Battle Bros: Chapter XI: Intellectual Bankruptcy

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Pavlichenko’s face fell as he heard the order. “Perhaps I was not clear, Chapter Master Rostov. Long-range pict recorders of the moon’s surface indicate the presence of -”

“Yes, yes,” dismissed Rostov with a wave of his hand, “Iron Warriors, I heard you. By the Throne, they’ll never see us coming! This is a rare opportunity to strike our gene-foe in the name of Dorn, Brother-Lieutenant, and we must seize it.”

Pavlichenko blinked behind his helm. Was this some sort of test? Better to try to clarify one last time. “Ah… Chapter Master, if you examine the picts you’ll see they’re outfitted in the colors and heraldry of the Iron Hands. Black and metal, slightly too keen on augmetics, gears on their banners, that sort of thing.”

“Ah,” Rostov mused while stroking his goatee, “a cunning ruse. These warp-spawned traitors will try any deceitful trick rather than engage in honorable warfare. We must strike hard and fast before they realize we’ve seen through their disguise! Quickly, man, to the drop pods!”

Lieutenant Pavlichenko of the Saints Penitent sighed as he tossed the flimsies to a nearby servitor and followed the Chapter Master, who had taken off at a sprint. Of course it was going to be one of those days.

***

<Report: forces detected assembling beyond crater ZZ-4315. Astartes. No authentication transmission.> 

<Analysis: no authentication suggests subterfuge or stealth. Query: visual identification?> Captain Tyrides replied with a burst of binharic cant. For being so close to the Eye this moon had been entirely too empty for his liking.

<Capturing and transmitting pict-capture>. Sergeant Bosk’s cybernetic left eye zoomed on the figures forming up at the edge of his vision and enhanced the image.

<Receipt acknowledged. Analyzing. Astartes power armor, mixed models and forms. Coloration: purple and gold. Altered Imperial Fists iconography.> Tyrides paused a picosecond, calculating. <Seventy-eight percent likelihood these are Saints Penitent, Imperial Fist offshoot chapter. Twenty-two percent possibility these are traitorous marines of the Emperor’s Children.>

Bosk drew up his rifle and peered through the scope at the distant armored figures. <Orders?>

<Chance of enemy presence within acceptable parameters. Chance of friendly casualties acceptable. Eliminate them.>   


Battle Bros is an ongoing biweekly column where Drew (PantsOptional) teaches his brother Chris (head58) how to play Warhammer 40,000 and this is the end, my only friend, the end. Catch up on their past adventures here.

Meet the Battle Bros

Chris

The older of the two brothers, but new to the game. Learning to play Iron Hands. He is now ready to snatch the pebble from his master’s hand.

Drew

The younger brother, holding his brother’s hand through this terrible ordeal.

BATTLE BROS: FIGHT!

DREW: Welcome back, Reader. We missed you. It was painful being separated from you, and definitely not a situation which allowed me to paint the Indomitus box at a pace slower than “frantic.” 

Before we begin, I have to share a favorite Chris moment. At various points throughout the last few weeks I would message you something about my frustrations with some of the Indomitus models (dear massive gaps on the Outriders: kiss my ass, I’ll be at Duane’s) or how I ordered a new KR case that juuuuust didn’t fit a certain few of my models, or about my recent conversion to the cult of MicroSet/Sol after your article. And every single time, without fail, you’d message me back trying to figure out about what that implied about my list and kind of low-key freaking out about it. Oh, god, was I bringing… Rhinos? Rhinos? It’s the end of the woooorld!

What I’m saying is, this column is entertainment for more than just Reader.

CHRIS: I wasn’t as afraid of Rhinos as I was of what might be in them. You mentioned Devastator squads a couple times and I had visions of five grav-cannon small marines piling out of it clown car style and wrecking my shit up close and personal. Knowing our genetic disposition toward catastrophizing, plus the fact that I don’t know what half the stuff in this game does yet, I was (I believe) justly afraid of you dropping some secret tech on me that I had zero answer for.

As it turned out you had a couple things that were pretty scary but nothing worth the three weeks of angst. I refuse to learn any lessons from this.

