Inside Pulse 12

New Year, New Army – Issue 1: Preparing for NoVA Open (Warhammer: Age of Sigmar)

Longtime readers of Diehard GameFAN know that I’ve been a wargamer, starting with Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Fourth Edition, roughly 21 years ago. You also probably know that I’m not much of a tournament gamer. Sure at one point I would do Heroclix tournaments, but that was for the pieces you could only get at tournies. I also played in Dungeons & Dragons Miniature tournaments and at one point was ranked second overall by their points system. Outside of those two games, I hated playing in tournaments. Instead of being a fun, relaxing situation where you meet new people (possibly even making new friends) and play a fun game, most tournaments outside of these two gamed tended to be….well, full of ultra-competitive assholes. People were outright mean to each other, would take a GAME crazy seriously. You’d see people popping veins, swearing left and right and just treating their opponent like an actual enemy. The two worst of these were Warhammer post 6th edition and Warmahordes games. The former because Games Workshop pulled itself out of tournaments more or less and the latter being the absolute worst to the point where even those who love the game, and even industry insiders, admit that the play environment and mood are extremely negative. The quality of Heroclix and its tournament atmosphere fell apart when the original Wizkids died, and D&D Minis stopped existing with the coming of Fourth Edition (Which ruined so much for so many people, but I know people for whom 4e was their first and/or favorite edition, so good for them. We’re not going to play edition wars here.)

Eventually I stopped with tournaments altogether and stuck just with video games. Tabletop just kind of slowly died out for me save for RPGs. The asshole phenomenon is also why I stopped with video game tournies as well. Old geezer video gamers will remember me winning a lot of Capcom vs. SNK or KoF ’98 tournies back when both games were fresh and new, but the casual friendly atmosphere of those early days has long since been eroded by people screaming ethnic, racial and sexual slurs at you while you play (especially online!), which ruins the experience for me. Again, I play games to relax, not to get stressed out. When I find something that is supposed to be fun becoming work or a source of stress instead of pleasure, it’s when I drop it. Which is why I stopped writing for the most part a few years back.

So flash forward to two years ago and I realized NoVA Open, one of the biggest wargaming conventions/tournies in the US was literally in walking distance of where I lived. The people offered me a free press pass. I decided to go, giving them a press blurb and then, after the event, writing up a piece on one of the classes that I attended. No, I didn’t partake in any tournaments. I just did some painting classes and bought a few things. There wasn’t a tournament for the Batman Miniature game, which is what I was primarily playing at the time (still am), but there also wasn’t a tourney for Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I had picked up a few Malfiaux pieces, but I had yet to paint or play a game, so I watched a bit of that along with the 40K tournament, that was eventually won by a Dark Angels/Space Wolves mix. The atmosphere at NoVA Open was a lot friendlier and more akin to what I was used to seeing in my youth (expect for the Warmachines/Hordes players. That was still pretty horrible to watch), and it made me decide that maybe next year I would partake in a tourney, especially with Age of Sigmar just starting up. They didn’t have a tournament in 2015, and Games Workshop had just squatted two of my three armies, so I wouldn’t have been up for it anyway.

2016 saw us move from Arlington up to Baltimore when my wife got a new job, so I was unable to attend NoVA OPEN that year. This year however, with the massive rise in popularity of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and more importantly, a series of narrative events (think story oriented gaming instead of competitive tourney style gaming), I was determined to not only attend, but play in my first tournament in over a decade. The one thing I love about Age of Sigmar is it offers a multitude of playing styles, so everyone wins. You just have to find “your type” of gamer. Alas, Shadow Wars: Armageddon, Batman Miniature Game and DC Miniature Game still aren’t on the docket for this year. Maybe 2018 will see that and Shadespire as playable games. Either that, or I will have to volunteer as judge for BMG.

I was lucky enough to grab a SuperNOVA pass (tons of swag!), which sold out in like five minutes and so I was committed to at least attending the event. Then I just had to pick which narrative events and what classes I wanted to take. I held off (and still have) on those because most importantly, I had to pick an army. Who would I take into the narrative events at NoVA Open?

At the time, I had four armies, three of which are all on square bases because they had been started since fourth edition. Those armies are Bretonnia, Tomb Kings, Lizardmen (now called Seraphon in Age of Sigmar. For those who aren’t familiar with Warhammer, think Knights of the Round Table, Egyptian mummies, and well, Lizardfolk. I also had a fourth army that I painted in 2016 as my new army that was a mix of Khorne Bloodbound and Slaves to Darkness. Both are segements of the evil Chaos gods that are the primary antagonist in ANY form of Warhammer be it Fantasy, 40K or AoS. However, I didn’t want to use any of these armies. There were a couple reasons why. With Khorne, narrative is telling a story and I didn’t want to risk Chaos winning or doing well. I had enough of that in WFB/The End Times. Bretonnia isn’t very good in AoS, and as my first army, my mindset is still in 4-6e for using them. I love my Lizardmen, but only a fraction of them are painted and I wanted to go in with a fully painted army. Plus Matched Play screws them over horribly (like Death). Finally, I had my Tomb Kings, who are my favorite army, but they are no longer produced so I didn’t want to risk breakage, loss or anything stolen. They are also one of the most competitive/best armies in the game currently (despite Games Workshop no longer supporting them), and so I didn’t want to be mistaken for an ultra competitive cheese monkey by bringing them. I have a feeling they won’t be in short supply anyway, especially in the grand Tournament. So that means I had to start and paint a new army by NoVA OPEN, which is the last week of August, 2017.

