Monthly Archives: June 2013

Games Workshop: WTF?

Like many FLGS’s, one of the local stores I patronize regularly has had to come up with inventive ways of competing with online discounters. This place has loads of old lead, including lots of GW stuff from the past 10 years or so, still new in the box. His compete strategy is simple: if you buy anything other than GW, he gives you a gift certificate for 30% of the purchase value towards anything in the store aside from GW stuff. For GW stuff, he gives you a $20 gift certificate for every $100 you spend.

That’s a pretty good deal, I would say. Or is it? It sure is as far as the non-GW stuff goes. But for the GW stuff, I’m not so sure.

Let me explain.

I recently accrued $100 worth of GW purchases at the store, so I had a $20 credit burning a hole in my pocket. I don’t buy any of the new stuff, since I never play the games anymore. What did I buy? Lots of individual regiment boxes for armies I don’t play, mainly for use in skirmish games and as cannon fodder for my AD&D game. For example, I bought a unit box of Empire Swordsmen for $30 there (I told you he has a lot of stuff still new in box, priced according to when he ordered them…in this case I’d say about 8 years ago or so.) I also bought a bunch of metal miniatures considering he sells all his old metal GW stuff for half price.

Well, I now have a gaming table that I’m hoping gets a lot of use. I have a couple of armies  for both their games, but like many gamers I always consider more. So yesterday I went to the store, thinking I might plop down a decent chunk of change on a battalion box, either for 40K or WFB. Why not? He has some battalion boxes from 8-9 years ago still on the shelf, and they’re priced accordingly as low as $90. Take $20 off that, and it’s starting to look like a deal, depending on the army you pick.

I looked at all the battalion boxes he had for sale for both games, and let me tell you, there’s a huge difference in what you get for what you spend, both across armies and across time.

He had two versions of the Empire Battalion box. (Since I already bought a box of swordsmen, I considered getting a battalion and having an Empire army ready to go.) Both versions contained 20 State Troops, 10 Handgunners, and 8 Reiksguard Knights. One also came with a Cannon and crew, the other came with 10 Greatswords instead. The Cannon was the cheaper choice: it was $90. The Greatswords cost $105. (This is the current version available on the GW website.) Maybe a little expensive, but not a terrible deal, considering you get over 40 miniatures per box.

The best deal I found was a Skaven Battalion, which contained 40 Clanrats, 20 Plague Monks, 2 Rat Ogres with Handler, and 2 Rat Swarms with Handlers for $115. These are the old syle Skaven, not the new ones. But with over 60 miniatures, it’s not a bad deal.

But these are either old WFB Battalions, or they’re the exception. The newer ones have fewer figures. and they cost more. And they changed the game itself to favor more miniatures and bigger units.

As far as old 40K Battalions went, the ones with the most miniatures for the money were the Tyranids and the Tau. I don’t want or need more Tyranids, and I don’t know anything about the Tau. Maybe if he had one of the older Tau codices there I would have considered buying it since it was priced at $90 and included 10 Fire Warriors, 3 Stealth Suits, 1 Battlesuit, 1 Devilfish Tank, and 12 Kroots. But I’m not buying a new codex for $45, and I don’t even own the latest version of the game.

This month GW released the new Eldar models, and everyone is outraged at the price hike. The Eldar Battalion is especially egregious. You get a total of 17 miniatures: 10 Guardians, 5 Dire Avengers, a Viper Jetbike, and a Wave Serpent tank. For $115. Now, GW will have its fanboys who think this is “really a good deal for what you’re getting, especially given the quality of the models”, but that’s just bullshit. And yeah, you get a tank. Big fucking deal. See the Tau above. 15 troops does not a Battalion make. They used to sell WFB regiments of 20 miniatures for 30 bucks! I know: I just bought some!

