BATTLE BROS. is the continuing biweekly saga where Drew tries to teach the basics of 40k to his brother Chris (head58), who has no idea what he’s doing. If you missed part 1 of the series with the intro to both players and the project, you can find it here.
Meet the Battle Bros
The older of the two brothers, but newer to the game. Learning to play Iron Hands.
The younger brother, holding his brother’s hand through this terrible ordeal.
CHRIS: Okay, we’ve committed to this endeavor and probably won’t kill each other before the end of it.
DREW: Listen, man, don’t speak for me. You saw the article title. I didn’t even think we would have to have this discussion because somebody already bought a full truckload of Marines.
CHRIS: Only a small truckload. Barely an El Camino load. But I probably need to have an army to play, and indecisiveness and regret are emblazoned on our family crest. So what am I going to pick up?
Let’s start with what I already have. From playing Kill Team I’ve picked up a handful of Space Marines that I’ve painted up in an Iron Hands theme. Of the Imperial Chapters or Legions the Iron Hands appealed to me most, partly because of their reliance on cybernetics and their self-loathing and partly because, at the time I was choosing, nobody was paying any attention to them. This was before the roller coaster of the 2019 Marine Codices (I took 6 years of Latin in college and refuse to say “Codexes”) coming out, the Iron Tenth became the big meta boogeyman, and then being nerfed back into obscurity once again.
Unfortunately the Kill Team roster I have doesn’t (I don’t think) translate into a solid foundation for a full 40k army. I have six or seven Tactical Marines, most of whom have some kind of special or heavy weapon. I have five Intercessors, two of whom have auxiliary grenade launchers, which is a start to a ten model unit but not legal on its own. I have three Tartaros Terminators with various weapons loadouts that are absolutely not legit in 40k. I think I have a full set of three Eliminators and three Suppressors in a bits box. Somewhere I have an unpainted Gravis Captain that I picked up before I realized that Commanders in Kill Team were garbage. I got an easy to build Redemptor kit in a Secret Santa swap, and I picked up Iron Father Feirros when he came out because it’s a sexy model and I have poor impulse control. Oh, and a handful of Scouts and Reivers, which even I understand belong in a bin. So a smattering of stuff but nothing really coherent.
DREW: I’ve seen what you have. It’s not really coherent in terms of a Battleforged army – and we’ll deal with that in the next installment – but it’s got the foundations of something solid. It just needs about a hundred thousand more Dreadnoughts.
CHRIS: On another tack, a friend and I bought stupid hard into the Speed Freeks box game when it came out, so I have or have access to one of each of the Orktober buggies and a couple units of Warbiker Mobs. And I grabbed a handful of Orks from a gaming flea market to use for Kill Team, but that never came to full fruition. All told I have ten or so Boyz, a couple Burnas and Shootas, and a box of Grots. So probably less cohesive than the Iron Hands even.
In terms of my usual play style, I generally like a number of tough bodies running across the board to get into melee to SMASH FACE. Other than the “tough” part that would suggest Orks. I’m not opposed to gunline lists or other approaches, I just don’t have a lot of experience with them aside from Kill Team and Star Wars Legion, and my win rate in those games isn’t great.
DREW: Let’s worry about “win rate” another time. I have it on great authority that “winning” is overrated and completely unnecessary.
CHRIS: That’s good, because being good is something I’m terrible at.
I need to consider aesthetics too, since I’ll be spending a lot more time building and painting these things than I will playing with them.
DREW: Honestly, this is some of the best advice that I was already going to give you – “if you’re not happy with your army, nothing else will matter” – and here you are already spouting it! You don’t need me. The ability to be bad at 40k was inside you all along.
CHRIS: When there was only one set of footsteps in the sand you had the FLY keyword?
Anyway, having painted up twenty five-ish black and silver Space Marines I find them a little dull and I don’t know that I really want to paint thirty or forty more.
DREW: As someone with three different Marines factions across two different games, your sentiments are strange to me and I don’t care for them.
CHRIS: I like the stupidly fun insanity of Orks but I may be a little too orderly of a person to really do up their haphazard messy style. Could be fun though. Painting up ninety Boyz would be less fun, but that’s why God invented Contrast I suppose.
