What a week!

Hey everyone!

What a week, indeed! Work has been fairly insane, on top of which I’ve been trying to get ahead with the degree. I’ve moved on to the Romans, and have actually spent a pretty interesting afternoon reading up on the political organization of the late Republic! So anyway, yeah!


In game terms, this week has been pretty exciting, too! It’s been all about the Necrons, of course, as we were working up to the Codex release today. Very exciting times!!


So this little bundle of awesome happened…

The army box, The Tomb Awakened, is actually pretty good value. £115 for the box, for six kits that would cost £142.50 to buy separately. And not a hideous Warrior in sight! Fabulous. I’m not entirely sure about that new Overlord, as he does look a little, well, weird. But really, I felt like I couldn’t let this weekend pass without investing in him! Up next at the Harlequins, which I’m not entirely fussed about, so having a couple of quiet weeks will be very welcome!

There are some extra bits in the picture above, of course, including a Toxicrene that I wanted to get back in November upon release, and finally made the jump after reviewing some of the tutorial videos last weekend.

I really love these videos, I have to say, they’ve really helped me over the months since I started painting miniatures. I’d been making some notes to help me with the Ogres I’ve got going on. I’m planning to paint this chap in the colours of Hive Fleet Eumenides, anyway!

I also got my Ogre Ironguts. Basically Ogres with great weapons, these chaps had excited me until I got home today – don’t get me wrong, they’re still pretty awesome-looking, but they’re more an upgrade kit for the Ogres box than an actual separate entity, with four guys on the same sprue-set, but with an additional two-sprue upgrade. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with them, of course, but I felt like it’d have been better if they were more special.

On the subject of Ogre Kingdoms, I’m still going with those two Mournfang Cavalry and the two Ogres I’ve been working on for a while now. This is how they were looking last weekend:

I’m particularly pleased with how well these stone clubs have turned out, which is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the great weapons, as I’d like to give that a go on a bigger scale! Following all those GW videos I watched, I decided to give the actual Mournfang a try:

I went with a grey scheme, with a basic lighter-belly scheme. While it looked fine at the basecoat stage, I was a bit nervous about doing anything more to it, having never painted fur before. After nearly a week, I finally got round to dry-brushing and shading, and I must say, it’s not actually half bad, even if I do say so myself! Next up, the horns! However, I also built up some more Ogres last week, as we had a nice day for priming – yes, I think I’m well and truly obsessed with this now: when the sun shines, I think of priming models!


Some exciting stuff coming here, I must say!

So I’ve got these guys built up, and I’m again at something of an impasse, as I’m not entirely sure what to do to finish them off. I mean, I’ve got the skin done, I’ve done the hair (I think), and I’ve got the armour painted, but I don’t really know what I want to do with it. To be honest, I almost feel like I’ve got too many options, especially for the weathering and whatnot. Right now, I’m thinking I might just take it one model at a time, rather than all four at once.

In case you’re interested (ah, who am I kidding – of course you’re interested!), here’s a record of my Ogres posts over on my tumblr:

It started with a Mournfang
More Ogres!
My Ogre Workshop!
Ogre painting continues!

Back to the Dungeon!

Hey everybody!
As D&D week comes to a close here at spalanz.com, I wanted to take some time to talk about something particularly special to me, the D&D cartoon!

Dungeons & Dragons

A product of the early 80s, I must admit to having come quite late to this one, being introduced to it around 2 years ago – again, my friend Tony has a lot to answer for! Something that I haven’t yet delved into on this blog is my love of retro cartoons. Being a child of the 80s, these are things I’ve grown up with and loved, and will always have a special place for me! Hopefully this year, I’ll get to share more of these classics with you, in my own inimitable fashion!


The D&D cartoon, as I said, is something that I’d been aware of, but hadn’t any real recollection of from my childhood. I recall a trip to the local HMV store back when I was in college, where Tony was eyeing up the D&D boxset, but I went for Visionaries back then… ah, happy days! But then, around two or so years ago, he loaned me his copies of the DVDs, so I sat down to watch them with a bag of tortilla chips and some salsa (this is very important!), and found myself really enjoying them!

The show tells the story of a group of kids who, after going on a D&D ride at a theme park, are transported to the realm of D&D and need to find their way home. They are pursued by Venger, but assisted by the Dungeon Master, who gives each a power weapon to assist in their quest. The feel of the show is very much along the lines of an adventure in the sense of the RPG, with the kids set a task they have to accomplish.

Enjoyed that? I hope you did! The second episode in the series is particularly good, featuring the classic D&D monster, the Beholder!

It wasn’t long after being introduced to this cartoon that I found myself having to move house, and what was a very stressful time became so much easier thanks to the little bit of escapism these shows offered to me! This, and BraveStarr, but that’s a subject for another blog! I’d watched maybe ten episodes before I was in my new place, and one of the first things I did was begin watching them again from the beginning, of course, with tortilla chips and salsa!


Over the course of about a month, I made it through all 27 episodes of the show, including this one, episode 13, a loose retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk:

OH MY GOODNESS ME, I remembered this episode almost word-for-word from when I was about 5 or 6! While it’s hardly a particularly awesome tale, for me it was absolutely awesome from start to finish! What a tidal wave of memories.

Yes, sadly, 27 episodes is the entire run. A 28th was written, but never produced. The kids never did find their way home on the screen, but in a way that’s not really a bad thing. I mean, we never really saw the beginning of the story, only the truncated events of the opening credits (which, really, is all that’s needed anyway). The show really doesn’t have a beginning or an end, it’s just a series of adventures. And I’m pretty fine with that, I must say!

I love this series, though. I hope that, in sharing some of these cartoons, I’ve been able to share some of the awesome with you – remember, if you want the whole lot, the box set is available!


Dungeons and Dragons week may be over now, but this is definitely not the last you’ll be reading of it on my blog, anyway!