So, back to my original question: is $20 off already inflated prices actually a good deal? Or has GW’s pricing plan pretty much invalidated what this poor store owner is trying to do? By anyone’s estimation, 20 bucks off is a pretty good deal. Unless you’re paying way too much for what you’re getting to begin with. Not the owner’s fault, but he’s the one who stocks the items and has to deal with the crap from people who hate GW’s prices, who then buy from someone online. As he put it to me yesterday, “People only come to me if I’m their last resort. They need it tomorrow or something like that.”

Despite what you may think, this isn’t really a rant on GW’s prices, although any discussion about GW is bound to get around to pricing eventually (and it’s not hard to see why). It’s a speculation about what the fuck GW is really doing. Let me repeat that: this is pure speculation. I have no real knowledge of GW’s business plan or goals.

For retailers, there are already a ton of restrictions when it comes to selling GW stuff, even online. Recently, I have heard that the War Store has had to stop selling GW bits or risk losing the ability to sell GW at all, which they do for 20% off already, although they are forbidden to show any prices and/or merchandise on the site. How long do you think that will continue? And if the War Store and online sellers are having problems with the restrictions, how much trouble do you think the FLGS owner in his brick and mortar place can ever begin to compete? He can’t, really. Unless he’s a GW store.

Which makes me wonder if GW is actually trying to price the retailer out of the market, so that anyone who wants to buy GW stuff will have to buy directly from GW. it seems like a dumb idea, but is it really? No more wholesale sales to retailers, and they can charge what they want. While they can’t control the secondary market, they can make all the new stuff impossible to get for less than whatever they want to charge. While it cuts their third-party distribution network and limits exposure to their games, they have enough money to open new stores. Seems like a shitty business practice to me, but what do I know? All I know is FLGS owners everywhere aren’t moving GW stuff as much as they should, because most people consider retail too expensive and get it online for cheaper. What if that suddenly went away? Who would benefit?

I’m really trying to figure out GW’s game plan here. It reminds me of something that happened in the mid-90’s, when I was working in a comic book store. Anyone familiar with the crash of the comics market in the 90’s knows there were plenty of bad marketing ideas that capitalized on collectors’-especially new collectors’-unrealistic expectations of the “guaranteed” value of comics increasing over time. Thus there were gimmicky covers, multiple covers of the same issue (buy them all to have a complete collection!), price hikes, gratuitous cameos of “hot” characters and crossover storylines intended to dive sales of shitty books. That, coupled with the decision of Marvel Comics to distribute their own stuff exclusively, meant that Joe Retailer no longer enjoyed the big wholesale discount he got from buying all his Marvel and everything else from a third-party distributor. DC soon followed suit and became exclusive to one distributor, so now Joe Retailer had to order from more places, which means he ordered less from each, which means he paid more overall. To make matters worse, eventually the collectors stopped buying into the crap, and a lot of comic shops went out of business when they couldn’t move the merchandise they ordered two months previously in anticipation of collector demand that was suddenly no longer there.

Shortly before the big crash, though, Marvel started advertising something called “Marvel Mart” in their comics, which was a way for the individual collector to order from Marvel directly. As I recall, it was packaged in a way that implied the comic shop was an unreliable way to get your comics on time and in good condition. Plus, if you ordered directly, you saved money, since it was cheaper than Joe Retailer. Well, comic store owners went ballistic, since it seemed that Marvel was trying to drive them out of business. If I remember correctly, Marvel relented and Marvel Mart went away, mainly because Marvel didn’t expect the backlash from retailers. After all, Marvel comics accounted for something like 70% of comic sales at the time. Take that away, and how can an owner survive? Most didn’t. The store I worked at survived for a time on Magic: the Gathering card sales. Then it went out of business, too.

Much as I love playing other games, for most people GW is synonymous with miniatures gaming, for better or worse.  I have to think that this will hit the wall at some point, but that wall just keeps getting pushed back.

