Chasing the Leviathan

I Pursued The Leviathan Project Like The Proverbial White Whale

Not gonna lie: I didn’t really care for the ninth edition of Warhammer 40000. And that’s fine. I haven’t loved every edition. While I enjoyed 8th edition, my favorite is the 3rd/4th edition era. ‘Grim Dark’ was in, bright primary colors were out, and the game was steadily ramping up the model count to be a true army scale tabletop war game.

Maybe that’s why I was attracted to the Horus Heresy: Age of Darkness game, which is effectively the ‘2nd edition’ of the Horus Heresy game. Ownership had moved from Forge World to Games Workshop proper, and the good aspects of the 7th edition game were extracted into a newish game. It was then injected with a bit of modern-day quality of life updates and I was all for it. I liked reactions much better than the dumpster fire that stratagems had become in 9th edition. It was fun to return to the crunchy style of game for a while. Yet, that feeling was a bit fleeting. 

Here comes 10th Edition! Copyright GW of course…

Part of it was because GW didn’t seem to care about their new game, but I will talk about that later. Another part was that my first love has always been, and likely will always be Warhammer 40k.

This past spring, Games Workshop announced the tenth edition of 40k. More importantly to me, they spoke of the changes they were planning to make. While I wasn’t entirely thrilled with a hard reset again, such as the one that hit us for the start of 8th edition. But, this reset was allowing them to fundamentally change three things that I was thrilled about. So I was hopeful that the impending new edition would rekindle my love of the game.

In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future there is only War(hammer 40k)

When it all came down to it I had three, well, three-and-a-half problems with Warhammer 40k 9th edition that kept me from enjoying the game as much as I wanted to. The aforementioned game announcement made some bold statements about the sweeping changes to come: I was excited to see how it all shook out, and while not every aspect came out as I wanted, most of my issues were cleared up. At least for now. It was not all perfect though.

I won’t harp on any of these things, as I suspect that many, if not all of my complaints with the last edition were fairly universal. The first of which I know was. Too. Many. Fucking. Books. At one point I needed five books to play my Adeptus Mechanicus army, I believe. That didn’t even include the rulebook, the newest Grand Tournament book, and countless pdf updates/FAQ’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that Warhammer has become a living game, with constant updates to keep shit fair. But that, on top of spreading under 10 pages of rules across dozens of campaign books. Games Workshop announced that you would only need a two-page spread to play your army. This implied that any army updates in campaign books would be new detachment rulesets to choose from, instead of piling more options onto the base army.

The innumerable amount of books required led directly to my biggest issue with the edition:  Stratagems. I liked the idea of stratagems when 8th edition changed the game entirely, but through that edition of Warhammer 40k and into 9th, it had become a problem. Each codex had dozens of strats to learn how to use. Half of them were dead on arrival and it felt like they were left there as traps. Then, as new releases heaped more books on the codex, more stratagem choices would be found in the supplement, and then more in the campaign books. Because, sure, why not.

Aside from being practically impossible to keep track of them all (especially, when you are like me and have a dozen playable armies and want them all to get table time). The game devolved into: who knows their stratagems better. Then there was the many instances of “hold on, I have a strat for that…” that would occur each game. I shit you not, half the time the player in question was remembering an option for another army. I always thought the game would be better if you had to choose a few strats before play started, just like warlord traits and spells. 

Warhammer 40k 9th edition missions, on the other hand, were getting more game-y and more same-y, as the number of stratagems ballooned out of control. Sure, the matched play missions were based on making tournaments more even. But, I don’t go to tournaments. I play at home, with friends. Often with a drink or music (or both) and want to have a good time around a decently balanced game. Mission parameters became essentially things like: stand there, then stand there, or go jerk off in each corner of the board. This is a wargame. The key word being WAR. How many soldiers do you see running around, just to have someone stand in a corner of the battlefield, jumping up and down waving, exclaiming about how they got to this quadrant or that? 

