This is a lengthy post with no pictures.
Still here? Cool.
I've been thinking a lot about chimeras recently, and whilst passengering on a car trip into Plymouth this afternoon I made some notes (before firing out of the top hatch). What follows is no treatise; nor is it a monograph. It's certainly not a tactica...it's 1500 words in a sort-of informal essay format, by no means impartial and utterly unresearched.
It's also 0100hrs, so there may be some typos. Sorry!
Essay on a Workhorse:
Personal Reflections on the Imperial Chimera
The humble chimera. Often referred to as ‘the workhorse of the Imperial Guard’, this unassuming and venerable APC is becoming an increasingly frequent sight on the gaming table, and I thought I’d explore some aspects of it, including a glance at the model itself in its current (and future?) incarnations and also a brief prod at the rules.
What a great little vehicle. In the fluff it can be readily converted for all manner of improvisatory battlefield roles and the model too can be used in such a way, although so far GW has relied on Forgeworld to expand the range beyond griffons, hellhounds and basilisks. A bit of a pity, but fair enough, and hey – that’s what Forgeworld does well, eh?
So let’s take a look at that model. I’d say its most striking features are its breadth (which always seems to make it look more substantial than it really is) and its dorsal lasguns (which always remind me of L/Cpl Jones’s van in Dad’s Army, for those of you who get the reference. Sadly these just don’t quite work. God knows how the poor guardsmen are supposed to aim them, and their articulation is such that their fields of fire are so limited as to be essentially negligible. The lasgun models are old too, and starting to show their age.
When it comes to assembling the chimera, the tracks (as with the outgoing Leman Russ kit) are awkward to put together cleanly and simply and the body never quite goes together flush at the back. Not a major stumbling block, and by no means insurmountable, but something of a pain, especially (I’d imagine) to less experienced modellers.
Mostly though, the main body of the chimera is essentially a joy to convert, given a decent enough bits box and some bits of plasticard for the more challenging efforts. We’ve all seen some great conversions – amongst my favourites would have to be the BoLS Arbites Black Maria, a command/comms version by ‘Digits’ over at The Ammo Bunker, some of the excellent work in the drop troop army of WD’s Owen Rees (here and here, for example), and – although naturally it pains me to say it – my own (‘Digits’-inspired) Wyvern variant, which was really good fun to make…that being the Most Important Thing. There are some great-looking hydra conversions popping up now too, which is pretty exciting.
What will the new model hold? Well, by the look of the profile projections on the rules pages in the new Codex, it’ll look like the new hellhound. Reports on the interior detailing of this new kit have suggested the same likelihood, but I’m interested in the fate of the lasguns and the look of the turret which – let’s face it – is currently a little lacklustre. We can anticipate it’ll have nice lines, good detail and (again, going on reports) that the parts will be well designed and precisely machined. All good.
But will it be so much fun? It looks like the new kits are less convertible, with more of the old detachable details being moulded on (including the cupola on the Demolisher, which seems an odd choice). Is GW going the way of Lego I ask? When I was a kid if I wanted to build a spaceship out of Lego I had to somehow engineer it out of very basic, prosaic blocks. Now it seems in a Lego spaceship kit [does so generic a product even still exist?] one simply attaches the ‘spaceship wings’ bit to the ‘spaceship hull’ bit et voila. I know GW are trying to make higher quality models using less plastic, and good luck to them: everyone seems pretty impressed, especially with the interchangeable parts…but I hope the new kit still offers some fun for conversions…
Either way, it’ll probably look pretty cool!
Right then. Rules.