Here’s what I dumped on the table:

Chris's Pile of Iron Shame - Click to Expand

(Iron Hands, 1997 pts, 6CP to start) 

+HQ+

Chapter Master: Stratagem: Chapter Master (-2CP), Storm shield, jump Pack, Teeth of Terra (Relics of the Chapter -1CP)

Librarian in Phobos Armor: Blessings of the Machine God, Psysteel Armor

Techmarine: Master of the Machine, Stratagem: Master of the Forge (-1CP), Power axe, plasma pistol, servo-harness

+TROOPS+

Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifle, aux grenade launcher, Sergeant w chainsword

Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifle, aux grenade launcher, Sergeant w chainsword

Intercessor Squad (5): Stalker bolt rifle, aux grenade launcher, Sergeant w chainsword

Infiltrator Squad (5): Helix Adept

Incursor Squad (5): Haywire mine

+ELITE+

Bladeguard Veteran Squad (3)

Primaris Apothecary Father of the Future, Stratagem: Chief Apothecary (-1CP), The Vox Espiritum, Warlord

Relic Contemptor Dreadnought: Cyclone missile launcher, two twin lascannons

Redemptor Dreadnought: Heavy onslaught gatling cannon, Icarus rocket pod, onslaught gatling cannon, storm bolters

+HEAVY SUPPORT+

Eliminator Squad (3)

Eradicator Squad (3)

Repulsor Executioner: Heavy Laser Destroyer, Icarus Rocket Pod, Ironhall Heavy Stubber

 

My list was similar to what I brought in the 1000 point match because I liked a lot of how it worked there. Unfortunately I neglected what actually made those units work so well for me in the first game (keeping everybody within character  bubbles). But again I was hoping the Father of the Future would keep my infantry alive, the Techmarine would keep my dreads and tank alive, and the Chapter Master would make up for some poor dice rolling. Some of those things worked out I guess?

A note on the Repulsor Executioner: I hemmed and hawed over whether to include it because it’s a chonky 376 points (19% of my list) and I knew it would have a giant bulls-eye painted on top. But I spent a month assembling and painting that son of a bitch, I was going to get it on the table once. Go ahead and ask me how many times the Desert Hydra and Mammoth I purchased, built, and painted for Warmachine saw the table. I’ll give you a hint: it was zero. I may never put the RepEx in a list again, but I now consider it a success and can retire it to the bookshelf.

DREW: I will say this: I kind of wish I had taken you up on the offer of one half-price, but I don’t love the idea of transporting it. Or assembling it. Or painting it. Mostly I just want to roll a thousand dice to shoot with it and cackle maniacally.

Anyway, here’s my bad list:

Drew’s Big Boy Pants List - Click to Expand

(Imperial Fists Successor with Inheritors of the Primarch, 1,987 pts, 9 CP starting)

+ HQ +

Chapter Master in Gravis Armor: Master-crafted boltstorm gauntlet (Relic), Indomitable, Stubborn Heroism, Warlord

Primaris Chaplain: Litany of Hate, Catechism of Fire, Fortress of Resolve

Primaris Lieutenant: Master-crafted auto bolt rifle

+ TROOPS +

Assault Intercessor Squad (6)

Intercessor Squad (5): Bolt rifles

Tactical Squad (5): Melta gun, Sergeant with combi-melta

Tactical Squad (5): Plasma gun, Sergeant with combi-melta and chainsword

+ ELITES +

Aggressor Squad (3) Auto boltstorm gauntlets

Terminator Squad (5): standard loadout, assault cannon

+ FAST ATTACK +

Bike Squad (4): Attack bike with multi-melta, 2x gravgun bikes, Sergeant with combi-melta

+ HEAVY SUPPORT +

Devastator Squad (7): 4 lascannons

Eradicator Squad (3)

Thunderfire Cannon and Techmarine Gunner

+ FLYER +

Stormhawk Interceptor: 2x assault cannon, las-talon, two heavy bolters

+ DEDICATED TRANSPORT +

Drop Pod: Storm bolter

Razorback: Storm bolter, twin heavy bolter

 

My main thought here was that you were going to bring a big pile of Dreadnoughts to unleash bullet hell on me and I needed to nip that shit right in the bud. What better to melt tanks, I thought, than melta weapons? After all, it’s right there in the name. I also wanted to test those Assault Intercessors out because I just got a new toy and I will damn well play with it. As it turns out, they’re fucking great and I’m already considering adding more to both my Saints and my Deathwatch. I was going to use the Bladeguard Lieutenant instead of the Primaris Lieutenant but Imperial Fists and bolters go together like hot sauce and chicken wings so I rejected beefy boy and his Martian death ray pistol in favor of a slim young fellow with something to prove and a souped up AK. In hindsight, I should have gone full Mars Attacks.