In my eyes, the goal of needing no more than a two-page spread of detachment rules to be applied to your army sounded great. Even if the detachment I want to play comes from a prospective campaign expansion, I will only have to rely on two books for my army. The codex full of model rules and the potential campaign book. I am cool with that, especially since the app finally works well and I can see everything for any codex I have bought on my phone or tablet with ease. 

The best part is that the two pages of rules also include ALL of the non-generic stratagems you have at your disposal. Sure the base game stratagems increased by a few, but everyone gets access to them, so it is easy to plan around. This so closely aligns to my hope for choosing a few stratagems that I could not be less pleased. 

While my criticism of the mission structure would not be solved as much as my other two gripes, it has turned out better than I thought. With the deck of cards becoming the default way to run a Matched Play game, things are not locked into a few new missions, but are generated on the fly. What’s more, each player gets to decide how they will handle their secondary missions: either picking two as the game commences, or choose to pull cards randomly and getting more when a mission is completed or discarded. This adds so much more variety and choice that while games can end up fairly similar like before, it is not as pervasive a problem as before.

“But wait! Like, a few paragraphs ago you said there were three-and-a-half issues and that was only two, you dolt!”

Oh yeah. Over simplification of point costs is, in my opinion, not great for the game. But it’s also not terrible. Would I like there to be a point difference between a regular gun and a shoulder mounted anti-vehicle laser cannon. Well, yes. But at the same time, if there were upgrade options, almost everyone took them, so they have put time into making each option viable so that no difference of points is needed. It’s my favorite way of doing things, but I can live with it. And it sure as fuck speeds up list building. So there is that. 

A Leviathan Sized Pile Of Models In The Launch Box

What can I say? Games Workshop makes good models. There is a reason they get away with price-gouging us for what is essentially plastic toy soldiers. Plastic toy soldiers that I have to assemble and paint before I can play with them… The new models are great. Sure they are monopose, and the set that I am painting next for my Dark Angels will have the same exact poses. Just painted in green, instead of the blue of my Ultramarines. But that’s not necessarily bad, since they have made many dynamic and exciting poses. Which, realistically can’t be done when a model is planned with swapping arms and weapons. Or at least, not as well. 

25 Ultramarines Painted – 4 Characters, 1 Dreadnought, 5 Terminators, 5 Sternguard and 10 Infernus marines

I am a sucker for a pile of new Space Marines, like many others throughout the hobby. And as always, the 10th edition launch box came with all new models for whichever chapter of my (too) many Space Marine armies I wanted to add them into. For the first box, I chose my Ultramarines. Seems funny, considering I still see myself as a Dark Angel player, and the Lion model had just been released as well. That fact was influential in my decision: let’s get some smurfs painted up quickly and out of the way, so I can play them while I work on the larger collection of Dark Angels. 

I primed them Macragge Blue, as any sane and only mildly masochistic painter would do. I then used a rudimentary wet blend to add a dark, mid, and bright tone to the armor panels before moving onto details. I am very happy with how they came out. Are they my best work ever? No. But I stretched a little and still produced table-ready models that I am happy with. And I did it at a decently quick pace to keep up with my ever looming pile of shame. I see you lurking over there…

I was excited to add new monsters to my fairly limited Tyranid army. Which is kind of a tertiary force at this point, not a focus. It was right here, when I was transitioning from marines to bugs, that I ran into a bit of an issue. The Leviathan in Hive Fleet Behemoth colors was about to elude me for an embarrassingly long time. 

The Beast Strikes

The Beast was about to strike. Not the proverbial Leviathan, but instead the recurrence of my hand injury. While I had a previous treatment for a trigger finger in my right hand (and left hand as well, getting old sucks), this time it returned fast and with a renewed zeal to cause me pain. Radiating into my hand and linking up with my carpal tunnel, the aching became uncomfortable enough to make fine-manipulation for hobby time impossible. Couple that with the fact that it took about a month to get an appointment to get it dealt with and await the pain to subside to be able to hobby again. 

The other problem, well, not really a problem, but maybe a roadblock to getting back into painting minis, is that during the time I was away from the hobby, I rediscovered some long lost pastimes. Honestly, I had been so obsessed with miniature games and painting over the past few years that I had forgotten that I also enjoy both video games and tabletop roleplaying games.

