8 Games, 3 models. An Interview with the True King of Kansas City

The GW Kansas City Open has come and gone, and one true Champion showed up with an off-the-wall army that captured my attention immediately. One of our Discord Patrons was on the scene, and so I deputized them to go cyber-bully him into an interview. It actually worked.

Look at this. It’s maybe the most perfect list I have ever seen. 

Superheavy Detachment

  • Astraeus
  • Astraeus
  • Thunderhawk

It’s ridiculous in the best possible way. Absolutely peak Warhammer, 10/10 in both brutality and insanity. It’s probably not good, but it is assuredly great.

Usually when you see an army like this it’s purely done as a Bit. Fielding this is an expensive exercise, and the games it results in aren’t really games. That is, putting down a Warhound as your entire army in an event is a way to waste everyone’s time. The Titan can’t score primaries. It can’t score secondaries. It’s hardly even a DPS check, because there isn’t an army in the game that, even losing 2-3 units a turn, won’t burn a Titan down and then proceed to win 85-16 (I’m assuming paint scores and 2 turns of Grind Them Down, which is perhaps overly generous). You’re going 0-x every event, with zero doubt about the outcome, or joy in the experience. It’s functionally a bye, but with a little more work involved. 

Still, I had no choice. As soon as the image of a Dark Angels Thunderhawk wearing a cowboy hat hit my screen, I basically had to reach out to the player behind it and get an interview with him. As it turned out, the player in question ended up being Michael Roberts, a Posting Pal from back in the day. Fortunately he was amenable to the idea, and a great person to chat with.

Virtually everyone who talks about doing something like this – a true Least Army – just wants to be the wild and crazy good time boy, and doesn’t care about either “winning” or “actually playing Warhammer”. Honestly, that is pretty funny, in theory if not generally in practice. That in mind, I came into this looking to play up the absurdity of it, but once Michael and I got to talking, I quickly settled on a new angle. Far from a laugher of an army and a player who didn’t give a shit, what I got was a surprisingly nuanced understanding of the game, and a primer on how to play an absurd army in a way that still resembles normal competitive Warhammer. 

It became immediately clear that there was a level of system mastery and care that went into the game plan here, to wring every last drop of scoring from so few models, and I’m excited to share it. This wasn’t a joke list that was built to go 0-8: Michael placed into one of the 2-2 pods after four games, and finished 3-5. Not an incredible record on its own, but I’d like to see anyone else do better, showing up with three models.

Goonhammer: First things first, what’s with the Cowboy hats?

Michael: When I was still in college I took a robotics class, and I had the idea for a dumb (this is 99% of all my decision making) way to make my little robot stand out.  I mounted one of my High Grade Gundams to the robot, and wanted it to be like Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove.  I had the robot, the mounting tape, and the model, so all I needed was the cowboy hat.  After a week of searching I found the right size hat, but they were only sold in packs of 4, so I had to find ways to use the other 3.  I plopped one on my Astraeus once as a joke because of the name of the list I was running at the time, and people responded so positively that it has sort of become my personal brand locally.

The tiny hat that started it all. Credit: Michael Roberts

I think I’d love what you have done here regardless, but the fact that you went with Dark Angels is really what sealed the deal for me. Is your entire life made up of unalloyed King Shit or is it just this one thing?

Most of how I determine what I’m going to run, or what faction to play, boils down to whether or not I look at something and go “that’s so incredibly stupid…I’m in [insert gif of Kiryu from Yakuza going “that’s rad” here, you know the one].”  If something radiates raw smooth-brained power I’m on it in an instant.  I don’t even play Sisters of Battle but I still have 3 Paragon Warsuits and Vahl with 3D-printed gundam bits, specifically for the Nundams joke.

Credit: Michael Roberts

What’s your favorite Gundam?

RX-79[G] Gundam Ground Type.

Hell yeah, good pick. Ok, so, walk us through the thought process that led to this quote-unquote army. Like, just in general, what the fuck is this, are you doing a Bit?

