26 Aug 2015

Honesty and the Future

It is a fine day when I can finally type out the words "greetings friends" once more on an Imperator Guides post, though truthfully I've been secretly dreading having to return to the responsibility I feel this blog mandates. Before I begin to elaborate any further though, I want to quickly warn you that this won't be one of my usual pixie-thin status updates saying that 'yeah, I'm ok, I was a bit suck but I'm fine' only to disappear a few weeks later in a rush much like each time a Grey Knight hears the words "Daemon" and "nearby", usually in that order. Prepare yourself for an eye-straining, unfathomably large wall of text all to do with yours truly in which I will try to answer the more obvious questions I sense are searing your minds presently. This is the kind of raw honesty that you all deserve.

What happened?

Work, Age of Sigmar, a rejuvenation of my Warhammer 40,000 gaming career, sickness and severe sleeping issues happened. I'm happy with my new job but it also bears an ironic twist with regards to the content of Imperator Guides, leading to some unfortunate overlap; don't bother asking, you won't get a full answer. I'll leave Age of Sigmar for later but suffice to say it couldn't have happened at a worse time for me, while it might come as a surprise to many that my passion for Warhammer 40,000 and even my regular playing hours had essentially shriveled up over the past year. For the last two of those issues, they are personal but I don't mind discussing them broadly; mental instability is not exactly a new thing for me, but having radically mutable sleeping hours most certainly is not. It caused lots of knock-on problems that resulted in me having no energy at all to do anything hobby related for a brief period of time, and certainly left me far too impatient to continue on with a tactics series that had already seriously aggravated me - the Blood Angels one if you didn't guess it by now. The past year has been arguably the most important in my development as a stable worker in society but also perhaps the most traumatic in a number of ways, the least of which includes almost completely disowning a hobby that I've loved for well past a decade now. Things got pretty bad at certain points in ways that not even my close family is aware of, but I'm confident in saying that I've put them past me and I can move on with my life - the cliched response of someone that was just battered silly. If you are wondering how this has any bearing on being able to write for a blog, consider the following; despite my gradually drooping quality standards (which I seek to rectify), I can't publish my work in good faith unless I believe it was made with some degree of passion and care. Being unwell - whether physically or mentally - affects my writing dramatically and so I made the tough choice of putting the blog to the side while I recovered and settled in to my current place in life.

What's this about dropping out of Warhammer 40,000?

I will be completely honest with all of you; I've played just over ten games of Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition since its' release, most of which have been in the past few weeks. My more recent reviews have been mostly theory-crafting, something that I've proven to myself and others to be extremely good at. My opinions generally line up with those of the competitive crowd without having to play practice games because I have a gift of insight drawn from certain mental conditions that I would rather not allude to. I'm not a freak or "superior", I'm merely naturally talented at predicting how things will shape up as well as being able to apply theory without ever having to lift a model. Obviously, it isn't difficult to quickly gauge the competitive potential of each individual unit in a codex and almost every competitive player does it subconsciously, but I feel confident in saying my predictions are usually vindicated once the theory gives way to hard evidence. As to the reason why I dropped out of 40K in the first place, that's a story that ties very heavily into what I am currently experiencing regarding the Age of Sigmar; I fell in love with Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition a few years back and was right into it all the way up to End Times: Archaon. The game was perfect for me; mostly balanced armies with a few acceptable rock-paper-scissors match-ups, and a rule-set that encouraged deep tactical thought while placing a heavy emphasis on generalship over list-building. This was reflected by my local gaming store as well where Fantasy quickly overtook 40K as the dominant game system, but as one would expect, that all changed once Age of Sigmar was released.

What got you back into Warhammer 40,000?

