Thursday, 22 December 2011

Necrautopsy: Part 5

In a similar vein to my dissection of the Annihilation Barge, I’m going to talk about another of the ‘odder’ choices in my army.  Not many Necron players (that I know) think much of the Deathmarks.  They are certainly a strange unit, as many people will look at their short-ranged sniper rifles and ability to Deep Strike in the opponent’s turn (leaving you very vulnerable to attack and unable to spread out) and wonder why these things are in any way ‘good’.  I mean, Deep Striking during the opponent’s turn certainly has novelty value, but the inability to separate the unit or fire before the opponent’s shooting phase is almost inviting the opponent to kill them immediately.  The Rapid Fire rule added to the sniper rifles is cool, but it requires you to be within 12” of the target and no sniper should be that close if he wants to be in any way alive during the next turn.

However, it’s my belief that both of these strange-sounding aspects of the unit can be used to great (and often surprising) effect during the game.  Of course, my experience of this is only based on a few games, so take it for what it is (probably woefully inadequate).  One of the best things about the Deep Strike special rule is that it helps to take away the reliability problem with reserve rolls.  Admittedly it does sort of rely on your opponent rolling well (or, indeed, having reserves in the first place), but the important thing to bear in mind is that there is no limit to the number of Deathmark Squads that can ‘piggyback’ onto an opponent’s reserve roll.  If they get one unit onto the board in turn2, then you can get every Deathmark squad in your army down then as well.  Having that level of control over when your units can arrive opens up many tactical options for co-ordinated attacks and distractions.  It also brings the psychological advantage of disrupting your opponent’s plans for his movement phase.  Usually in a game, you will have decided on what you’re going to do in the movement phase before the opponent’s turn has ended (and, if not, you should have!) and having a couple of units appear out of nowhere can put unexpected pressure on you, increasing the chance of making mistakes.  This is only a good thing.  Sometimes it’s worth the destruction of the entire squad purely for the disruption they can cause to the opponent’s plans just by turning up.

Next up is the Rapid Firing Sniper Rifle.  Again, this is one of those things that can cause people to raise an eyebrow.  Firing two shots per guy is great, but you need to get uncomfortably close to do so and the maximum range on their guns is (like so much else in the Codex) only 24”.  Clearly too short to use then in the traditional sniper nests.  And that’s a common trap I feel gets fallen into when people dismiss then as being unworthy of serious consideration.  They’re crap as sniper, because they’re not really snipers.  When you stop using them as you would a Pathfinder or a Sniper Scout, and just start using them as Immortals with different guns, these guys become an entirely different animal.  They’re pretty much the most resilient sniper(ish) unit out there (with the possible exception of the Vindicare Assassin) and aren’t tied to cover for their survival.  They can march alongside (or ahead, if you want) the rest of your army, levelling a lot of Pinning and Rending shots at anything foolish enough to wander with 12” of them.

Then there is the big draw of the unit; the Marking ability.  Basically, whenever a Deathmark unit deploys you may pick one opposing unit on the field (even in a transport) and, for the rest of the game, any Deathmark shooting will wound them on a 2+ rather than a 4+.  This is kind of a big deal for any gun with the Sniper trait.  Especially nice when deployed against Monstrous Creatures and command choices to rack up as many extra wounds as possible and force pinning tests.  Lovely.  It also adds another psychological trick to the unit.  Against an opponent not used to Deathmarks, it makes them very paranoid about the unit.  It’s one of the additional reasons that they disrupt enemy movements when they Deep Strike out of turn.  Most of my opponents have wanted them dead the moment they turn up.  This marking ability is also one of the reasons why I field Deathmarks in small squads.  The marking ability applies to all Deathmark shooting, not just the squad that marked the unit.  This means that the effectiveness of marking increases exponentially with each unit you deploy and also, even if one of the units get killed the moment it turns up, the marking is still valid for the other unit(s) for the rest of the game.

As you may have noticed, a lot of the things I’ve been saying about these guys involve them getting killed in one way or another.  This is another reason why I tend to field them in small squads.  I also add a Harbinger of the Storm in with each squad as a nice complement to the squad (a decent Assault 4 weapon with 12” range and haywire gives them a little extra bite for suppression and distraction) but even that only bumps the squad up to 120 points.  By keeping them this low, it allows me to be bolder with Deep Striking them, using them as speedbumps or distractions without risking too many points in the process.  Even at the low level I use them, they’re still capable of churning out a nice amount of quality firepower with a great deal of flexibility, although this admittedly lacks range.  I find the marking adds a nice additional tactical element to the game and enjoy deploying the psychological tricks that they can bring to bear.

So; there you have the Deathmarks.  Better than they look on paper.

Well, I think so…

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Necrautopsy: Part 4

Okay, so far in my series of Autopsies, I’ve been talking about very solid, reliable units (and, in two of the cases, units that are compulsory in one way or another).  Just to add a bit of flavour to proceedings, I’m going to briefly address some of the units that are more of a personal choice to add to an army, and choices which many players may disagree with.  Let’s start with the Annihilation Barge.

This vehicle is a bit of an odd one, when it comes down to it.  It slow (or at the very least, not Fast) and short to mid-ranged (24” on all its weapons), which is far from a user-friendly combination.  It’s also Open Topped, which is another black mark against it.  Open Topped is only a (potential) advantage for transports.  On a gunboat, it serves no purpose other than to get it killed.  Add in the fact that all its guns (which it needs to remain stationary in order to use all of, might I add), and the perfectly valid query may be raised: Why are you taking this thing?

Several reasons really.  I’ll start with the least important (or most important, depending on the type of player you are).  It looks really cool.  When I first saw the Barge in the pre-release pictures, I didn’t think too much of it.  Not bad, not great.  But the more I saw of it, the more I liked it, and when it came to my self-imposed challenge of building a new model Necron army for under £100, this thing was top of the list to buy.  Not only for the aesthetics, but also for the fact that it a plastic Overlord included in the kit as well.  So that’s the first reason.

The second reason is durability.  The Quantum Shielding lends this cheap little 90 point vehicle with a great deal of resilience from the off.  Strength 6 torrent fire can’t affect it.  Autocannons can’t penetrate it.  Krak missiles only pen on a 6.  And the living Metal rule allows you to disregard the shaken and stunned results reliably often.  This makes the Annihilation Barge a useful piece of movable cover to chug forward at the head of the army, whilst still emanating the threat of all the S7 shooting it can bring to bear it you wander too close.  I often use them in the way, to provide a cover save to my Canoptek Spyders (which can also repair weapons and immobilisations on the Barges in a nice bit of symbiosis) and I’m fairly confident that they will lengthen the survivability of the Stalker when I get it as well.  I tend to keep them moving until they hit the 24” sweet spot and then set them down and let rip for the rest of the game (or until they die, whichever happens first).  The points cost also helps in this regard, because no-one weeps over losing a 90 point vehicle.