I didn’t buy anything yesterday after all, although I am considering the older Empire Battalion and/or maybe the Tau, if I can find the older codex. I still have two WFB armies I’m working on (which means I haven’t made much progress). I just feel bad for this store owner and others like him, who are really struggling and fighting an uphill battle. To be fair, it’s not just GW’s fault; they just have the worst prices. Amazon sells X-Wing stuff for a lot less than retail, for example. It wasn’t too long ago I considered opening a store of my own. With the current state of the market, I’d be rolling some heavily-loaded dice if I did. I just think it’s sad that the little guy might not be around too much longer.



The Menace of Ultron Part 2: A Super System 3 AAR

A few nights later we picked up where we left off. My friend Chris couldn’t make it, so we decided this was that moment in so many comic books where the two hero teams combine to fight a common enemy! Matt quickly chose Captain America as his new, combined hero team leader. He figured if there was one guy besides Professor X that Cyclops would defer to, it would be Cap.

Turn 3

The heroes got initiative.

SNIKT! Wolverine charged down the alley and ripped into Dreadnought #1. His adamantium claws are pretty impressive against mindless robots. He netted 6 Vitality of damage to the Dreadnought, dropping it to 1 and kniocking it back 5 inches!. Despite this, Dreadnought #1 was barely able to remain upright. But the Dreadnought’s electrified armor shocked him back for 7 Vitality! (Turns out we were doing this wrong; Wolverine shouldn’t have been shocked for anywhere near that much damage. But what the hell. It’s cinematic.)

In response, Dreadnought #1 ran forward and attacked Wolverine, but missed.


Iron Man fired of a repulsor blast at Ultron and hit. What’s impressive is he actually managed to do 3 Vitality worth of damage, as Ultron rolled miserably to resist.

In response, Ultron attempted  to telekinetically grab Iron Man and bring him into hand to hand. Problem is, that’s not how the power works. TK grab just roots someone to the spot. Even if it succeeded (which it didn’t), it wouldn’t have left me with a  lot of tactical options; but since I had already spent the points to use the power this round, I was stuck with it. The first of several of my blunders.

Storm used her wind control to transport both herself and Colossus 9″. Then they landed.

Dreadnought #2 attacked Wolverine and hit; combined with his Damaging Aura, the attack did a total of 4 more Vitality damage and knocked him back 2″ into the wall of a nearby building.  Wolverine was starting to look pretty battered.

Cyclops fired at Dreadnought #2, but missed.

Madame Hydra used her short-range teleport ring to get to the top of a nearby building. Once there, she took a shot at Storm and hit, but Storm managed to avoid any damage.

Colossus moved towards Ultron, intent upon closing with him in hand-to-hand combat next turn.

Dreadnought #3 fired at the approaching Colossus and hit, but the big mutant just shrugged it off.

From behind a pile of junk, Hawkeye took a shot at Ultron and hit, but did no damage.

The Vision floated towards Ultron, still intangible and out of sight for any ranged attack.

Captain America threw his shield at Dreadnought #3, and scored a whopping 17 goals on his attack! The end result, however, was not as impressive: the Dreadnought suffered 4 Vitality worth of damage, leaving it with 3. Cap used his remaining AP to move through the alley to assist Wolverine next turn, retrieving his shield along the way.

Turn 4

The initiative was a tie, broken by Captain America’s higher AP total. The heroes went first.

Storm took off and blasted Madame Hydra with a lightning bolt, but missed.

Ultron used his Dominate power on the weak-willed Colossus and succeeded, meaning he would be able to control Colossus when Matt activated him next. Then he moved back into the park.

Captain America flung his shield in a spray attack, attempting to hit both Dreadnoughts, but only hit  one. It resisted all damage. In return, Dreadnought #1 charged Cap and attacked, scoring enough net goals to drop his Vitality to zero and knock him back into the building. (Matt really rolled terribly on his defense rolls.) Captain America was KO’ed!