47 Tyranids Painted – 2 Leader beasts, 2 monsters, 36 gaunts of various types and 7 miscellaneous gribblies

I eventually got the Tyranids done. By eventually, I don’t mean weeks, I mean months, which is entirely out of character for me.

Contrast was the key to getting my Tyranid army painted a few years back; much of the force had been forgotten in a box for nearly two decades, with four or five different paint scheme attempts mingling in the box. I was contemplating selling them, but, instead I got the whole army painted up. I was certainly going to use Contrast paint to complete the bug half of the Leviathan box set, but I was already tired of working on them before said work had really begun. 

I did make a startling discovery that would make all future Hive Fleet Behemoth models quicker to paint: Black Legion covers so much better than Black Templar that I would not need to be careful where I applied the Blood Angels Red contrast paint, it would not show through the Black Legion contrast. With less required care I was able to ultimately get the second half of the tyranids from the box painted much faster than the first. Far less tedious touch ups were needed. 

Blood Angel Red was applied, so were some highlights with Evil Suns Scarlett to even out some of the raised areas. Touch ups were done around the fleshy bits that would get Guilliman Flesh, and then that was applied, followed by Black Legion on the carapace and claws. The longest part of the process was actually the Blue accent lines on the armored carapaces.

One speed bump arose during the process. Turns out that Games Workshop had altered the pigment color in the basing material I had used a few years back. Great. Don’t worry, I totally don’t use this expensive shit to make sure my bases all match. Bases, as I have said before, are my least favorite part of the whole miniature painting process. It took some minor experimentation with colors, but I eventually found a tan and small dash of yellow that matched perfectly; I put a bit of the color mix on an old base, and after it dried I couldn’t tell I had done so. Saved, I guess. But it had added a step to the process that I could have used without. 

After months of slacking, distracting and pretending to want to paint, the ‘nids got painted. 

Playing With My New Toys

I haven’t played as much 10th edition as I would like; adulting keeps getting in the way, as per usual. Plus Pathfinder has eaten up a significant amount of my free time, albeit with little to no complaints. The games I have played with the new edition rules have been fantastic. 

At first, I was playing what I would call a fluffy list, but what others may call an old man 2nd-edition style game. I would bring a few characters, a few infantry, a dread, a tank, and some hope. Needless to say it didn’t go well for me, but the gameplay was fun. The army rules and stratagems were easy to keep track of and the adjustments to the base rules appeared to be focused on ease and speed of play. The game got easier, without getting simpler. I had three words for the 10th edition of Warhammer 40k.

Easy. Fast. Fun. 

Many rules were brought back to the main rulebook, allowing for multiple armies to use a same rule, without having to name it something in their own codex. Along with common rules being shunted back into the rulebook, weapon and ballistic skills were taken away from the unit and applied to the attack, thereby reducing subsidiary modifier rules.

Scenery was overly simple in 8th, and the knee-jerk reaction was to over-complicate it in 9th, and now it’s sitting at a middle ground on the complexity scale. Many other things improved the ease of play without reducing the tactics involved in the game. The “Simpler, not simple” approach allows for players to get into the game faster without it being dumbed down, like so many people were worried about. 

With two codexes out, the game currently feels good. Neither of the codexes came out and ruined the balance of the game against the index-only armies. In fact, they stayed comfortably in the middle of the tournament ranking, which is exactly what I wanted. 

My first game with the new Tyranids models

Two more codexes are looming on the horizon, by which I mean: they are up for preorder. If this brace of books is released without upsetting the game, I will be thrilled. I am glad to have a sense of excitement returning for the game that I have played for about 25 years. I look forward to where the 10th edition goes from here.


Obsessive and neurotic collector of little plastic men, novels about the same little plastic men and paints to make the little plastic men pretty. Married to Kera, who puts up with him and pretends that she doesn’t hear him speaking to the little plastic men in between making pew pew noises in the hobby room. Requires adult supervision. A menace to himself but rarely to others. More beard than man

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