As a quick recap from last column: the mission we picked was the Scouring, from the Grand Tournament 2020 Mission Pack. As noted elsewhere, it’s a mission that’s designed to force a big old slapfight right in the middle of the table, which gets our two gunlines off their asses to actually do something besides lob heavy weapons at each other all day. It has a secondary objective option where you can cosplay as warehouse inventory checkers and scan in each objective marker because I guess Amazon still exists in M41/42?

The primary mission is to take and hold the objective markers illustrated by skulls. That middle of the board is a mass grave waiting to happen.

DREW: I should have seen the next bit coming, but it’s best that I didn’t. “Go open the terrain bin and get anything you like out,” you said. I was not ready for what I found.

Terrain Surprise

Fortifications got weird in 9th edition

You got me good here but that actually worked against us: the shock of the surprise delayed our setup for quite some time. Well, that and what we did with the other horrible beverage you asked me to bring.

Moxie + Malort = regret

I hate you so much

After a quick bite and a round of Olmsteds (the “cocktail” pictured above, and apparently “endorsed” by John Hodgman) we set up the terrain. It’s an adaptation of the standard NOVA layout, for better or worse. We picked this for the same reason we might grab burgers from a fast food place on a road trip: it’s dependable, it’s easy, and we refuse to go to Denny’s any more after the chocolate cake incident.

CHRIS: I say this fairly often, but I really really don’t want to know. 

DREW:You were there, my dude. It’s probably best that you forget, though. I’ve never seen anyone fart that much or that nastily who didn’t have our genetics.

CHRIS: I’ve spent years drinking heavily to forget most of that GenCon trip. I thought the terrain was fairly decent although I completely forgot until about halfway through deployment that Fists ignore cover from terrain.

Much blood will be shed to recover the xenos infant

Also, there was not a huge amount of maneuvering room for my Repulsor Executioner in there. It could fly over stuff but needed decent landing spots. I’d have to try to get it out into the open as soon as I could and plunk out the Eradicators further up the board into their 24” “fun zone.” This was not to be.

On a roll with super dumb thoughts, picking Secondary Objectives was kind of just blindly reaching into a barrel for me. I knew I didn’t want any of the Warpcraft stuff because with only one psyker that makes him an immediate target. Ditto my RepEx and dreads w/r/t While We Stand One, We Fight All. I went for Thin their Ranks because I knew I’d be murdering dudes anyway, might as well get some points for it. I thought with three units having Concealed Positions I might be able to cover the board for Engage on All Fronts. And I picked Investigate Sites because I thought it wouldn’t be too hard. On these last two points, I am an idiot.

DREW: Guess who else is an idiot? It me! I also chose Thin The Ranks primarily because I knew punching down your tanks and dreads would earn me a boatload of points and that once the pressure from them was off I could probably mop up the remaining infantry. For the other two, I picked Raise the Banners mostly because it seemed like easy points, and I picked Strategic Scan because why not play to the mission? Given the fact that I knew your characters would be hard to put down and you would keep your Warlord way in the back I didn’t think any of the “kill X type of character” Secondaries would really get me any points worth mentioning.

That said: none of these thoughts paid off. I also refuse to learn any lessons.

+ TURN ONE +

DREW: Rather than do a full batrep breaking down the ins and outs of every turn, we’ll do a quick overview of each turn, focusing on the notable moments from each.

Imperial Fists do great on that first turn thanks to Legacy of Dorn, and this was no exception. Between the Stormhawk and the bike squad I tore the RepEx a new one, not quite killing it but coming awfully close. I wish I could say the Devastators contributed but they were on their mandatory 15 minute break and seemed to be playing cards behind cover. They certainly weren’t shooting any fucking tanks, which I found rude especially after mentioning how well they’d done in previous games and also it’s the only thing I pay them to do.