Until next time!

Tales of the Drow

Dungeons and Dragons week continues!

Following my look at the Legend of Drizzt boardgame on Tuesday, it’s only fair that I look at the books that inspired it all. As I mentioned in that blog, I came to Drizzt in early 2013, and was a bit hesitant at first, due to my prior commitments to the Star Wars universe. I suppose I felt like I didn’t have the room for something as big as this in my head. A similar argument was made in the early days for Warhammer, but that didn’t last, either. My friend and gaming buddy Tony has been a D&D fan for as long as I can remember, and had frequently tried to get me into the fantasy realm, though I’d always resisted. However, after playing and enjoying the offerings of the Adventure System boardgames, I thought I’d see what the fuss was all about, and bought the box set of the first three books in the Legend of Drizzt line. A line that, I hadn’t realised at the time, stretches to thirteen novels, with an anthology of short stories!

The Legend of Drizzt

So I embarked on Homeland, snowed up at home, and found myself utterly enraptured. From that first chapter, describing the drow raid against the backdrop of Drizzt Do’Urden’s birth, I was hooked. The intricacies of drow society sucked me in even further, and within a matter of days I’d finished it. Homeland is one of those books that took me along for a truly incredible ride, one that I needed to have a break after, to catch my breath and digest it all. While I find the trope of a misunderstood hero not fitting in with his society really quite hackneyed, the execution here is just fabulous.

I’d only previously encountered RA Salvatore through his Star Wars novels – Vector Prime, and the novel for Attack of the Clones. Both of these had been a bit wordy, and a bit heavy-going, so this only added to my suspicions about the series. However, Homeland threw all that out of the window, and proved to be an immensely enjoyable experience. Seriously, I cannot tell you just how much this book has pleased me – you just need to read it and see for yourself.

Real life intervened at this point, however, and I found myself moving house, so unable to move onto book two, Exile. When I finally made it to this book, I was ensconced in my new place, no snow on the ground, but had a similarly enjoyable experience. It’s set ten years after Homeland, so I suppose the break helped… We get to see even more of the Underdark, the land of eternal night. Dark Elf (drow) society is further expounded upon, and the characters of the previous book further developed. Even though Drizzt is now an outcast of his society, due to his conscience, we still see plenty of Matron Malice and her brood.

Drizzt’s mother is actually among the pantheon of amazing fantasy characters, for me. Literally every scene she was in had me engrossed utterly, so that when I’d put the book down to, say, get another coffee, I’d be surprised by the fact that I was in daylight! Yes, it really was that incredible. However, the whole story is just propelled along so well that it’s really easy to become so embroiled. Without the burden of exposition that Homeland has, Exile is consequently just an awesome adventure!

Book three, Sojourn, unfortunately started to let me down. At the end of Exile, we know Drizzt is now determined to live his life on the surface of the world, and of course this whole trilogy has been a prequel to the Icewind Dale trilogy, where we see Drizzt on the surface like he’s been there for years. Sojourn, therefore, has classic “bridge syndrome” of needing to get a character from A to B. The story is still good, of course, but it does feel a little ploddy at times.

All in all, however, the Dark Elf trilogy is bloody marvellous! You really need to go out there and get a copy of these books!

The Crystal Shard full cover

As I said, anyway, Drizzt first appeared in The Crystal Shard, where he was actually a supporting character to the tale of the young barbarian, Wulfgar. The popularity of the Dark Elf, however, led to the Legend being born, and it didn’t take long for the prequels and sequels to come, and the whole to be repackaged as the Legend of Drizzt. However, reading The Crystal Shard now, it feels a little uneven at times, as it’s being sold as a Drizzt novel, though there is a lot of focus placed on Wulfgar. At any rate, The Crystal Shard is a big difference from the previous stories, if you read them in this order as I did!

Inspired by traditional fantasy rather than the RPG, there is a lot of Tolkien in The Crystal Shard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. I’m not actually a fan of Tolkien’s prose, as I find him unnecessarily long-winded, but his inspiration is beyond question, and his influence tremendous. Here, we get a lot of Tolkienesque scenes and sequences that feel like they’re trying too hard to be Tolkienesque. If they had been more Salvatore-esque, perhaps they would have succeeded much better? Well, anyway, this was Salvatore’s first published novel.

All of this aside, it’s pretty epic in its scope, and features a handful of story kernels scattered throughout that would spin off later novels in a completely natural way. Awesome stuff. While the story is notable for just how human the main characters are, it’s particularly noteworthy for the issues of race it addresses. Drizzt is a Dark Elf, a species also called drow, which I have mentioned before of course, but in D&D, Dark Elves are literally dark, with black skin and white hair. That the drow are reviled on the surface of the world for their evil deeds is a really nice metaphor for addressing racism in the modern world. Of course, this was before the Dark Elf trilogy, when we discovered that the drow really are evil and heartless. But I was particularly impressed with how Salvatore worked this into the book, and it goes to show how fantasy writing isn’t all about escapism. Written in the late 1980s, though, this perhaps also helped legitimize D&D, at a time when it was being demonized for encouraging Satanism.

Moving on!

While knowing that the ideas from The Crystal Shard would be picked up in later novels, I was nevertheless surprised to discover the next book in the trilogy, Streams of Silver, went a completely different route. Bruenor Battlehammer takes centre stage as we follow him on his quest to find his ancestral homeland of Mithral Hall. This book introduces the assassin Artemis Entreri, sent to pursue the halfling Regis to regain a valuable gemstone. Essentially a road trip story, it is actually really enjoyable, with a lot of twists along the way as we explore more of the world. By the end, however, all appears lost, as Bruenor appears to have died in his battle with the dragon Shimmergloom, and Regis has been captured by Entreri.