Like most of the rest of the 40k world I really love the look of the Sisters. But I feel like I wouldn’t do painting them up justice because I suck. All that fiddly little detail is super intimidating. Also nearly zero chance of picking up cheap models, which is a consideration.
DREW: My wife would also absolutely hell of covet those models regardless of how they’re painted, so what I’m saying here is that if that’s the decision then you should be prepared for them to disappear into my house and never come out.
CHRIS: The only other faction I’d seriously consider is Adeptus Mechanicus, for a couple reasons. First they have that whole self-loathing thing that I like about the Iron Hands. Second I dig the retrofuture look – love pretty much all the models except for Sicarians. Third, they fit that underdog role nicely. Fourth, it’s a small army so I’m not overwhelmed with choices. Fifth, and probably most importantly, THEY CAN TAKE MOTHERFUCKING KNIGHTS.
As very tempting as it is – in fact I can neither confirm nor deny that I impulse bought some robotmans that are still in shrinkwrap in my basement – even I can see that this would be a bad idea given I’d be starting from zero, and they’re not really my playstyle. I think it’s realistically down to Marines and Orks.
DREW: I really enjoy the notion that one of your choices here is a faction that you think would be boring to paint and has also given you terrible headaches in the past. But also I completely understand it. “I have decided to do this thing that I will not enjoy” is practically the family motto.
CHRIS: There is nothing wrong with committing 10,000 hours to something you hate doing. And this is The Hill That I Will Die On. Probably literally.
Just to be sure I’m not missing anything, let’s go through the other factions in the game:
- Tyranids – I really like your Hive Fleet Snagglepuss and from what I know they like to get all up in your business and RIP AND TEAR. I‘m not a huge fan of the Geiger aesthetic but I could see myself playing them at some point.
- Chaos Space Marines/Death Guard/Thousand Sons/Daemons – I’m just not into Chaos so none of these are super appealing to me. Those new models from Shadowspear and last year’s Start Collecting are gorgeous though… but I feel like I’m way too lawful good to really groove on Chaos.
- Harlequins – I ain’t painting little checkerboxes, no way.
- Aeldari, Ynnari, Drukhari – I know almost nothing about space elves of any flavor and there’s not a lot about them that calls to me. I don’t have anything really against them, just not a fan of their fluff. And generally I don’t love their design so, as I said before, I don’t think I want to commit many, many hours of my life to them. They do not bring me joy.
- T’au – A pure shooty game isn’t usually my thing. I’ll reluctantly admit I like their look a bit, but I’m not really into my opponents hating me. Present company excluded of course.
- Necrons – They’re on the list of factions I don’t know all that much about. The whole “death to all that lives” vibe is certainly appealing. But if possible I’d like to avoid a horde army because I really don’t want to have to paint it (unless it’s Orks and I can get away with a certain amount of sloppiness).
- Genestealer Cults – I do love me a good cult, but still not a fan of the xenomorph angle. If I’m going to do cults it would be Chaos.
- Astra Militarum – I played Khador in Warmachine, which is steampunk/fantasy Russians, so I’m not opposed to the idea of sending sweet young conscripts into the meat grinder by the Taurox load. They also get cool tanks and other vehicles, and who doesn’t need an Astraeus in their lives? But I have to say I’m not a fan of the sculpts of regular folks in 40k – they just look a little too, if you’ll pardon the phrase, squat and like they’re melting slowly or spent too many formative years on a high gravity world. Also see above w/r/t horde armies.
- Blood Angels/Dark Angels/Space Wolves/Grey Knights/Deathwatch – Maybe I haven’t dug in deeply enough but I don’t see enough distinction in any of these that sets them apart from Space Marines in general, other than the fluff of being secret vampires, secret traitors, Wolverines, fairly ineffectual psykers, or just a hodgepodge of chapters. None of the lore of the special chapters appeals to me as much as the Iron Hands, so I still say if I’m going Astartes that’s the direction I’d go.
- Imperial Knights – While I really dig big stompy robots I don’t know that I can lay out the cash for a whole army of them. Plus SRM’s tales of how much people hate playing against them.