I think you wet your pants a little when I tossed Bolter Drill on my Aggressors and unloaded on your Incursors. As bad as hearing “these three models put out 36 shots” is, hearing “they hit 51 times” has got to be worse. Sadly, they only just barely did the trick even inside the three-HQ aura bubble, and a few other units had to finish the job. If I had gotten Catechism of Fire onto them it might have worked, but that would require the Chaplain to have ever gotten a Litany off besides the one at the end that didn’t matter.

CHRIS: That wasn’t great for me, I’ll freely admit it. But it’s caused me to move my Aggressors up in my painting queue. Jesus wept, they were the game MVP, no question.

I swear Chris had more models in the middle just a second ago

I was severely disheartened during Drew’s turn one as I watched my forces evaporate. Especially the Infiltrators and Incursors I’d deployed up the field, hoping I’d be able to go first and, I don’t know, drop a mine and maybe shoot something? They both died screaming without firing a shot. Ditto for two out of my three Eliminators. For those of you keeping score at home, my advance deployed Infiltrators met the same fate last game too. There’s a lesson here about using Concealed Positions and this lesson I might actually learn. Even setting aside that most of my Phobos stuff did sweet fuck all this game I think risking the forward deployment hoping I get to go first is a trap. And (spoilers) if I’d kept the Infiltrators back you might not have been able to slam your Drop Pod onto my back table edge or bring in your Eradicators reserves right up on my deployment zone. 

But as we came into the bottom of 1 I got to punch back a little. The RepEx shot your Stormhawk up a bit and other stuff managed to finish it off. I took that and your Razorback off the board but not much else. Oh, and I completely forgot to disembark my Eradicators from the RepEx, which was kind of bad. This was also when my Chapter Master decided nobody really needed the reroll bubble I’d paid those CP for and just started wandering off on his own.  Fucker got cocky after getting the MVP nod last game.

+ TURN TWO +

DREW: During your turn one, you used the Techmarine and a Stratagem to heal the RepEx as if none of my turn had happened to it. That’s.. . fine. This is/was fine. The Eradicators waddled in the side of the board from Strategic Reserves, the Attack Bike and combi-melta bike sarge zoomed up, and I put my Drop Pod way back into your deployment zone in the hope that the various types of melta would eat the RepEx. I should really remember this game’s own advice regarding hope. Thankfully, the lascannon Devs did the job, but I had really been hoping to crack the tank earlier to get to the meaty Eradicators inside.

Last time I was in a mosh pit this nasty was Slipknot back in ’99. (or Fugazi in ’91 – C.)

CHRIS: I saw those Assault Intercessors sliding up my flank and knew they were going to shred the unit of Intercessors that were on that side of the table, so I decided to throw a second unit of Intercessors into them as well. Only the sergeants of those units had chainswords but surely 20 of them could handle 6 AssInts with the New and Improved Astartes Chainsword, right? Eventually, this would pay off but it was not as easy as I’d hoped. Those AssInts, as the kids say, slap.

DREW: I didn’t know if I could make the charge to kill the Intercessors but I knew I could rip that sole Eliminator a new one and then consolidate toward them, which was almost as good. This was when I made my best decision of the entire game. For the readers who might not be aware of The Shield Unwavering, it’s an Imperial Fists stratagem that gives +1 Attack and +1 on saves to a unit within range of an objective marker. My notes on this say “AssInt + Shield Unwavering = SEXX” and that sums it up best. You charged them with ten guys and I think my unit put out more attacks than you did despite being outnumbered.

CHRIS: My Intercessors did not bring honor to my house on that turn, that’s for sure. It was also this turn that my wandering Chapter Master decided to just delete your Eradicators, which probably saved my dreads. I thought maybe I’d take two of them but he did not disappoint. You’re a wild card, Captain Tyrides, but I can’t argue with your results.

+ TURN THREE +

CHRIS: Here I fell into your carefully laid trap. Well, rushed headlong into it, charging my Bladeguard into a lone Intercessor on the central objective and then getting your Chapter Master Heroic Interventioned onto them. You warned me ahead of time that your Chapter Master was going to be a bear to remove and yeah, this was bad times for the Bladeguard.

DREW: I don’t know if I would call it “carefully laid” but I’ll take it. I learned in this turn that <checks notes> Bladeguard fuuuuuuck. I think Chapter Master Chungo McBigfist was the only thing that could have reliably killed them outside of mag-dumping again with the Aggressors, so thank you for Doordashing them right to him.