The Halfling’s Gem concludes the trilogy, though I have yet to actually finish this installment! Shameful, I know. A huge chunk of the beginning of this novel takes place as a boat trip, and I have to admit, I felt a bit journey-ed out by this point. I tend not to like road-trip stories where the focus is on that journey, I have to say. They tend to have a rambling quality that I find unfocused, but that’s just me. I abandoned book three roughly in the middle, over the summer of 2013, and I’m not entirely sure what I moved onto in its place! However, I have now embarked upon my attempt to finish it.

There are, after all, so many more Drizzt books out there…

The Legend of Drizzt

Buy it from amazon:
The Legend of Drizzt, set I (out of print, I believe, but linked because it’s the box set I mention)
The Legend of Drizzt, set II (also out of print, it appears)
The Crystal Shard
Streams of SIlver
The Halfling’s Gem

25th Anniversary Edition, book one (the Dark Elf trilogy)
25th Anniversary Edition, book two (the Icewind Dale trilogy)

Adventures in the Underdark

It’s D&D week!

Over the weekend, I read this post from fellow blogger Man of Yesterday (who I highly recommend you follow!) on playing a D&D adventure, and have been inspired to make a feature week here on my blog! I’ve talked about my own roleplaying experiences but briefly, but suffice it to say, I love it. D&D has existed on my radar for years now, as my good friend and sparring partner Tony is a huge fan, but it was only recently that I really delved into that world.

I recently mentioned that I like to read at least one new book in January. Well, in 2013, that new book was RA Salvatore’s Homeland. I was immediately blown away by this book, which I started almost begrudgingly, if I’m honest. I’m going to talk about that in a later blog this week, but the reason for my hesitation was that I’m primarily a Star Wars geek, and wasn’t sure I had room in my head for another big franchise. However, I wanted to read it because of this:

The Legend of Drizzt

Part of the D&D Adventure System board game line, this box – and its two siblings – is just awesome! Essentially a dungeon-crawl in the manner of Descent (which I will get to, one day!), these games are among my absolute favourites. Based on the d20 D&D RPG line, the games feature a strong role-playing element, and include classic monsters from the line such as the Beholder. And the AI makes them playable solo! Fantastic.

You start out with a character card, one of the major players in the saga such as Bruenor Battlehammer, his adopted daughter Catti-Brie, the young barbarian Wulfgar, or maybe even Drizzt himself – and receive a number of power cards much like in the RPG. The character cards are double-sided, and certain events (such as rolling a natural 20, or the Battlefield Promotion Treasure card) allow you to level up, flipping the card for slightly increased stats!

Once you’ve got your character sorted, you place the corresponding miniature on the starting tile, and the adventure begins! The game comes with a whole host of miniatures, for all the monsters as well as the heroes.

The game comes with an Adventure Book, which sets out a number of scenarios you can play with the game. (As a side note, each of the three boxes are meant to be compatible, and in the early days, Wizards brought out a couple of web-scenarios that specifically integrated the first two box sets. Nothing has come out to integrate all three, though there are fan expansions in this vein available online).

Each adventure has a slightly different layout, depending on the objective. For illustrative purposes, I was playing scenario 2, the Search for Mirthril Hall. This one requires a specific ‘cavern tile’ to be shuffled into three ordinary tiles, then all four are placed at the bottom of a stack of eight other tiles, timing the adventure to last between 9 and 12 tile-reveals. There are some pretty awesome map tiles in this set, some used for specific scenarios – such as the Broken Door tile in the adventure I’m playing:

The Legend of Drizzt

Each tile has an arrow on it, as well as a cluster of mushrooms. On your hero’s turn, if you are at an “unexplored edge” of a tile, you draw a new one, placing it so that the arrow points to that edge. If the arrow is white, you’re (reasonably) fine and draw a Monster card, and place the corresponding miniature on the mushroom cluster. If the arrow is black, you first draw an Encounter card, which can denote all sorts of nastiness, from area-attacks on your tile, to specific traps being laid!

The Legend of Drizzt

In addition to lots of miniatures, there are lots of cards, and lots of tokens. Just how I like my boardgames, really!

The Legend of Drizzt

Monster Cards show that monster’s Armor Class (AC) and Hit Points (HP). When fighting a monster, the hero rolls a d20 and adds their attack value; if the result exceeds the AC, they do a number of damage that deducts HP from the monster until it is dead. If the monster is defeated, it goes into the Experience pile – Experience can be used to cancel Encounter Cards as well as to level up when you’ve rolled a natural 20. You also get to draw a Treasure Card when you defeat a monster, which can be anything from weapons to health boosts, to that Battlefield Promotion!

However, if you don’t defeat the monster in one round of combat, that monster will be coming for you! They have ‘Tactics’ printed on their cards, showing how they move and, in some cases, which weapon they use. They also have attack and damage values – you roll the d20 and add their attack value, comparing it to your own AC, etc. A very simple, yet tremendously effective AI!

The Legend of Drizzt

Sometimes, however, that shadow up ahead might just be a Stalagmite!

The Legend of Drizzt

Most adventures have some sort of set-up similar to that described above, and in Search for Mithril Hall, once the Broken Door tile is revealed, the Ancient Throne tile is placed alongside it. This is a double-tile, and involves the Crown token (if you’ve read the Icewind Dale trilogy, you’ll love this!). This also triggers the end-game, however, as the Artemis Entreri enemy figure is also placed on the Start Tile, and each turn, he’s coming for you!

The D&D Adventure System features some straightforward monsters, and some more complex. The latter type have quite lengthy stat cards akin to those of the heroes. However, Legend of Drizzt takes that one step further and provides Hero cards for two of the enemy figures, Artemis and also Jarlaxle. Fans of the Hunter’s Blades trilogy will be particularly enraptured! It’s a really nice twist being able to play these “grey” characters (who hilariously have grey miniatures in this game!).

