Warhammer Quest Silver Tower: first game

Hey everybody!
While not exactly planned, it’s the second of a two-part game day! Following last week’s first impressions of the new Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower boxed game from Games Workshop, over the weekend I got to play my first game with it, having spent last week building all of the miniatures. So I thought I’d come back here to talk more about the gameplay and kinda build upon last week’s blog.

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

First of all, as you no doubt know if you’ve read this blog for any great length of time, I’m a very big Warhammer fan. Warhammer fantasy is what got me interested in this universe, and I’m very much enjoying Age of Sigmar right now. So that kinda colours the perspectives here. I also enjoy a good dungeon crawl, so the stars have really aligned on this one!

The game plays pretty straightforward. I described the various phases last time, where you roll five ‘destiny dice’, discard any duplicates, then roll your hero dice and determine how you play your actions on your turn. In addition to the basic actions, each hero has a few abilities that make them feel somewhat unique, though a lot of this does feel like something of a dice-fest.

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

Combat was interesting to me. I say this because, whether it was purely down to my good fortune in the game or not, but I seemed to have a pretty easy time of things. The Knight-Questor has the capacity to deal a lot of damage in melee, and can pull as many as three enemies towards him to facilitate this (and make up for his otherwise ponderous gait). The Tenebrael Shard (that’s Dark Elf to you and me) has the ability to move anywhere on the board and then double combat damage dealt in the round, and one of his weapons does d3 damage. That was all pretty powerful, and often resulted in no adversary phase because none were left!

The renown track that goes up when certain conditions are met, such as your hero slaughtering enemies, was a nice way to pace the discovery of skills that can do things like increase speed and whatnot, though at times it felt like it was going up extremely slowly, as I kept drawing chamber tiles with no enemies placed on them! I was initially sceptical about the number of miniatures in the game at first – 45 enemies for a game as big as this seemed a little low, but then there is more to this than just killing stuff.

And this is what I liked about the game. There are all manner of different types of tests the adventure book puts you through, one of my favourites being trying to accomplish a number of dice-based tasks within a time limit. That was actually a lot more fun than I’m making it sound!

I must admit to being a little confused by how exactly you’re supposed to go through the whole trials thing – I made the mistake of just setting it up and beginning immediately, without thinking about any kind of campaign play. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a blast, and I really managed to get to grips with the rules and stuff in the game I had, but without going to the adventure book first, I think I ran the risk of actually just having an endless game of exploring the same tiles and killing the same enemies forever.

Though I guess you could argue that’s the entire point of the maddening Silver Tower of Tzeentch!

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

The miniatures are tremendous quality, and the game really is a lot of fun. There is a but coming, however, something that kept nagging at me while I was playing through the game:

This will only appeal to a very specific type of gamer: a Warhammer fan.

I can’t really think of any other reason why you would buy this. Dungeon crawl games in a fantasy universe of this calibre aren’t exactly ten-a-penny, but there is a whole lot of choice out there for board gamers these days. Descent and D&D Adventure System games are two that instantly leap to mind when I think of this genre and, while Descent uses a DM in the main game, there are official co-op variants available. The games are all very similar in feel and, to an extent, in style, but buying the base game for Descent will set you back £65 MSRP, while the D&D games come at £45 each. Paying £95 MSRP for Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower is only going to happen if you’re already invested in the world, if you’re interested in getting the miniatures to paint (and probably use in other games, notably Age of Sigmar), and likely not because you’re interested in a fantasy dungeon-crawl tabletop game.

I bought this game because I love the Warhammer setting, and have been thinking about using some of the miniatures in Age of Sigmar. The fact that it’s a co-op dungeon crawl is just icing on the cake, really. If you’re looking for a fantasy game with great miniatures that you just want to sit down with friends and play, then unless you’ve got money to throw around (and time to build the miniatures), I would honestly suggest you check some of the other games out.

But if you love Warhammer and are looking for something lighter than the full-on tabletop war game, then Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower might be exactly what you’re looking for!


The Force Awakens, for the third time

Hey everybody,
I watched The Force Awakens again at the weekend, the third time now, and while I know that’s nothing too special in and of itself, it’s really gotten me thinking about the movie, the new lore, and all the rest of it, so I thought what better way to spend a three-day weekend than to ramble about stuff here on my blog?! You’re welcome.

So, first of all, I have to say that I’m surprised (in the best possible way) just how much more I enjoy this movie with subsequent viewings. When I first saw it, I was impressed but felt a bit nit-picky; the second viewing was better and thought-provoking. This third viewing, I was surprised to feel myself loving almost all of it!

The Force Awakens Hosnian Prime

I still feel a little disappointed at the lack of any sense of history for the movie, but I think that’s becoming less of an issue now. Bloodline did a tremendous job of helping out here, of course, and while the destruction of the Hosnian system still feels a bit meh, because we don’t know (and so, don’t care about) the people there. But I think that may come to be more prominent later down the line. I’ll probably get to theories later, but I have the feeling somehow that too much important stuff was left out between episodes VI and VII, that we may be getting a lot more than just books and comics that fill in the gaps here. I always thought the biggest obstacle to movies or TV shows would be the age of the iconic actors, but if Disney is willing to cast a new Han Solo for the upcoming anthology movie, then I don’t think it’ll be long before we get a movie/series showing Jedi hijinks with a new Luke, for instance.

The Force Awakens The First Order

The more I watch this movie, and in particular, the more I read stuff like Bloodline, I’m much more interested in just who the First Order are. In the film, they’re a bunch of neo-Imperials who are intent of the destruction of the New Republic and Leia’s Resistance. They’re led by Supreme Leader Snoke, a guy who has just popped out of nowhere but who has apparently been around forever, and have an affiliation with Dark Side users like the Kylo Ren and, possibly, the rest of the Knights of Ren. Not sure if they’re all Dark Siders, of course. Again, Bloodline did a great job of explaining how members of the New Republic, eager for a return of order to the galaxy, led to a new-Empire arising.