Finally, I love the weaponry.  If you’ve read my previous autopsy (the one on Immortals) then you’ll know that I really enjoy the Tesla mechanic.  Because of this, I always go for the Tesla cannon rather than the Gauss for the vehicle, but again it’s a personal taste thing.  There are certainly times when the AP3 given by the Gauss would’ve been handy though.  Anyway, the Tesla Destructor (the big main gun of the thing) packs a good deal of firepower (4 S7 shots) with all the possibilities that silly Tesla rules bring (up to 12 hits!) making it good enough for vehicle suppression fire (although the AP- makes it of limited use as a dedicated vehicle killer) and it works well as a threat to foot troops with the weight of fire that it can fling out (nearly all of which will be wounding on 2s).  It’s an odd thing, but until AP3, I really don’t care about AP values for infantry killing.  I suppose it’s ingrained with this army and the Dark Eldar ones I run that sheer weight of fire is enough to kill MEQs without worrying about it.  It leads to a more relaxed army formation for me.  If, for example, you’re deploying plasma weapons to kill marines, then providing your target with a cover save is a real problem and cause for concern.  If you’re just piling on the AP- shots though, I couldn’t care less about cover or obscured lines of sight.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, *slap face* back on point.  Not only is the fun Tesla hitting mechanic in action with the Destructor, but there is also arcing to be taken into consideration.  Now this effect is highly unlikely to happen during any one incident, and when it happens it may not have any effect (vehicles, mainly) but that just makes it that much more amusing to me when it kicks off.  It makes you cast your eye for densely packed clusters of infantry or light vehicle to increase the chance of collateral damage flying about.  Which is always fun.  The final point about the Destructor is a point that I hadn’t realised for an embarrassingly long time.  I had played four or so games with the Annihilation Barge and being underwhelmed by it.  I’d got another one, because I thought they’d work better in small hunting packs, but they still didn’t quite bring enough to the field to justify their existence.  Then, during game 5 at my local GW, someone (I think one of the staffers) pointed out that the gun was twin-linked.  This made a large and noticeable improvement in both the improvement of my Barges and the amount I liked them.  After realising that I had been playing them wrong for quite some time, they really started to click and I was able to run them with more confidence that my points weren’t being completely wasted.  I still run two, quite often in a pack to provided cover and support to one another, and haven’t been disappointed with them since.  That said, the downsides I listed earlier are all relevant and I can’t argue against people choosing not to use them for those reasons.

But, dammit, I enjoy my Annihilation Barges!

Even if they can’t be squadronned.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Necrautopsy Part 3

Now that I’ve covered one of the Troops choices in the army, I should probably address the half of the double act; Immortals.  Now, amongst people who have had a look at the codex, the Immortals are the more popular choice and it’s fairly easy to see why.  The have better guns (either bigger Gauss guns or Tesla Carbines) and a better save, allowing them to better shrug off the wealth of AP4 that can be fielded about the place. And they’re only a touch more expensive than the humble Necron Warrior (4pts per guy, or about 33%).  However, it’s not all good.

I don’t really see the point in the bigger Gauss guns at the moment.  The rapid fire weapon type requires the squad to stand still to use it to best effect, massively limiting their use and the extra strength makes it a bit better against troops, wounding on 3s instead of 4s in the case of MEQs.  The AP4 instead of 5 is okay, but there really aren’t that many 4+ saves in the game to make this a major advantage, especially with the preponderance of cover saves in this edition.  When it comes to vehicles, all the extra strength does is allow you a 1 in 6 chance to penetrate armour 10s.  That’s it. In pretty much any other army, the jump from S4 to S5 is a far bigger deal, allowing the unit to have some effect against heavier and heavier vehicles.  Unfortunately, all gauss weapons can have an effect against vehicles regardless of strength, reducing the effectiveness of incremental strength upgrades for vehicle suppression.  For these reasons, I always use the far more fun Tesla Carbines as my gun of choice for these guys.

My reasons for this choice are fairly comprehensive (I think).  Same strength, so you’re not downgrading. They are Assault 1 weapons, allowing to you to move and still cover a good amount of board space with electrical zappyness.  Add in the fun little Tesla rule (any 6s on the to hit roll automatically generate an additional two bonus hits) and these guys tend to average a 100% hit rate when they fire.  They can also assault after they’ve fired, which may not sound like much when you’re dealing with an army as deficient in assault as the Necrons, but there are many opportunities for an assault against a weakened unit, or any unit that is more effective shooting than close assaulting in any given game.  Having that option there, even if it’s better that you don’t use it, is a plus for me.  There are two prospective downsides to the Carbine versus the Gauss Blaster.  It is AP-, which means that, of course, everyone will get their armour saves against the wounds.  However, given the mass of 3+ saves that proliferate in this universe, the lack of an AP value makes no practical difference in the majority of your infantry culling expeditions.  Yeah, those guardsmen with get to use their flack armour, and it’s always nice to see the surprise on the Ork player’s face when he finds out he can use his 6+ save against something at range.  Admittedly, the AP- will hurt a bit when dealing with vehicles.  Any glancing hits you score will be at a -3 penalty on the damage table, rendering them highly, highly unlikely to do anything lasting to vehicles.  But then again, that’s not their role.  The other disadvantage is that in the 12” window, the Gauss Blaster is getting more shots than you.  However, that’s a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make for the far increased mobile ranged effectiveness these guns can offer.

I mainly use Immortals in small five-man squads rather than the full complement of 10.  This is because I normally give them Crypteks to follow them about, creating a relatively durable unit with some funky ranged options with the Harbinger upgrades (I prefer Transmogrification, myself), operating them on an MSU basis.  For my army, the main role of my Immortals is to act as satellite units for my big anvil unit of Warriors, providing point defence against any unit that gets a bit too close, providing cover (one five Immortal squad plus the Cryptek can easily provide cover for the whole 22-man Warrior squad) and also providing sacrificial speed bump services against assault units when necessary.  I like them a lot for that, and they have ably assisted my anvil unit to victory on many occasions (read: 4) through my brief and probably disgracefully unrepresentative career as Robot Zombie Overmind.