Age of Sigmar inadvertently brought me right back into 40K and not the Eldar release as I had expected, but to say I've been somewhat displeased with my recent outings would be somewhat of an understatement. It boils down to this; I had a fully painted Eldar Ulthwe Wraith army from when the 6th Edition codex was released. Enter the new codex which helped to bring me back into 40K. Everyone hates Wraiths and thinks that I'm merely riding a bandwagon even though I legitimately had this army for years prior to the new codex and built it to be themed, while they also failed to acknowledge and appreciate that I was using Eldar to try and springboard back into 40K. Mind you, my local gaming store is full of regular tournament players that use lists such as the Adeptus Mechanicus War Convocation, the Necron Decurion with Canoptek Harvest, dual Skyblight with a Harridan and so on. This killed my interest in Eldar completely and also any chance of me getting back into 40K for the time being, at least until the Space Marine codex was released and I saw another avenue to reenter. I went for a different approach this time and elected to do a Skyhammer army for its mixture of theme, looks and play-style while remaining highly competitive for me to use against other strong opponents and also to take to tournaments. Between multiple stores - one featuring a player using a 1500 point army list with four Wraithknights and an Avatar of Khaine - I was met with outright hostility for even attempting to use a Skyhammer, despite me warning all of my opponents in advance of what I was using and offering to use the same models in regular Combined Arms detachments for a much weaker list. This is keeping in mind that my Skyhammer list wasn't even maximised properly as I was taking what amounted to 30 bolter-armed Devastators (Tacticals), 30 proper Devastators with a mix of Melta and Graviton weaponry and 30 Assault Marines.....kind of like an actual Battle Company. Nope, people outright refused to play it and complained about my list despite having armies that could either deal with it or were outright stronger across the board.

Do you want to give a guess as to how I've truly managed to get back into the swing of things? I restarted Tyranids and have played exclusively themed lists featuring no Flying Hive Tyrants (the best unit in the codex), none of the formations (what make Tyranids work competitively) and possessing only one of each monstrous creature (the exceptions being that I have three melee Carnifexes and two Tyrannoctyes). My army has won just a single match and lost most others, but at least no-one complains about my Tyranids that I spent several hundred dollars on. Mind you, I spent even more on that Space Marine army and way more on the Eldar army, but I guess that's just too bad as people refuse to play against my fluffy lists while being perfectly happy to bring six flyers against an obviously non-competitive Tyranid list that lacks anti-air. Heck, one such opponent even idly said that one of his armies was the "I don't give a f**k I drink your tears" army and on another occasion that he was lucky that "his favourite army was good". That's well and fine but where is the fairness to me!? Everyone else takes whatever the heck they want, often bringing legitimate top tier tournament lists, but no one ever bats an eye; on my end, however, I'm met with outright hostility and a refusal to play matches if I take something even remotely strong. That's hyperbole but that is what it feels like and it has been the case for a good while. If this all sounds pedantic to you, think of how expensive three different 2000 point armies are for Eldar, Space Marines and Tyranids, all with new models bought on site at Games Workshop stores, not to mention that the Eldar were commission painted. Would you like being told you can't play your army after spending so much money and effort on them?

This is the core principle I have always tried to adhere to at Imperator Guides but have lost sight of in recent times, especially with my Blood Angels review; gamers want to be able to use the models they spent their money and time on, to have fun with them and try to win matches with them, not be told they can't use them or that their models have no use in a competitive game. Moving away from this belief is a big part of why I struggled through the recent 40K unit summary reviews, and it is something I want to address above all in my future reviews. I know full well how expensive and demanding building an army for a Games Workshop model line is, and I damn well don't like seeing people be flatly told they cannot or should not use their armies. This is why I am completely open to the challenges offered by fellow competitive gamers and why I don't mind losing; ultimately, it is a game intended for both participants to enjoy themselves, not just one party. The more people begin to realize this, the better the Warhammer 40,000 community in particular will be. To round out this over-long answer, what ultimately got me back into 40K full swing in conjunction with the Tyranids was the realization that people will complain no matter what I bring and I should just learn to live with it and play the damn games. It doesn't change the fact that I'm majorly irritated to this day by the hypocrisy surrounding me but at the very least I can play the games and try to enjoy them, even if my opponents have a warped idea of what constitutes a fun game for both parties; unlike them, I really don't care what they use against me, though I would appreciate if they could cut me some slack in return. Interestingly enough, no one seemed to complain when I made a full-blown Chaos Knight army using the Imperial Knight codex (before Forge World released their models and rules for Chaos Knights, I converted up four of my own with a fifth still in early development stages) and the Exalted Court rules.

Are you angry at your local gaming scene?