The Legend of Drizzt

Oh yeah, there’s also a Guenhwyvar miniature you can use as an ally! Awesome!

The game is really quite straightforward to play, which allows you to focus on enjoying the adventure rather than getting bogged-down in rules. Its adventures draw mainly from the Icewind Dale trilogy, and there are quite a lot of moments where, if you’ve read those books, you’ll be enraptured as you play through the events in board game form!

Of course, this is Wizards of the Coast, so there are promos available. Well, promo, actually. A Vierna Do’Urden monster card was released, which I managed to snaffle online after the fact for a modest sum, and has shown up quite a few times, in some truly awesome epic storytelling moments – the first time I used her, she ended up Poisoning Drizzt, which actually killed him. Not quite a repeat of the scene in the books, but it was a hilarious move!

Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Board Game

As mentioned before, The Legend of Drizzt is just one of the line of Adventure System board games, all three of which are fully compatible with each other. So you can play Drizzt and Wulfgar and face off against Ashardalon, for instance. Or use the Ranger or Fighter power cards from either game to equip Drizzt and Bruenor as you explore Castle Ravenloft. Personally, I like to keep all three games separate, but I’ve heard of people mixing everything together, and it seems to work well for them.

I’ll be featuring all of these games on Game Day blogs soon, anyway!

Legend of Drizzt came out in 2011, and the Adventure System has been really quiet until the end of last year, when it was announced that a fourth game would be released in the spring of 2015. We finally have a name for it, Temple of Elemental Evil! It seems to be some sort of ‘event’ in the D&D world happening this year, with the game tying in as a result. Well, whatever it is, I’m all for it!

For now, I’ll leave you with a last look at that fantastic Errtu miniature, the hulking fire demon from The Crystal Shard. Enjoy!

The Legend of Drizzt

Buy it from amazon:
The Legend of Drizzt

Leviathan Wakes

I often like to read something a bit different at the beginning of the year, in the spirit of new-ness, and so on, though last year it didn’t happen until June. I’ve discovered some really excellent stuff this way, which I’ll talk about later in the week. This year, after coming across mention of the sci-fi series The Expanse, I decided to plunge into the first novel, and over the course of nearly three weeks of January, I’ve been enraptured by the whole thing! (I’m going to try to avoid spoilers here).

The Expanse is set in the future of mankind, where we have finally made it out from Earth’s gravity well and onto Mars, and from there to the asteroid belt. The first thing that struck me about this book is, while it’s definitely science fiction, it isn’t difficult to understand. I mean, some sci-fi I’ve read in the past has been a bit too “techy”, but it also employs a lot of ridiculous language, almost in an attempt to justify its existence and legitimacy. Whatever. Leviathan Wakes is fairly straightforward prose, which lets you concentrate on the evolving story much easier.

At around the 550-page mark, it’s a good chunk of book for your money, and feels just about right in terms of the pacing. A lot happens over the course of the book, and there are very few extraneous scenes, which I appreciate a whole lot! I’m a fairly slow reader, as I usually take the time to imagine the worlds laid before me, right down to the accents of the characters and whatnot. In terms of world-building, Leviathan Wakes builds itself alongside the action, which I appreciate because of the fact so many books seem to set aside a great chunk of space to building up the locations and situations, all while trying to be foreboding, but the general result is a very boring description of politics and so forth, with next to no action. Here, we learn as we go, and for something so simple, it’s really effective.

On the flip-side, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered at the end. First of all, we never see Earth or Mars in this time period (though we do have a couple of interesting snippets of info about what has happened to Earth). For me, one of the more interesting aspects of futurist sci-fi such as this is seeing what has happened to Earth, but we don’t visit. A tantalising mention if made of “turning the red planet green”, and we understand Mars to have some kind of atmospheric domes on its surface, but we also don’t learn much about the first colony, either.

What we do get, however, is a lot of the Belt. Ceres and Eros, in particular, with Tycho being a close third. Now, space has never been my forte, and when the story refers to “Ceres station” and so forth, I was envisaging a space station, like an oil rig floating in the void and so on. It wasn’t until quite later on in the story that I realised these are bored-out asteroids. Well, anyway. For the unprepared, some research might be useful!

The story, then, has a believable air to it, as we see what our future could very easily turn out to be. That is something that I particularly enjoyed, how much it was entirely possible. While the books take great delight in quoting George RR Martin, “kickass space opera”, I would not personally class this as such – Star Wars is space opera, where the limitations of physics don’t really matter. The Expanse is a series where people can’t travel at certain speeds unless doped-up with drugs (“juice”) to compensate, whereas Han Solo floors his way through an asteroid field while everyone just hangs about without so much as a seatbelt on. (James SA Corey is the pen-name for the writing duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the latter is GRRM’s writing assistant. Just so you know.)

The book is told from two points of view, those of Jim Holden and (Joe) Miller. The former is an idealist officer on a water freighter, the latter is a jaded Belter cop. Holden and his small crew really go through the ringer on this one, but I consistently found myself irritated by him. Miller, on the other hand, while working through several cliches, actually ends up the more interesting character, in my mind. The supporting characters are all really well-drawn, if again a little stereotypical.

It’s Miller’s storyline that actually gives this book it’s must-read status, for me, and has been the catalyst to my recommending it to folks. There is a strong element of the noire-detective-drama to his story, which coupled with the setting make this book approach the realms of Philip K Dick. Of course, it’s not a Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but it’s certainly somewhere in that family tree.

This brings me on to perhaps the biggest criticism I can make of this book. All of the ingredients are there, but the limitations of just two point-of-view characters have resulted in a severely handicapped storytelling canvas. The noire plotline is executed really nicely, with (I thought) an absolutely stunning conclusion. The inter-system warfare between Earth, Mars and the Belt has something lacking due to not seeing anyone in power on the two planets. We know what happens, but because of who we’re seeing it through, it all seems to be one big mess. I’d have preferred to have seen more of the politics involved from the two planets, which would also give a good look at the new governments and so on. And finally, we have the megacorp Protogen, but they’re almost a plastic villain, with disappointingly little developed there. However, these have all come to me after the fact, and certainly didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book at the time!

