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Write your armies fluff take 2
Old 17 Oct 2007, 14:37   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Swansea, UK
Posts: 202
Default Write your armies fluff take 2

For those that read my previous 'article' style post on this subject, a quick apology. What was meant to be a look at to what writing fluff for your army can do for you turned into a old fashioned soapbox rant. It was meant to entice you into immersing yourself in the universe, not, as it turned out, to hit you over the head for not doing it!

So thats what I am trying to do here. Convince the unconvinced, convert the nonbeliever and turn you all to my way of thinking. Entirely appropriate for an Alpha Legion player I feel!

We are all reading this because we are all part of (one assumes) the 40k hobby. Now for me a big part of that hobby is the background. If I want a pure tactical battle I play chess, if I am looking for moving some plastic around in a tactical manner and laughing at dice rolls then risk would be the game for me. No, what entices me into 40k is the massively layered universe.

But take it back a step, just now I mentioned the 40k hobby (look back, I really did). Thats right, hobby. And for most people it is a hobby. Tell me, in Risk do you spend hours converting your miniatures? Or painting them? In chess are you enacting the last stand of a space marine legion against the gibbering hordes of an inter-galactic alien race bent on eating everything in their path? If you are its not the kind of chess I know!

Because 40k gives you all that. By far the majority of my '40k time' is taken up doing other things than playing. For example yesterday I put the finishes touches to a converted sentinel for my Lost and the Damned force, followed by a couple of hours modeling and converting a Vindicator Line Breaker squadron for my Alpha Legion. As well as that my nighttime reading was the Black Library book, Dark Apostle, and in the top 5 websites I visit I am willing to bet 2 or 3 of them are 40k related.

So all that was just a long-winded method of showing you that 40k is more than 'just a game' to many of us (though I do accept not all), it is a hobby to immerse ourselves in. Well thats great and all but doesn't really touch much on the subject of this article/post... background writing.

Except that it does. So far we have shown that the hobby has many aspects, the background, the game, modeling and painting to name but a few. So let me ask you this. What colours do you paint your army in? Is it the colours the background states, or logic taken from the background suggests? How do you decide what poses, or conversions to give your models? Again it comes from the background. You wouldn't give loyalist marines big tentacles, nor would you give an eldar force a ramshackle wartrukk, because it simply doesn't fit with what we know about that force.

So writing background for your army makes an extension of this to painters and modelers. It tells them what 'fits'. The background for a chaos character suggests what mutations it may, or may not have. The pose for your autarch will be decided by whether he likes to get in and close with the enemy, or snipe them from distance. Background can help with all parts of the hobby.

But it can also give you so much more.

I don't know about you guys but what attracted me to 40k initially was the background. I read all the fluff and used to get WD well before I started collecting any models (back towards the start of the 2nd ed). The scope of it, the narratives, the 'feel' of the universe all struck a cord in my mind and had me envisaging battles for the fates of planets. Doomed warriors clashing over no mans land again and again, Special ops teams striking deep at the heart of defence lines, silencing the heavy artillery.

But that wasn't what I was fighting. Yes every now and again we would put a bit of a background to a battle, but not often, and certainly not in pick up games. The games i was playing weren't what attracted me, they really were just glorified chess games.

But writing my armies background changed all that. Now my battles really were missions. Now my characters had objectives that they needed to complete, most importantly my battles had a link to the larger 40k universe as whole, they had an effect.

It also had a completely unexpected result. As well as changing how I viewed my battles, or tactics, or army selection it changed my entire view of the game to what I think is closer to what GW aims for.

The rulebook stopped being this massive tome from which I could not deviate upon pain of death. Instead it became a starting point. The Codex's stopped being the be all and end all of what I could do or take, and instead were a source of inspiration for so much more.

The start was simple. Alpha Legion fluff suggests they fight more with cults than an independent force, so a simple home ruling on allies allowed to me to combine with a Latd army. My IG opponent went the same way, house ruling allies with loyalist marines.