Not really. There's a degree of pettiness and unfair treatment being directed my way by some but generally they are all people I consider good friends. There's less anger and more irritation or even disappointment on my part; that Skyhammer army was not cheap and I only got to play four games with it, two of which were against the exact same list. On that note, my results with the Skyhammer are; two wins, two losses, just for the sake of reference. 

What are your thoughts on Age of Sigmar?

Ok, this is the big one that I am sure a big part of the wargaming community has been eager to read as many bloggers and competitive players have been quite mum on this, while I've obviously been completely silent due to my two month absence. I think that the Age of Sigmar is a very fun and well designed game with some deficiencies that will likely be addressed by player cooperation. I've never seen a game like this where literally every unit has a purpose and can be made extremely strong or otherwise useful through the use of combos or the units' own innate abilities; Age of Sigmar is undoubtedly a game of combo-play and mixing multiple abilities and units together to create some truly fantastic results. I feel that Zombies are the surest proof of this use; what should be useless fodder are instead made into terrifyingly powerful death-dealers if taken in large enough numbers, while the individual weaknesses of characters and monsters past are greatly alleviated by the simplified rule set. The issues most players have with it - the lack of a balancing points system, the ridiculous simplicity of everything and the presence of certain god-tier models such as Nagash - are ones that can be easily rectified by the aforementioned player interaction; the rules are so simple and free form by design to allow players to alter the games and scenarios to their liking and find a middle ground that is acceptable for all parties involved.

If a player wants to bring Nagash, invent a scenario where the other side is holding a fortress and must survive against the Undead onslaught; if your opponent brings an equal amount of Ogres to a fight as your Humans, have the Ogres be forced to play on a time limit where the scenario is that they have a certain amount of time to raid and plunder a village before a defending force arrives. The rules are a framework from which to hang your own individual games of Age of Sigmar and tweak them to your liking, something that Warhammer Fantasy never encouraged you to try. I'm excited for the future of Age of Sigmar and I hope more fans embrace it as new armies are introduced and old ones re-imagined for this epic setting inspired by Norse mythology. However, my positive outlook aside....this is not a replacement for Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition. I loved that game system to death despite not giving a damn about Fantasy until I tried it only a few years ago, and I'm so sad to see it and its' setting gone just as I was really getting into it. I'm sure I'll warm to Age of Sigmar more once other armies are released, but for now I really don't care about the Stormcast Eternals and I certainly don't feel any inspiration to add models to my existing Fantasy armies. I do recommend that you all try it out and not just buy into the preconceived hate for a new game just barely into its' infancy as you - like most others - will be amazed at how much fun it is, but for those that played Fantasy for its supreme tactical gameplay, you will likely be as disappointed as I am. I could say a lot more about this game system and all the individual things I like about it but I think I'll leave that for another article - one thing I've noted is that, unless I'm blind, I've not seen any actual tactics-based reviews for the current Age of Sigmar armies and individual war-scrolls released so far. Interesting...

Will you do reviews for Age of Sigmar?

Errr, yes. When? I have no idea and I have no intention of even thinking about a date. I'll likely start off with the Warscroll Compendiums for the old 8th Edition armies, then move on to the Stormcast Eternals and go from there. 

You mentioned you disliked your Blood Angels review; why?

It is the culmination of a falling from grace, at least from my perspective. As I touched on earlier, I feel the reason so many people liked my reviews was because they were honest, in-depth and explored every avenue to try and make a unit worthwhile in an attempt to give players the tools necessary to use their models wisely in a game. I've been guilty of not giving units the credit they deserve recently and not trying to find positives in the sea of negativity that is the mass internet opinion; people want to be able to have fun and get meaningful value out of their Tyranid Maleceptor (which is a sick model I now have the honour of owning) or Chaos Space Marine Mutilators, not be told incessantly they should look elsewhere for good units instead of being given the proper advice they requested. Whether it be big or small, I want to help players to make the most of what they have, something I know I lost sight of recently. Also, I just feel apathetic to all of the Adeptus Astartes 'deviants' because ultimately so many of the same units are recycled from the Space Marine codex with minimal or no changes, meaning I have to review everything over and over again. Do I really need to review the same three Land Raider variants and the multiple permutations of the Rhino chassis that each of the five Adeptus Astartes codices possesses as many times as there are different books they feature in? This is also why my current review template just doesn't work that well and I will look at trying to change in, but with specific regards to Blood Angels, my review of them was done as the "stepping stone" to the much larger Space Marine review I know everyone was waiting for. I like Blood Angels but it was just a pain to be forced to trek through their codex to get to the newer, slicker one I and most others were really excited for. I think what I'll do is review the entirety of the Space Marine book in a hybrid of the short and long formats much like my Astra Militarum series, then move on to Dark Angels and only cover what specifically makes them different from Space Marines, saving me so many damned headaches and unnecessary repetition. This will be the format for all Adeptus Astartes codex reviews moving forward - not that there are any more to do after Dark Angels - and I'll adopt the hybrid review format for the larger codices. Where the small "ally-me!" books such as the Skitarri and Harlequins are concerned, I'll probably keep the reviews short and sweet as ultimately those codices have been out for a good while and there isn't too much to cover on the units themselves but more what they are capable of as fully-fledged or as allied forces.

