How real is too real?

I paint miniatures almost every day, but one curious thing about my collection is that there are barely any historical figures on my shelf. There are a few reasons for that. For starters, fantasy and steampunk stuff is often straight-up cool. In addition, I like to create my own schemes much more than researching exactly what shade of grey Hugo Boss chose for the uniforms of the SS. Fantasy figures give me the freedom to do this, because no one can tell me that I have the wrong shade of purple on my uniforms. And, of course, when you play fantasy wargames, you end up painting entire armies of fantasy wardollies so you can play the game.

But there’s another reason why I stay away from historical miniatures and wargaming, and it’s one that I’ve discussed with a friend back home a while ago.

I’m uncomfortable with war

At the last CapCon, there were a lot of pretty cool dioramas. Most of these were of a historical nature, representing scenes from world wars, which I didn’t mind until I got to one with the name “last stand” or something like that. In it, you had some Allied and German soldiers in some very close combat. The diorama exuded action, with plenty of the models in very dynamic poses, and was nicely built and painted. Unfortunately, it had a little too much death in it for my tastes — there were one or two soldiers who were falling down dead. Another guy was about to deliver a killing blow to an opposing solider with an entrenching tool, and one poor soldier was modelled with his helmet coming off as he fell to the ground, having just been shot in the face.

While it was technically very well done, and I liked the dynamic poses of the figures, something just didn’t quite sit right with me about it. Looking at it kind of made me a little uncomfortable (which may have been what the artist was going for), and it got me thinking about where I draw the line in my modelling.

Image result for harry patch

“I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.” – Harry Patch, the last surviving combat solider from WWI.

When I was a kid, I had that sort of child-like wonder at cool pieces of machinery like tanks and military aircraft, and devoured books about the subject. But as I’ve grown a little older, I’ve come to realize that war is nothing short of human tragedy on a massive scale. Many of the young men and women who went off to fight came back blinded, wounded, missing limbs, or completely traumatized, and that’s if they were lucky enough to come back at all. Just try to listen to “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” without choking up; it’s practically impossible. I wouldn’t say I’m a pacifist, but this past November, I spent a little time thinking about whether I could line someone up in my sights and pull the trigger, and I’m not sure that’s something I am capable of.

At least, I’d like to think so. Throw me in the hell that is the trenches for a few weeks, and perhaps I would get so desensitized to the slaughter that my attitude may change.

There’s just something about doing dioramas about the throes of combat or painting historical military figures engaging in battle, that just doesn’t quite sit well with me. It’s hard to articulate, but I’m not sure I want to spend hours poring over, or have sitting on my shelf to look at, a diorama of a bunch of young Tommies going over the top and getting mowed down by machine gun fire.

Even if it is simply a soldier out of combat, it can be hard to look at knowing that he’s likely to be sent off to the front and end up killed or wounded. And this is before we get into the sort of sticky issues surrounding modelling the people who murdered entire families in the gas chambers and the Panzers that stormed through most of Europe to enable them to do so.

Blood for the blood god!

On the other hand, fantasy stuff doesn’t give me that same reaction. I can load up as much blood as I want on the chainsaw bayonet on my steam-suited character’s grenade launcher, and it doesn’t have the same impact. I think it’s because everything in the setting is so cartoonishly ridiculous that it doesn’t remind me of any particularly gruesome historical period. A pile of Orc skulls somehow doesn’t quite disturb me as much as seeing Tommy or Fritz face down in a pool of mud and blood because orcs aren’t real.

IMG_0492.JPGFor example, my Butcher model from Warmachine is ridiculously over the top. Blood splatters, body parts, and a guy cut in half on the base. However, it’s the Butcher — the craziest, most murderous character in the Iron Kingdoms, which is itself an insanely ridiculous and absurdly violent setting. The model itself is absurd; he’s carrying a boiler around on his back, right next to some presumably flammable or at least badly singed fur. His proportions make him look like he’s suffering from gigantism, his axe is too heavy for anyone to swing, and wearing those shoulder pads in actual combat is just straight-up insane. On top of all of that, he’s painted in bright purple and pink. Everything about him is so ridiculously over the top that slathering on more blood than a Quentin Tarantino movie doesn’t have quite the same effect.