That’s my view on Immortals, at least in the context of how I’ve been using them at the moment.  Not as kick-ass units in their own right (which I’m sure they can be), but as a natural partner and complement to other components of my army.  Any of you use them differently?  Leave comments, etc.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Necrautopsy Part 2

Last time I talked about Necron Warriors and using them as an anvil unit (as opposed to the old ‘hammer unit’ idea).  I also said that there was one more thing that I did with them in my 1,500 point army to make them even better in this role.  This added bonus come in the form of the Illuminor Szeras, a special character in the back of the book.  I really like this guy.  Stat-wise he’s not great.  He’s got the same stat-line as an Immortal but with an extra wound and four attacks, which would be nice, but he doesn’t have a power weapon or a strength above four, so those attacks an go hang, frankly.  I normally try to keep him out the fighting wherever possible.  If he’s hanging around with the anvils unit, he normally hides in the middle of them o he can’t get punked out in an assault.

His equipment is alright, but not particularly spectacular.  Nothing special to hit with in close combat, but he does give his squad defensive grenades and necrons, being what they are, need all the help they can get on the receiving end of a charge.  His ranged weapon is pretty cool though.  Like any Harbinger of Destruction (more on the Harbingers later…) he comes with an Eldritch Lance, which is a nice semi tank-buster at 36” range, S8 AP2, Assault 1.  I wouldn’t rely on it to kill a vehicle (you just can’t do that with S8 in 5th Edition), but it does provided a nice added bite to his unit’s shooting.  But at 100 points for him, he’d better bring more to board than an alright shooting attack, some defensive grenades and an extra wound.  Fortunately, he does.

The big deal about the Illuminor is that at the beginning of the game he upgrades one of your basic Warrior or Immortal squads with a random upgrade.  On a 1-2, they get upgraded with an extra toughness, on 3-4 they gain a ballistic skill and a 5-6 grants them an extra strength.  None of these are bad, although some definitely aren’t as good as others.  I’m talking about the strength upgrade here.  Yeah, it’s nice to have, but in an ideal plan, these guys won’t be getting into a fight anyway.  Nevertheless, it’s handy to have as a bonus.  The ballistic skill upgrade is really nice, especially as I always choose my anvil squad for the upgrade and they pack so many guns that the BS5 really gets maximum results.  When shooting at vehicles, you need all the hits you can muster to increase odds of getting that Immobilising glancing hit.  But Toughness 5 is where the Illuminor really shines.  The Warriors become so much work to take down, that in the (admittedly few) games I’ve played at 1,500 points, my opponent didn’t really bother trying to kill them.  When upgraded to toughness 5, small arms won’t cut it anymore.  You need ordnance to shift them.  And even then, half of them will get back up again.  Also, anything that allows more of them to remain standing in an assault to punch back is greatly appreciated at a pinch.

So, that’s my rundown of the Illuminor and my synergistic way of getting the most out of your basic Robot Zombies.  Next up…



Monday, 5 December 2011

Necrautopsy Part 1

Okay, I’ve been playing these guys for a little while now (in broadly the same list) and so I think I can cast some aspersions their character by now.   I’ve had a decent run of wins with this base list and it’s dependable, if not exciting, relying as it does very much on the troops section of the army.  Now, when I say that it’s not exciting, I don’t mean it’s not fun.  I’ve had a good time in all the games I played and enjoyed the army a lot so far.  Now, part of this enjoyment is probably the ‘new army’ factor which probably hasn’t quite worn off yet.  After all, it’s only been a month or so.

Another factor is just the sheer change in gear that these guys present when compared to my usual army of choice, the Dark Eldar.  In many ways, these guys are polar opposites.   This has led to the natural challenge of changing play styles.  Gone are the days of unparalleled manoeuvrability, strict anti-personnel/anti-tank weaponry and staggeringly high initiative stats.  Now I’m commanding shambling hordes of I2 robot zombies.  It’s been a challenge getting used to them, and I don’t think I’ve managed it yet.  Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean I’m going to spare you my ill-thought out drivelling under the guise of rational analysis!

You lucky thing, you.  So then; my impressions, unit by unit.

Necron Warriors:  Very much the core of my army.  Since weighing them up in the book, I’ve pictured them as an anvil.  I tend to picture nearly anything you have a squad of twenty as some kind of anvil, provided they have a decent armour save and/or toughness.  Wyches need not apply.  Same with you, Termagants.  These guys have a few things going for them in the anvil stakes.  The T4, 4+ save is a good start when complimented by the vast numbers you can acquire.  What also helps (and is nigh on necessary for this build) is the ability to add another body to mass, in the form of a Cryptek or a Lord, boosting the maxed number to 21.  This is a big(ish) deal for me, which may appear odd, but let me explain.  The morale test for shooting casualties hinges on losing 25% (or more) of the models in any given unit.  This means that units which don’t divide evenly into four have a bit of an advantage.  More specifically, units of size 5, 9, 13, 17 and 21 have to take a disproportionately large number of casualties before seeing if they bottle.  Now, on a Ld of 10, this is highly unlikely (1 in 12 to be precise), but it’s always better not to take a test at all rather than risk failing it, no matter how unlikely.  A 20-man unit would have to test after taking 5 casualties, but a 21-man unit has to take 6 before the test.  With firing a hell of a lot of guns into the squad, this outcome is unlikely, which is a load off my mind.

This, combined with the 50/50 chance of them getting up again when they’ve been killed (thanks, res-orb!) means that this unit can shrug off a huge amount of firepower.  This doesn’t mean you can get careless with them though.  Cover is essential, as there are many weapons boasting an AP4, which cuts the long-term survival down significantly.  The other major weakness is in combat.  These guys aren’t very good.  This is another reason to go for numbers rather than MSU with these guys.  A lot of these guys will fall down before getting to hit.  You need as many still standing as possible to remain upright so they can try to even the score.  Unlikely, but some chance is always better than none.  This is where the Lord becomes useful, packing his warscythe for a little bit of decent punch and some vitally needed anti-vehicle assault.  Nothing worse that these guys getting tied up by one armoured sentinel with no recourse.

There are also a couple of extra things in my list which make these guys even better.  I tend to pack a (relatively) cheap Phaeron Overlord.  What the Phaeron upgrade does is make the Overlord and whatever unit he is with Relentless.  20 relentless rapid-firing warriors is a scary prospect.  As mediocre as S4 AP5 shooting may be in this day and age, when you’re doubling, tripling or even quadding it up, it can be horrific.  It also helps maximise the Gauss effect on enemy vehicles through sheer weight of numbers.  It can also help you tip assaults in your favour by providing a lot of antipersonnel firepower before stealing a charge.  Sure you’ll strike last, and some of your guys may well be taken down first, but they’ll be getting double the attacks per model and you’ll be stealing that bonus attack from your adversaries.  Given that setup, they can get the drop on nearly any assault unit.  Not quite all, but close.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Don’t want you to get bored.  Yet.