(Incidentally – I thought Miller did the right thing, which is what made Holden so much more annoying to me. You’ll know what I mean when you read this book!)

All in all, this book is awesome. The limitations I just mentioned are completely overlooked in favour of the fantastic storytelling that we do have. This is also the first book in a series, so it’s entirely possible this is merely setting something else up. Certainly, the epilogue has got me thinking several plotlines could be in the works next! Can Fred be trusted? Just what is happening on Venus?

If you’d like to read io9’s review, which is also quoted on the cover, check it out here.

For Geekritiqued’s review, the blog where I first heard of the series, take a look here.

Then head over to amazon and buy yourself a copy!

An impasse, maybe

Hey everybody!
Well last week was a bit crazy for me, work was busy as hell, on top of which I was trying to write an essay for the degree I’m still doing. Somehow, I made it, though!

Last night we saw the new Necron releases go up for pre-order on Games Workshop’s webstore, centring on the new Codex release.

Codex Necrons

This has been something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I only got into the hobby back in August, of course, and following some experimental painting, I discovered the joy of Necrons through the Lychguard, one of which was featured as part of the tutorial videos GW put out to demonstrate the new paint range back in the day.

Necron Lychguard

Anyhow. This chap looked awesome, and I quickly got myself a box of them, and haven’t looked back since! The Lychguard box has got to be the most enjoyable kit to assemble, with a whole myriad of poses available that really excite me!

Necron Lychguard

My first painting efforts, above, I’m quite pleased with (even if I do say so myself!), and it wasn’t long before I’d been thinking, let’s do this! So I was buying all sorts of stuff, including the Battleforce, and was enjoying building up all manner of kits. When Shield of Baal hit in December, and we had Necron involvement there, I was in my element! However, around Christmas I seemed to hit the saturation point. I had over twenty models in varying stages of completion, along with at least a dozen that were awaiting assembly, and I think I’d just had my fill of little metal soldiers, no matter how cool and evil-looking they were!

Taking a break over Christmas seemed to make things worse, so a couple of weeks ago I broke into new territory with the Ogre Kingdoms kits, and that seems to have fulfilled the purpose of getting me back into painting. However, that is pretty scattered at the minute, and I’m hardly in any sort of rush to finish those guys. And I’m still a bit hesitant to get back to the Necrons. Thinking I might combat that if I tried something new, I’ve started building one of the exotic Forge World kits, the Canoptek Acanthrites, but find myself just thinking, well this is goofy.

Might look better painted, of course, though you never know…!

There are only a few new things accompanying the new Codex release, anyway:

The new Overlord, named Zarathusa the Ineffable in the Baal campaign, is almost as expensive as a box of Lychguard, which has surprised me greatly. Now that we’re seeing the up-close pictures, I’m finding myself thinking he looks more than a little goofy, also. He is, however, all-plastic, which is cause enough to rejoice. The Tomb Awakened army box is actually a pretty good deal, six kits with a £27.50 saving, so you almost get a free box of Canoptek Wraiths. I’ve actually placed an order with my local games store, as he sells GW for a discount, so I’m saving a further £11.50! Marvellous stuff. It’s got a whole host of stuff that I’ll use, so it’s definitely a good choice. Better, in fact, than the Battleforce, as it doesn’t include those horrible Warriors!

The datacards I did purchase from the webstore, and I’m quite glad I did – seems they sold out within a couple of hours, though ebay is currently doing a wonderful trade in them for around 3x the price. The Codex was also available for pre-order in the Cryptek edition, following the standard for such things in having individual dataslates, objective markers, and other fancy bits. I was tempted, though £100 seemed a bit steep when you can buy the same information for £30. However, ebay is once again rejoicing in listings that have doubled the webstore price. While I’m all for capitalism, profiteering like this just angers me, and a brief look around the gaming community this morning has revealed I’m not alone! But it’s not the first time, and I doubt it’ll be the last.

I’m feeling in a bit of a weird place over all of this, anyway. I’ve wanted the Codex for so long, to finally have information about these models I’ve been painting and so on, but now it’s here, it feels a bit anti-climactic. I’m not feeling in any great rush to built up and paint more Necrons, and yet have just ordered over £100-worth of more models. And you just know I’ll be getting that Codex this time next week, alongside the new Overlord. But I’m almost entirely sure they’ll be put on the shelf as I procrastinate over painting the myriad other stuff I’ve got since. Hm!

A lot can happen in a week, though. I’m sure the website will be running a series of what’s new hype over next week, and I may yet find myself over-excited for these things by that time!


The Galaxy’s Most Wanted

Hey everybody!
After the fun and frolics of post 200, I’m back with more games and stuff for your general enjoyment! (Don’t worry, part two of Pursuit is also well into post-production, I’m merely forced into a short hiatus while I write an essay). I’ve been experimenting with the game-day format over a couple of posts over the past couple of months, and want to continue that here, as I take a look today at the third faction for X-Wing: Scum and Villainy!

X-Wing Scum and Villainy

The third faction was announced at Gen Con last year, and is due to drop anytime now. Consisting of four distinct expansions, with a whole slew of cards and stuff, it brings the nefarious galactic fringe to the game, with such infamous characters as Prince Xizor, Drea Renthal and, of course, Boba Fett.

