rapturously, and parts that inevitably disturbed me...and so that readers will know that *they* might well feel precisely the opposite about both things, depending on whether they, too, are subject to taking their film music overly seriously :)

John Williams is an illustrative place to start. For many people, John Williams is synonymous with film scoring. He has the Oscars, blockbuster motion pictures and endless string of memorable themes to prove it. For many--arguably, most--people interested in a film music concert, pulling more than half your programming from Maestro Williams' repertoire would be perfectly logical and satisfying.

Find a film music geek and you will be hard-pressed not to find John Williams' influence on that love in evidence--and I am absolutely such a specimen: much as the household I grew up in was filled with classical, sacred and orchestral music from the time of my first memories, everything crystallized for me in 1977, with the double-album release of John Williams' score for "Star Wars." I love his entire ouvre, from the most well-known Raiders and Imperial Marches to the least-heard choral Glorias. But find a film music geek--this one included--and you will also likely find other personal favorite composers whose work has, over time, come to speak as personally as Williams'--and it inevitably chafes to hear lesser compositions from the Williams canon given live performances when geniuses like Erich Wolfgang Korngold or Jerry Goldsmith rate only a single work each. So we get grumpy over programming--and that probably won't bother most concertgoers at all.

Conversely--if they are going to tackle John Williams, it is nice to see an organization like the Winds do significant compositions beyond just the staples. At this year's concert, the Winds climaxed the first act with a dizzying medley of his two "Lost in Space" television themes (bad as that show became, it was scored from beginning to end by masters, and listening to the complex, explosive main titles Williams composed in light of what music scoring for television has become makes one mourn for the state of the art); then in the concert's second half, delivered the terrific-but-almost-never-heard-because-it-is-so-darkly-named "March of the Slave Children" from the second Indiana Jones film, "Temple of Doom," and beautifully executed both the mournful, Americana-midwest-defining "Leaving Home" from Williams' 1978 masterpiece "Superman" and a really-nicely arranged suite of Krypton/Fortress of Solitude music from the same film. Film geeks know every bar of this music, and positively revel in hearing it given a rare live performance...but more voices around me than one, after the completion of the "Superman" selections, bemoaned the lack of its signature theme, instead.

For the Winds, one person's 'lesser composition' is another's rarely-performed gem. Catch-22 :).

End of the day, the Metropolitan Winds obviously enjoy a great relationship with the composer, something their listeners are the ultimate beneficiaries of. Much as I might have wanted more Goldsmith or Korngold (or Elfman or Bernstein or Barry or...), I cannot fault them their programming choice.

(though I do have this quibble with their selection sequence: heavily advertising the concert as geared toward such music, it would reward those most eager to hear it not to hold all of it until the second act: my youngest hums the Raiders March as the personal soundtrack to his life these days, and had grown frankly frustrated with the programming of unfamiliar music he had to sit through until nearly concert's end to properly enjoy "Raiders" when it was finally played...whereas he might well have found interest in the exposure to some of that music had it followed hard on a early performance of a selection or two he'd come wanting to hear...)

Highly regarded movie critic Gary Cogill hosted the concert, as he has done for some years, providing running commentary between selections. Here again I absent myself from fairly commenting on the value of such a thing, because I'm such a purist about it: I want music, not talking, and if there must be talking I want it ontopic rather than working toward comic effect and I want it dead-on accurate instead of close-enough...and I recognize that's an intensity of experience most people do not share. I have been lucky enough to deal with Mr. Cogill a time or two personally and have found him as cordial 'off-stage' as on, and his enthusiasm for the Winds' music never flagged. I could do without spoofing a composer's name for a cheap laugh (there is no 'von' in Korngold)...but in fairness, the fact that bothered me probably says far more negative about me than it does him, really :).