I’ll pick through the rest of the units I’ve been using during a couple of later posts, including one more thing I use to get the most out of my anvil unit. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Recommendations: Webcomic


Hey guys.  It’s been a while since I did one of these, and I think it’s high time I wrote another, especially as this one is a (marginally) contributing factor to my spotty blog progress of late.

You see, I’ve been catching up with what used to be my favourite webcomic.  I used to be well into webcomics a couple of years ago.  In fact I think I had about a dozen bookmarked that I would keep up on.  However, with the advent of a more challenging (or at more fulfilling) job really cut down on the time I could spend reading these things and the regular reads slipped and then eventually I just moved on and didn’t read any more.  If anything, I switched over to reading blogs for some reason, even though the effort is probably about the same to keep up.

Recently, I have rediscovered one particular comic that I used to follow religiously and have been catching up on the many, many issues that have been added to it over the past couple of years.  It is just as good as I remember, so I have no problem wit recommending Sam and Fuzzy ( for you to read.

First, a few reasons why I rate it so highly.  The black and white art style is distinctive and very well balanced, never including too much detail to be hard to decipher at a glance.  The creator (Sam Logan) never seems averse to trying out different styles or artistic tricks to accentuate the frames and this helps keep the whole thing fresh and interesting.  Another cool aspect to the art is that it isn’t computer-based (primarily), which helps to further distinguish itself from the wealth of other webcomics out there, presenting a more hand-drawn aesthetic that, for some reason or another, just seems more amiable.  Probably the wrong adjective to use under the circumstances, but I stand by it.

At first glance, it does appear to be just another ‘straightman with psychotic sidekick’ style of setup (in this case, Sam, a guy who looks a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog and Fuzzy his amoral anthropomorphic teddy bear friend with gravity defying eyebrows) and, to be honest, that’s kind of how it started.  It was initially joke-a-day (well three jokes a week).  However, it has since grown out of that niche and has developed its own coherent plot which has been going for a good few years now.  One of the things I definitely admire about the comic is the way the author has been able to take stupid ideas (demonically possessed fridges, hamster biker gangs, the Ninja Mafia) and incorporate them in a whole where they somehow fit, let alone use them effectively in a story.  It’s really admirable.

And last, but certainly not least, it’s genuinely funny.  However, I’m aware that humour is highly subjective, so the best way to present my case is to point you in the direction of the comic itself.  Go read it.  Good boy/girl/thing.

Annoyingly brief at the moment, but work is selfishly allowing less and less time for my verbose blathering.

Never mind, eh?  More stuff coming at a suitably nebulous later date…

Friday, 25 November 2011

Necron Autopsy

Last time, I did a quick run through of the kits I bought for my Necrons and what I thought of them.  However, I did forget one thing.  Seeing as Canoptek Spyders in the book are quite good and interesting when double-teamed with Scarabs, I wanted to have them in my list.  However, the Tomb Spyder model is ugly, complicated and metal, making it highly undesirable for me.  I had spent while looking through various sites on the Internet casting around for Spyder Proxies, but then I had a bit of an idea.  I’ve been using the Lychguard dispersion shields you get in the kit and cutting up the Praetorian ‘ribcage’ back parts and sticking them together, with the ribs looking like tiny legs or mandibles.  When you mount that piece on a skimmer stand, it actually looks quite good as a kind of creepy hovering robot bug-thing.  As Spyders are Monstrous Creatures in the book, just one of the shield conversions wouldn’t cut it, so I dug out a 60mm base and glued three of the shields to it as a sort of swarm, but counting them as a single monstrous creature in game terms.  I’m actually really happy with the results, and it gave me a new unit to use in my cheap(ish) thousand pointer.

Speaking of which, I should probably elaborate as to what it actually comprises of.  I didn’t end up using the Lychguard at all, as it happens, because even though I really like the models and they can punch unbelievably hard, I just think they are too expensive in 1,000pts.  I decide to focus on Troops for the most part and play with the shinier and more expensive toys when I graduate to higher points levels.

HQ: Overlord (the plastic one you get with the Annihilation Barge kit) with Sempiternal Weave, a Warscythe, Mindshackle Scarabs and the Phaeron upgrade

Troops: 20 Necrons and a Lord with a Resurrection Orb and a Warscythe

5 Immortals with Tesla Carbines and a Cryptek of Transmogrification

Another one of the above

Fast Attack: 6 Scarab Bases

Heavy Support: Annihilation barge with an all Tesla load-out

2 Canoptek Spyders as a squad

I played a couple of games with this setup; one against Tzeentch Daemons and another against Tyranids.  I wasn’t anticipating going against Daemons and they are one of the least useful armies for practising with a new list, unless you specifically want to practice against Daemons.  They just play so differently from everything else.  Anyway, the Daemon game went well, with me getting into as many close combats as I could, as Tzeentch are one of the few forces that Necrons can feel really confident about killing in an assault.  Things got hairy for a little while and, due to concentrated firing from my opponents forces, the big Warrior squad was beaten down to just the Overlord, the Lord and just one regular Necron.  However, after the resulting Reanimation roll, 10 of them got back up and continued fighting!  A major plus for me in that game.  One trick I learnt in that game is that you can be a little sneaky with your Reanimation, as the risen models just have to be placed in coherency with the rest of the unit, not where they died.  This came in handy with the Horrors, as I was able to place the Warriors closer to the Horrors each time, prepping myself for some hefty rapid firing next turn. 

Another thing I planned for the army was sticking the Phaeron in with the big Warrior squad.  A lot of people, reading the new book and picking up the army seem to have the natural instinct to put him with a big squad of immortals, which is understandable, but I feel he does better with the bigger squad of regular Warriors, as they can pack many more shots in with the Relentless upgrade, easily offsetting the marginally reduced strength.  If I want my Immortals to move and fire (and I do), I give them Tesla (which I also do).  The Immortals weren’t brilliant in this game, as the Crypteks weren’t really able to play enough mobility tricks and I resolutely failed to get any extra hits in with the Tesla.  The Scarabs worked though.  I was pleasantly surprised by just how far that extended charge move gets you when an enemy’s about.

The next game was interesting, as Nids really are an army that Necrons can have trouble with.  Their vehicle-suppressing tricks won’t work, and they don’t have a great deal of things that can deal with high toughness and high armour.  I was up against a Trygon Prime, a Tervigon, two Hive Guard, a big squad of Hormagaunts and two squads of Genestealers.  This would be a challenge, as Necrons stand up well against ranged firepower, but their low initiative and lack of Stubborn or Fearless definitely put them in a bad way against assault armies.  I had planned for this eventually in my list design though and, for the most part, it worked.  The key to my fighting assault lists is the Cryptek of Transmogrification.  Their main weapon afflicts whoever it hits with Quake, with basically means that they move as if moving through difficult terrain for their next turn.  Very useful in slowing up the big units to allow you some more shooting.  By the time they reach you, they ought to be weak enough for the Necrons to handle them.  By and large, I found that this was the case. 