Taking a bit to think it over rationally, you’re right, I really should go with Marines. I have at least some models so it will be less expensive. They’re iconic; it doesn’t get much more 40k than Marines. And they can fit my preferred playstyle being more than just shooting. I bet if I stick with Iron Hands I can break up the monotony of marine painting with some sweet vehicles and dreadnoughts. And picking up a chapter that everyone is currently repainting/selling on ebay is pretty textbook me.
DREW: This is Peak Chris™: starting up an army that’s just been nerfed. They’re still pretty good, though, so your usual aversion to things that are good doesn’t seem to be coming into play here. I’m sure you’ll fix that by building an all-Reivers list or something.
CHRIS: Let’s wrap this one up by breaking the fourth wall and “part the kimono” (to borrow a phrase from our Badcast Buddies) for our dear readers to show how the sausage is made. We actually started this project three months ago, and this chapter looked very different. I made a fairly irrational decision to go with Adeptus Mechanicus as my army, based almost entirely on the design aesthetic. I even impulse bought an embarrassing number of boxes of models…and they sat in the shrink wrap.
DREW: I was literally writing parts of this column, you hadn’t decided yet, and then you texted me that you bought somewhere north of two hundreds of dollars worth of AdMech. This was you “dipping your toes in.”
The truest miracle of that purchase was you finding out the next morning that your wife, who is much wiser and smarter than either or both of us, checks the credit card bills religiously and immediately called you out.
CHRIS: That was a chilling moment to be sure.
I went silent on the project for a couple weeks as I had a fairly substantial spell of anxiety over a) buying into an army almost exclusively for the purposes of writing a column, b) the complexity of the rules at a time when I was already having some pretty significant memory issues (which have begun to clear up since then), and c) the thought of painting another full army. At the time, my painting queue was down to fewer than 40 models. The end was in sight! I could hang up my brush and palette and retire from crime-fighting forever! I told Drew I was bailing on the Battle Bros project, it was too much to take on. Drew received the news graciously (I’d bet he already had money down on when, not if, I would back out from the very start. He knows me well).
But then a miracle happened. A local-ish shore (The Armoury in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. They’re good people. Go check them out if we’re ever allowed to leave our homes again) started holding raffles via Facebook to keep customers engaged and bring some money in during the coronavirus lockdown. They’re not my usual store as they’re a bit far, but as I said they’re good people and do a lot for the community so I threw in for a couple tickets for the daily raffle. And I won. This may not sound so extraordinary to most but you should know, dear reader, that I don’t Win Things. Luck is not something that runs in our family.
DREW: The sheer number of times that I have had to walk away from a game table clutching my head and trying desperately not to scream obscenities at the top of my lungs lines up with this statement. “I shouldn’t have any problem making this charge” is a phrase that haunts my dreams.
CHRIS: I think the last time I won something was a small, hideous, orange and black piece of luggage from a drawing at our local bank back in the Carter administration. I buy tickets for charity raffles and such all the time to support the cause with zero expectation of winning and certainly never play the lottery. But mine was the first ticket drawn and so I won a veritable Rhino full of my choice of 40k products.
I thought about getting more AdMech to fill out an army; that would solve the money part of the equation but I’d still be starting from zero painted models. I looked at the Ork buggies I have and thought about painting 330 grots before I blacked out in terror. It turned out that the store had the Vanguard Space Marines Start Collecting box in stock, and that would very nicely complement the Iron Hands I already had, a lot of which was already painted. Main anxieties resolved! So I pulled the trigger, let Drew know I wanted to pick Battle Bros back up, and told our Benevolent-ish Overlords at Goonhammer to publish the first chapter so I couldn’t back out this time.
This chapter, as initially written three months ago, ended with me resolving to go with Ad Mech and Drew heading off to drink cleaning products, but we revised it to lead to my final (and much more logical) conclusion of landing on Space Marines. So join us in two weeks as I Scrooge McDuck into a big pile of new sprues and Drew tells me why everything I have is pure garbage.
The lessons to be taken from all this blather, dear reader, are 1) getting into 40k is a lot of time, money, and effort so be sure you are ready to commit before you leap in, and 2) the real army is the friends we make along the way.
DREW: No, the real army is definitely the little plastic dolls.
Join us in two weeks for another installment of our two brothers arguing with each other and building terrible, no good, very bad armies. Maybe they’ll even play a game, who knows! In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.