Something that I find interesting, that has been pointed out in a few other places now, is how the First Order folks are all fairly young types, and it feels like they’re kinda playing at being bad guys, but they’re pretty bad at it. Like they’re play-acting what they thought the Empire was like, but kinda getting it wrong. Probably the best example of this is General Hux’s speech before Starkiller Base is fired. He’s practically having a fit – yes, kinda like Hitler – when talking about destroying the New Republic, and yet when the weapon is actually fired and the camera returns to him, he has something akin to a vulnerability to him, the look on his face is almost like “what have we done?!” but not quite there. I find fascinating the idea that they’re a bit like kids who have been trying to be mean, suddenly find themselves actually doing mean and horrible things, and feel that they can’t back out anymore.

Whether it’ll turn out to be the case or not, we’ll see, but it’s definitely a much more interesting take than merely bad for the sake of having a movie villain, as I first thought!

The Force Awakens Supreme Leader Snoke

Returning to ol’ Snoke for a moment, I don’t really have any major theories here. The Plagueis rumour has been done to death, yet even with Lucasfilm alum Pablo Hidalgo saying they aren’t the same person, it seems the internet isn’t willing to give that one up. I am more interested in the fact that he’s a new person – I mean, why must everybody we meet in these films be somehow related to everybody we already know?!

At any rate, I’m looking forward to seeing who he will be. I find it interesting that Leia talks about him like other people in the galaxy know who he is – he’s not some shadowy puppet master, but it’s almost like he’s a public figure to some degree, who’s possibly in hiding after whatever trauma did that to his head.

One of the many things that has me excited about Star Wars now!

The Force Awakens Maz Kanata

Staying with characters, let’s talk Maz Kanata for a while! I just loved these scenes – the rich history of Star Wars crowd scenes, such as the cantina or Jabba’s palace, it’s good to see that continue here! While there is some element of the static about it – like the Outlander Club in episode II – I still like seeing the huge buffet of life on offer in the galaxy. The character of Maz is one who I find incredibly believable, for a mo-cap creation, and that really got me interested in just who precisely she is. Sure, she runs her “castle” bar and has done for a thousand years, but who is she, you know? I guess what I’m driving at is, why the hell does she have Luke’s lightsaber in her basement, when it was lost during the Cloud City battle in episode V? How has she managed to get it?! I was never entirely convinced that the Emperor had recovered it, as explained in The Last Command, but I feel there may be more of a story here than was touched on in the movie.

She says she’s “no Jedi”, but knows the Force, and the way she talks about it does make me think she’s part of this Church of the Force that has been talked about in the Visual Dictionary. I still need to get my hands on that book, as I get the impression there’s more in there than I’d thought!

The Force Awakens Lor San Tekka

I mentioned this after the second viewing, but Lor San Tekka is one of these characters I’m really keen to learn more about. Now, he is part of this Church of the Force, as the Dictionary tells us, though what precisely that means is still a little hazy to me. Sure, they’re a group of people who revere the Jedi way and whatnot, but I definitely feel there’s more here, and not just in that Star Wars obsessee way!

In the same way I feel Maz is a much more important character than perhaps she has credit for, because she has the lightsaber, I feel there’s a massive story around Lor San Tekka than we got to see in the movie. The opening crawl calls him an old ally of Leia’s, and I get the sense there’s an Obi-Wan vibe going on, similar to “years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars”. There’s a history here that we don’t get explained, yet it seems criminal to let this go to waste.

He also knows who Kylo Ren is. Now, it’s one thing to know Leia had a son who went off to train as a Jedi, but I get the sense that the Kylo Ren/Ben Solo thing is similar to the Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker thing – the average schmuck wouldn’t know they were the same person. So I’m guessing Lor San Tekka is closer to the Jedi than merely revering their philosophy as a religion. Of course, the fact that he has the map to Luke Skywalker also points to the idea that he’s closer to Luke than we think, as well. Maybe he was employed at the Jedi Academy? Hm.

This blog is running a little long now, so I think I’ll end it here. I don’t really have anything to offer around the lineage of Finn or Rey – part of me is actually not that interested in either, if I’m honest. Finn makes a point of saying he was taken from his parents before he was old enough to really know them, and Rey is waiting for hers to come collect her on Jakku, so there is likely a story waiting on both. However, both Finn and – especially – Rey are sufficiently interesting characters that I want to see them develop on their own. If we were suddenly told that Luke was Rey’s father, it wouldn’t actually add anything to her for me, because she’s a fantastic character in her own right.

There’ll be another 18 months, at least, before we find the answers to these questions, so I guess we’ll just have to be patient.

But I, for one, cannot believe how excited all of this has made me for new Star Wars material now! It’s so cool to be genuinely in the dark on stuff!

Hobby Progress, week 21

Well folks, my hobby progress blog comes of age! 21 weeks of doing stuff with Warhammer miniatures, and what a time it’s been!

This week, I’ve not actually painted anything, but I have built a load of stuff, starting with the Silver Tower minis!

I’ve built up all of the monsters, and three of the heroes, and actually got in a game at the weekend – keep an eye out for the write-up on Tuesday! I’ve not yet got round to painting anything, however I’m planning to do this kinda slowly and do it in stages. I’m not in any particular rush to get them done, I’m used to playing games with unpainted minis, after all, but I do want to get them done soon. Stay tuned for progress here!

Finally, as if building up almost 50 miniatures for the game, I’ve also done these guys! I am so excited about getting these built – I wrote a blog a while ago saying how I’d always wanted to have a Tomb Kings army, and I’m finally on the way to making this happen! The Necropolis Knights are probably my favourite of all those I managed to get my hands on during the Last Chance to Buy thing, so I’m really pleased to see them come together.

I’ve got an awful lot of miniatures on the go now, which is something ideally I wanted to avoid. However, I’m also thinking that it’s best to go along with painting whatever I’m feeling in the mood for – that certainly did me well the week before last, with the Stormcast extravaganza! My degree course has now finished for the summer, so I’ve got four months in which I’ll hopefully get a lot done! I’m really hoping that I’ll get to finish a lot of things off, and get a lot of stuff painted up that has been sat around for weeks or months in boxes. Though of course, this is me…

Let’s see what these four months will bring!

