Swiftblade’s 2023 Year in Review

At the end of 2022, I finished my year in review article with “I’m looking forward to more Warhammer in 2023, and seeing what wacky bullshit it’s going to hold in store for me!”

Poor idiot had no idea about the 10th edition Night Spinner.

Welcome to my year in review article for 2023, where I get the chance to indulge in that favorite pastime of media outlets at the threshold of a new year: talk about my favorite things and highlights from the past 365-ish days. It’s the most self-aggrandizing kind of content possible, where I get to pretend that the things I really liked in 2023 hold some sort of powerful significance and fool myself into thinking I can wane nostalgic wisdom with my prose like a Warhammer Ernest Hemingway. Or as he would probably be called, Ernest HemingWAAAGH.

TheChirurgeon’s Note: Booooooo! Boo this man if you see him in public.

So let’s hop to it: my 2023 Warhammer year in review. Let’s start it by talking about some favorite things of mine from 2023.

  • My favorite video game 0f 2023? Baldur’s Gate 3, the game is an incredible cRPG and I can’t say more than that without fawning over it for several paragraphs.
  • Favorite Album? “I’ve Loved you for so Long” by The Aces. The girlies are singing about the girlies and it’s delightful indie rock that’s catchy as hell.
  • My favorite model that I painted this year? This Daemon Prince on foot.

Credit: Dan “Swiftblade” Richardson

It was a busy year for painting models in my ever-expanding backlog, one that was largely dominated by painting black power armor for my Chaos Space Marines. Out of the approximately ninety models I managed to paint this year according to my hobby tracker spreadsheet, around two thirds of them were for my Chaos Space Marines. Much of this focus was due to the crusade league we held here in junction with the Goonhammer Global Crusade Campaign.

Our local branch of this crusade was on the planet of Parasbine Secundus, as chronicled here on Goonhammer earlier this year. Before I get much further, our crusade organizer, Greg “Klobasnek” Narro, deserves a big shout out. He did a lot of work bringing the story of this crusade to life with assigned narrative teams, story vignettes, and special scenarios while being a first time dad. His long hours meant that the players who fought for Parasbine felt connected to the story and fate of the planet, rather than the narrative being a loose backdrop in order to justify games of Warhammer. Buy him a beer if you ever meet him. Or just let him take a nap.

But I’m not here to praise Greg, or to bury him thankfully, I’m here to talk about why I love this one particular big monster in black power armor more than the other really cool things I painted this year. The updated Daemon Prince sculpt is already a treat to paint on it’s own, and despite painting a winged version of this model last year I jumped on painting this one without hesitation.

This wasn’t going to be just any Daemon Prince: this was going to be the ascended version of my crusade warlord, Malioch Soulbinder. All of my Starscream antics on the surface of Parasbine had led to Malioch being able to transcend his mortal shell into the glory of daemonic power.

Malioch, in the middle of Starscream antics. Photo: Dan “Swiftblade” Richardson

I don’t know if you, dear reader, have nearly as much headcanon floating around about your various Warhammer models as I do. I got into the universe of Warhammer sixteen years ago at the tail end of my time in middle school, when my juvenile imagination and hunger for fan fiction was at it’s peak. When I got my first models a short time later, that juvenile imagination became forever linked with my enjoyment of the Warhammer hobby. Now, in my third decade around the sun, I have much less time to daydream about climactic battles with my plastic dudesmen, but damn does it fill me with glee when I do.

Malioch is the realized dream of that acne riddled middle schooler. My cool story for a model wasn’t just something that existed in my own imagination anymore, but now instead was a part of a shared imagination of my crusade group. My friends knew this model by name, the name I gave it, and as I painted Malioch’s new form I let my thoughts race with images of my buddy’s plastic soldiers quaking in fear at his terrible approach.

Painting Malioch was an expression of not just my skill, but my joy, and I love that I got to experience that this year with crusade.