But Fett is already in the game! I hear you cry. Well, this is where the first of the new packs, Most Wanted, comes into play. Featuring three ships – two Z95 Headhunters and a Y-Wing – it has new pilot cards for both ship types in the new Scum faction, along with new Scum pilots for the HWK-290 and Firespray-31, so you can repurpose your Mouldy Crow and Slave I however you see fit! Fantastic times! This isn’t just about new pilots, though, as the whole feel of the ship is changed by what upgrades you can now provide – including repurposed astromech droids and goodness-only-knows-what through the illicit upgrade!

X-Wing Scum and Villainy

Heading into the Shadows of the Empire, the StarViper expansion brings us the iconic Prince Xizor and Guri, with the Virago. Most interestingly, however, it also features a new type of manoeuvre, the Segnor’s Loop – effectively a Koiogran Turn but performed on a bank template rather than a straight forward one. Looks like interesting stuff!

This whole expansion looks really good, though, and is making me want to re-read the Steve Perry novel! Soon…soon…

X-Wing Scum and Villainy

The StarViper is the top-tier ship in the faction, while the M3-A Interceptor is definitely on a lower rung. Familiar to fans from the Star Wars: Galaxies video game, it comes with some interesting new upgrade choices, such as the flechette cannon, similar to the ion cannon but gives the attacked ship one stress token. Useful for forcing the position of an opponent next turn, and 1 point cheaper than the ion cannon. Hm.

X-Wing Scum and Villainy

Lastly, we have the very exciting IG-2000! An Aggressor assault fighter modified for its droid owner, the ship comes with all four incarnations of the bounty hunter IG-88. While each comes with an excitingly full upgrade bar, at 36 points they’re among the most expensive pilots in the game! Of course, they come with some pretty exciting skills for that cost, including performing more actions and attacks, and indeed, the choice of using a bank or turn template to complete the Segnor’s Loop manoeuvre! Just…wow!

X-Wing Scum and Villainy

The title IG-2000 also allows your bounty hunters to synchronize their skills, which just makes a scary-looking build even scarier. Or more awesome, depending which side of the table you’re sat at! At 36 points each, of course, you’re only going to get two of these guys into a standard 100-point squad, but when you look at some of the higher-value games some people play, the potential to have all four droids on the table, each able to use the other three skills…sheesh!

IG-88 is the star of the very enjoyable short story Therefore I Am, from the Tales of the Bounty Hunters anthology that I mentioned a whiles back. In fact, this whole wave has had the dual-nature of exciting me for X-Wing, but also for the expanded universe that I so love! There is a whole host of stuff that can be mined for this game now, I look forward to seeing what’s next on the roster, at any rate! Also, what’s with those rebel/imperial/scum icon tokens in the picture above? I wonder if there’s some way of hiring ships on a job, so you can use a bounty hunter’s ship as a rebel, or something? Could be interesting…

X-Wing Scum and Villainy

This is a very exciting development for the game, in my opinion. What with wave six bringing a new faction, and the longed-for Imperial huge ship coming too, 2015 looks to be an immensely enjoyable year for X-Wing!

I’m really, really glad that I’m finally getting to play this game now, though whether my wallet can say the same thing will remain to be seen… because you just know I’m getting two of those IG-2000s!

Back to Marvel!

Star Wars #1 is out, though I haven’t got it in my own little hands yet. I’m trying to avoid any spoilers about this series, so don’t have a lot to say as yet, but I thought I’d share this video that was put online yesterday.

Basically, it’s actually got me excited about this new series!

I’ve been fairly resentful of the fact that the EU has been dumped, of course, but I can’t help feeling excited about this. I think it’s more to do with the idea of making the universe feel new and vibrant once more. I had a similar thought back when Dark Horse set about with their reboot of the universe – a reboot that I haven’t yet read, but still!

I’m expecting the new book to hit soon, so will be back with a review then!


Pursuit (part one)

Here it is, folks, my 200th blog! To celebrate, here’s the first part of my latest foray into writing Star Wars short stories! 


The setting sun cast the city in a rich golden colour, as former senator Giddean Danu switched off the comm unit. So that’s that, he thought to himself. Since Palpatine had dispossessed him of his authority, Danu had been seeking ways to exact his revenge. The news that one of the self-styled Emperor’s Advisors was leaving the centre of the web had prompted Danu to contact Vrandil once again, with a request that Lord Verpalion be eliminated.

Taking these steps against the Empire wouldn’t bring back his old life, Danu realised, but he carried them out nevertheless. His experiences during the end of the Republic had hardened him, and made him vengeful. Seeing his fellow senators murdered had been a particularly traumatic experience, and he swore to hurt Palpatine as he had been hurt.

Perhaps one day things would improve, but Danu no longer knew who he could trust from his old life. Former colleagues in the now-Imperial Senate still debated the injustices of the Empire, but such debates never went on for long. Twice, he had thought about approaching Mon Mothma, who had been active at the end of the War in seeking out opposition to Palpatine’s continued tenure as Chancellor, but he had stopped himself at the last minute. Palpatine had agents everywhere, after all, just poised ready to root out treason and sedition. What if Mon Mothma had been bought off, and worked to expose enemies of the state?

No, Danu thought it best to work alone. Using the contacts from his family’s business for corporate warfare, he had established a relatively productive relationship with the Koorivar, Vrandil, who he had engaged to wreak a modest wave of sabotage throughout the Thanium Worlds, most recently on the jungle planet of Felucia. Vrandil certainly had his uses, that was for sure.

Turning his back on the viewport, Danu reactivated the comm as he decided to use the second piece of information he had recently acquired, and make contact with one of the Gossam aides to former Commerce Guild president Shu Mai.

Strange times make for strange bedfellows, he thought.


Rando was exhausted. It felt like everything had gone wrong on this one. A small-time industrial sabotage, that’s what Vrandil had told him. Instead, he was being chased by the Imperials, his ship impounded. Fortunately, an old friend had been passing through the system on semi-legitimate business, and he had managed to score a ride off-planet with him.