I’m never not doing a bit when it comes to lists.  My normal tournament list is actually the tan Astraeus with 30 Hellblasters, titled “And Hell Followed With Him” because with the hat the Astraeus is the Pale Rider. Fun fact, that list has actually gone 2-2-1 at a GT (with the draw being against my teammate Jason Merten, who was in the top 16 this weekend) so I continue to hold onto the belief that it has legs.

The 30 ‘blaster list in question. Credit: Michael Roberts

Word on the street is that you ended up going 3-5 with this. That’s fine, or whatever, but how many actual turns of Warhammer did you play? Were your games over quickly? Were they dope as hell? That last one is rhetorical, they obviously were, but how was the event, from your perspective as the Coolest Person On Earth.

The entire tournament I actually only got tabled twice, once on turn 4 in the stream game, and once in game 5 on turn 3, so I actually ended up playing 37 entire turns of warhammer, with only 7 models lost the entire time (in game 7 I had one tank destroyed). The games were over incredibly quickly, with the slowest game I played running to just past when they called the milestone for finishing round 3.  The waiting was actually so bad that I brought a Gundam kit to build between rounds, and ended up finishing building it before the end of the event.  With only one less than fantastic game during the event, I had an insanely good time.  You could almost feel the annoyance and complaints from the competitive people up at the first dozen or so tables because of a bunch of fancy reasons I adamantly refused to listen to, but everybody I played against in the middle and bottom tables were having an absolute blast, and had nothing but glowing reviews for the event as a whole.

How he kept the tanks alive most of the time. They measure to hull, which is about half an inch up on the low end, and those flat top ruins were exactly 5 inches tall, meaning they could never be in engagement range. Credit: Michael Roberts

What secondaries did you pick most games? I’m trying to figure out how you score points with this. Grind Them Down and something from the Purge The Enemy category seem like slam dunks, but like…Engage, and park one tank in each quarter?

I almost always took Grind, Assassinate, and Shock Tactics. Grind for obvious reasons, Assassinate because I could score at least 11 on most people, and Shock Tactics because it’s incredibly easy for somebody to take an objective from one of the tanks – because it’s one model without Objective Secured – but it’s very hard to keep it when it can just back up and start blasting. It works to sort of offset Primary loss. I couldn’t take Engage because aircraft can’t score it, and two quarters gets you nothing [GREGNOTE: ahh crap I forgot about the planes thing].

Fun fact, on most of the missions a tank could sit in scoring range of two different objectives and retain primary while blasting somebody off of the other and scoring Shock Tactics for it. If the enemy unit doesn’t get destroyed, it just keeps holding the other objective

That’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone using the “a model can only control one objective, but if it’s in range of two, the owner can pick which one” rule on purpose.

Nobody considers it, and most get caught off guard. The list largely relied on people not knowing what to do and stumbling through the game. It has no characters, so people couldn’t take Psychic Interrogation, and it only gave up 12 for Bring it Down.

Credit: Michael Roberts

Yeah, I think most people probably rolled up thinking it was a gimme game. It’s pretty funny that you played something totally bizarre, but played it really well. I never want to talk to the people that rock up to a GT with “a single titan” as the army because, come on, that isn’t a real game. But taking three big-ass tanks and managing to win multiple times has some real juice, and that I want in on.

Running stupid bullshit very well is basically my local brand at this point. If you skew hard enough people can’t interact. My last opponent was AdMech, and I killed all 8 of his chickens at the top of turn 1. After that, his entire list wounded me on 6s, and I saved on 2s. At the end of the game, I had 99 of 102 wounds remaining.

Yeah, it’s not just “hover, shoot, hand off turn”, there’s a lot more to doing well with this army than just shoving expensive resin around. There’s a method to the madness, which I think is why it appeals to me.