Credit: Dan “Swiftblade” Richardson

My runner up for favorite model I painted this year is the Neurotyrant. I based the color scheme off the Houston Astros jersey color scheme in honor of my local Warhammer club, the Astros Militarum. When I paint Hive Fleet Astro, I like to have bright spots to really pop out from the dark blue skin, and the brain effects as well as the carapace were both straightforward to paint while demanding attention from the viewer. I’ve gotten quite a bit of positive feedback on this model, including 89 likes on Twitter. Big numbers for ya boy.

Okay, another favorite. Let’s see. 

Favorite movie of the year? Barbie. They could’ve just spit out a half-assed corporate advertisement with a movie based on Barbie, and instead made something exploding with love for making movies. As a cisgender dude, I can’t ever really understand the messages of feminism that Barbie preached no matter how much I think the message is cool and good, but I can understand Ryan Gosling’s excellent performance as Ken. Dude’s just great at acting.

Favorite game of Warhammer this year? Probably my game versus Alex Meyer.

My game against Alex was during the Warzone: Houston major in September, game five to be specific. I was riding high at 3-1, but I would have to leave the event early so my game with Alex would be my last. At this point, I was unsure what kind of game a 3-1 record would give me. The last game I had been paired into someone with a much higher skill at Warhammer than myself, and it felt like a mismatch the whole game. While there is something to be learned into getting paired into these kinds of games where you are just totally outmatched, they can be a slog and I really would prefer to not end my time at Warzone like that.

It was my lucky day, because Alex was much closer to my skill level at the game and just the best kind of player you can run into at one of these events: chronically friendly, knows their rules well and plays a clean, sharp game, and an excellent sport. He brought Chaos Knights into my Chaos Space Marines, and I think we both pretty quickly figured out what the other needed to do to win. My Chaos Marines had killing power and momentum on their side, if Alex was unable to curb my momentum during this game then I would be able to punch through enough armor to win. But if he could even just slow me down a bit, force me to make a trade I didn’t want to or catch an unlucky break, I wouldn’t have enough steam to dominate the board and win the game. It was going to be a punch out, and a brutal one at that. 

The game had major swings in both directions. I lost a Chosen squad earlier than I had wanted too. I made up for it and more later when I blew up a War Dog in overwatch with Obliterators. I think I may have been more lucky than unlucky overall, but none of that prevented Alex from being a canny opponent. He never took his eye off the ball, he scored consistently no matter the board state and made great play after great play. Even with my last big Chosen brick and Possessed giving Alex everything they had in combat as well as my Forgefiends and Obliterators firing on all cylinders, it was going to be a tight game, and I had to play my best if I wanted to win. 

It came down to my secondary pulls at the end, as Alex ended his turn at the top of round 5 on 91 points. With my primary scoring taken into account, I would need 11 points to win the game and the clock had me for just around two minutes left for me to play before I would time out. I drew my secondaries, and pulled Capture Enemy Outpost and Engage on all Fronts. My Possessed were in the perfect position, I just needed not a one on an advance roll.

Rolled a three. Never been happier to see a three.

After both of our heart rates finally settled, Alex and I were both buzzing about the game. Winning is always more fun than losing, so a part of me feels a little selfish to say that we both had a great time, but if Alex was sore about his loss then he hid it really well. The man was amped by the drama of the game, two hours and fifteen minutes of great play and water cooler moments. It’s testament of how far I’ve come as a player, leaving an event 4-1 against skilled opponents like Alex, while being the familiar comfort of what I’ve loved in a game of Warhammer since I first started playing: big bombastic moments that you share with your buddies with barely contained excitement. 

As a competitive player, I feel I really came into my own this year. I got my first 4-2 at a GT during the Spring of this year, and out of the 40 games I’ve played of tenth edition I’ve won 21 of them. Even Rob Jones has said that he can’t just go on autopilot when he plays me anymore, he has to actually think to kick my ass, which is high praise coming from Rob.