Ultimately, genuine geek or casual listener, what counts is the performance. The Metropolitan Winds is a 501C charitable organization, and an all-volunteer orchestra, which performs a calendar of a half-dozen or so concerts annually; that is a big reason ticket prices to their film music concerts are so family-friendly (admission this year was twenty dollars for adults, half that for children, an extraordinary value for an evening at a venue like the Meyerson). The only thing 'amateur' about their performances is the fact the participant musicians do not do it for pay. The Meyerson is such an acoustically-glorious facility that it would be difficult for any outfit not to sound its best there; and the Winds' reading of their various concert pieces was extraordinarily bright and rich, with a particularly deep and resonant colour in their lower brass (the bass trombones were most notably 'on' that evening, and the Winds' supporting percussion were exceptional, especially handling all the special effects in a Goldsmith 'Wind and the Lion' suite). There were sections which were stronger than others, of course, and the truth that film music can be complex and difficult occasionally tested musicians to their limits. One does not go to hear Goldsmith or, indeed, Williams and not expect to hear horns and tuba and oboe taxed...but the Winds performers in each of these areas answered the composers' considerable challenges. The sound was pleasing throughout, and powerful when asked by Conductor Bass. If it is criticism to say that the only real negative I left the concert with was a desire to have heard the symphony perform *more* music (see 'film music geek' above), I suspect that is a criticism the fine talents of the Metropolitan Winds can live with :).

The Metropolitan Wind Symphony's 2008-2009 concert calendar can be found at http://www.metropolitanwinds.org and their signature concert of movie music at the Meyerson is already scheduled for June 28, 2009. Those of us who live our lives with music in our heads, whether it be while pushing model armies across tables in our own theater-in-miniature, or simply because we don't know how else to pass the minutes of the day, are encouraged to be there for it.


GI Joe was there...and so were we!

I loaded my two sons into the family all-terrain-transport (read: minivan) for Frisco, Texas--and the final day of JoeCon, the 2008 National GIJoe Collector's Convention.

The hobby of GIJoe collecting subdivides along very specific lines: the primary arbiter is one's preference for 12" 'classic' figures versus 3 3/4" 'star wars era' figures (there is also a new 'inbetween' Sigma scale, where the figures are about 8" tall, but that line doesn't yet have a noticeable fan/collector base). The 3 3/4" scale figures were just starting to dominate collecting when the lady wife and I went to the 1998 Convention on a nostalgic whim (and because it was in San Antonio, and there is never a bad excuse to visit San Antonio, and the Alamo); ten years later (and with a big-budget Hollywood movie coming out in 2009 based entirely on the 3 3/4" mythos), I found the 2008 con heavily geared toward the smaller line. Though that scale of figure and all of its attendant Cobra/Dreadnok/'Yo Joe!' mythos postdated my childhood, it had an advantage for my boys, and younger enthusiasts in general: the smaller scale figures and accessories are sufficiently inexpensive that a *lot* of them were given away as door and event prizes (kudos Hasbro and RadioDisney!), so both boys came home with such figures of their own.

I do not consider myself a collector. While I probably have enough action figures to qualify, most were bought for who or what they represented (I have Joes of many figures of historical interest, from Teddy Roosevelt to Ulysses S. Grant to George Patton, for example, and commemoratives of Tuskegee Airmen and NASA events as well as the Sea Wolf-class submarine launch) rather than specifically because they were Joes; moreover, I don't know nearly enough about the hobby. 12" Joes *were* the toy of choice in my youth, however...and I belong to a 'subera' within the 12" classic collector base, the Adventure Team, that didn't get much love a decade ago--but seems to be flourishing now, even dominating the (admittedly diminished) 12" market at the convention. This year's 'convention exclusive' figure pack was a 12" Adventure Team set, the 'Search for the Sasquatch,' which we had to have (and I can say 'we' legitimately, because the boys and I took it out of its packaging and set it up for play as soon as we got home)...and I noticed several such exclusives from recent conventions, including deep sea and polar bear themed sets, had decided 'AT' qualities about them, as well. I suspect the traditionalist Joe collector, whose interests are 12" scale and authentic military reproduction equipment, probably despairs of seeing the smaller scale overtake the hobby generally, and the more lightly-regarded Adventure Team era dominating classic scale--but it was a quite pleasant blast of nostalgia, for me: memories of my (admittedly hard-haired and hard-handed classic) Joe leading my brothers' and neighbor's life-like-haired and kung-fu-gripped Joes on day-long adventures through the cattle pastures and watering ponds of my rural youth (and later across the artificial dirt mountains of construction sites, as it became less rural) with all the great Adventure Team equipment of the era--led by the greatest classic toy I ever owned, the ATII Mobile Support Vehicle (thanks Mom and Dad :)--flooded back to me, as I walked the aisles with my own sons.