However, I made a critical error in target priority which saw the Trygon Prime reach my big Warrior squad and, due to some poor rolling (none of my Warscythe attacks hit, the regular Necrons didn’t score a single wound and the Mindshackle Scarabs failed to do anything) and the entire squad fled and got run down.  From then on, the game changed into one that could’ve gone either way into a rout from the ‘crons.  The Scarabs managed to swarm all over the Tervigon, but the fat bastard just kept spawning Termagant squads which doubled back and helped out killing the Scarabs and poisoned Hormagaunt took my Spyders down and, to add insult to grievous injury, the lone Hive Guard rolled a double hit and then a double pen on my Barge, detonating it immediately.  Buggerations all round.

Overall, two very fun games though.  It was odd taking the offensive and assaulting heavily in the first game, as that is clearly not what the army is meant to do and maybe my close combat confidence was a little too high when it came to fighting the Tyranids, but you live and learn.  Or something like that.

All the units in the list performed well, with the exception of the Annihilation Barge, which underwhelmed me a little.  In an odd move, I think I’m going to add another one as I feel that these guys would perform better when teamed up and both focussing on the same target, or one of them covering the other whilst moving.  The mid-range nature of the weaponry and slow movement rate of the vehicle (seriously, they can only move 6” and fire a single gun) is definitely going to be something for me to get used to, as I do really like the models and dearly want them to be worthwhile.

Anyway, that’s enough for now, I feel as if I’ve already typed for too long!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Robot Zombie Apocalypse!

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since the Necron Codex came out and although we’ve been doing a fair share of talking about it on the podcast, there is still a bit that remains unsaid, mainly due to time constraints.  I’ll address various bits and pieces in my usual rambling (lack of) style as and when we come across them.

When the model ranges and the book came out, I ended up setting myself a challenge of getting a functional 1,000 point army of new models for under £100.  Happily enough, I managed just that.  In fact, with the various amounts of kitbashing and vague conversion work I dabble with, I’ve managed to squeeze about 1,250 (what with wargear and everything) out of that investment.  Admittedly, I didn’t buy the models ad GW pricing, but managed to scrabble around and found the costs at Triple Helix to be far more agreeable (25% cheaper across the board for all the Necron stuff at last look).

Anyway, what I bought was a box of Lychguard/Praetorians, two boxes of Immortals/Deathmarks, two boxes of Necron Warriors and a Command/Annihilation Barge.  I have fairly high praise for all of these kits, but for slightly different reasons.

The Lychguard and Immortal boxes are toeing the increasingly prevalent GW line of providing a choice of units in a box.  This has been going on for ages, but in general ways, like Guardsmen being used for veterans and regular tactical marines able to stand in for Devastators and such.  But that’s just because of the uniformity of the basic troop.  They stepped up this strategy with Grey Knights, provided the Terminator/Paladin kit and the Strike/Interceptor box; both working from a core of identical legs and bodies and then providing a wealth of bits (arms, weapons, backpack, other accoutrements) to distinguish between the two options.  This is a fairly clever strategy, as it allows the company to charge more per box without appearing to be grasping bastards about it.  After all, you’re getting a lot of bits out of it as well.  People’s opinion of this move will undoubtedly vary, but I’m fairly positive about it.  After all, I like having added options.

The point of this embarrassingly long paragraph is the fact that you get so many bits out this box.  The only shared components between the Lychguard and the Praetorians are the legs and front chest piece.  This is naturally a boon to someone like me.  Not to mention that apart from having enough parts for the two different units, each of those units also has two different weapons load outs, which are also fully catered for, which is really nice to see and loads you bits box down with a tonne of tech for later kitbashing.  The Deathmarks/Immortals box does a similar thing, but with fewer extra weapons (as Deathmarks only have one configuration).

The Command/Annihilation barge box is also alike, in that you’re provided with all the parts to make either vehicle, but as an extra plus, when the vehicle is fully assembled, various bits and pieces can be swapped out, allowing you field it as either of the variants without need to buy an extra box, which is really nice.  Even the under slung gun can be swapped between the Tesla and Gauss configurations as and when (or you could if you hadn’t already glued it in, like me).  The model looks like it would be annoying to transport and take up a hell of a lot of space, but the kit make allowances for that and the rear portion of the barge can just be slid off and laid down to take up less space in a carry-case, which is excellent design.  Add to that the fact that you get a plastic Necron Overlord in the kit (complete with base) and it makes this one of the best value kits (point for pound) that GW have produced as of yet.  Plus, it just lust looks awesome anyway.  You don’t get a lot of bits spare in this one, and your choices for the overlord are fairly limited, but you should have more than enough bits hanging around from the other Necron boxes to make up for this and it’s hard to hold this against the kit, which is very good.  I had one brief frustrating time with the bracket for the rear shields though.  They don’t attach the way you’d think, and the angle they’re shown in the instructions doesn’t make matters any easier to understand.

And (finally) the Necron Warriors.  There are no surprises in this box.  No variation, limited posing and you get some Scarabs in there as well.  Decently enough priced for GW (~£20 for 12 Necrons and three bases of four Scarabs per base), but very limited as is.  However, this box has a lot of plus points to it to counterbalance the lack of variety.  Scarabs look fine with only three on a base, so if you can scrabble around for a spare 40mm base, then you can easily get another base of Scarabs out of it and, most importantly, the Warrior make perfect ‘organ donors’ for kitbash projects.  With a bit of trimming, the Necron Warrior chest pieces can fit fairly well onto all the spare backs you’ve accrued with the other dual purpose kits and the legs look very similar on these guys to the more elite versions.  A little skinnier, but that’s it.  Using just off cuts, spare Necron bits from the other boxes and a couple of warriors I didn’t plan on using on the field, and I’ve made a couple of Crypteks, a Lord with a res-orb and a decent-looking Deathmark, all the while filling my rank with expendable robot zombies.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Commorragh: Phase 4

During the previous Commorragh Phase pieces, I’ve been talking fairly high-level conceptual stuff, but I should probably start addressing the nitty-gritty.  How would the encounters actually play?

When it came to Necromunda, the game played on basically the 3rd Edition 40k rules with a couple of tweaks.  The main area that was altered for the game was that when a character lost his last wound, you’d roll on a further table to see whether or not s/he’d be able to shrug it off.  If I recall correctly (and I may well not), the table was a simple three-parter.  On a 1-2 the injury was just a flesh wound and the character could get up and fight normally albeit with modifications to their profile.  Enough flesh wounds would still put a character down for the count.  On a 3-4, the character was down and couldn’t really contribute to the battle at all, but could crawl to try to get away from danger.  On a 5-6 the character was gone and removed from the game; they’d roll on the big Injury table and we’d see what happened to them.