I realize that most people who model historical stuff don’t do it to glamourize or fetishize war, and many of them have deep connections to some of the stuff they model — maybe that Lancaster was from their father’s squadron, or perhaps their grandpa served on that ship. But for me as someone who does primarily figures, it can be a little much, especially if we’re talking figures where I have to paint the whites of someone’s eyes as he draws his last breath.

So, I probably won’t be doing a lot of historical military figures anytime soon, not unless I spot a representation of a historical figure who really interests me such as Billy Bishop or Lidya Litvyak. As for historical wargaming, I feel like I can safely write off just about any game where someone has to play the Nazis, so there’s not likely to be any Flames of War or Bolt Action for me.

Final thoughts

A little while ago, I saw a picture on facebook of an award-winning diorama of the crash of SAS Flight 751. The diorama was technically very well done, and was an impressive feat of modelling. However, some people in the comments were expressing discomfort with the subject matter, because of all the death and destruction surrounding the site of a plane crash. At least, they were, until it was pointed out that thanks to some impressive airmanship and a bit of luck, everyone was able to walk away from the crash with only a couple serious injuries.

For just about everyone, I would wager there is a personal limit to the subjects they are willing to work on, and some things that they may find to be just too uncomfortable to represent in miniature. I’ve drawn my own line, and I know it may be logically inconsistent for me to be squeamish about combat scenes while pouring a whole pot of Blood for the Blood God over a space marine, but it’s what I’m comfortable with.

Hot Takes: Champions and Khador ADR

Privateer Press recently spoiled some of their changes to the champions format, including the Active Duty Roster. And, like any Privateer Press release, that means there will be a deluge of hot takes, questionable analyses, and not-fully-thought-through opinions. Remember how all the Cryx players thought Ghost Fleet was unplayable trash and their faction was uncompetitive about a year ago? Anyways, I couldn’t let this go by without offering my unsolicited and uninformed opinions on the new format and the new ADR roster for Khador.

Format changes

There are a few format changes for the Masters and Champions tournament formats. First, Divide and Conquer, the requirement that everyone must play all of their lists at least once, is no longer a thing. This is something that may have been necessary in the past when one could just rock something like old-school Haley2 to victory on the strength of one extremely overpowered list, however now that balance is a bit tighter, character restrictions on lists are gone, and outliers are typically addressed through errata rather than being allowed to linger for years, there really is no reason for it to continue to exist and I don’t think it will be missed.

Masters also no longer uses ADR, which means that Specialists are gone from the format. Specialists are basically a sideboard that you are allowed if you bring casters on the ADR list. I like the idea of a format with a sideboard, and feel that there are a lot of underplayed, niche units which are good sideboard choices (hello, Assault Kommandos and Kossites!), however the economy of free points in themes meant it never really worked out. Either you had to create various legal permutations and combinations of your lists with whatever specialists you were afforded, or you had to spend ten minutes futzing around on War Room to get your lists to work out before the game started because you changed out a model which in turn changed the number of free solos from your theme.

They also made a lot of changes to the Active Duty Roster, the most notable being that themes are now a part of it. In addition to being limited to certain casters, you must choose your theme force from a list, and you aren’t allowed to play the same theme force for both your lists. This is an interesting idea, because it makes the ADR a truly limited format by disallowing more than 10% of the models in a faction, and I kind of like it. Further, they are increasing the number of casters available to most factions from four to five, and decreasing the number available to CoC and Grymkin to three, because ADR restrictions didn’t really do much to already limited factions and that helps balance out the big advantage that the limited factions got in the format.

They also discussed in CID the removal of the 15 second minimum turn, which is something that I am agnostic on. I don’t think the 15 second turn is as necessary given the hard turn limit in the game, but I still am not sure it’s a good experience when you’re that low on time and people are just throwing down focus and slapping the clock as fast as they can. However, it’s not something that has affected me greatly; I don’t usually have a lot of clock management issues, and when I do, I’m usually already screwed in other ways and on the way to a loss anyways.