Any confluence of subcultures always fascinates me, at events like this: though I did not encounter the local 40K hobbyist who has built a small space marine force fully converted to represent the GIJoe villains Cobra, as I half-expected, one of the first people I bumped into in the hall was Mike Y'Barbo, former Warhammer 40,000 Grand Tournament Winner and a regular opponent of mine in the early tournament days of 40K third edition, toting a bunch of Cobra figures and models out to the parking garage (Mike, a Chaos and Dark Eldar player, and first innovator of what became a GT-dominating army theme for a time, the 'all dark lance all the time' mobile DE force, obviously has a villainous streak in him somewhere). Most pleasant surprise, however, was discovering artist Dave Dorman was a convention guest: Dave is one of my favorite talents, and among his many beautiful licensed paintings for various superhero, Star Wars and other GIJoe products, Dave also did the gorgeous box art for the Sasquatch con exclusive and con Tshirt, which he was happy to sign (you probably know Dave's genre art from somewhere, as his luminous style is very distinctive: Check him out at http://www.davedorman.com or his original science fiction work at http://www.wastedlands.com.

Kudos to longtime organizer Brian Savage and all of his con crew (check out the sponsoring GI Joe Collectors Club at http://www.GIJoeClub.com for subscriptions to the club newsletter/magazine, which also provides access to exclusive premiums like the Sasquatch set and first word, once it becomes available, about the 2009 JoeCon). I was particularly impressed with how much effort was made to insure kids--like the two I brought in tow--got fully caught up in the excitement: at noon, two score 3 3/4" Joes with functioning parachutes were dropped from a remote-controlled helicopter for the kids to chase, there was a 'GIJoe Boot Camp' where kids could earn merit badges for various thematic tasks like sharpshooting (with water guns), knot-tying, and team-boot-polishing; and a portable rock wall was set up in the parking lot (which my five-year-old at least attempted, and my nine-year-old triumphantly conquered). Inside, there was a 'play pit' with a handsome variety of vehicles, figures and clothing/equipment from all eras for kids to get hands-on with, and an obstacle course with 12" scale remote-controlled Stuart tanks that my sons could have stayed and played with for hours. Uniformed scouts (and, I believe, active-duty military personnel) were also welcomed to the event with free admission. All in all, a first-rate effort to make a collector's event, an adult-oriented con by definition, into something thoroughly family-friendly.

The 2000s are a different era to grow up in than the 1970s were. There are many, many more diversions in terms of toys alone to occupy a boy's interest, to say nothing of electronic games, ownable and rentable movies and hundreds of television channels (instead of five). And there aren't many places where a handful of boys can run off for hours unsupervised and turn an empty dog house into Adventure Team HQ, complete with tanks, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters and jet-packs parked outside to soar off in ever direction in, with only your kitted-out 12" Joe and your imagination to define your day. My boys have a couple of 12" Joes--and now some 3 3/4"s, courtesy of the con, as well--and when they choose to unpack them to play with, a great time is had...but in their 'toy hierarchy,' I don't suspect GIJoe will ever have the kind of supremacy for them he had for me, at the same age. I didn't have Star Wars figures and MegaBloks Dragons and Heroclix superheroes and, for my boys probably most paramount, Warhammer 40K to compete for my attentions. But it is nice that 'America's Moveable Fighting Man' (and his international co-conspirator, Action Man, who was also much in evidence at the con) is still out there, when he *is* called upon. It is nice that there is an event like the annual JoeCon which celebrates so enduring and positive a bit of subculture. And it is especially nice that they do it so well.