Anyway, that’s a bit of an unnecessary tangent at the moment.  The basic point to this ramble is to ask: should I use bog-standard 5th ed rules for the conflicts (albeit with various tweaks) or should I try to create a different system?  It’s a bit of knotty problem really.  Going for the 5th ed rules would be a lot less hassle, but I’m currently unconvinced that it would be the best system for the job.  It’s a bit too shallow.  However, with fewer models involved, I think the rules can afford to be a little more complicated.  Not to the mad extent of Inquisitor, but it could certainly do with something more narratively exciting than ‘you’ve failed your armour save, now fall over’ style of normal 5th ed.

Although, that said, I don’t want to go the way of needing character sheets to record damage mid-game (although I do think some character sheets will be needed for your key characters due to skills, equipment and what have you).  Maybe damage inflicts stat-modifiers mid game.  Every time you fail an armour or cover save, there could be an additional roll on a damage table to see how it affects the character.  Something along the lines of 1-2: lose a wound (chest or head), 3-4: lose 1 WS & BS (arms), 5-6: Lose movement and Initiative (legs).  Oh yeah.  Movement.

I definitely want movement to work a little differently, even if it’s as simple as giving people movement values again.  This gives a greater sense of difference between the characters and faction types.  For example, Wyches and Incubi are both close combat focused, only the Incubi have more armour and strike marginally after the Wyches in assault.  It only make sense to have the Wyches move noticeably faster across the board to compliment this obvious difference in speed and reflexes.  It could also make the Wyches more of a tempting option for hiring if they can cover ground more effectively, rather than just making them cheaper than Incubi.

Another potential difference I can see occurring is sight ranges.  In old rules, whenever sight was called into question (or indeed, any form of alertness), the detection area of a model was based on its Initiative.  I think this is a good and applicable system, but for the purposes of the game it shouldn’t work across the entire system, as it would make certain characters harder to play.  That said, an extended sight range could be a skill or perk for certain equipment setups or character types (sniper and the like).

I would also like to re-introduce the good old ‘To Hit’ modifiers.  I prefer these to the rather binary Cover Save system that 40k operates on now.  I understand that it’s quicker and involves less maths, but, like I’ve said, with a lower model count, system simplification becomes less important.  I’ll delve more into what they could be later.

That’s it for now though.  More half-baked rules tweaks and thoughts at a later date.

Maybe tomorrow.

Stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Commorragh: Phase 3

Okay, then.  Last time, I blathered about accruing influence with a variety of Mercenary factions, all of whom can bring different styles and abilities to the table.  Mandrakes are your stealth fighters, Scourges are ranged recon, Hellions are highly manoeuvrable melee fighters, Wyches are consummate close combat experts, Incubi are heavily armoured, hard hitting monsters.  I think Mercs will be an all-round assault/ranged option with brute resilience, Haemonculi covens add pure resilience and slaves have great numbers, but nothing else going for them.  Each of these factions can bring a different style of play to an encounter and can present a different tactical challenge for an opponent.

Obviously, the temptation could well be to pick one faction in particular and stick with it to the bitter end, making use of the allegiance system I mentioned in Phase 2 to gain better rates and higher quality hirelings.  This could be a bad thing as it could rob Kabals of individuality or provide disproportionate advantages.  How should I combat this?  As I mentioned in an earlier post, one way to do this would be to inflict penalties to allegiance based on casualty rates.  This would cause the player to have to weigh up how cautious he would be with his hirelings.  This also has the side effect of giving your opponents some level of influence on your allegiances.  If they want to stop you gaining favour with a Wych Cult, then they can go out of their way to kill your hired Wyches, letting you take a hit in you Wych allegiance and stymieing your progress with them.  Adding a voluntary additional objective like this could add a nice bit of extra depth to the conflicts.  I don’t want it to go too far though.  Otherwise all the games would end in a ‘kill the hirelings’ mess.

The rate of allegiance gain or loss would have to be balanced, which is always the knottiest problem in any games system.  Well, with a couple of exceptions.  Obviously, if one Kabal keeps going out of its way to kill Wyches, it won’t be gaining any favour with the Wyches any time soon.  This leads me to the idea of simultaneously decreasing the allegiances of Faction-killers, forcing some sense of risk/reward into their actions as well.

Maybe a non-combat way of enhancing allegiances would be useful here?  A simple purchasing system could work.  Spend a certain amount of money (what do Dark Eldar use as currency anyway?) to gain a certain number of allegiance points or favour or whatever.  If I’m going to do that, I should really grade the costs, so that when your allegiance is very high or very low, it costs a good deal to raise it any more, whereas the middling rates are a lot cheaper.  This would allow players to better make up for murdering opposing hirelings, provided they were smart about it.

A further idea is that of negative allegiance or active disfavour.  This would actively set the slighted faction against the offending Kabal, offering cheap rates (or maybe even providing free troops) in encounters against them.  Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to hire any faction in negative allegiance, giving further incentive to keep on the good side of varying factions, which again plays into the feel of the world.  The one exception to this allegiance system as I see it, would be Slaves.

Slaves obviously wouldn’t have any organised faction or any allegiance to them.  You fight for whoever owns you.  So what’s to stop a Kabal from flooding the field with chaff and wearing down their opponents with attrition wars against unworthy adversaries?  Well, the way I see things, a Kabal relies on its Slaves to bring in the income.  Working metal shops, equipment halls weapons manufacturing, you name it.  One way or another, it’s the Slaves that are going to do the work.  A Kabalite wouldn’t lower himself to petty manual labour.  So, by fielding Slaves in the conflicts, you get a cheap (or free) mass of unskilled and poorly-equipped combatants, albeit at the cost of potentially weakening your overall financial position in-between games.  It also provides a potential mission-hook of directly attacking the slaves of another Kabal to weaken them for later.

Of course, Slaves won’t be the only way of accruing funds for a Kabal.  There are always Realspace raids, but I think that’ll be for another time…

See you later! (Or not)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Commorragh: Phase 2

Okay, now we’ve had brief chat about how the gangs (or kabals or whatever) could be constructed; the next step is to think about the reasons why these gangs would be fighting.  Now, as anyone who knows anything about Commorragh can tell you, it’s a very dangerous place.  Fights happen and casual murder abounds.  However, it’s not completely lawless.  Such a society could not exist.  That’s not to say that there’s any kind of central constitution or set of rules or anything.  Actually, thinking about it, it’s not really law.  It’s order. There’s a distinct difference between the two.  Order seems to be kept by faction and by individual.  After the aristocracy fell, organised gangs (kabals) rose from the anarchy and now keep order in the areas that they control.  This provides a ripe canvas for conflict, as all these kabals would be trying to screw each other over for gain, be it territory, resource, favour from another faction, you name it.  However, such machinations must be planned carefully or a full-on war between kabals could erupt, disrupting the order of the area and (more often than not) weakening both sides regardless of who one.  This environment favours the smaller-sized conflicts with distinct objectives to be achieved and strict parameters for failure.  This is very good for the type of game I want to do.