Under the last Codex, the chimera was too expensive, especially when compared to rhinos. Its lasguns were – at best – ineffectual and it counted as ‘Open-topped’ when any single model fired from the hatch. I’d like to expand on this a little:
I liked the fact that opening the sunroof compromised the chimera: it made sense and it was very ‘Guard’, although it was of course quite a gamble in game terms. To be more specific, I appreciated the rule, but I didn’t quite agree with it. Here’s why (and I know some of you can easily pick holes in this, but bear with me):
An ork wagon is open-topped. A basilisk is open-topped. So is a griffon. All good so far. Under 4th Edition rules, they were also – by extension – Vulnerable To Blasts/ Templates, and quite rightly so. But I would argue that a chimera with the sunroof open should not have counted as open-topped (as generally speaking, it wasn’t); instead it should have counted for [just] vulnerable to blasts/templates. Opening that hatch isn’t going to weaken your armour, but it could reasonably make you more vulnerable to area-effect weapons.
With the new Codex, (and with 5th Ed, but more of that anon) things have changed for the ubiquitous workhorse. Now I believe it’s at the right points cost, although habit still makes it seem too cheap [“What’s that? I can buy four chimeras for only 220pts?”], and although I like the flamer options, it’s a shame Mr. Cruddace didn’t provide more scope for a variety of different armaments, especially given the cracking FW turrets and endless spare heavy weapons that everyone has.
The hatch rules are awesome now, with five passengers being able to fire out, and players are really starting to experiment with the possibilities. Personally, I love having a command squad in one with three grenade launchers: they can fire 24” even after a move and the boss can still get his orders out (if I remember to do so)…but then, I love grenade launchers full stop. [NB: Did you happen to see the BoLS Arbites chimera variant with the grenade launcher turret? Sweet! I must make one of those!] Of course, it takes a little more plannng to fire weapons out at 12” range, as the damned hatch is so far back you almost have to drive right on top of the target!
Are the new rules too generous? Probably. I’d probably either keep it to one firing passenger or make it count as open-topped (with my aforementioned reservations).
Two things which haven’t changed are the armour values (12/10/10) and the rear door. I think the AV is absolutely spot-on (although it’s odd GW didn’t model more armour onto the side of the new hellhound models), and that front AV12 can be a real game-winner.
The rear door’s slightly more frustrating. It’s believable – which is great – but a pain in the backside at times when you want to actually get your troops nearer the enemy. Has anyone actually tried getting twelve models within 2” of it, perchance? I’m interested to know if it’s possible. I may even try it myself. I’ve long-term plans for a conversion with a front ramp, just for fun.
So how has the change to 5th Edition affected things for the chimera? Well, from my perspective, I’d say the new ‘battlefield taxi’ rules are very useful with transports; the new version of ‘effects on passengers’ after a hole gets punched in the side is great, and the longer move with disembarkation is very useful.
The new Str 4 benchmark for ‘defensive’ weapons has put the kybosh on firing both weapons, but that’s really fair enough – especially for 55 points. I think my only beef with 5th Edition rules is the way rear armour is used in assaults: I’m firmly of the opinion that side armour would’ve been a more sensible option, and it would’ve given more variety, too, rather than anything with a str 4 attack (including guardsmen, now they have frag grenades!) being able to wander over and ‘have a go’. Now as it happens, of course, the chimera’s side AV is the same as the rear…but my point stands, and I stand by it. So there.
And when you put all these rules together with the old jalopy, how does it all come together? - Pretty well, I think.
I’ve always found (as I know others have) that chimeras tend to be surprisingly lucky; they’re surprisingly hardy too...sometimes. Sure, BS3 is a perennial handicap for any Guard shooting, but putting out 6 mid-strength shots if you don’t move can still make a dent, and the multilaser is even enough to challenge light vehicles.
In conclusion then, I love these little vehicles. I have (I think) about ten vehicles on chimera chassis and they’re all painted, which is highly unusual amongst my real-life (and very occasional) hobbying pals…and to see the chimeras charging across the table genuinely gives me a broad smile on my face. Psychologically, a mech army can be a pretty scary thing to face too, though I guess they’re blossoming in popularity.
Yeah: chimeras are great.
Thanks for making it through; I’m interested in any responses, rebuttals etc.
PS: I finished basing the stormtroopers, so I'll try to photograph them if the reain stops tomorrow.