CHRIS: Also I earned a giant asterisk on the record here, and as with all things I blame Warmachine. My Bladeguard were kind of in a line with two of them within 1” of your Chapter Master and the last one a bit further away. My Apothecary’s 5+ Feel No Pain aura was only reaching the farthest two Bladeguard so when you fought back I allocated the wounds to the model in the middle of the line. My thinking here was a) that I wanted the Feel No Pain  (which specifies models, not units) so it had to be the second or third model, and b) the third model was too far away from your CM so I couldn’t allocate wounds to him. Because, again, that’s the way Warmachine works; individual models within the melee range of the attacker are the only ones you can hit. It doesn’t have an overall concept of wounds being applied to the unit like Warhammer does. I really need to shift my brain around this because it’s going to keep biting me in the ass.

You’re in my house now, Bladeguard. Whose house? (say what?) Run’s house! (say what?)

When the model in the middle died we realized that the remaining two were just barely too far apart to retain coherence. Had my brain been working properly I’d have put the wounds onto the third model, the one at the far end of the line, and there would be no issue. We talked it over there and despite our “no takebacks” rule you graciously let me go back and put the wounds onto the correct model so I would have 2 surviving Bladeguard instead of just 1. A huge learning moment for me, and I was, and remain, grateful for your indulgence. And I demonstrated that gratitude by preceding to dunk on you for the remainder of the game. 

DREW: The spirit of “no takebacks” was more to prevent things like “oh, I forgot to use my Litanies at the start of the round” or “goddamnit did I actually forget to fire the TFC at the Eradicators after killing the RepEx” where it was a matter of stepping back to take advantage of something you forgot, rather than exploit a misunderstanding of the rules. For example, I did a quick Morale check for one of my units after I forgot and passed on to the next turn, but only because that would affect the shooting that you were about to do. 

CHRIS: At the end of my turn my Chapter Master zoomed up to remove your Terminators and squat on a third objective (and on a third quadrant of the board for my “Engage on All Fronts” Secondary), so I was now going to be rocking the victory points for the remaining two turns unless something seriously went south. 

DREW: Really thought those Terminators would survive long enough to punch back. Really thought the Teeth of Terra wouldn’t chew through all of them. Really wrong on all counts.

CHRIS:Teeth of Terra – when you absolutely need to mulch a bunch of motherfuckers post haste.

+ TURN FOUR +

DREW: Besides the slow death of my Ass-cessors, I had my Primaris Chaplain sweep over to beat your Eradicators to death. This turned out to be a bad idea in a moment when he was facing a Techmarine and Redemptor about three inches away. At the time I contemplated consolidating into the Redemptor to keep it from shooting, but I’m pretty sure that would have immediately resulted in a Droopy and the bull situation (Hulk and Loki for those of you who aren’t withered and decrepit like us).

The Chaplain has made better choices in life

CHRIS: You’ll note I haven’t mentioned my quad lascannon Relic Contemptor at all yet. Remember last game when it did diddly squat until the end? Same thing here again. I don’t remember really anything it accomplished until this turn when I turned all those lascannons and the krak missiles on your Chapter Master. He was definitely built to take a beating, but application of excessive firepower once again wins the day.

DREW: You had to dedicate an entire turn of shooting from both your Dreadnoughts to kill him. I count that as a job well done, and entirely within the lore of my force: dying for the stupidest possible reason but making sure you waste your time doing so.

+ TURN FIVE AND WRAP UP +

CHRIS: We basically sped through this turn because I had to be on a Zoom meeting in about half an hour and there wasn’t that much left alive on the board.  I grabbed a fourth quadrant for “Engage on All Fronts” just to say I’d done so. 

DREW: I think my turn took all of two minutes, shooting the TFC and the Devastators. Sound: check. Fury: check. Accomplishing nothing: check. I refuse to upload pictures of turn five. You can’t make me. Also we didn’t take any.

There was just one thing left to do. I had to honor the agreement we made before the game: loser drinks the New England Dirty Slush, a mug of steaming hot Moxie with marshmallow Fluff.

FUUUUUUUUCK

CHRIS: It was only because you had to start driving immediately that you avoided a shot of Malort added in there as well, pal.  Although I think that may be banned by the Geneva Convention. But then this is America 2020 and that doesn’t seem to matter.