However, that’s just the kabals.  They’re only one faction in Dark Eldar society (although they are broadly speaking the most powerful and generalist).  You also have Wych Cults, Haemonculi Covens, Hellion Gangs, Incubi Temples, Mandrakes, Alien Mercenaries and the vast multitudes of Slaves knocking about.  However, some of these things are just going to be too specialised to be a full playable faction in the game.  Incubi are a good example to illustrate what I mean.  They have a very strict role and a (sort of) code of ethics to them, and I just don’t see them being involved in these kind of gang war on their own.  I can see them being hired as shock troops and bodyguards though, just not a faction in their own right.  Same for the alien mercenaries.  They wouldn’t be organised enough or well supported enough to participate in and of themselves.  Hired, no problem.  Mandrakes as well.  God knows what they're up to.

Now, in games like Necromunda, you had your distinct gangs (Orlocks, Van Saar, Escher, Goliath et al) and you played strictly to that gang’s layout and quirks.  Van Saar ran highly tech-based, so would have relevant skills and equipment for that theme, Goliath were brute-force close range fighters and so on.  There were some mercenary choices, but it was broadly you having your one gang choice and playing to that.  Gorkamorka was simpler.  You had Gorkers and Morkers.  They weren’t so much gangs as schools of thought (cunning or brute force) and only governed what skills you had available to you.  I see this game as being different from both on that front.

Even in that short list of factions I made, there are a number that would work as hirelings rather than full factions and this would lend itself to a far more varied hodgepodge of gang make ups, as I see people wanting to go for a variety of different gang makeup from all the hired forces.  In some ways this is a good thing, but might end up with the opposing forces being too indistinct and losing character.  How could this be combated?  One possibility is a favour system.  The more you hire, say Incubi, the more they would favour you as a regular employer.  You would gain (if not trust) then at least a little extra consideration.  Yet, at the same time, the other mercenary factions wouldn’t care much for you and you would gain any favour with them.  In fact, up against another gang who had hired wych cultists, your rampant slaughter of them (maybe) would cause you to be seen as an enemy or at least an antagonist and they would be far less likely to work for you.

This system, I’ve realised, potentially falls into the trap to people throwing their lot in with one mercenary faction and endlessly taking advantage of cheaper rates and better equipment, making it feel less like a Kabal and more like a Temple on the march, which I said earlier was incongruous to the logic of Temples.  There should be risk involved in the act of hiring on guys like this.  So I’m thinking of something like a penalty if too many of your hirelings die in a conflict.  After all, the Temple isn’t going to think highly of you if you keep getting their members killed, regardless of how often you hire them…

Okay, that’s the discussion for today, but this section is definitely going to need more thought.

In a good way, of course.  There’s a lot of potential here that needs to be explored.  As ever, any comments or ideas are appreciated.

PS Thanks to you anonymous guys (not sure if you were one or two) for linking me to similar projects.  When time allows I’ll definitely have a look through and see if there’s any insight I can glean from them.  Fingers’ crossed!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Commorragh: Phase 1

I suppose the first thing to think about when trying to design a game like this is wondering what form it should take.  I’ve stated my inspiration for this as being gang-level skirmish campaign games like Necromunda and Mordheim.  That seems like a natural starting point, as the gang violence is probably going to be the meat of the game.  Assuming I take further ideas from those games, another question arises.  In Necromunda, each one of your gang members, from juves to leaders, was their own character.  You named them, equipped them and developed them all individually.  Mordheim, by contrast worked by a different method.  You had some individual characters, but you also had groups of Henchman; guys who were less individual than the named characters.  Where the important characters rolled on dedicated injury tables whenever they got taken down in a fight, henchman got a single flat D6 roll to see whether or not they survived the wounds, representing their more expendable nature.

Another key difference between Henchmen and Characters was in experience and advancement.  One of the most fulfilling things about Necromunda was having one of your juves (low-level gang members) grow over time and claw their way up the gang hierarchy and become more and more dangerous as time progressed.  Henchmen had opportunity for advancement, but these were often less plentiful or developed than Characters, who had far greater opportunities for skills and stats.  Equipment is another defining difference, with Henchmen having far less options for tweaked layouts and less flexibility and character as a result, especially seeing as they were hired on in groups rather than individuals.

That may have been sounding like I don’t like the Henchman system, but that’s not really the case.  The Mordheim system may have sacrificed some of the depth of the Necromunda gang system on a strict model-by-model basis, but the game became streamlined as a result.  It also helped you to get more attached to the characters you did have, as you would (by and large) prefer to have a henchman throw himself in the way to blunt an attack than one of your few characters, whereas you wouldn’t really get the choice in Necromunda.  I also think that the more disposable nature of the Henchman system fits in better with the feel of Commorragh as whole.  People would get thrown away wholesale if necessary with little to no remorse from the loss.

I think that, for the combat section of the game, the Henchman System of Mordheim is probably going to be a better fit overall, with a few more individual characters to act as lieutenants or important allies.  This too conveys the extreme segregation of Commorragh society into the haves or have-nots as well as providing more scope for en masse gangs to develop without horrific amounts of paperwork to endure at the end of each engagement.

However, my decision is by now means set in stone.  These Commorragh posts are really me having a conversation with myself and mulling over ideas.  Well, that’s half true.  They’re also serving as progress updates and discussion points for anyone who might be interested in joining in or giving ideas or criticism.  At the very least have a look at some of the games I mentioned earlier (if you don’t know them already).  They really are quite good.

Free (legal) downloadable rulebooks for the systems can be found through the following links:

So long!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Trudging Forward into the Future!

One of the problems I have trying to write these blog posts is decided what to write about.  It’s always been a problem of mine: too much choice.  I mean, battle reports are a good and obvious choice, but I’m wary of writing them too often, as there is a definite limit as to how much actual information they can impart to any situation other than the battles themselves and they can come across as either ego-stroking or self-pitying (depending on battle result of course).

Rants were another option, but I’ve found out that I don’t feel particularly comfortable writing them.  Make no mistake, I can rant in person, in voice, but when it comes to formulating them as a written bellyache, then they lose some of their immediacy and (for me at least) that is one of the key parts of any verbal rampage.  Some writers can convey that very well, but I think my writing is probably to clunky and formal to properly express those views, cathartic as they may be.  I still might write one every now and again but they’re unlikely to be a staple of the blog as I don’t think they’re entertaining or informative enough in my style of prose.  Ho hum.