Catching up with Marvel Star Wars

Hey everybody!
In addition to re-watching the Clone Wars TV series recently, I’ve also been reading my way through some of the recent Star Wars comics from Marvel. They’ve been a bit hit-and-miss, if I’m honest, but let’s take a look!

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Time to investigate more #StarWars #comics I think!

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First on the list is Princess Leia. I was really interested by this series when it was announced, though I have to admit, I wasn’t overly impressed. The story follows Leia in the immediate aftermath to the Battle of Yavin, but it’s a bit weirdly done, if I’m honest. More than anything, it feels a bit rushed, with very little time spent on much of anything. We follow Leia as she tries to unite the Alderaan expatriots, first from Naboo and then Sullust, ending on Espirion. It’s interesting, but as I said, a bit rushed. She’s teamed up with an Alderaanian pilot who has something of a frosty relationship with her, but it kinda thaws but kinda not by the end. The Naboo portion really didn’t live up to my expectations, and the Sullust part just felt out of character somewhat. Finally, the Espirion bit seemed just tacked-on in order to bring about a conclusion.

I’m a huge lover of the planet Naboo, and feel like this in particular could have been given more time. Indeed, if the story had been that Leia was going to rescue a hidden group of Alderaanians, was unwittingly betrayed and managed to defeat their pursuit, that would have been a better story. By adding in all of this extraneous stuff, nothing is given enough time to develop, and it’s just left me feeling a bit meh about the whole thing.

Lando was a bit better. We see the con artist steal a ship in order to clear a debt – only it turns out to be the Emperor’s ship, and he’s not impressed! There are some twists and turns, but obviously Lando survives to later run Cloud City and stuff. What I found most interesting here was the way Lobot is used in the story. He’s basically a guy with cyborg implants, who is constantly fighting against those implants asserting themselves over his neural pathway. Kinda spoiler alert: in order to save the others, Lobot succumbs to the implants and is turned pretty much fully into the cyborg we know from Empire. It was really cool to see that, I have to say – so many stories seem to ignore him!

While it is a bit far-fetched at times, overall I thought the story was pretty good for what it tries to do. It’s not going to set the world alight, but if you’re a Lando fan, then you’ll enjoy it.

Finally – Chewbacca. Oh boy, is this one a mess. A comic that focuses on the big Wookiee is always going to be somewhat predoomed by the fact that Chewie is unintelligible to the audience, and while stories have been told previously that use square brackets to give his lines, I was a bit concerned. As it turns out, the story mainly focuses on the denizens of a far-flung planet as they are forced to mine beetle larvae that somehow help to power blasters – a planet that Chewie has managed to crash-land upon. The daughter of one of these miners manages to enlist his help to free the miners, framing the overlord as a Rebel sympathiser in the bargain.

The story was just…dumb. Chewie’s interactions with the kid were weird, as she went from cautious and trying to scavenge food from him to pretty much demanding he help the miners escape and calling him out as a coward between panels. The artwork was pretty great, though a lot of the Chewie portraits had him looking almost ironic, like he wasn’t really taking the whole thing seriously? I don’t know. It didn’t really sit well for me as a story, and really felt just irrelevant to the canon.

The only thing I would say is worthwhile are a couple of flashback panels where we see Chewie being taken prisoner by Trandoshan slavers. Remember, Chewie’s backstory as an Imperial slave freed by the Imperial cadet Han Solo is no longer canon, so this can pretty much go any way. I’m guessing the upcoming anthology movie that shows us Han’s background will likely feature Chewie prominently, so we can likely expect to get the full story there, but it was interesting to note these little bits.

So anyway, the first three miniseries were something of a mixed bag, and not really what I would call hugely relevant. The Leia story tries in this regard, but I feel it fails to deliver, leaving us with a bit of a mess overall, while Lando and Chewie are pretty much throwaway stories with little impact, that will mainly appeal to fans of the characters rather than the franchise as a whole. Lando was probably my favourite, simply because the characters were nailed, but I’m not about to say you need to go out and buy any of these things!

Star Wars: Clone Wars season one

Hey everybody,
I’m pleased to report that the final essay of my course has been submitted, a 3000-word beast that has taken me the best part of two weeks to hash together, and as a result: I have four month off! Very excited by this. I’m planning to get lots of exciting stuff done, and in particular I’m hoping to get a lot more done on this here blog – foremost, getting back into writing some short stories! I started doing something a couple of months back now, and moving forward with that is top of my list.

As a bit of light relief between studying, I’ve been watching the first season of Clone Wars once again, partly because of encountering Cham Syndulla in Lords of the Sith and feeling like I should try to reconnect with this stuff.

Star Wars Clone Wars

I have to say, all of this stuff is pretty hit and miss for me. I know it’s primarily a kid’s show and all, but it just goes too weird or whatever, and I find it quite hard to watch. While it hasn’t improved with age, I will admit that some of these episodes do bring back some fond memories for me. I’m hardly that young, of course, but it harkens back to a time when we were getting a lot of new stuff that was supported in games like Star Wars Miniatures and the RPG.

The series was launched with a movie that was just awful. The Jedi are keen to gain control of hyperlanes in the Outer Rim, so when Jabba the Hutt asks for the Republic’s help in rescuing his son, they leap to the chance. Turns out the Separatists have kidnapped Jabba’s offspring, and planned to frame the Jedi for it. When the Jedi manage to rescue the little Huttlet, the Separatists modify the plan and think to destroy the Jedi and blame the murder on them. Needless to say, good triumphs in the end…

First of all – Jabba has a child. Secondly – that child is called “Rotta”. Urgh. There are some nice moments in this, but by and large it’s just a cringefest – indeed, I’d forgotten just how bad it was until I watched it again. The worst of these is Ahsoka Tano, the padawan assigned to Anakin. I actually feel bad for hating on her, because she was clearly conceived as a role model for female fans where Padme wouldn’t cut it. The problem is, she is so transparently a Mary Sue character that it really is quite painful to watch at times.