So, Space Marines are your next review?

Yes, and this was always the plan even a few months ago. It's still fairly recent and players are still finding interesting ways to use their units, plus it just so happens to be the biggest and most popular army Games Workshop produces by far. I don't want to skimp out on any army but if there's one I absolutely must give my full attention to, it is Space Marines. Besides, the codex was so darned good that it inspired me to make a Skyhammer list almost solely based on the mixture of theme and play-style it represented, while the book itself had a pretty significant impact on the competitive meta.

What about your ongoing Ork review?

I feel like I have some new insights into Orks as truthfully no-one in my area has been playing them for months up until very recently. It's given me a spark to get back into that review but it most definitely won't be in the style of the previous articles as I'm just not sure I can sustain that type of effort into the blog while juggling everything else that is happening in my life. I have lots of free time but I mostly spend it resting or meditating (I'm not joking) as I'm in a fairly unique situation with regards to my job and its effect on my mental health. However, I want to do them justice, and one could even say that I've been thinking very deeply about restarting the very army I entered the hobby with so many years ago. People are often surprised when they find out Orks were my first army for some reason or another, but personally I kinda wish I was playing them again as a small child completely oblivious to what a "tournament" for a board game was.

I noticed your Twitch link, what's that about?

I love playing video games and I love Twitch, so throwing my own hat into the ring as an extra for whoever might be interested seemed like a good idea. I can't see myself doing it anytime soon though as my internet is simply not good enough to sustain a decent quality stream, though the frame-work is established and I'm ready to get started with streaming when possible. I don't have the equipment to do streams of my Warhammer 40,000 games unfortunately, or to even capture good quality videos of them.

Anything else I missed?

Nope, that about covers all of it.

I'm happy to be back, and that's all I have to say about that.


  1. Interesting stuff, Imp. Glad to have you back.

    Great thoughts on AoS, too. I've been hoping to see your thoughts on it for a while now.

    1. Thank you as always Aaron! I'm looking at covering the core ruleset for Age of Sigmar in more detail soon so hopefully that all works out.

  2. it is a shame your gaming group reacted like that to your lists, when they brought just as filthy, if not filthier lists to the game. I have to be honest it is lists like 4 wraithknights or jetbike spam that turn me off 40k a bit. I have a much better time playing my group of friends and local tournaments where you do not see these types of lists, and the atmosphere is generally friendly and armies balanced and more fluffy. There is nothing wrong with bringing a strong army (like you did, for thematic reasons) but when lists are built purely to ruin someone's game then there is something wrong and that layer should take a long hard look at themselves.

    I admire your honesty in writing this post, and really hope you find some peace & stability in your personal life.

    I look forward to reading your new reviews (always have) :)

    1. I prefer playing with my local group as well but obviously the 40K part of the crowd is quite a bit different compared to when I was around near the start of 7th Edition, I recall Jervis Johnson saying he looked at Warhammer 40,000 as an "escalating arms race" and truly that is no more apparent than with Eldar and AdMech I feel. One thing that also kind of annoys me is that I know quite a few of my opponents list tailor and act as if they don't know what my army is capable of despite watching lots of battle reports and having heaps of personal experience. I don't like list tailoring and have never done it myself unless I've been purposefully weakening my list to help run a good and fair tutorial match for a newbie.