I re-joined the Club, before I left the convention. I look forward to receiving the newsletter again, especially as next year's movie ramps up. And if a JoeCon another year happens to be close, or happens to coincide with a family-vacation-worthy destination, I will look forward to going back. And I can guarantee I won't be the only one in this household now eager to return.

Whither the Eldar?

One of the interesting phenomena of fourth-edition Warhammer 40K has been the relatively thin embrace of the Eldar amongst hobbyists, since their new Codex.

When it came out, I genuinely thought their popularity would increase significantly—or rather, would again begin to approach its old levels. You see, the Eldar were the power army of V2 40K, a designed-Space Marine-killer race that had the necessary tools to beat almost every other faction at the time at their own game, as well. The Eldar kind of hung on to that reputation in the transition to V3 (especially with the original third-edition black book Wraithlord sporting a Toughness 9!), then steadily lost their pride-of-place as a power army of choice once their codices began coming out. They were still powerful—the Wraithlord remained (and remains) one of the best bang-for-its-points units in the game, the Craftworld supplemental codex essentially allowed Eldar to become the only army who could cherry-pick Elite units and make them core Troops choices (something the new Codex elegantly still allows with a few more game-balance-oriented controls), and then the codex supplement which gave us the Eldar Seer 'Jedi Council' created one of the most infamous army compositions for tournament play in post-V2 history—but they were already moving in a direction this most recent codex carried them completely to: the ultimate 40K combined arms force. The Eldar have almost no jack-of-all-trades type units, which can forgive their player a deployment or movement blunder by simply hanging in until he gets a chance to correct it: the Eldar general has to use each unit he chooses for his army to its best advantage, to excel. They are very unforgiving, if misplayed (or even casually played). And as there really aren't as many genuinely tactically gifted players out there as the trashtalking in an average game hall would suggest, many hobbyists in this edition have encountered Eldar armies they've been able to make short work of...and assumed the army plays like that under every hand. It doesn't. Once you've met an Eldar army in competition played by a truly skilled general, you will be wary of them ever after—perhaps most of all because when an Eldar general beats you, there aren't many 'codex' excuses to blame, or lucky die rolls to finger. The Eldar reward skill.*

I still admire the current edition codex very much. With the possible competition of the most recent Orkdex, I think it is the best of the 'new generation' codices.** I have come to realize its very complexity in use will probably mitigate against it ever becoming as popular as I expected it initially to be...but I also suspect that it will appeal to more and more hobbyists who reach a point where they want more complexity, more challenge, less 'obviousness' from their chosen tabletop army. And I think that combination—of veteran, experienced gamer and army list full of highly specialized but outrageously-effective-if-used-right tools—will bring more and more Eldar armies to the table in the near future which will need to be reckoned with.

Of course, they are still prancing, arrogant, pointy-eared xenos scum who nearly destroyed the universe once—and may yet still—through their utter inability to control their basest, most debauched urges. Whatever compliments I may direct toward their codex as the hobby's most currently challenging—that always needs be said of them, too.

* Though I have faced a number of genuinely nasty Eldar armies in Independent, Rogue Trader and Grand Tournaments over the years (including several of those aforementioned Seer Councils), for sheer 'Jedi Mastery' of the Eldar on the tabletop, credit in my personal experience goes to a gamer from Winnipeg, Canada named Dave Violago, a regular attendee of what I consider hands-down the finest hobby experience 40K has to offer, Canada's Astronomi-Con circuit, who left me feeling exactly like most 'monkeigh' feel around Eldar in the game's background fiction (about three steps behind them)—except that he was a gracious sport all the while he elegantly outmaneuvered my Daemonhunters all over the city ruins, and generally schooled me in all aspects of gameplay. If you ever get a chance, play him: you will never underestimate the Eldar again.

** Both the current-edition Codex: Eldar and Codex: Orks were written by Phil Kelly. Both rulesets are both competitive and marvelously evocative (the Orkdex has the distinction of being the only rulebook I recall which made me laugh out loud while reading it. Repeatedly.) and are a credit to the game system. I recommend them highly.