Wolverine spent 4 AP to Regenerate, scoring 8 goals, restoring 8 Vitality! Back in the fight, he used 6 AP to Flurry, scoring a net of 7 goals of damage on each Dreadnought, enough to destroy them both! Take that, Bub! Then he moved past their smoking and sparking bodies towards Ultron, his intentions obvious.

Dreadnought #3 used all his power pool for his Damaging Aura and left nothing for Ranged attack, so if he wanted to do anything, he’s have to attack in melee. I knew that Colossus wouldn’t fight back, so I figured I might take the opportunity to do some damage to Colossus. This was blunder #2. The Dreadnought charged and did 2 Vitality of damage, knocking Colossus back 4″ and knocking him prone.

Iron Man shot at Dreadnought #3 and hit, but did no damage. Then he flew atop the same building as Madame Hydra, getting into position to ruin her day next turn.

But Madame Hydra teleported away, this time to the street. She shot Cyclops for 5 Vitality of damage, almost knocking him out. Then she used her remaining AP to close the gap, moving into hand-to-hand.

Cyclops fired at Madame Hydra at point-blank range and missed. Maybe he was still seeing stars from her shot.

Hawkeye took a shot at Madame Hydra, attempting to Entangle her. He missed, and also missed Cyclops, who he could have hit by accident.

The Vision continued to drift closer to Ultron, still intangible.

Of course, Matt waited until the last possible second to activate Colossus, who was mine to control. Unfortunately for me, I had to spend 2 of Colossus’s measly 5 AP just to stand up after being knocked prone by the Dreadnought. Even with his extra movement, Colossus couldn’t reach Hawkeye this turn to punch him into next week like I wanted. And at the end of the turn, control of Colossus reverted back to Matt.

Turn 5

With Cap KO’ed, Matt nominated Cyclops as his new team leader. This allowed Ultron to seize initiative for the first time this game.


With Wolverine bearing down on him, Ultron did the sensible thing. He fired at Wolverine with full power. Unfortunately, he missed. So he did the next best thing. He used his remaining AP to move farther away.

That didn’t help him for long. Wolverine charged and easily closed the gap, but despite scoring 8 goals to damage Ultron, the robot was able to resist all damage.

Madame Hydra shot at Cyclops at point-blank range, but she missed.

Vision finally got into the fight and tried a phase attack against Dreadnought #3, but missed.

Colossus charged into combat with Madame Hydra, attacking her from behind and knocking her senseless. Madame Hydra was KO’ed!

Hawkeye successfully Entangled Dreadnought #3, rooting it to the spot. Despite this, Iron Man still missed when he shot at the Dreadnought moments later.

Finally, Storm blew Dreadnought #3 to pieces with a lightning bolt that did 6 goals of unresisted damage. Dreadnought #3 was destroyed!

Turn 6

Ultron, now alone, faced the combined forces of Iron Man, Vision, Hawkeye, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine. It was pretty clear he’d be defeated eventually, and it was getting late, so we called it a night. Victory to the heroes!

The Menace of Ultron Part 1: A Super System 3 AAR

Well, I finally got my table finished for good and invited a couple of pals over for some gaming. I figured since I had so much fun with it last time, why not play some Super System 3? So before they came over I came up with a scenario, grabbed some Heroclix and set the table.

I decided to use more powerful characters this time around, so I chose the X-Men and The Avengers as hero teams. They needed an appropriate menace, so I hunted around until I came up with someone so badass they would just HAVE to team up to take him down: Ultron. I didn’t paint any of these miniatures: you can thank underpaid Chinese laborers for that.

For the X-Men, I chose a pretty powerful foursome: Storm, Colossus, Cyclops and everyone’s favorite psycho, Wolverine.

The Avengers’ roster is nothing to sneer at: Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and the enigmatic Vision.

The bad guys: Madame Hydra and a squad of Hydra Goons…

…who just activated Ultron and a small squad of Dreadnoughts.

I originally set up a 48″ x 48″ surface, but I realized that with this many miniatures on the table, all ranged attacks would likely be at medium range or so. When given the choice of using the full 4′ x 6′ table, my friends wanted to go for it. So we threw some more terrain down and the result is shown above.