Some of the worst moments in this regard actually come from the series, however. There are at least two moments that I recall vividly where Ahsoka, who is apparently young even for a padawan, tells established Jedi Master Luminara Unduli, and Jedi Knight Aayla Secura, that she knows better than them, and is proven right. It’s not so much that Ahsoka is right in these instances, but that the more senior members of the Jedi Order are dumbed down by comparison. Doesn’t help that Luminara is one of my favourite Jedi, of course, but it really ticks me off that Ahsoka is shown to be so super-wise and stuff. I also hate the fact she’s made out to be the inventor of the Marg Sabl manoeuvre, which tactical genius Thrawn uses in the opening of Heir to the Empire. Seriously – if she’s this good, why the hell isn’t she on the Jedi Council, already?

Ahsoka and Luminara

The battledroids are just annoying, and Jar Jar’s schtick makes me want to leave the room, but as I said above, there are also some good bits in here, too.

I really like the character design we have for both Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin’s is of course derivative of Darth Vader’s suit but, in a galaxy where nothing can happen without first being foreshadowed, it’s still a cool-looking design. Obi-Wan’s is a nice amalgam of Jedi robes and Clone Trooper armour, one that seems especially at home on a general in the field. Plo Koon has a similar look in his appearance, and it works really well.

There are a lot of arcs in the first season, mainly three-part, and of these, the Ryloth one (episodes 19-21) is probably my favourite. It does suffer a little too much from the “Mace Windu is a badass” syndrome that a lot of the prequel material has, but it’s overall pretty good.

Star Wars Clone Wars Kit Firsto

In addition, there are three stand-out episodes that I have to mention. First is Lair of Grievous, episode 10, which follows Kit Fisto and his former padawan Nahdar Vebb as they try to track the escaped Nute Gunray (the Viceroy escaped partly thanks to Ahsoka, who was busy acting like she’s the shit again). Nahdar has something of a chip on his shoulder from the off, it seems, and (spoiler alert) it comes as no surprise when his over-confidence leads to his demise. The Jedi find themselves in the lair of General Grievous, and I found it interesting to see how he keeps spare parts and stuff around – it was one of those character moments where seeing behind the curtain adds to the portrayal rather than detracts.

Star Wars Clone Wars Hidden Enemy

The Hidden Enemy, episode 16, is a prequel to the movie and shows Anakin and Obi-Wan attempting to lift the siege of the crystal-planet Christophsis. The episode has some interesting ideas in it, such as the clones showing a bit too much independent thought – one clone turns traitor, informing the droid army of the Jedi’s plan because he believes the clones are enslaved by the Jedi. While I don’t entirely buy that – clones otherwise have a strong bond to their brothers, and I wouldn’t have thought they’d willingly risk their brethren like that, but anyway. It’s also good to see Rex and Cody work together, something of a theme for the series.

I’m not a huge fan of Asajj Ventress – I liked her when she was introduced in the comics, but I feel she’s been over-exposed and, almost by necessity, this has led to her coming across as incompetent. It’s like Boba Fett syndrome – the character is interesting, so we see loads of him/her, but because they can never be shown to fulfill their potential, they’re forever shown being thwarted to some degree. In the cartoon series, Asajj is supposed to be this top-level assassin, but it’s even pointed out by Darth Sidious at one point how she has failed many times. Well, at any rate, this has lead to an interesting relationship with Obi-Wan, where the two frequently find themselves together on the battlefield, and it’s almost like some twisted kind of relationship the two have. It can be fun, anyway!

Star Wars Clone Wars Cad Bane

The season finale, Hostage Crisis, is one of my absolute favourites. We’re introduced to the Duros bounty hunter Cad Bane as a group of mercenaries infiltrates the Senate and holds a number of high-ranking officials hostage. I’m one of these who likes the political aspects of Star Wars, so I’ve always felt right at home in the senate scenes. This episode also has a strong link with the movie, as the mercenaries are trying to free Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s uncle who had aided the Separatists in their kidnap of Jabba’s son. I thought the feel of the episode was tremendous, and it felt like something of an event when I first saw it, introducing someone who would go on to become a significant player in the canon.

Overall, the series has some good bits, but some godawful bits as well. I do think it’s worth investigating if you haven’t already done so, as some of these good bits do kinda mitigate the bad! While I have all six seasons on DVD, I’ve only actually watched the first two all the way through (I think, I may have started 3…) but I’m intending to watch all of them this summer, and then make my merry way on to the Rebels cartoon as well. Look forward to that, then! Some of these episodes won’t be a surprise to me as I did used to follow all Star Wars news quite religiously, but I’m still interested to see the totality of what I’ve missed here. What better way to spend my summer vacation, right?!

I think, if I’m going to do this review thing properly, it’s only right to rank these episodes, so I’d say my top three episodes from the series are:

1. Hostage Crisis
2. The Hidden Enemy
3. Lair of Grievous

But what about you guys? Did you love the cartoon, or hate it? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for season two, which will be coming up within the next month or so (hopefully)!

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower: first impressions

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

Hey everybody!
In a surprise move, I’ve picked up this bad boy at the weekend and, while I haven’t yet gotten around to either assembling/painting the miniatures, or playing the game any other way, I have been doing a little research over the weekend, checking out the rules and reading the interviews and articles in the recent White Dwarfs. I have to say, I’m pretty excited by this game, so wanted to feature it here on a game day blog despite being only a first-impressions thing! But I’ve done that before, not least with the last boxed game from GW, so hopefully you’re all used to it by now!

I also made a video of the unboxing itself:

First of all, as with all of these sorts of things, let’s talk about the little plastic guys inside the box here.

There are six heroes: a Stormcast Eternal (who was another prime motivator in my buying this game), a Chaos Barbarian, a Dark Elf, a High Elf, a Warrior Priest, and a Fyreslayer. I think the most important thing here is that we have the first incarnations of the new elves of Age of Sigmar, and I have to say, those miniatures look beautiful. I was even thinking I might start collecting some when they have their main release for the game, but I think I need to resist there! The Chaos dude and Fyreslayer are both similar to those we’ve seen for previous releases, and the Warrior Priest has that classic look from the World-That-Was, but updated slightly. Oh, and he comes with a mini gryff-hound, which I think is adorable!

In terms of the bad guys, I think I’m more in love with them than any of the heroes!