The Outrider

The Outrider: Special Character

(a wholly-unofficial, 'by-opponent's-permission-only' special character for Warhammer 40,000; by Christopher Allen)

Points Cost: 100
Force Org Slot: Fast Attack
Unit Type: Jet Bike

4 4 4 4 (5) 1 4 1 10 3+ (4+ Inv)

Individual: An army can only include one Outrider

Wargear: Jet Bike (armed with a Plasma Cannon and Twin-linked Storm Bolter), Power Armour, Bolt Pistol, Power Weapon, Frag Grenades, Krak Grenades

Special Rules: Fearless, Veteran Space Marine, Legion of the Damned

Veteran Space Marine: The Outrider is possessed of the experience of a Veteran Space Marine; as such, he may have either the 'Furious Charge' or the 'Tank Hunter' skill (but not both), chosen by the player before each battle.

Legion of the Damned: The Outrider appears from nowhere, in the midst of combat, at the moment of the Imperium's most dire need; the Outrider may be taken as a Fast Attack choice by any Imperial army (Space Marine, Imperial Guard, Inquisition, etc), and is ALWAYS held in Reserve, regardless of any mission-specific rules of deployment.


The Outrider exists on the periphery of organized, documentable experience, in the universe of the 41st millennium. Most authorities dismiss reports of his existence as aberrant; if he ever existed, they say, he is no more. His reputation has been sullied by the heaping on of gross exaggerations to any substance of truth his story may once have contained. Now he is a thing of 'might have been' or 'once was,' if he is even acknowledged at all, and the powers that be would just as soon the Imperium forgot him.

However, out on the front, in the field, where what is said matters infinitely less than what is done, the tales of the Outrider persist; and those who claim his experience and strong sword arm appeared at their moment of greatest need, to guide them safely through the perils of the 41st millennium, will swear both to his reality, and his nobility of purpose.

Documented reports of the Outrider's appearance conflict: many sightings describe his gear, equipment and general appearance as consistent with the black armour and skull-and-flame motif of the mysterious 'Legion of the Damned' (cf 'Fire Hawks'), and certainly the instances of commonality of reported battlefield appearances by both the Legion and the Outrider suggest some sort of link (if one is to believe either exists, at all); however, a minority of reports describe the Outrider appearing in the midst of combat clad not in the livery of the Legion, but rather in the trappings and colours of the very Space Marine chapters he reportedly appeared to aid.

Of the reports which cannot be definitively dismissed as fictitious, certain consistencies stand out: the Outrider never appears until the actual battle is joined; the Outrider rarely—if ever—communicates, once on scene (there are numerous anecdotal reports of him speaking to individual space marines, Guard soldiers, Inquisitional storm troopers or battle sisters, but he appears to assiduously avoid their more organized chains-of-command) ; the Outrider appears to be possessed of the most experienced of battlefield skills, rivaling the most veteran space marines, whether he appears to reinforce a gun line or lead a counter charge; and the Outrider always appears skimming onto the battlefield on an ancient Bulloch-pattern Imperial jet bike, of the sort which has largely fallen into disfavor across the Imperium as a tainted, 'xenos' technology. Curiously, there are instances of the Outrider appearing in the battle livery of recently-founded space marine chapters, as described above—chapters far too new to the Imperium to have ever boasted such jet bikes in their arsenals, to begin with.

Much like the Legion of the Damned to which he is putatively linked, the very suggestion of some supernatural quality to the existence of the Outrider makes him suspect and anathema, to Imperial authorities- -no matter how many noble deeds are attributed to him, in unconfirmed and unconfirmable after-action reports. If he does exist, the forces of the Imperium will continue to deny him and to try, with as much vigor as mankind's alien and daemonic enemies, to wipe him from the face of Imperial history. Until they do, he will likely continue to appear across the galactic frontier, driven by his own internal motivations, where those who have faith in him need him most.

If he even exists...

The Outrider