He mused on the loss of his ship for an unnaturally long time. Big Blue wasn’t anything special, of course, but it had been his ship, all the same. These days, it was a pretty big deal for a guy like him to have a ship. Most folks back home were trapped there, thinking a speeder was the height of the big-time. Not one for long periods of musing, Rando nevertheless felt the loss keenly. He’d thought about talking to Vrandil about it, perhaps securing the loan of something the Koorivar might have before he could get another. He owes me that, at least. Eventually, however, he’d decided to just go with the flow, and take jobs wherever he could until he had the credits to replace it.

The clatter of boots on deck brought Rando back to reality.

“Just made hyperspace, my friend, so you can stop looking so glum!” came the voice accompanying the boots.

Rando looked over with a half-sardonic expression. “I always look like this.”

Mazzic scratched at the side of his face for a moment. “So, how hot is the water this time? You in some local trouble, or something bigger?”

“Local, I think. Job went sour, had my ship impounded, but I dunno if it’s anything bigger.”

“It sure looked bigger, from where I was standing.” Mazzic checked some readouts on the opposite wall.

Rando shook his head slowly. “Industrial sabotage, that’s what I was signed on for.” My specialty, he wanted to add, but thought better of it.

“Uh-huh.” Mazzic propped his boots up on the console in the lounge, and folded his arms. “So, where to?”

Rando thought for a moment. “Not sure, if I’m honest. Murkhana too far out of your way?” he added, hopeful.

Mazzic’s bark of laughter was answer enough. “Murkhana? What the gfersh do you want to go there for?!”

“My boss lives there. Some kinda business man or something. Pay’s good, though.”

“You still gonna keep blowing stuff up, then?” Mazzic shook his head ruefully. “You should get into the easy work. You’re sneaky, Rando, you’d make a great smuggler.”

Rando blew out his breath. “I like seeing stuff blow up, what can I say? Smuggling’s just not for me, I guess.”

“Well, listen, I need to lie low for a while, so we’re headed for the nearest shadowport. Call your boss, see what he’s got for you, and we’ll see what we can do from there. Okay?”

“Cheers, Mazzic, I owe you one.”

“This makes us even, Rando. Don’t sweat it.”


The nearest shadowport turned out to be Point Nadir. Officially a comet with the unassuming label of Resh-9376, centuries ago it was turned into a hideaway for a Corellian pirate, but more recently had come under Hutt control. Mazzic had come across the location early in his career, and always made sure to keep the position of the comet plotted, in case he needed to evade Imperial pursuit – like now. While few could claim to be fans of the Hutts, the fact remained that they were among the most influential groups in the galactic fringe, and no self-respecting smuggler could really afford to avoid business with them. Not if he wanted to make the big money.

As for Rando, well he didn’t care who he worked for, so long as he got to blow stuff up.

Mazzic had been cleared by Traffic Control, and had landed his ship in the Tethers area of Fische’s Cove, a huge cavern named after the pirate who first called the comet home. After paying a Houk thug the customary bribe, the two set off into the Arcade, what passed for an entertainment district within the confines of a comet.

The two entered Lucky’s Casino in the hope of getting food that wouldn’t kill them, Mazzic heading straight for the bar while Rando went for a look around. The explosives expert had an almost child-like wonder about him whenever he found himself outside of his relative comfort zone, as if seeing the galaxy for the first time. He passed by the sabacc tables, not really knowing how to play the game, and briefly watched a Rodian and a Devaronian engaged in a lively game of horansi, before moving back to the bar to join Mazzic.

“Here,” the smuggler pushed a tankard towards him. “I might have a heads-up on a job that’ll get me off this pebble.” Mazzic picked up a couple of the berries that were on offer around the bar, looked at them dubiously for a moment, then thought better of it and returned them to the dish. “You had any thoughts on where you’re going next?”

Rando sniffed cautiously at the tankard Mazzic had offered, and took a tentative sip before replying. It turned out to be a decent shasa ale, at least. “Nothing solid, no. Don’t know who’s running around here, to see if there’s any work going. You say it was the Hutts?”

Mazzic looked warningly at the other before replying in a low voice. “The Hutts are only nominally in charge. Last time I was here, there were a whole bunch of organizations trying to take control of this joint. Try not to be conspicuous when you look, okay?” He took a gulp of his own ale. “There could still be some pretty nasty guys around here…”

“’Nasty guys’? I hope you ain’t including me in that, you old pirate.” The voice coming from behind Mazzic was strangely accented, though definitely Outer-Rim. Mazzic turned slowly to face the newcomer, his hand drifting from the bar as he did so, but stopped well short of the blaster it had been moving towards.

“Well I never… When did they release you from hell, Chac?”

“Good to see you haven’t lost your old charm, Mazzic.” Rando shifted slightly in his seat, and finally saw the newcomer as a tall, blue-skinned, red-eyed Duros. “I’m fine, by the way, thanks for asking. Take more than a blaster bolt in the stomach to finish me off, I can tell ya.” He slapped Mazzic on the shoulder before moving closer to the bar. “Who’s your friend?”

“This here’s Rando, best explosives guy in the business. He’s an artist with a detonator, lemme tell ya. Rando, this is Chac, a fellow smuggler that just might make the big time one day, but I don’t hold out much hope.”

Chac threw a look at Mazzic before nodding politely to Rando. “You’re not looking for work, by any chance, are you?”

“Just finalising a deal, then I’m outta here. You don’t need an explosives man, do you?”

Chac looked at Rando as if appraising him. “Well, I don’t, of course, but I keep my ear to the ground, in a manner of speaking, and I could point you in the direction of some very profitable work, if the price is right…?” The Duro’s voice had a strange, almost buzzing quality that had a vaguely soporific effect for Rando.

“What’s the job?” he asked, taking another gulp of the shasa ale as nonchalantly as possible.