Finally, they didn’t come out and make it official yet, but it’s been said during the CID process that PP is going to remove the painting requirement from Champions. This is probably a controversial statement, but I think it is good for Privateer Press to have a painting requirement on at least one of their tournament formats. It not only encourages painting, but it also means that people who like fully painted armies but aren’t good enough players to qualify for (and/or aren’t willing or able to travel to) huge national conventions like the WTC or Adepticon are more likely to have a chance at having a fully painted experience at smaller, more local conventions. The painting requirement was one reason why I chose to do Champions instead of Masters at the SOO, because it’s refreshing to have a whole day of fully painted games. However, I also think that a painting requirement and a limited format aren’t a great combination, as you could end up in a situation where players aren’t allowed to play their painted models due to the restrictions of the format. I think it would be a good idea to flip the painting requirement from Champions to Masters, or introduce a new format, or something so that painting requirements in Warmachine don’t go the way of the dodo. Dallas and the team at PP do a lot of work to promote the hobby aspect, and it would be sad to undermine that effort by eliminating all painting requirements from every official format and signal to the player base that it’s not important to at least aspire to play it painted.

Our Roster

khador_adr.jpg

Anyways, onto the Khador ADR roster. Our caster choices consist of Kozlov, Sorscha3, Irusk2, Butcher1, and Zerkova1, and we are limited to two themes: Armoured Corps, and Jaws of the Wolf. Of course, I only play one of these casters and Armoured Corps has a lot of new models that I haven’t fully examined yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spew my uninformed opinions out onto the Warmachine internet.

Kozlov

Ironically, for a caster who is supposed to be an Iron Fang, Kozlov is probably best in Armoured Corps. Fury and Tactical Supremacy are both excellent support spells for Man-O-War, particularly Shocktroopers, and I’ve been running him in Armoured Corps already with my patented “just take two of all the good models in the theme” list. Double Shocktroopers, double Drakhun, double Kovnik, and double Forge Seer, then season your battlegroup to taste. Once our new releases come out, I think that will open up a lot of new tactics and list builds with models that have previously been not that great such as the Demolition Corps and Bombardiers. Also, Atanas is going to unlock a lot, because the ability to move through your own models allows for a lot of options on the battlefield.

Jaws could potentially be interesting. Kozlov has some battlegroup support spells and his feat affects all models, including warjacks. The problem is that after spending three focus on upkeeps, and without any free charges or other forms of focus efficiency on the feat, he doesn’t have the focus to support a large battlegroup. However, PP has proposed allowing journeyman warcasters in Jaws of the Wolf, so bringing Andy1 and Sorscha0 and throwing a jack on each of them, plus perhaps one on a Forge Seer could solve some of those focus inefficiency issues.

Sorscha3

Sorscha3 is the latest iteration of Sorscha to be released in June, and she is my most anticipated model in a long time because it’s Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit and that is awesome. She grants Flank [Man-O-War] to her battlegroup, has a cost 1 jack support spell, Iron Flesh, and a cloudwall feat with clouds that hurt. I think there are a lot of tools here that could potentially be unlocked, but it’s pretty clear here that she’s a Man-O-War caster, so for my money, it’s Armoured Corps for her.

Also, she can take Beast 09 and Forge Seers can now cast Winter’s Wind on Beast. You’re welcome.

Irusk2:

At first glance, Irusk2 seems like he doesn’t really synergize with the themes available. He’s an infantry support caster, but his tools don’t seem to support Man-O-War as good as some others — I mean, how many Man-O-War can you fit in an Artifice of Deviation anyways? And with almost none of his kit doing anything to support warjacks, Jaws seems like a bad choice.