So what were my choices? Well, I had the Beastclaw Raiders box set, but I had no idea how I wanted to paint them, especially fur. I had the Flesh-Eaters Court, but I wasn’t feeling ghouls. I had a few Stormcast Eternals painted, but I wanted to start completely from scratch. That and each of my Stormcasts are painted after a specific Transformer, so the army would not be remotely uniform looking. I had a few Tzeentch pieces from Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower, but I didn’t want to do Chaos. So where did that leave? Well, with a little freebie Games Workshop sent me for being a loyal customer/journalist for them. Evidentially they hadn’t received the message that I retired from writing but that gave me two new options with that boxed set: Skaven and High Elves. Skaven were out because of the fur, the sheer number of pieces you need to do an army and the whole “No Chaos” thing. High Elves however…that sounded right up my alley. I had never been interested before them in the WFB days, but now this would be a great choice. All the pieces are still produced, more or less and the ones that are discontinued are still quite cheap on the third party market. I have some of the old army books for them so I could base the elves on squares instead of round ones and thus use them for Oldhammer (which I still play) AND Age of Sigmar, which was a win-win, unlike my Khorne army which is mostly just AoS exclusive pieces. So I had my army and it was a bit of an unusual one. Not many people play straight up Elves in AoS, or Aelves are they are spelled now so Games Workshop could copyright it. They had some interesting pieces, which would be fun to put together, paint and use in a game. Best of all, in AoS, there are multiple factions of High Elves such as Swifthawk Agents and Order Draconus, so I could build a big High Elf army for previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, while perhaps making two or more smaller armies for AoS.

So High Elves seemed like the perfect choice and I committed to it in A Tale of Four Warlords style. My challenge was to finish at least 2,000 points of High Elves (I don’t like Matched Play as much as Open or Narrative, but points are a good way to make sure you’re not over or underfielding in those game styles). My goal would be to finish by the end of June, giving me two months to then play games and learn the strengths and weaknesses of my army. Pieces would be chosen based more on if I liked the look and how well they would work in both AoS and Oldhammer rather than trying to build a competitive thematic army. Hell, that was how I built things for D&D Minis and I somehow constantly placed crazy high in those tournies. Maybe it would work out with High Elves as well?

Now doing a 2,000 point army in six months isn’t that hard for someone who paints a lot. However, I have a problem with painting the same thing over and over and over and over again. It’s why I gravitate towards skirmish games or armies like older edition Lizardmen and Bretonnia where your army wasn’t the same color scheme across dozens or even hundreds of pieces. So I knew that if I just tried to paint High Elves and nothing else, I’d burn myself out on them (and on painting) before I finished. So this goal of getting a High Elf army painted in six months becomes a little more challenging when you realize I will also be painting a lot of other things to keep my skill level up and to prevent boredom from setting in.

The point of this column will be to show you my progress on my army. Each Thursday, you can come back and see what I did in a particular month, Next week’s column will show what I did in January. The week after that will show the High Elves that I painted in Feburary and so on. That means by the end of June, we will be caught up through the end of April and we will hit my actual June goal (if I make it) by mid-July. Will I make it? Will I stumble with real life events and my need to paint more than an army of Elven warriors? That will be the fun of joining in and reading this column each week. Of course, part of my reason for waiting was to make sure I had made progress. It would have been silly to start the column in January, do it monthly and then get hit by a car in March. This was, we have several saved up in advance. Plus, fi you really want spoilers, you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook and see the 132 pieces I’ve painted in 2017 so far (Again, not all are Elves). I’m far from the best painter, partly because of nerve damage in both arms and because I just don’t have Golden Daemon skill level, so my hopes in that this column will also generate some ideas going forward with other armies and to see how other people have painted up their High Elves. Each week, I will show pictures of what I have painted and their point value, along with links to where you can buy them from Games Workshop and view their stats in case you are at all interested in taking up miniature wargaming as well. I know I’ve slowly been converting Mark and some of the others on the site to the joys of tabletop gaming. Who knows, if there is enough reader and writer interest, I can get a “Tale of Four Warlords” going here at Diehard GameFAN for you to enjoy as well.

See you next week with pictures of my army’s humble beginnings!