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    Inquisitor Lord Damocles's Avatar
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    Last Stand At Glazer's Creek - A Critical Analysis

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    Last Stand At Glazer’s Creek – Past Meets Present



    ’The past 40 years of White Dwarf are an incredible triumph and provide a mass of wonderful examples of what’s great and why, but you can always do it better. Nostalgia’s not what it used to be, as the old joke goes, and looking back you can see that with White Dwarf. Fond as we all might be of our own favourites, the real triumphs aren’t in the past, they’re where we are now: the Ultimate Warhammer Magazine.’
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    White Dwarf May 2017


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    The year is 1998. The UK hosts the European song contest. Google is founded. The world learns about what Clinton and Lewinsky were doing in the oval office. ‘Last Stand at Glazer’s Creek’ is published in White Dwarf 222.

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    And a legend is born


    So renowned did this battle report become that it is regularly cited as being amongst the best battle reports of all time (even if it is regularly mis-quoted or mis-titled as the ‘Battle of Ork’s Drift’ (which was an older Fantasy report)), and last year was confirmed as getting a ‘recreation’.

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    Facebook announcement, 08/06/2017


    For years I’ve passed comment on the sad decline of White Dwarf as time has gone on - through multiple re-launches, spin-offs, and alternating formats. Battle reports have been at the forefront of this decline in quality. While modern reports can be compared generally to those of the past, opportunities for [near-] direct like-for-like comparisons are few and far between; but ‘Glazer’s Creek II’ provides just such an opportunity.

    This also provides an opportunity to test the claim presented above – that nostalgia’s not what it used to be. Is the commonly held view of the original Glazer’s Creek report nothing more than rose-tinted sentimentality? Are modern reports in fact superior? Have my complaints about modern era battle reports compared to their predecessors been without foundation?


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    At the time of writing, it is mid April 2018. I intend to compare the original ‘Last Stand at Glazer’s Creek’ to the updated version. The reason I’m starting this now is that I want to look back at issue #222 before the updated version is released and my opinion of the original may be coloured by the present.



    Part 1: Creaky Glazer

    The story actually starts a year earlier at Games Day 1997 with the mega display ‘Massacre at Big Toof River’. An Imperial force consisting of the 135th Tallarn and Praetorian XXIV regiments attack an Ork force led by Warlord Bullgarg on the world of Montar VII. The humans underestimate the orks and are ambushed and wiped out.


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    ‘Massacre at Big Toof River’ in White Dwarf 218 (NZ), pg.64


    Unfortunately the bulk of the background for the display and the battle was only ever published in the programme for Games Day, and the White Dwarf article gave little in the way of context.

    The Praetorian XXIV – essentially late 19th century colonial British in spaaace! made from Mordians with specially sculpted pith helmets – proved so popular that Games Workshop released them for sale as a limited edition box set, and later as part of the permanent Imperial Guard line.

    Perhaps it was inevitable that with space Victorians, somebody would eventually want to refight the Battle of Rouke’s Drift - most well known due to the 1964 film Zulu - in 40k.


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    I’ve always said that what 40K needs is more singing Welshmen


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    The stats:
    Page count: 17
    Number of pictures: 13 (~6 pages worth)
    Number of Maps: 10
    Participants: Adrian Wood (Orks), Paul Sawyer (Praetorians), Jervis Johnson (scenario creator (?))

    At seventeen pages the article is distinctly average with regards to length compared to other battle reports - which are generally 15-18 pages.

    It begins with a page-long introduction which outlines the background of the battle. 3rd platoon have lent their Chimeras to the attack on Big Toof River, and so have been left to defend the XXIV’s supplies and keep various civilians who have joined the campaign out of trouble at Glazer’s Creek, five miles from the main battlefield. The XXIV are routed at Big Toof River and forced to flee away from 3rd platoon’s position. Then the Orks attack.


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    He’s even dressed in the same colours as his troops


    The next two pages outline the rules for the scenario being used. The Ork army is made up of a number of assaults (3 to 5) which consist of randomly generated Orks. The final Ork assault gets additional reinforcements based upon the total number of assaults the Ork player elects to launch.Once the total number of Orks in a given wave is reduced to below 30, the Orks retreat.
    Praetorians removed as casualties are either dead, recover in time for the next assault, or are wounded and go to the hospital, from whence there is a chance that they can be roused to fight with reduced stats if the Orks get within 4” of the building.
    The Orks win if they can wipe out the Preatorians. The Preatorians win if they can avoid being wiped out.

    The Orks have -1BS and +1WS – the genesis of the modern Ork! – to encourage them to charge at the defenders and not to shoot at them.
    Mention is made that the battle being reported is actually the third time the scenario was fought. In the first game, the Orks shot the Praetorians to pieces necessitating the change in stats. In the second game the Preatorians were buffed (given the Dead Eye Shot veteran ability), but this meant that they effortlessly gunned the Orks down.