We have a whole panoply of awesome here, and I have to say, I am truly excited to get started with building these chaps as soon as I have the time! In fact, I’m even considering getting some kind of army of Tzeentchy horrors on the go soon! (More on this shortly, anyway!)

First of all, the Gaunt Summoner is similar to the previous model released last December as part of the Everchosen releases. GW have said they wanted the model to be similar but different to the earlier guy, and I’ve heard a lot of folks at my local store saying they prefer this one to the earlier model. Someone has even said they’d get two boxes of this, one to have as the game and another to just use pieces in Age of Sigmar, specifically for the Summoner and Pink Horrors.

Pink (and Blue) Horrors are some of my favourite aspects of the Warhammer universe. Much like orcs and goblins, there is something delightfully British in the sense of humour that comes out of the guys who design this stuff, I have to say! Pink Horrors are just happy, capering guys who fling pure magic from their fingertips, but if you manage to kill one, it will split down the middle and make two Blue Horrors. These are much more surly and grumpy, mainly because they wish they could be a Pink Horror once again. I can’t hear that backstory without a huge grin on my face! It’s so cute! The quality of these miniatures is just amazing – there are two Pink Horrors in the box, and I’ve heard them described as “the pinnacle of their being”, so they’re really a lot better-looking than the box of troops you can buy for a demons army.

The Familiars are just adorable – things that have been in the lore for a while now, but that have never seen models until this release. The Gaunt Summoner is accompanied by four of them, and they caper about the Silver Tower, cursing the heroes if they fail to catch them. Pug is the moon-faced guy holding a Stormcast helmet, Slop is the walking fish, Blot is the walking book and probably my favourite, and Tweak is the tiny little imp convinced he is a Greater Demon of Tzeentch. It’s all just so adorable!

The main footsoldier-types are the Tzaangors and the Kairic Acolytes. These prowl the corridors of the Silver Tower along with all manner of other weird stuff, including Grot Scuttlings – cursed goblins who are slowly turning into spiders – and a Skaven deathrunner. Prowling over them all, however, is the Ogroid Thaumaturge, a huge hulking beast with magical runes inscribed over his body. I am really excited by this miniature, as he looks like an absolute beast to put together and paint!

The miniatures are just beautiful. Some of them have that Age of Sigmar starter set weirdness to them in how they’re assembled, but they nevertheless seem fairly straightforward to put together. The heroes will probably want more time spent on them, but I’m guessing that some of these minis – the demons in particular – will be painted fairly quickly. Paint Splatter in White Dwarf this week has a double-page thing that just has a paragraph on each, it sounds super-easy to do.

I’ve talked about these minis long enough now probably – though they’re just so beautiful! – so what else do we get here?

A bunch of dice, of course, and hero cards for all six heroes included. There four sheets of die-cut tokens and map tiles, the usual thick cardstock of, say, Space Hulk, which feature gorgeous artwork for the interior of the Silver Tower. We also have two decks of cards – treasures/skills the heroes can come across in the tower, and map cards that determine what room you move into. In addition to the rulebook (and minis assembly guide) there’s an Adventure Book that I’ll get to shortly. The rulebook has the rules for all of the monsters in the game, which are controlled by an AI that sounds fairly straightforward.

So how does the game work?

There are four phases:
1) Destiny Phase, where the first (“runemarked”) player rolls five destiny dice and places all of the unique results on the fate board – this all sounds rather grand, I know! Any doubles that are discarded then trigger the Familiars to do stuff.

2) Hero Phase, where each hero rolls their four dice and places them on their hero sheet. There are three basic actions a hero can take – move, explore and recuperate – as well as those actions described on the hero sheet. To use these actions, players spend dice that have at least that score – so to use the Stormcast Eternal’s Challenge (2+) ability, for instance, you need to allocate a die that resulted in at least a roll of 2. All of the basic actions cost 1, so they should always be available, though recuperate moves up a step each time you use it, making it difficult to heal yourself as you move through. In addition, players can use the destiny dice that were set aside earlier, though there are mechanics that prevent the first player from always using the best.

Exploring is really cool in this game. If your hero is stood at an unexplored exit, he can explore the next chamber by drawing from the exploration deck, and setting that chamber tile with one exit lined up with the exit he is exploring. These cards also have some text to be read aloud, and an encounter that will happen when the tile is revealed. The encounters are split across four tables, which usually describe the enemies that will be found there, but there are also Unexpected Events that might occur, and this is where the Adventure Book comes in.

Much like Tales of the Arabian Nights, there is a choose your own adventure feel to this book. To resolve the encounter, you roll two d6 and determine the result using one die as tens and one as units, so a roll of a 3 and a 4 is determined to be 34. You then read that passage of the book, which can either be a boon or a bane for the heroes. There is an element of the silly Age of Sigmar rules here – flicking through the book, I came across one entry that allows a player to act out the answer to a riddle, for instance. But in the main, the book is a really beautiful, thematic addition to a game that is more concentrated on creating amazing experiences for the players than anything else.

Moving through the gribblies in the tower, you’ll want to attack them of course. Combat is quite straightforward, as you roll dice and compare the result to your weapon’s attack rating – if you equal or exceed that rating, the attack hits and the adversary suffers damage. Each enemy has a vigour rating that describes how much damage it can take, such as the Gaunt Summoner’s rating of 9 (of course!). For each enemy you kill, you gain one point of renown, also tracked on the fate board, though each hero also has other ways to gain renown. Once you go all the way round the renown tracker, you gain a new skill. This is a really nice leveling mechanic of the sort I love in games!

3) Adversary Phase, unsurprisingly, is where the enemies fight back! Much like in the D&D Adventure System games (Legend of Drizzt or Wrath of Ashardalon, for example), adversaries have a behaviour that is determined by the first player rolling a d6. This largely controls movement for the enemies, bringing them closer to the players to attack, but is done in the order determined by the first player. Some enemies will bring forth others – the Kairic Acolytes can summon a Pink Horror, for instance – and these new enemies will act this turn if their group hasn’t already done so. There is an element of strategy involved in who to have act first, at least.

