Monday, November 19, 2012

Cry Havoc
Starting a New Army

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu, Warmaster c. M1

If you play Warhammer long enough you will collect more than one army.  Players decide to start new armies for a variety of reasons:  the release of a codex, attempting to create an army from a novel, liking a new model or paint scheme, etc.
I recently decided to pick up a new army and I would like to share some thoughts about my experiences so far.  Those of you that have seen me in the past few weeks (or played against me) know that for the first time in three years I’ve been playing something other than Space Wolves.  By no means have I given up on the Sons of Russ but I’m trying my hand at something else as well.

Enter the White Scars.
My foray into the White Scars began one evening as I was sorting through some extra models trying to figure out what to do with them.  I realized that I had enough extra Space Marines to make a new army but had no idea which Chapter that would be.  I picked some Tactical Marines left over from Assault on Black Reach and decided to use them to test out different Chapter’s paint schemes.  Over the next week I painted a couple of White Scars Tactical Marines and was pleased with how they turned out.

As most Warhammer players realize, our hobby has many different facets, i.e. modeling, painting, playing, and background material.  Some people like all four parts of the hobby equally and some players prefer some aspects to others.  Whatever part (or parts) of the hobby you like best, make sure that you’re selecting a new army for a reason that is reinforced by your favorite parts of the game.  For an example, let’s take a look at my decision to start collecting the White Scars.
Anyone that’s ever talked to me about Warhammer 40,000 knows that my favorite Space Marine Legion is the Space Wolves.  I’ve read all the available novels and background material (sometimes twice!) and perhaps most importantly I despise the Thousand Sons.  What does this have to do with collecting the White Scars?  Up until this point I’ve painted 2 Tactical Marines and 1 Bike, although I do enjoy painting it is not my favorite aspect of the hobby.  Surprisingly I knew very little about the White Scars.  I started my research by digging through my old copies of White Dwarf for the White Scars Index Astartes article and have since read a couple of White Scars novels.

Now that I had my paint scheme established (there are multiple different methods for painting most armies including the White Scars) and that I liked the White Scars (from a storyline perspective), I needed to get some Space Marine Bikes.
I now have enough bikes assembled to play 750 points (which is the current point value of the local Escalation League).  Learning to play a new army is difficult and I’ve always felt that it’s best to start off relatively small so that you can familiarize yourself with the basic rules of your new troops.  For my White Scars this meant a drastic change in both game rules and play style from Harald Deathwolf’s Great Company.  I’ve had to familiarize myself with rules like Jink, Relentless, Furious Charge, and Hit & Run while at the same time get used to not having Fleet, Rending, or Counter-Attack.  It’s been a challenging process to learn and remember all of these new rules while adapting to a more fragile (and fast!) army.

I learned some valuable lessons during my first few games (which were all losses).  Most importantly I began the process of learning what the White Scars can and cannot do.  Since I’m still working this out for the White Scars let me use my Space Wolves as an example.  In the early days of my Space Wolves I thought Thunderwolf Cavalry was nigh invincible.  I would regularly charge them headlong into anything and everything.  The first lesson I learned was that Thunderwolves need Long Fangs for support fire, without Long Fangs Thunderwolves have to break open the transports themselves, which even though it’s easy for them to do, hinders the units overall effectiveness in contributing to the game’s outcome.  The second hard earned lesson I received was that Thunderwolves cannon beat Walkers in close combat.  I figured between one model having a Str 10 Thunder Hammer and the other model’s Rending attacks I should be able to destroy a Walker but experience showed otherwise (time and again).  Eventually, I ran some statistics on the match-up and it was obvious why I lost more frequently than won.
I’m glad I decided to start a White Scars army.  I still have a lot more work to do for every aspect of my new army (modeling, painting, background reading, and learning how to play them).  I’ve always felt that late Fall/Winter was a good time to start a new project, in fact I started both my Salamanders and Space Wolves during the winter.

There are some great resources available to help you if you decide to start a new army.  I mentioned the Escalation League at Legions but it doesn’t have to be anything that formal.  There are a handful of players that decided to do the Tale of Four Gamers (detailed in White Dwarf a few years ago) with each starting a new army for the project.  I hear there may be an upcoming campaign at Gatehouse Games which would present another great opportunity to pick up a new army.  However you decide to approach the matter, try not to get frustrated by early difficulties – whether it’s a loss on the table top or difficulty getting the paint scheme the way that you want it – learn from them.

Please feel free to respond with your experiences in starting a new army below.