    The scenario might be somewhat impractical, given the need for a relatively large range of Ork models to be available. However the basic infantry in each assault can be made up of the contents of the 2nd edition started box, and there is a note from Jervis saying to substitute or proxy models/units if necessary.

    The next two pages have a large picture of the Praetorian army (which is the contents of the limited edition box set, minus the Commissar) and the civilian hangers-on (represented by Ratskins, Frateris Militia, a Digga truck, and an assortment of other models).
    There are rules for what the civilians do, and a key for which models are which on the maps.
    The farm truck is conspicuous by its absence from the army photo.
    Paul says that his plan is to trust in Overwatch.

    The following two pages are mostly a large picture of the Ork army (Wood’s own Waaagh! Grisnak)
    Adrian elects to launch four assaults on the farm.

    The bulk of the report proper consists of nine and a half pages.
    Each Ork assault is split into an introduction - in which Wood and Sawyer each spend a paragraph or two outlining their thoughts on how the battle is going, what the Ork forces consist of this time etc. – a narrative description of what happens during the assault told in the form of a story, rather than turn-by-turn events or details of dice rolls – and then a short summary by each player on the assault.

    Each assault’s text block is accompanied by pictures of the game in progress (usually an overall shot of the farm and a close up of a particular piece of the action, such as Hooky sniping from the water tower, or Private Simpson breaking ranks to burn the Orks with his flamer.
    While the overall and detail shots of the game have an orange background set up behind the models - I assume that these are in fact staged shots taken after the fact in order to look pretty - those which feature the players (often goofing around) feature a background which includes a green-flocked gaming board, a Gorkamorka box, and a selection of miscellaneous random junk gaming paraphernalia. Personally, I rather like the ‘realistic’ backgrounds in these pictures.

    Assaults 1 to 3 each have two accompanying maps, while assault 4 has four maps.


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    Oh yeah, show me that cartography, baby!


    While they don’t cover all of the turns in each assault, just by looking at the maps spread throughout the report the reader gets a decent idea of how the battle is progressing, with the Orks getting progressively closer to the centre of the Praetorian positions with each assault, and the number of defenders steadily decreasing as the battle goes on.


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    A typical page layout


    I’d never noticed it when reading the report on previous occasions, but Sawyer’s shirt conspicuously changes colour between pictures of the game in progress.


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    J’accuse!


    I suspect that either some of the pictures are from the first two times the scenario was played out; or that Sawyer split his dinner down himself.

    There also appears to be a rules error in the first assault – the scenario rules say that each assault should include a Warboss in addition to the randomised units, but the maps and images of the 1st assault don’t show one present.

    The report is concluded with a quarter page from each player in which they give some brief thoughts on the game and how they might have done better (ironically, for the Orks, shoot more), and give some extra details of the test games they played and how the scenario could be further modified by the reader.


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    But that’s not all! The mail order section at the back of the issue features army deals for the defenders of Glazer’s Creek (with a Commissar and some Praetorian casualty models in place of the farm truck) and an Ork army which you can buy in different sections (the mobs and the leaders). Each deal gets you free stuff/a saving over buying the contents individually.


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    I want it!


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    So is ‘Last Stand at Glazer’s Creek’ actually that good?
    Personally, I’d say yes. Yes it is.

    A lot is covered in the space allocated to the battle report, with nothing which feels like wasted space or filler. The narrative flows well and is easy to follow, the scenario appears to work well, and the maps and photographs make the progress of the game easy to follow.
    The battle is also very clearly inspired by Zulu, with the battlefield – although relatively small and simple – and scenario doing a fine job of evoking the feel of the source material.

    I would have liked to see a bit more background material, however. With an extra page, for example, a more detailed account of the events of Big Toof River, which serve as the Isandlwana to Glazer’s Creek’s Rouke’s Drift could have been included in the introduction (stick some pictures of the mega display in there as well). As I noted above, the account of the battle was only included in the ’97 Games Day programme meaning that relatively few people will have had access to it (an given that I’m working from the Australia/New Zealand issue, presumably none of the original readers would have!) Arguably this should have been included in issue 218, but it wasn’t, and so would fit well here.
    I’d also have liked to have had a couple of background paragraphs scattered throughout the report as pure background text as opposed to the narrative of the game – one at the start where the Praetorians realise that the dust cloud on the horizon is Orks and not the rest of their regiment returning, one of guardsmen defending the barricades from the green menace, and one at the end with the survivors on parade, for example. Throw in a bunch [more] of references to the movie for good measure.

    I don’t think that any lauding of ‘Last Stand at Glazer’s Creek’ can be put down to nostalgia or rose-tinted glasses. The report is legitimately good/excellent.
    And not only is it good in and of itself, but it is literally iconic – to the point where it’s getting remade. That in itself indicates that it must have been a quality article to begin with.


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    In Part 2 I’ll do the same exercise for the updated version of the report and see what conclusions can be drawn from a comparison of the two.
    I presume that it will be published in June’s issue of White Dwarf – marking the 20th anniversary of the original...
    Last edited by Lord Damocles; 18-04-2018 at 07:10. Reason: Spelling

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