That is, until you remember that there is more to Jaws than just spamming warjacks. Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and there are some interesting infantry choices in the theme. If you stack Battle Lust on top of the Kayazy Assassins’ minifeat, they can do a lot of damage with those little knives. Between Stealth, Tough, and Artifice of Deviation, they’re going to be difficult to remove on the way in. And just to add on an additional level of obnoxiousness, throw on Alexia1 so when they do finally kill one of your dudes, they come back as a zombie.

Butcher1:

I also think Butcher1 could be interesting in a combined arms Jaws list, if only because stacking Gang, Fury, mini-feat and Butcher’s feat on a unit of Kayazy Assassins allows for some truly hilarious damage potential on those tiny daggers.

I’m probably the only Khador player who has never actually played any of the Butchers (because I’m on Team Sorscha), but over at Avatar of Slaughter, Robert McCormick has been making some noise about Butcher1 in Armoured Corps, so… I dunno, go over there and read something from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Zerkova1:

I don’t know, she… has a cloudwall, I guess? To be honest, I’ve only played Zerkova1 a couple of times, and I haven’t done particularly well with her. She doesn’t really help warjacks or help infantry hit hard, and she seems to lean more towards either Legion of Steel or Wolves of Winter as she would want to use the cloudwall to deliver something that packs a bit more of a punch and has a higher volume of attacks than Man-O-Wars.

On the other hand, countercharging Drakhuns through a unit of Shocktroopers behind a cloudwall seems legit, Ghost Walk could be fun combined with Demo Corps or Drakhuns, Hex Blast can more or less risk free take an enemy upkeep off a unit of Man-O-Wars, and Frost Hammer can be used to spray down single wound infantry jamming your Man-O-Wars without being so powerful that it can actually hurt the guys in the big metal suits.

Okay, I take it back, try her out in Armoured Corps.

My Pairings:

So, what am I going to run? First off, I’m definitely running Sorscha3 in Armoured Corps when she comes out, just because Sorscha is an old favourite of mine and Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit is straight up awesome. For a second list, since I’m restricted to Jaws, the smart thing to do would probably be a combined arms Jaws with two units of Kayazy Assassins and either Butcher1 or Irusk2. However, I don’t own any Kayazy Assassins and probably won’t want to paint 20 of them, and I’m also not particularly smart. Which means I’m going to wait for Sorscha0 to release and then make some sort of weird Kozlov Superfriends list, taking Kozlov and both Juniors and relying on his feat and the ability to stack speed buffs to hit hard and fast and be ARM 22 against melee. Because screw it, Cygnar shouldn’t be the only ones who are allowed to have fun with their juniors.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am intrigued by the new format as I think it will be nice to have a truly limited format, especially for people who can’t be bothered to remember what all 1,200 or so models in the game do or are sick of worrying about the OP boogeyman of the week. For Khador, I think there are going to be two challenges. First is going to be our usual Khador issues with incorporeal and recursion. Fortunately, however, Ghost Fleet isn’t on the ADR so we don’t have to worry about basically autolosing if we didn’t bring mass RFP and mass magic weapons or because our opponent brought a Wraith Engine, so this may be less of an issue than it is in unlimited formats.

Second is the fact that we are restricted to two themes which are generally comprised of heavily armoured, low defense, SPD 4 models. This means that it’s very easy to end up in a situation where you have two similar lists that share similar weaknesses, which is not a good position to be in in a two list pairing. Further, these bricks of slow models could struggle into some of the very live scenarios that exist in a post-SR2017 world.

While this looks like it could be a problem and the first reaction might be to complain about being dealt a bad ADR following on an underwhelming CID because PP doesn’t like us as much as they like Cryx and Cygnar, I think this ADR could be an opportunity to force some exploration and creativity in list building. We could see some more experimentation with combined arms Jaws lists, as well as the use of mercenaries to supplement the weaknesses of Armoured Corps. Already, the wheels are turning for me regarding things like combining Kayazy Assassins with Butcher1 or Irusk2, or finding some mercenaries that may be useful as flanking pieces for Armoured Corps lists.

Now, to sit and wait until my next big order of plasticrack comes in…