Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dispatches from Sentinel-Sigma - An Astral Claws article series - Beginnings and 6th editon Review



Some more regular readers may notice that I'm not using the black backdrop I usually have been using- that's because this is actually a somewhat old photograph that I took when I was entering the model in a painting competition. Things have changed since then, which you'll see as I start adding new photos to the series.

Beginnings, and a review of the Forge World 6th edition updates to the Astral Claws
Forge World's treatment of the obscure Astral Claws chapter was very impressive*, taking a basically bland and outdated army, and giving them a culture and history. Proud and resentful, the Astral Claws are portrayed as somewhere between sympathetic villains and tragic heroes.

Unlike the setting's typical modus operandi of extremes and hyperbole, their fall is subtle, not festooned with horns baroque, spike-inlaid trim. Through a series of either tragic coincidences, sinister conspiracy,  or good old-fashioned megalomania, the Astral Claws become alienated from the greater Imperium of humanity and eventually their allies.

*second only to the adaptation of the unfortunately named Space Sharks as Pacific-Northwest-influenced and impressively sinister Carcharadons Astra which they also managed to make GrimDark™ without the aid of gothic skulls... though I'm not sure any amount of creative rewriting could save the Rainbow Warriors.

This was plenty enough for me to become interested in them. Compounded with a strong color scheme and interesting rules set, I was ready to start looking in to more detail.

It was somewhat fitting that after a long hiatus from the 40k world, I jumped back in with something that had also languished on the sidelines.

The Forge World update

I've been edging back into the game, and have played a light amount of 40k, so this will mostly be through the eyes of a new player to 6th edition and an old veteran of editions past.

After some time to the side, Forge World updated the Astral Claws (and the rest of the Badab forces) with Chapter Tactics and a character update (and have had allies updates from some time ago)

well, first, what 6th edition meant for Astral Claws
The single largest change to Astral Claws was the Allies Matrix.

The Tyrant's Legion was an interesting half-way point between Marines and Imperial Guard. I won't lie: I in part got into Astral Claws because of the old Lost and the Damned list that similarly allowed you to field power armor and grunts together.

Well, turns out that's common place now. This is good and bad. The bad first- it's less unique and the Tyrant's Legion list is frankly terrible compared to taking allied Marines and Imperial Guard- you now loose a ton of the interesting rules of each, to get weird apothecaries, what amount to power armored Commissars, ogryn in your veteran squads, foot assault squads with some good options, and the Imperial equivalent of the Ork-Grot relationship. Also, there's not even the reason that you're allowed 3 pseudo-armies due to the Allies matrix because (appropriately) the army can only ally with more (vanilla) Marines and Imperial Guard.

I guess you could use Tyrant's Legion in small games where you can't get allies or where cheap options are ideal, but that's about it.

The good: now you can ignore the Tyrant's Legion rules and make an awesome, characterful army that has a strong rules set by simply taking both halves of the old one. Purists might harass you, but you've got a shiny, characterful army that is now worth a damn, so you can thumb your nose right back.

Universal chapter rules
Interestingly, there's no limitation on which allies you can field, beyond the regular restrictions from Codex: Space Marines. I was kind of expecting Forge World to punish Astral Claws some more, but it doesn't really matter. Now you can field them along side another of the Maelstrom chapters.

The new Astral Claws chapter traits are frankly really lame. The founding chapters have quite a few strong options for making a characterful Astral Claw force, including

-Ultramarines: Tactical (emphasis on old-school bolter squads, cited possible origin)
-White Scars (some mid-game hit and run and later corsair theme)
-Imperial Fists (siege)
-Dark Angels (emphasis on old school gear, cited possible origin)

...instead, they get Stubborn, no voluntary fall back, and Skilled Rider/Scout. This would be half-decent, except that I've never liked bikes or skimmers, since I find them overpriced and flimsy.

I may need to re-think the bike angle, since they've gotten markedly cheaper and more shooty since I last played, so, take that analysis with a bag of salt.

Characters
Starting with the man in charge, Lugft Huron himself.

He gained a wound, putting him in line with other chapter masters.

Living Legend got worse, no longer applying to non-AC/TL-... big whoop: I'll take competence over leadership most days of the week. His fire support is in line with the old codex again: Space marines, presumably because the upgraded Orbital Bombardment was too good for two shots.

He gained Angel of Death (to be the first terminator-armored Commissar... again mostly fluffy b/c Tyrant's Legion is basically obsolete) 

As with most characters, he gained a Warlord trait that grants Counter-attack to units coming in from reserves. Again, a little confusing, but I think the idea is that it encourages outrider bike squads to enter from reserves and put up a real fight. I think FW is pushing the bike theme too hard, but I'm willing to give them a try.

Finally, his Ghost Razors got their AP2 back(!). This means that he's super-duper good at killing armor again, which was disappointing and weird before. However, that, combined with the edition shift, now puts him ahead of the curve: there are pretty few AP2 weapons that strike at initiative these days, so the option to hit terminators before they hit you, and he's no longer vulnerable to power weapons that strike at initiative. This is a huge shift for no additional cost.


Next, his sidekick and one of my favorite characters that nobody else bothered to notice, Corien Sumatris.  He kept his strong statline, cost, well... actually, he's identical except for his boring warlord trait. I expect he'll still be very strong in smallish games.


Armennus Valthex was a pretty big disappointment, what with the Iron Man 2 jumpropes and no pose. Well, he stayed just as boring, with a minor upgrade to Dreads in the form of a warlord trait.


Finally, the red-headed step-child of the Astral Claws command, Carnac Commodus. I really wanted to like this guy, and even came up with a cool model for him, but he's just kinda' worthless, and didn't even get an official entry in the Badab War rules. Well, his new version is just as lame, except he counts as a captain (*cough* with terrible stats, terrible weapons, and relatively high cost *cough*) and gives a melee warlord trait for Tyrant's legion and AC's... still, not very exciting.



Well, that's it for now. I'm slowly painting my blue and grey* marines and will hopefully have some more shinies to show next time.

*hey, wait! Were there colors some sort of American Civil War reference?