We got most of the stats for the heroes and villains from this site. My friend Matt chose the X-Men;, his brother Chris picked the Avengers. That left yours truly as the bad guys. HAIL HYDRA!!!!

Each side chose their team leader, which determines how many dice you’ll roll for initiative.  Chris and I made the obvious choices: Captain America and Ultron. Matt, bless his heart, chose the more thematically-appropriate leader for his team and picked Cyclops, even though Wolverine would have given him a better dice pool for initiative.

The Scenario

It goes without saying that if you live in Manhattan, you get used to a lot. Seems like every other week there’s a super-powered threat to the city that the Fantastic Four or the Avengers has to deal with. But it’s still a tribute to the average New Yorker that a 6 block area was evacuated so soon after the emergency broadcast went out. Then again, the nature of the emergency certainly lent some urgency to the mass exodus: Ultron.

The SR-71 Blackbird activated it’s VTOL engines about 90 feet over the apartment block. Moments later, aided by Storm’s winds, four of the mutants known to the world as the Uncanny X-Men touched down and quickly assumed a practiced formation.  Wolverine sniffed the air. “They’re this way,” he said, tugging his cowl in place and moving swiftly southward.

“Take point, Logan,” said the team’s leader, Cyclops; not that Wolverine ever waited for an order. “Ororo, go topside and look around. Colossus, you’re with me.”

“Understood,” said Storm, as a sudden gust of wind bore her aloft. The giant Russian said nothing, but a crackle of energy as he transformed into his osmium-steel form was acknowledgment enough. He fell into place a half-step behind Cyclops as they trailed after Wolverine.


Two blocks to the east, the whine of the Quinjet’s engines faded as the now-empty aircraft shot out over the water, leaving behind four of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers.

“Our limo is only a phone call away,” said the metallic voice of Iron Man. He turned his attention from the Quinjet’s remote controls inside his helmet display. “The X-Men have touched down about two blocks from here to the west. I’m reading the hostiles are a couple of blocks south. And Cap, they know we’re here.”

“Avengers, Assemble!” said Captain America, unslinging his star-spangled shield from his back. “Hawkeye, Iron Man: gain some altitude and see what you can find out. Vision, back me up. These idiots have no idea what they’ve done by activating Ultron. We need to put him away fast, people. Let’s move!”

“Way ahead of you, Cap,” said Hawkeye, leaping atop a nearby abandoned truck, as Iron Man’s boot jets propelled him skyward. “Less chatter would be nice.”

Captain America ignored him. “Vision, if you get a chance, don’t hesitate. Take it.”

The android’s face was unreadable. “Acknowledged, Captain.” They moved southward together.


“Head northeast and engage the Avengers,” said Madame Hydra, loosening her plasma pistol in its holster. “Fire at will. I want them destroyed.”

“Hail Hydra!” chorused seven of her best soldiers, snapping to attention. A moment later they were off, following her command. She had no illusions about their chances of success, but they were expendable. The most important thing was that they occupy the heroes long enough so that she could get away with Ultron. Activating him had been no easy feat, but the payoff would be well worth it. With the robot in Hydra’s ranks, there was nothing the nefarious organization could not accomplish!

Her cruel smile vanished as she saw the robot was moving away on his own, taking her three Dreadnoughts with him. “Where are you going?” she demanded. “Stop! I am in command here!”

Ultron turned and regarded her for a moment. “May I suggest you allow me free reign? I would be much more useful to you.”

“Why would I do that?” she sneered. “You are mine to control!”

“Because I am smarter, more powerful, and infinitely better suited to the task of command than you are. I have the brain engrams of Dr. Henry Pym, making me, at best estimate,approximately 6.2 times more intelligent than you. If that were not enough, my cybernetic mind can perform 360 million complex calculations per second. And I, unlike you, have fought- and defeated- the Avengers before and am intimately acquainted with their tactics and strategy, particularly with regard to fighting me.”