My big takeaways from this game are 1) pay more attention to my bubbles. Don’t let the asshole Chapter Master go running off and fail to keep the Apothecary in with all the infantry. And 2) more careful consideration of the Secondary Objectives. I had no real business taking Engage on All Fronts; getting spread out across the board is decidedly not what I should be doing. And given the huge killing field in the middle of the table Investigate Sites wasn’t a good call either.

DREW: Yeah, I really regret taking two different Action-based Secondaries but I didn’t like a lot of my other options either. Obviously in future I need to think about them at a time that’s not immediately after drinking something that tastes like the inside of a pencil sharpener. I’m hoping that the Codex will bring secondaries that are a little more inspiring.

My takeaways from this are a little different from yours, in that they revolve around the changes to the game since 8th. Actions are a stone cold left field thing for me – I know that tournaments have had something similar, but as we established at the start of this adventure me and tournaments aren’t pals. Similarly, scoring some things at the start of the turn and some things at the end of the turn is wild as hell but I am here for it.

The one thing that I think threw me off the most was the change up to the order of attacking models in the Fight phase. Starting with the opponent after all charging units resolve their attacks seems almost necessary. With the removal of Overwatch as a normal part of the charge process, the charging player gets a bit of an advantage and it would have been a bit much to keep it like it was in 8th, with the charging player activating one of his other units. The real weirdness of the change doesn’t come through until the second turn of the fight when charging doesn’t dictate initiative.

CHRIS: So, that’s our big game, and that’s our column. Let me slip into a nice cardigan and/or silk bathrobe and talk about the lessons learned, how I’ve grown, the friends made along the way etc. 

First, I’m glad the fates conspired to make me get off my ass and do this after all. The timing was both perfect (a new edition coming out) and terrible (plaguedemic) but this gave me something to focus on over the past six months or so rather than stewing in my anxiety over the global situation.  Also it gave me opportunities to cause you pain, so that was satisfying.

Second, as a self-proclaimed minis gamer and painter, I feel like it was important that I play 40k at some point. It would be a weird gap in my résumé otherwise. And I found I liked it more than I thought I would. The core rules are fairly clean and coherent and not as overwhelming as I had anticipated. It’s once you get into all the different build outs and options for units, and the fairly intimidating sprawl of abilities and stratagems that I start to get the deer in the headlights look (although sweet Christmas it’s nowhere near as bad as Necromunda). Do I love 40k? Not completely as I think I prefer games with fewer models to keep track of like Titanicus or Guild Ball (pour out a Moxie for a real one) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sneaking looks at a second army right now.  Although this is definitely tempered by not wanting to paint another hundred fucking models.

Third, nobody wants to read about Marvel Crisis Protocol. Fuck, that was a misstep.

DREW: It’s especially frustrating because that game really seems like it was aimed squarely at one or both of us and for me it’s just such a swing and a miss. It’s like the Snyder Justice League movie, which in concept was a movie I initially thought perhaps had been conceived solely for me but made me want to scrub my corneas with steel wool. Theoretical: it sounds like everything I want. Practical: eeeeeeeuuuuuuggggghhhhhh.

CHRIS: I still dig it because its small and quick and because I can kick the shit out of Tony Stark. But what’s next? As tempted as I am to retire from 40k with an undefeated record, I’ve been talking with my buddy Josh about doing a Crusade campaign. I definitely want to throw down against some of the other Goonhammer folks and get in on the narrative game at NoVa 2021 (or 2022, or 2023). 

DREW: I like to think of this as not the end of the column, but as the end of Season One. Having a Season Two also guarantees the return of the Battle Bro that everyone actually came here for:

He hunger for plastic

CHRIS: And you and I have talked about maybe doing one as well whenever it gets safer to be in the same physical location again, and coming back for Battle Bros: Round Two: The Battlening. So reader(s), if you want more of our nonsense let us – or more importantly the fat cats at Goonhammer Corporate HQ – know.

And if you really, really liked the column there’s no better way to show your appreciation than with an Astraeus. Just sayin’

DREW: Send that to him, not me. Never me. Do it to Julia!

At the end not great, not terrible. As long as I can stop buying more models (Narrator: He can’t.)

 

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