“A little bit of commercial rivalry, someone wants to take a competitor down a peg or two. I’m sure you’d have no problems, if you’re the artist young Mazzic here makes you out to be…” Chac was almost hypnotic with that voice.

Without many options open to him, Rando nodded assent as he put the tankard down. “Sure, why not?”

“Excellent. I’m headed over there myself for another job, if you’re about finished here…?” Chac invited.

Rando nodded once to Mazzic. “See you later, I guess. Thanks for the ale.”


Zietta the Hutt undulated around the circular audience chamber, impatient for the tedium to be over. The nominal head of the Anjiliac Clan on Point Nadir since the assassination of her cousin, Zietta had ever since maintained a wariness of these audiences with smugglers and mercenaries. Once the latest round of contracts had been doled out, she planned to retire to her chambers for a snack, possibly a nap. She was in the prime of her life, and needed to maintain her corpulence as a show of her importance.

The Rodian bounty hunter bowed low, and turned on his heel before leaving the chamber. Rude, Zietta thought.  Tis Dolan was already tapping at her datapad for the next contract, however, so Zietta let it pass.

“Demolitions,” the Wroonian enunciated curtly.

A grubby-looking human male stepped forward, with short, greasy hair and a generally unkempt appearance. Zietta looked disdainfully through her heavily-lidded eyes before returning her attention to the shadows across the chamber. It wasn’t so long ago that Tirello had been killed, and while Tis Dolan had assured her no harm would come to her now she was head of the Clan, Zietta nevertheless felt exposed with so many other beings in the room. She noted six Houk guardsmen close by, their hulking arms clutching force pikes across their chests, beady eyes staring balefully from beneath scaly brows, and forced herself to relax.

“…payment for the job is 1500 credits, payable only on successful completion…” Tis Dolan was saying. Zietta felt herself lucky to have such a competent aide, allowing the Hutt to indulge herself with more meaningful pastimes while on the comet.

The grubby-looking human male nodded his head, and accepted a datacard with the coordinates of the job. He nodded his head and also turned to leave. Will these lesser beings never learn respect? Zietta wondered, as she once again glanced around the room to confirm the guards’ presence.

A Devaronian stepped forward to accept a smuggling job…


“Are you nuts?”

Rando was taken aback by Mazzic’s tone. “Whaddaya mean?”

“Accepting a job without any payment upfront? From the Hutts? You must be insane!”

Rando thought about it for a minute. “I know the Hutts are a bit seedy…” he began.

“’Seedy’?” Mazzic let out a bark of sarcastic laughter.

“But they’re businesspeople,” Rando finished, as if that settled the issue.

Mazzic wiped his hand across his forehead. “You must be nuts,” he said again, calmer this time. “Rando, you need to learn to negotiate.” They were back on Mazzic’s ship, the captain once again with his legs propped on the console. “So what’s the job?”

Rando looked back at his datapad, giving it a slight tap to wake it up. “Warehouse demolition, over on Nar Shaddaa. Seems pretty straightforward, anyway.”

“Uh-huh,” Mazzic came over to look at the particulars. “Need a ride?”

“You wouldn’t be offering, would you?” Rando asked, hopeful.

“Well, my job went sour, so I’m free if you wanna cut me in on the deal.”

Rando scrolled through the rest of the document. “I can do better than that.”

Mazzic turned to look at him. “Go on…”

“See here, the warehouse they want me to blow up? It’s in the Corellian Sector. I spent some time there once, learning the trade and whatnot. This warehouse is owned by Besadii, it’s a spice store.”

Mazzic looked thoughtful for a moment. I don’t wanna get caught in some kinda Hutt war, but that’d be a heck of a lotta spice in there… Out loud, he said, “So you think we should empty out the warehouse before blowing it? Assuming there’s anything in there?”

“Says here it’s full. I’ve heard rumours of Besadii stockpiling spice, hoping to drive up the market price, that’s probably why these guys want it blown.”

“Since when do you know anything about anything? Besides blowing stuff up, of course?”

Rando gave an awkward smile. “Well, I keep an ear open, I hear things, you know?”

Mazzic snorted with amusement. “You are a sneaky fish, you know that?!” He shook his head.

“Why does everyone always think I don’t know more than how to blow stuff up?!”


The man running from the scene appeared to be the pilot of the ship Big Blue, whose registry details match those of the ship that evaded Imperial patrols over Felucia six months ago. This ship has since been impounded by customs officials. Upon searching the ship, officials discovered items consistent with a demolitionist. The man is therefore to be detained for questioning about the incidents on Felucia and Lianna upon arrest…

Captain Faise had read the report twice, and felt no less angry the second time than the first. The elusive criminal responsible for the deaths of his stormtroopers on Felucia had resurfaced, this time in an attack on one of the Emperor’s Inner Circle. Intelligence seemed in no doubt that this person was a rebel, and could possibly lead to the discovery of a major cell, if not more.

The Dauntless had been given the singular privilege of his capture, something that Faise was looking forward to immensely. He called up the Lianna report again, and skim-read the details of the criminal’s pursuit through the city. His evasion of pursuit was linked to the departure of a Kuat Drive Yards freighter, though the report was a little hazy as to the connection. That it was mentioned at all was worth pursuing, however, so he logged the reference in the ship’s computer, for the duty officer to be aware.

The comm unit buzzed, briefly startling the captain. “Faise here.”

“Captain, we’ve received a report from an informant on Nar Shaddaa. It seems the demolitionist has been seen on the Smugglers’ Moon.”

“Is the source reliable?” The Empire had informants everywhere, though some were little more than con artists.

“It’s the same source that led to the capture of the Duros weapons smuggler by Captain Pomeran, sir.”

Interesting. “Very well. Thank you, Ensign. Have navigation plot our course immediately. Faise out.”

I have you now…


To be continued – soon!