But it got deeper and deeper. My fluff expanded, the driving forces behind my army came to the fore. They were a technological hungry splinter force, so it was only right that they were allowed new units to show this feel. And so a Chaos Land speeder was introduced, and then combat servitors. But it wasn't just mechanical, one of the Lords held a huge interest in biological experimentation and so experimented on cultists. These cultists would now enter battle has house ruled mutants with VERY random profiles.

All this was great fun, added interest, conversion ideas, new rules and new scenarios. Scenarios such as entering an Adeptus Mechanicus facility and being there undisturbed long enough to download some files. Or capturing prisoners for more experimentation.

Yes these things can be done without an army background, but the background itself can give you more and more ideas... a treasure trove of information which can be built up with every battle whilst also making your battles more interesting.

Now I have given examples from my own army but lets see what we can do with another, so you can see what benefits can be gained from it.

As it happens I own a Tau Empire Codex so lets go with that... please bear in mind I am no fluff expert!

Now in the Codex there is a particular paragraph that just spiked my interest.

The tau are good night fighters and when darkness falls they move into range of the (cities) defences and systematically destroy them.
Now this suggests to me a theme I could easily base my army around. A swift moving strike force, trained especially for taking out heavy defences at night.

So just from that what do we know? We know that we should create an option (and probably take it) for giving the Tau warriors the ability to ignore the nightfighting rules, maybe options for meltabombs to show them attacking city defences. Or Heavy weapon drones for constant quick moving heavy fire power, or maybe suicide drones with massive explosives designed to fly into the defences and detonate from inside.

We know that they will be in dark colours, blacks, browns and deep purples to keep themselves hidden at night. We know that they will have some heavy hitting firepower to take out defences and we know that they need to be fast moving to represent a strike force getting in, completing the mission and then getting out as soon as possible. We also know the army is likely to be almost completely mechanized for speed and that there will probably be a couple of stealth teams who's job it is to get in first and find the armies targets.

It places restrictions. We know that the heavy weapons are going to have to be vehicle and crisis suit mounted... broadsides are too slow for this kind of mission. As it is city based there are unlikely to be Kroot involved, who don't have any transport options anyway.

So we have a basis for an army, its colours and a base guideline for its tactics. Its not hard to envisage a special character to lead this strike force so I will let you get into that.

Next it suggests scenarios. A kill team going in to silence a particular gun before the force strikes. The force striking to take down a section of walls, destroy a bunker or specific weapon. A dawn raid style feint strike against a position before using their speed to pull back whilst the main tau army strikes at another section.

So lets take that one. A feint strike. Its simple to come up with a few rules here. The tau's missions is simple get in, cause as much damage as possible then get out. A few rules here then.

1.All the Tau forces are mechanized.
2.The defending force only, uses the escalation rules to represent defenders flooding to the attacked area.
3.The defenders have a couple of large defence lasers/weapons already in play.
4.The tau's mission is to get in, destroy the defence lasers, get as many defenders committed to the battle as possible and then get out. Extra VP's are gained by destroying the defence lasers and then getting any of their own surviving troops off the board at their own deployment edge once the defence lasers have been destroyed.
5.The defences mission is to keep the defence weapons intact and to cut the Taus ability to strike again. Extra VP's are gained by destroying vehicles and keeping the defence lasers working.
6.A quick note, this is meant to be a fun, fluffy mission, not necessarily a balanced one.

No infiltration to be used by the defenders, no deep striking to be used by either side.

Now I have not played the above scenario (only just came up with it and I'm not planning on playtesting it), nor used the tau army in the manner suggested (or any tau army come to that) but you can see exactly what can be gained from just one paragraph and 10 minutes thinking, never mind what a couple of A4 sides and constant battling with an army can do!

So go on, give it a go. At worst you will have wasted 15 minutes at a computer on a document you will never think of again, at best (like in my case) it will change how you approach your battles and set your hobby free from the rigid strictures that have been placed on it, and make it once again, your hobby.

(p.s. Please don't follow this post with your armies fluff. I am very interested in reading it but post it in the appropriate places. Instead i would love to hear any comments and criticisms of this 'article', for want of a better word.)
blogging about starting again in the hobby in 2 places
and follow my progress on twitter http://twitter.com/alphalegion
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