A Photo from my 4-2 finish with Chaos Knights at the Dragons Lair GT this Spring

Most of my losses in tenth came from the period after Warzone: Houston, where I just got my ass beat like a drum. In the 18 games I played post Warzone, I only won 7 of them. I got way too big for my britches, I was chronically underestimating my opponents and losing games I should’ve won. I was way too cocky that my Chaos Marines would just dominate the game, while my opponents focused on clever play and came out on top. For whatever reason, the new Codex: Space Marines was my white whale, I just could not win against that army until I finally switched to Tyranids at the end of the year and reset my brain. I’m very happy with how far I’ve come as a player, and in 2024 I want to continue my journey to make the most difficult jump in skill one can make: going from good to great.

Time to start wrapping this up with a few more favorites: 

  • Hm. I love Youtube Video Essays, so I guess that’s next. Favorite Video Essay? Gotta be the Dorktown Series on the Minnesota Vikings by the channel Secret Base. I don’t watch much sports, but Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein are storytellers of supreme talent that tell the strange story of one of the NFL’s most iconic teams.
  • Favorite TV show? Oh that’s hard. I don’t watch much TV, and my memory is just awful. Was Wednesday this year? I thought that was a fun show. 
  • Favorite photo this year? It’s gotta be this one.:

This photo was taken on a Friday evening in Baltimore this past August. I was there with Andrew (renowned Hero of the Imperium) for Goonhammer Open, and just before this photo we had linked up with many of our other friends (including Rocco, pictured here with Andrew and I) that we’ve made through Goonhammer at a bar near Camden Yards (the Orioles’ baseball stadium). I think it was called Pickles or something. It’s a college dive bar with young excited folks who want to drink on empty stomachs, so the bar didn’t have a great menu. So we left to go back to the hotel to eat. This photo was taken during that journey, halfway between our hotel and who-knows-where in Baltimore as the setting sun cast the sky in a remarkably vibrant orange. 

So naturally, the photo is in monochrome.

I don’t think of that sky when I look at this photo, of course. I think about Warhammer, and everything that this hobby has done for me. Sharing models is one of my favorite past times, and becoming a better player has been a rewarding journey. Yet the most important thing that Warhammer has done for me this year is give me incredible opportunities, memories, and friends.

The Astros Militarum Crew, featuring Goatboy

Sure, that’s a trite answer, I’ll give you that. But just because it’s unoriginal doesn’t make it untrue. Because I play Warhammer, I’ve built a group of friends in Houston that I would’ve likely never met otherwise, and even more all over America thanks to Goonhammer. Thanks to Warhammer, I helped put together a charity RTT that raised over $1000 for Houston Food Bank. Thanks to Warhammer, I get to write on a blog read by thousands of people about how I really liked Baldur’s Gate 3, The Aces, and the Barbie movie.

I was a military brat growing up, meaning I moved around more than most. I learned to make new friends quickly because I had to, before Uncle Sam told my dad he needed to fly jet planes very fast somewhere else and we had to leave. It was an early lesson at how impermanent things are in life. When you always have that proverbial Blade of Damocles of the next move hanging over your head, you learn how important it is to live in the present, to breathe deep in the “now” before it’s gone, and treasure the memories we make in that fleeting time.

When I look at this photo, I’m reminded that I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know where life will take me, Andrew, or Rocco, only that it will take all three of us somewhere whether we like it or not. We can’t stay still. Hopefully, our paths never stray too far, but maybe they do. One day, my path may even take me very far from the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, and my models will collect dust in some attic in a home I haven’t seen yet. 

The memories this photo captures don’t collect dust, even if the photo does. It’s a permanently pristine shadowbox of what my 2023 in Warhammer meant to me. Warhammer was never a bigger part of my life than it was this year in the best way possible, from the models I painted, to the games I played, the articles I wrote and memories I made. Most importantly, I’ll look at this photo and think of all the friends I was lucky enough to make along the way.

Thank you for reading my Warhammer year in review. I can’t wait to see what 2024 in this hobby adventure holds for me.

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