4) End Phase, where the first player changes, and the Silver Tower changes. As the game progresses, the chamber tile where the heroes are remains in play of course, as well as any tile connected to it, and any tile connected to that one. Any other tiles are removed from play, and their exploration cards discarded, possibly to come up again later in the game. Something I find hilarious is that the current chamber is described as the tile where the majority of players are – it’s possible that a hero might be lagging behind, perhaps pinned by a monster that just won’t die, and so that hero might in fact be removed along with the chamber!

This feels really intuitive to me, being used to the D&D system games, and allows for a fast gameplay that makes for some really great storytelling. This is really what the game is all about, as the designers stated in the latest White Dwarf. The rules are kept straightforward and as simple as they can be, so that players can tell the story of what’s happening with their character. It’s a really cool design decision, I feel, as this kind of adventure game really is more about the story you tell than merely throwing dice and killing monsters.

There is so much here, I can’t begin to praise this game enough. This is the fifth boxed game to come out in recent years from GW (if you count Betrayal at Calth as the game it purports to be, and not merely a repository for plastic Heresy-era minis), and I think it’s by far the best yet. Deathwatch: Overkill impressed me no end, but this is a game that I feel like I can play right now – and, indeed, I want to!

Rumours have been flying across the internet of how this will become a main-line for Games Workshop, and while I was initially sceptical about such a move, I think I can see how they would make that so, and it wouldn’t surprise me moving forward. Again, looking at the rumours that have been circulating for previous boxed games, we’ve seen how people speculated on Space Hulk getting an expansion, how Betrayal at Calth was supposed to be getting support but that now seems to be a follow-up, standalone game, and who knows what’s happening with Deathwatch. But Warhammer Quest seems to be a game they’re pushing for some level of customization, which is easy enough to do given they already have the models in stock. Next weekend, the Mighty Heroes expansion brings four new heroes to the game, and the rulebook already features the hero rules for all four of them. The Adventure Book also features rules for four more adversary groups – classic Tzeentch monsters such as the Flamers and the Screamers. I’ve actually succumbed already to this and have ordered a box of Flamers, in part because they’re surprisingly cheap, but I’m also considering getting a Burning Chariot or something as well. In games like this, variety is a huge positive, of course!

This first impressions has gone on long enough now, so I think I’m gonna leave it there now. However, suffice it to say, I’m really impressed with this box. The minis look absolutely incredible, and the gameplay looks to be pretty solid and enjoyable. My local GW is going to start running a game night specifically for these games, so I’m intending to jump on that and get at least a hero built up and ready to join in there. Moreover, I’m hoping that, next weekend, I can make a start on assembling some of these critters, so look out for a hobby progress blog to feature some of that!

Hobby Progress, week 20

Hey everybody!
Last week was the start of something wonderful for me, clearly, as I began to put base coats on more Stormcast Eternals. For those of you who didn’t click on the link, I painted six Protectors with Balthasar Gold, and pretty much left it there. It was a promising start, but with an essay due at the end of the month, I hadn’t thought I’d be able to get much done this week to report. Well, I was wrong!

Hobby Progress 20

Let’s start with the Protectors. These guys are some of my favourites from the entire Stormcast line released to date. Last week, I’d thought about trying to make them look really ornate and stuff, but decided I didn’t want to make them stand out too much from the other guys I have. The gold armour is the usual thing: Balthasar gold base, washed with Agrax earthshade, then drybrusged with Golden Griffon. For the purple, it’s a basecoat of Naggaroth Night and then a thin, almost-glaze of Xereus purple. I think the official Lions of Sigmar scheme that inspired me initially also calls for Genestealer purple, but I’ve never really wanted to highlight it up that much – I prefer my models to look almost dark, with more realistic highlights provided by the natural light on the model. Anyway! The metal is the usual Leadbelcher/Nuln oil/Runefang steel thing, though I’ve also done a very light drybrush with Liberator gold on the glaives, as I wanted them to appear somewhat special. The haft of their weapons is Screamer pink washed with Agrax earthshade and drybrushed with Pink Horror, and that’s pretty much that!

Hobby Progress 20

I’ve done four more paladins, as well. The base set for Age of Sigmar comes with three Retributors, but the paladins box has enough for five guys, which has always been a bit of an annoyance for me. I’ve previously built up five Decimators, but when I was building the Protectors, I decided I’d make three units of six for the three paladin types. Hence the six Protectors in the first picture, of course. My prime motivation for doing three more Retributors was my second game of Age of Sigmar, in which my Retributors did extremely well. I also thought the Soulstar Mace was a really powerful weapon, so wanted another one!

Hobby Progress 20

My Lord Castellant is still one of my favourite models to work with so far! Unfortunately, I think he’s currently at the very limit of my skills with a paint brush, yet I feel there’s still a lot that could be done to him. However, I feel really pleased with the achievement here. Especially considering I painted him fully built! That lantern has turned out so well! Sometimes I’m overly modest about my work, but I feel really proud of what I’ve done, even though I know it won’t be winning any awards or anything.

The basic armour and stuff is the same as with the other guys. For the tabard and the ribbon that comes off his axe, I painted them Warpfiend grey and washed it Druchii violet, something I’ve previously done with the standing Lord-Celestant. For me, the biggest thing on this guy was his cloak. I just didn’t know what to do with it for days! I’d painted it Celestra grey, but had no idea where to go from there! This morning, however, I took the plunge and washed it with Drakenhof Nightshade. It looks good, and ties in well with the Primes from the various warrior chambers, whose feather crests on their helmets are all done in the same manner.

The lantern is basically Leadbelcher, washed in Nuln oil, the lightning bits done in Retributor armour, and then very lightly drybrushed with Runefang steel. I think it’s quite a simple thing that looks really effective now that it’s finished. Really happy with that, in case you can’t tell!