It forces the opponent to shift from a murder game plan to a maneuver game plan, and so to keep up my play also has to be extremely on top of movement and placing. FLY letting me put the tanks on top of 5″ tall ruins (so as to be unchargeable) saved at a tank at least twice. An Astraeus can body block an entire objective if it needs to, and the Thunderhawk can deal with backfield holders.

My second win – game four against Blood Axes, 84-80 – came down to my opponent forgetting that he gained no CP on that mission because his warlord was in reserves, and fucking up placement twice during the game. I placed both big tanks so that the only location within charge range when he came in off the board edge was through difficult ground, then spent a CP to give him another -2” to charge, so I was safe from the Squigosaur Boss.

Yeah, you can just box him out of entire parts of the board and then Not Die. He’s still going to score his points, but you aren’t getting blanked either. And with that deep of a wound pool, you can kind of trade some of your wounds for their entire units. Like, “ok he’s gonna bracket this thing, but if I charge him I can block his movement and still shoot him later”. Plus your entire army had Power of the Machine Spirit, so you could just spend CP to not be bracketed.

My successor tactics were “double wounds for bracketing”, so they didn’t bracket until they were at 7 (out of 30) wounds left, and “light cover if outside of 18 inches”, because saving against a Lascannon on 3s is insanely rude. I had to spend 2CP to act at top bracket twice, I think. And charging was a huge benefit, thanks to Titanic, meaning that I was able to fall back with no penalty. I had 7 attacks on the charge at WS5+ and S8, and the ability to force them to either stay in (and the tank can’t be shot), or fall back and give me better positioning, I lost 7 models in 8 games. Armour of Contempt really helps them stick around.

Credit: Michael Roberts

Yeah, it’s real “I’m not tied up with you, you’re tied up with me” energy, since you can just leave whenever you want. Or the thunderhawk, which they basically can’t interact with outside of shooting at it and watching it not die.

GW really should get around to clarifying how the Thunderhawk works, because at the moment it’s insanely fucky. Poking the front landing strut over a blob of infantry to be able to snipe a character inside.

What kind of response did this get when you rolled up to the table? Did people groan at your bullshit or were they like “that kicks ass”?

Every single opponent had a response along the lines of “that’s rad as hell” and their faces lit up when they realized what they were going to play against, with only one of them, later pivoting to “this is bullshit” and calling the judge on my shenanigans.  The sheer joy and bright smiles resulting from my list was what kept me going through most of the event.

Credit: Michael Roberts

Is this the most expensive army ever constructed, and what the hell possessed you to buy two Astraeuses? How do you even transport this?

I’m actually convinced this is not the most expensive list because during the height of AdMech bullshit there were massive bricks of models that fell well below the $1/point threshold, while my list tops out at about $1400 (before tax). 

The green Astraeus is actually owned by my brother, who’s painting it for his Salamanders, hence the green armor, and he graciously lets me borrow it if I want to do some wacky bullshit, such as my previous 3 big tanks list. 

Transport is actually pretty easy given that the tanks have a 160mm round base and the center of gravity is exactly on the center of it, and it’s heavy enough to not slide around unless you drive like a lunatic.

Credit: Michael Roberts

If you have any other Hot Takes, this is a free space to present them. It doesn’t have to be about Warhammer.

GW is right, the majority of marine players are actually just terrible at the game. Texas barbeque is garbage, it’s dry and they think heat is a substitute for flavor. Cyberpunk 2077 was a good game at launch if you weren’t playing it on a decade-old console. Mobile Suit Gundam is the best media franchise in the world, and the model kits blow everything else out of the water [GREGNOTE: hell yeah]. The first two Protomen albums are masterpieces and don’t get enough love, Light Up the Night is an all time banger.  My one regret was not wearing my Battletech Clan Ghost Bear shirt until day three, and not on day one.  Shameless plugs are perfectly acceptable in this capitalist hellscape we live in! I’ll do it now, I’m @nerdymarinepainting on Instagram, go like my stuff.

Thanks so much for agreeing to do this. I genuinely love what you’ve done here, and I want people to see it. Thank you for including Gundam.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.