      Thank you for your kind words! I like to be as transparent and honest as I can possibly be with people because I really don't mind people knowing about me and I find it assists greatly in positive communication. I'm hoping my next reviews like up to my high standards and that of you guys :)

  3. Thank you for being so open and honest towards your situation. This blog must take a lot of time and yet you (like the rest of us) must take care of yourself first. Good luck.

    1. Thank you mate! Each blog post takes several hours to write and my preference to put out regular content - generally one article per two-three days - when possible makes the process difficult to maintain, especially when I spend most of my free time resting out of necessity. Generally though I'm trying to improve my time spent doing things other than resting just as part of my personal goals, so I'm endeavoring to put quite a bit of time into the blog again.

  4. Four things:

    1) Glad to have you back. We did miss you.

    2) It sounds like your local 40K player-base is rather immature and petty. I'm happy you came away from that experience with the attitude that you did, but I definitely understand your frustration. I don't play these games to hear people whine, and I doubt you do either.

    3) Your take on Age of Sigmar is refreshing here in internet-land. I left Fantasy during 8th edition, not because of the rules (I loved them!) but because I really can't actively collect multiple massive armies for more than one game and still have a family and a life. Age of Sigmar may just lure me back in, because I don't need a massive army. I can literally just buy the monsters or heroes that I think look cool, and come up with fun stories of why they are fighting my opponent. On a side note, it sounds like Kings of War might be a suitable solution for the massive army game. Might be worth checking out.

    4) Whatever life brings, don't quit the hobby. I don't mean the blog or a specific game. I mean the hobby of miniature wargaming in general. I don't know you personally, but every one of us has something in this hobby... some part of it... that is "therapeutic" to our minds and our souls. It might be painting. It might be playing the games. It might be reading the army books. And it might not always be the same thing all the time. But whatever that thing is for you, hold on to it. It's more important to your life than you know. Don't let any game manufacturer, store owner, opponent, or internet troll rob you of that. Change games if you have to. Change armies. Change opponents. But don't quit the hobby.... for your own sake.

    Oh... and if you aren't a member already, join us over in the G+ Warhammer 40,000 community. It is by far one of the most positive places on the internet for people who love 40K! You can find us at: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/113711991701122962234

    Again, welcome back!

  5. Thank you for contributing to the hobby I love do much. Great reviews balanced and insightful. Play with the toys you like, it's your game. thanks Chris

  6. Hi jack, long time visitor to this site. I've suffered with mental health issues myself not long ago but managed to power through. I'm a much stronger person for it and I'm sure you are too. Your articles are second to none and it's great to have you back. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to post, make sure this blog remains a pleasure not a burden, I look forward to reading more as and when you post. All the best mate.

  7. I want you to know blogger to blogger that your 40k articles have been a major inspiration to me and your recommendations and assessments have made me a better player. Thank you!

  8. Thank you all for your kind words!
    I was working yesterday and have been a bit sleep deprived but I have the next few days off so expect some new articles within the next 24 or 48 hours depending on how I'm feeling!

  9. Happy to have you back to writing on your blog :D

    I will say that the fears of the Skyhammer force are a bit exaggerated. The formation is very good, but it's not game-breaking, even when optimized. After testing it a bunch of times with Gravs and Multimeltas, it ended up being a decent alpha strike for me, but lacking the ability to Object Secure locations. Also, it's a lot of points to invest to add into your army. You have to build around the formation, it can't just be slapped in an army list and expect it to be amazing. I'm sure you have caught onto this yourself, but I just wanted to add in my observations.

    As far as AoS goes, it's a bit disappointing that there aren't more Tactical articles online. While there are less tactics than WFB 8th edition, that does not mean there are no tactics at all. After playing the game a lot over the past two months (following the rules as closely as possible), I have picked up a lot of strategies on unit placements, when to charge, combos, movement, counters, etc. The most important thing I have learned is that when it comes to units, their worth is less about their stats and more about what special rules and abilities they have.

  10. Here's a thought: would competitive 40k be improved if named characters and special formations (Decurion) were disallowed from tournament play? Or would the Eldar and Necrons just still be too good?