Hobby Progress 20

Something else I’m really happy about is the completion of these Prosecutors! They’ve been hanging about since September, and despite trying to get them done earlier in the year, I haven’t actually managed it until this week. It’s just those wings, you know? I’ve tried painting the wings first and then the golden bits, the golden bits first and then the wings, but no matter which bit is done first, it always needs to be re-done as I manage to either get blue on the gold, or gold on the blue. Gah! That said, they still look damn sexy as hell when they’re done, and I’m so pleased to have them done. The masochist in me wants to immediately start work on three more, perhaps wielding a grandhammer or grandblade, but I think I’m going to start on something different next…

Hobby Progress 20

Finally, I think my Orruk chap is completed, too! As with the Lord-Castellant, I think he’s as good as my skill can make him right now, so I’m going to leave him there. The bone has been done, just Dawnstone with an Agrax earthshade wash, and the wrappings have been painted in Kislev flesh and a mix of Agrax earthshade and Carroburg crimson – basically, I wanted the wraps to actually be strips of flesh torn from his enemies!

Something I’m particularly excited about with this model is that I’ve used Blood for the Blood God for the first time ever, pooling beneath the severed head. It’s actually a lot different than I thought it would be, and I’m already thinking I might try it on other models. I’m not really one for making my models look dirty and whatnot, I prefer a clean finish, but it might add to some of the scenery or whatever on the base!

Anyway, that’s all the progress for this week! I’m surprised there’s been so much of it, to be honest – particularly seeing as how I’ve also managed to read two books and write a 3000-word essay! I should clearly have time off work more often!

Don’t forget to come back next week, for what I hope will be a really exciting update blog!

Lords of the Sith (a review)

Finished reading Lords of the Sith, one of the new canon books that came out about a year ago now, and I have to say, this was a really great book. Of course, if you read the tweet up there, you’d know that already, but still!

The book follows Vader and Palpatine as they are embroiled within a rebellion on the planet Ryloth. A lot is made of the time Anakin spent there in season one of the Clone Wars cartoon show – indeed, a lot is made of Vader’s past in general, and I have to say, I kinda like it! It feels quite similar to the flashbacks in Empire: Betrayal, an awesome comic book that I would recommend to anyone, even though it isn’t canon anymore. Only eight years have elapsed since the events of Revenge of the Sith, and Paul S Kemp has said in an interview that he wanted to show how Anakin became the badass Vader of the original trilogy, by purging himself of the memories of the past. It comes across really well, and I think it was one of the best parts of the book.

Vader and Palpatine are targeted by the Free Ryloth movement, headed by Cham Syndulla (also of Clone Wars fame, and father of Rebels’ Hera Syndulla). The resistance movement is really interesting, and while I am a bit dubious at seeing these various, localised rebels at this time, feeling like we’re being led to seeing a kind of grand alliance of all the various cells into the Rebellion of the movies, at the same time it seems utterly believable, especially on a world like Ryloth, that is being abused by the Imperials for the mining of ryll spice. The Free Ryloth movement manages to destroy the star destroyer on which both Sith Lords arrive in the system, leading to something of a cat and mouse act as they are hunted across the surface. It’s kinda cool to see the two survive in the wilderness like this, though I was much more interested in the dynamics between them than the action scenes. Something I thought was really nice was that the captain of the Emperor’s Royal Guard is a clone trooper – perhaps Commander Thire?

Another awesome thing about this book is how it seems to turn something of a tired trope on its head. At the beginning, we’re introduced to Moff Delian Mors and Colonel Belkor Dray – the Moff has become a hedonistic, pampered thing living in luxury on one of Ryloth’s moons in full abuse of her power, while Belkor is the archetypal scheming underling, with many officers in his pocket just waiting for the right time to leap to power. It’s something I feel has been done plenty of times, and is a little old, really. However, in Lords of the Sith, this is almost entirely reversed. Belkor thinks he can eliminate the spice-addicted Moff and take her place, by using the Free Ryloth movement to have her killed along with Vader and the Emperor. However, Mors realises just how absent she has been with her job, and over the course of the story, seeing her put herself back together, essentially, was a really intriguing character arc. Belkor, meanwhile, comes to realise he has been played by the rebels all along and, backed into a corner, resolves to go out in a blaze of glory by killing Vader, Palpatine, the Moff and the rebels, but Mors gets to him first…

Something that should probably be mentioned here is the fact that Moff Mors is the first canon homosexual character, and unlike Sinjir in Aftermath, it’s almost entirely natural. The only mention that is made of it is when her wife’s death is described as sending her off the rails a bit. I like the fact that we can have a diverse universe without it being made an issue out of, you know?

Star Wars Lords of the Sith

If I had to say anything against the book, there is something of a plot hole around Senator Orn Free Taa. I really liked seeing him again, it formed another nice bridge between the prequels and the new stuff. The Free Ryloth movement get wind of Vader and the Emperor’s visit, ostensibly by a traitor in the senator’s staff. It’s kind of the whole driving force for the plot. But Orn Free Taa isn’t really heard of again from the point where the star destroyer is destroyed. I think he’s described as making it to an escape pod, but we don’t know if he lives, and we never find out how Syndulla discovered the Emperor was coming to Ryloth. It’s hardly going to keep me awake at night, but I thought perhaps it should have been addressed? The book is quite short, 285 pages in hardback, so I feel there was plenty of room to tie up stuff like this.

But maybe I’m just being too picky – the story of these characters was otherwise excellent, and I can highly recommend it (despite kinda spoiling most of the storyline in this blog…erm…!)

But wait, there’s more!

In the May 2015 issue of Star Wars Insider, John Jackson Miller wrote a short story called Orientation that takes place as Vader and the Emperor are en route to Ryloth. It’s a nice little story that shows there are still people loyal to the Republic out there, and features Rae Sloane (of both A New Dawn and Aftermath fame) as a mere cadet. Definitely worth the time picking up if you can still find it!

More Star Wars musings!

I feel like this could become a theme soon, as I’m spending a lot of time with fiction from the Star Wars universe, particularly surrounding the new movie. Having recently finished the excellent Bloodline last week, I watched The Force Awakens on DVD at the weekend and was mightily impressed with it second-time around.

Let’s be honest, the film rocks! I caught a lot of things that I think I’d missed first time around, and found myself focusing more on stuff like Rey’s flashback/hallucination/whatever it might be, because I was expecting it this time. A lot of stuff really interests me about the movie, but I think the overriding thing that piqued my interest this time around was Lor San Tekka, Max von Sydow’s character who appears for, what, a whole five minutes of the film’s opening scene? The Visual Dictionary has described him as belonging to something called “the Church of the Force”, which itself is really intriguing, and I suppose goes some way to explaining why he thinks of Leia as “family”, but I hope we get to see a lot more of this explained in the future comics and novels.