Madame Hydra glanced around for support, but found only the cold, robotic eyes of the three Dreadnought robots. She suddenly felt very alone. Ultron awaited her answer.

“Very well, act as you see fit,” she said. “But remember that I am in command here, robot, and you will obey me, should I give the order.” She followed after her soldiers.

Not for long, you stupid cow, thought Ultron. He turned wordlessly and strode north, through the park. His internal processors quickly wrote and executed an algorithmic program whose sole purpose was to find a way to override Hydra’s programming.  In the meantime, he would eliminate the X-Men and allow Madame Hydra and her poltroons to occupy the Avengers until he could get there. Then he would destroy them all, including those who would dare to call themselves his master.

Turn 1

We rolled for initiative. Not surprisingly, Captain America scored the most goals, followed by Ultron and finally, Cyclops; making the order Avengers-Hydra-X-men.

Not a whole lot happened the first turn other than movement. The Avengers and X-Men began to move south. The Hydra goons and Madame Hydra circled the park to the east and moved to engage the Avengers. Ultron and the three Dreadnoughts went north towards the X-Men.

Matt wanted Wolverine to go over a parked car rather than around it. We decided Wolverine could probably easily do that, so a quick Agility check was made and passed, and we decided he bounded over the car with no penalty to movement. Likewise Chris wanted Hawkeye to gain some higher ground, so he had him leap atop the cab of a stationary fuel truck. Another quick Agility check was made and Hawkeye gained his perch.

Storm and Ultron both took to the skies on their turn. Ultron spotted Storm a long way off and took a shot at her at long range. He missed. That was pretty much turn 1 in a nutshell.

Turn 2

The initiative order was the same.

From atop the fuel truck, Hawkeye could just about spy the top of a Dreadnought’s head through the trees in the park. It was all he needed. He took his shot and hit, but the Dreadnought shrugged off the damage easily.

The Hydra goons continued to move forward as a group. They didn’t get far.

Storm fired back at Ultron. Despite the long range, she hit him squarely with a bolt of lightning from the heavens, but failed to damage the robot.

Iron Man flew around a building and targeted the group of Hydra henchmen with his ranged attack, scoring seven goals. The goons failed to resist even one. The last thing the Hydra soldiers saw was a bright flash as Iron Man’s Uni-Beam knocked them senseless. Scratch one group of Henchmen!

Ultron continued to move north, but veered to the east, over the park wall. He couldn’t resist taking a shot at the hated Iron Man. He missed.

Wolverine moved south into an alley between two buildings, making a quick Agility check and hopping over a concrete parking barrier, on a beeline towards the Dreadnoughts.

Vision activated his Density Decrease power and started levitating. He took a long range shot at Ultron with his solar gem and hit, but failed to do any damage.

One Dreadnought continued towards the alley to the north, straight towards Wolverine. He took a shot at Storm flying above, but missed.

Colossus moved south, making a quick Agility check and hopping a jersey barrier with no penalty to movement.

Captain America decided to throw his shield at Ultron, with predictable results. It ricocheted harmlessly off the robot’s adamantium body.

After just watching her whole squad of “expendable” soldiers get expended, Madame Hydra moved towards cover, taking a few shots at Captain America. But Cap had his shield back by then, and her shots were blocked with ease.

Cyclops fired off an optic blast at  an approaching Dreadnought but his shot went wide. The Dreadnought took a shot at Wolverine, but missed. The last Dreadnought responded to an unspoken robotic command from Ultron to join him on the flank. Of course, the wall was in the way, but that’s no problem for a robot with energy blasters. There are no rules for attacking obstacles in SS3, so we just ruled that the wall had a Resistance of 4. It failed to resist the Dreadnought’s blast, so down it went.

It was at this point that we had to break due to circumstances beyond our control. We decided we’d pick it up in a few nights and left the table as is.