I definitely plan on doing more Recommendations because it’s nice to write something that can be fairly analytical but also unabashedly positive.  There is the distinct possibility of me running out of things to recommend or at the very least repeating myself, and unfortunately a lot of things I really enjoy are things that I’m sure the overwhelming majority of geekdom enjoy (or at the least have heard of).  I mean, if I were to recommend ‘Firefly’ I’ve no doubt that that will be met with a shrug and tacit agreement.  It wouldn’t achieve anything.  I may still do a few ‘No Shit Sherlock’ recommendations every now and then, but will probably not be spending too much time on them as there is nothing I can add that hasn’t already been said or recorded a lot better somewhere else on the net.

However, recently I’ve hit upon a couple of seams of rich blog fodder that will be ideal for me.  I have one 40K side project going and a new one that I plan to start some point soon.  They seem to be the perfect things to while away the too-short lunchtimes at work.  The pre-existing 40K project is the Iron Hands Codex that I started over a year ago and have revised a couple of times since.  Unfortunately it’s been lying fallow for far too long since my new job hit and took away a lot of my idle computer time.
I’ll go through various units that I’ve created and explain the reasoning behind them and pontificate on where they work, where they don’t and try to improve them over time.  With any luck, my tiny team of imaginary readers may have an opinion on them and help me out with ideas and criticism.

The new project I mentioned is basically taking the form of a Specialist Game like GW used to do.  Now, I don’t create things from scratch typically.  It’s part and parcel of the ‘too much choice’ thing I mentioned earlier.  I tend to take existing things and tweak them; giving my ideas form in that way and building on solid foundations.  Basically, this project is under the working title of Commorragh and will be a Necromunda/Mordheim style of game set in and around the Dark Eldar home city of the title.  Necromunda was (and still is) and very good little game, as was (is) Mordheim.  Both games focussed on gang wars and low-level skirmishes rather than the larger battles of their respective parent systems and are pretty much designed to be played campaign style over a long period of time.  I’ve just realised that Gorkamorka comes under that category as well.  I was seriously remiss not mentioning that earlier (it’s one of my top 3 specialist games).

Now, the pitch.  I think that Commorragh would work really well because of the variety available for really weird stuff going along in the city.  In basic Necromunda you had six gangs (and a few others in expansion) but they were all human (or shades thereof), with a couple of very rare alien mercs available.  In the Dark City, you’ve got the distinct variety of the DE populace, but also any number of alien mercs, slaves, engines of pain and daemonspawn.  Realspace raids could be introduced.  Long-term scheming could be introduced if I can find the right mechanics for it.  The haemonculi give you a wide variety of customisation to your gang (or whatever they’ll be called) much like the Mad Doks of Gorkamorka.  The possibilities are great and I hope to explore them and (hopefully) making a playable campaign game at the end of it.

Anyway, that’s the pitch for Commorragh and the end to this meandering post.  If you have any ideas for either of my projects, let me know.  With luck I’ll bore the pants off you with 40K design talk tomorrow.

But you can never tell.

I am very lazy, after all.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ashes to Ashes Sucks: Part 3

Well, it’s time to wrap up this miniseries now I think.  Now to touch on one of the biggest things wrong with this series:  the main character.  Alex Drake doesn’t work on a variety of levels.  She is unlikeable, emotionally fragile, arrogant and apparently utterly unable to keep anything to herself.

Now, Sam Tyler had a number of these problems too.  You can’t have a flawless character and make him/her particularly interesting (or at the very least it is exceptionally difficult).  Sam was distant, cold and had a bit of superiority complex, but he wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Drake herself.  We are introduced to Drake as she is doing the school run with her daughter and (for some reason) they are discussing the case of one Sam Tyler, a fairly recent suicide and joking about it.  I have already addressed why confirming that he genuinely had committed suicide and that the modern day world was definitely real was a terrible thing so I won’t dwell on it further.  However our introduction to Drake clearly seems (to me at least) to be setting her up to be a thoroughly dislikeable bitch.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah stuff happens and Drake is at a hostage scene being shot in the head, waking up in 1980-something, etc.  If that seems rushed and threadbare; it is.  I haven’t watched the episode since the first time it was aired several years ago.  Anyway enough of my shoddy blogging ethics, on to the top three reasons why Drake is really annoying.

1.  Upon reaching the 80s, she’s fairly convinced that she’s already got everything figured out, because she was Tyler’s psychiatrist, you see, and she counselled him up his revival from the coma and so knows about the world he lived in for the duration.  She must’ve been bang up on the counselling job, I must say, seeing as Sam killed himself only weeks after the coma.  Some rational characters might end up taking that as a bit of a failure on their part, but not Alex, oh no.  One of the things that made me like Tyler was his confusion and bemusement at the world he’s forced to inhabit.  Not to say that Drake isn’t also confused, but she manages to temper this relatable and sympathetic trait by being an insufferable smart-arse about everything.  Because, you know, she has the ramblings of a (probably) insane suicidal ex-coma patient committed to her memory for just such an eventuality.  Ugh.

2.  She meets her parents.  This isn’t bad in and of itself.  Sam did the same thing.  However, when he did it, he was a little overwhelmed by the whole situation but acted with a great deal of self-restraint and caution with the whole interaction.  He still appeared a little mad, but I challenge you to act better when a car-crash has teleported you to an era of pure brown.  However, Drake breaks down in the space of about10 minutes and tries to directly interfere in her parents’ lives informing them of future events and flat out trying to tell her mum about the situation without any pretence or forethought.  This wouldn’t necessarily reflect awfully on Drake herself (although it definitely ends up doing so), as I can imagine it would definitely be a temptation in that situation.  However, she comes across (quite rightly) as an absolute fucking lunatic for the entire scene.  Now, instead of trying to repair the damage or learning from her mistake and leaving them the hell alone, she meets up with her mum seemingly every other bloody episode to have the whole breakdown over and over again.  And her mum actually allows it to happen!  I see no reason why the supposedly smart lawyer character wouldn’t have the crazy, drunken, ranting police officer committed or at least have a restraining order slapped on them after, say, the third time that officer turns up at their house completely uninvited and unannounced.

3.  She starts falling in love with Gene.  Enough said, really.  That premise is fucking ridiculous in itself.  Fuck this show.

Anyway, that’s about it from me for now.  I don’t think I’m well cut out for ranting, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t try it again in the future.

In conclusion: Life on Mars was great.  Just pretend Ashes to Ashes never existed.  It’s better for all of us that way.

So long!