Although his first line, “This will begin to make things right”, does feel a little too much like a dig at the Prequels, which I still kinda like…

Of course, fanboy nerds like me will always find something to poke at, and there were one or two things that I found myself thinking, ‘I wish they’d done it like that’, or whatever. I enjoyed the movie when I first saw it in the cinema, but in the ensuing days and weeks I kinda felt a bit down on it, largely because it felt like such a blatant rehash of what had gone before. However, I think a lot of my initial complaints about the lack of a sense of history have begun to be addressed, primarily by the aforementioned Bloodline, and I do think that it’s as a result of that novel in particular that I was so interested in watching the film again, if not in my subsequent enjoyment!

But anyway, that’s getting really rambling.

Following the movie, I then turned to a recently-released short story anthology, Tales From a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens:

I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting with this one, if I’m honest, but I suppose the ‘Tales‘ prefix there put me in mind of the Bantam anthologies from back in the day.

The book is a collection of six stories released as part of the Journey to The Force Awakens, and deals with some of the background characters we see in the film. Of all six, only one of them actually has a speaking role – Unkar Plutt, the garrulous junker. The rest are the set-dressing characters that, in true Star Wars style, become fully fleshed-out characters here.

This book is weird! The chapters are super-tiny – just one page in some instances – and the overall feeling is that this is a weird collection of tales. We have a Star Wars version of Masterchef meets CSI; we have a weird kind of Frankenstein-esque story; there’s a cautionary tale about internet dating – it’s all just decidedly, well, not Star Wars-like, to me! By about halfway through the book (the Masterchef/CSI crossover, in case you were wondering), I’d decided to just take these as really throwaway stories that happen to make reference to stuff like Maz Kanata and the like, because I found it really hard to take them seriously. The final tale, The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku, has almost an interesting storyline to it, as we follow the guy in the red helmet from Maz Kanata’s castle in a treasure hunt to recover a crashed Separatist cruiser. Turns out the treasure is a cryogenically-frozen clone trooper who had discovered Order 66 had been hardwired into the clone troopers’ minds, and tried to warn the Jedi.

Overall, they felt a bit silly, and a part of me is a bit annoyed by the entire Journey to The Force Awakens marketing ploy in retrospect. I’ve not read absolutely everything from this campaign, don’t get me wrong, but I’m surprised at how little information we actually get from any of these stories that are sold on the basis they provided the lead-in to the movie. Shattered Empire, for instance, was a story about Poe Dameron’s mother flying errands for Luke and Leia, while Aftermath was just such a huge let-down given the fanfare it received on release, I can’t bring myself to go back over that.

That said, I am feeling excited about the new lore that we’re getting for Star Wars right now. I know I’ve talked a lot about this, but Bloodline was a really excellent novel, and has put me in a much more positive frame of mind for seeing what comes next. I’m even looking forward to seeing the next installment in the Aftermath trilogy, despite my feelings on the first book! Though that is possibly because the second book, Life Debt, hasn’t had anywhere near the same hype…

The Vader series has recently been announced as cancelled, which has also gotten me thinking about the comics that we can look forward to soon. We’ve got a few more miniseries to go through yet, though, including a Han Solo series starting next month, so maybe Marvel will just continue providing one-shot series like this. I hope not, as I like my comics to have more of an ongoing feel to them, though as the Vader article says, it’s always a concern that such a series can get to a point where issues are published for the sake of it, with a few major storylines peppered through. At least it’ll be going out on top!

The Rogue One comic tie-in was also announced as cancelled yesterday, which seems slightly concerning the Vader cancellation, but hopefully this is merely pushed back rather than outright off the agenda. Given that Rogue One is taking place in a much more stable continuity, I’d have thought this would be a much safer place to set a comic. But what do I know?!

At any rate, I’m really excited to see what’s coming next for Star Wars!

New Magic Stuff!

It’s a game day extra!

Seems like a very exciting time to be alive right now for us card game players! Yesterday was “announcement day” over on Wizards of the Coast’s website, where they published an article featuring a whole host of announcements about the future of the game, which sound really cool!


First off: we’re going to Kaladesh next block, the home plane of Chandra. This should be really interesting, lots of artifacts no doubt… But yeah, the artwork, I’m guessing for the new planeswalker Saheeli Rai (above) looks stunning as usual, at any rate!

Nissa vs Ob Nixilis

The next duel deck also looks like a lot of fun – Nissa vs Ob Nixilis! Ob Nixilis is a favourite of mine, as I do love a molten fire demon, so that’ll hopefully be a lot of fun to get hold of.

However, the reason I wanted to write a blog today about all this is due to the blog from the head designer Mark Rosewater, which details the replacement for core sets that we’ll be seeing this summer. At least, that’s how it starts, but the product he goes on to discuss is described as a replacement for Intro Packs. Well, anyway.

Planeswalker Decks sound cool, a dual-colour, Standard-legal deck built around one copy of a mythic rare planeswalker from the current block. At first, I thought this will potentially ruin the economy of the mythic rare, or else see these packs never in stock anywhere because the new Liliana card is so powerful or whatever. However, it seems that these planeswalkers are going to be a little different to the standard type – in fact, it seems these are going to be completely separate from the block the deck is attached to. So we won’t be seeing these walkers in boosters. In addition, the decks will have specific cards that interact with these intro-walkers that aren’t in the block but will be Standard legal while the block is in Standard. Seems reasonable, anyway!

I’m not a huge fan of planeswalkers – I prefer to build my decks around Legendary Creatures, if I’m building a character deck at all, so I don’t see a big draw from that side of things. Part of the reason for my dislike of planeswalkers is that I find them so confusing in-game. It seems like these new decks might actually be the product I need, then, to get me playing this type of card, as they’re going to be marketed with beginners in mind.

It certainly seems exciting, so I’m looking forward to seeing the lay of the land when these things hit in September!