Rogue One: Catalyst

Rogue One: Catalyst

Rogue One: Catalyst is, as the name might suggest, a tie-in novel to the standalone Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Written by James Luceno, I had high hopes for this novel, which were sadly not borne out by the end. Let me explain…

The story is basically that of Orson Krennic’s ambition to oversee the Death Star project, and details his machinations as he climbs the corporate ladder. Along the way, he makes use of a variety of people, notably Galen Erso, a former school friend (unlikely though that may seem), to advance his career. Galen is portrayed as that typical scientist-type who is so wrapped-up in his own work, he’s barely aware of his surroundings, including his own family. Which I thought was weird, based on his portrayal in the movie…

The novel begins while the Clone Wars are still in full-flow, though Galen is notably undertaking research far from the front line, attempting to synthesize kyber crystals to create a renewable energy source. He is soon wrapped up in the fight between the Republic and the Separatists, however, and it is Krennic who comes to his rescue. Over time, Krennic manages to seduce him into working indirectly on the Death Star project, as Galen researches the energy output of the crystals that is then weaponised by a separate team of scientists.

During this time, we do get to see the fascinating upheaval from Republic to Empire, which is something that I enjoyed. It’s interesting how quickly people seem to forget the Jedi – I’d always liked the alternative idea that is often hinted at within the Dark Times comics, that the idea of the Jedi carried with it such inherent danger that people chose not to involve themselves. Anyway!

Another strand to Krennic’s ambition is his use of the smuggler, Has Obit. Has is used to basically deposit weapons on the so-called Legacy Worlds – worlds that are the Star Wars equivalents of National Parks. With this, Krennic is able to claim the worlds were arming themselves against the Empire, and so their Legacy status is stripped from them – and the strip-mining of all natural resources can begin. Over time, Has sees what he is doing and, thanks to Galen’s wife Lyra, turns against Krennic and helps the Ersos escape Coruscant for good.

There’s more to it than that, of course, but the basic gist of the story is here. So what’s so bad about it? Well, first of all, Galen Erso has got to be one of the most infuriating characters ever to grace the pages of a Star Wars novel. He just annoyed me so much, I found myself wishing his bits were over so that we could get back to Krennic, who is actually quite interesting, for all his naked ambition.

While the book is a really nice marriage of the Prequel era and the Original Trilogy era, these ties are somehow relegated to the background in comparison with other Luceno novels. There was a nice sequence with Krennic and Poggle the Lesser, as he tries to get the Geonosians to construct the focusing dish for the battle station. Also, Krennic’s patron throughout the book is Mas Amedda, who comes across as slightly more competent in this book than, say, his Aftermath appearances. Tarkin also has a significant role, though he serves more as an obstacle to Krennic than anything – he doesn’t quite come across the same as he does in, say, Luceno’s Tarkin.

Which is a bit weird, as they’re by the same author, but I think herein lies the main gripe I have with the book: it feels a bit rushed. I can’t quite decide if I mean it feels like it was pushed out to meet a deadline, but the action sometimes feels entirely too glossed-over. True, a battle station the size of the Death Star is going to take years to build, which could be tedious if we had to have all of that detailed to us, but there were several instances where I felt we could have done with more detail. Whether all new canon novels need to conform to a certain page length, who knows, but I definitely felt like we could have benefited from a bit more.

So, while I did feel a bit let-down overall, there were still some good bits to be enjoyed. Mentions of the Corporate Sector and COMPNOR were particularly nice, as it’s always fun to see the old canon being referenced. And the way the novel straddles the Prequel and OT eras was nicely done, too. While the Jedi stuff could have done with more time spent on exploring how they just dropped out of the galactic consciousness, I guess this book isn’t trying to tell that particular tale.

I don’t think it really adds anything to Rogue One, save perhaps explaining Saw Gerrera’s relationship to the Ersos (which itself seemed a bit forced). Which brings me on to my final point – why can’t we have Star Wars novels for their own sake anymore? It feels like everything that has come out so far has been trying to tie into something, either a new movie or an appearance by a beloved character in a cartoon. Why can’t we just have a book for its own sake? Heir to the Jedi springs to mind as perhaps the only one, so far, and that was originally planned as the third in a loose trilogy prior to the abolition of the old EU. I’d love to have something that tells its own story, that can run to 500 pages or more, and just brings back some of the old Bantam magic. We still don’t really have that feel right now, I think, where the galaxy feels like a cohesive whole. Where’s the new canon’s Mara Jade, or Talon Karrde? The novels feel like they exist in some kind of weird vacuum, and I’m really not sure that I like it. Sure, plenty of them are good, but they’re good by themselves, with no real reference to the wider galaxy. The hipster in me is thinking, this is what happens when a franchise hits the big time, and everything has to have a mass-appeal. Whereas previously we could have novels that reference comic books, which reference other comic books, which reference other novels, which reference RPG material. There was an expectation that people reading these things would be immersed to the next level at least. Now everything seems to need only the films – the widest audience for this material – to rely upon. It’s just feeling kinda fractured, and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep myself interested in this way of doing Star Wars.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be quite so down on the book, or the franchise as a whole, but sometimes I do wonder what’s happening to the GFFA…

More Tau ramblings!

Hey everybody!
Yes, that’s right, I thought I’d write another blog post here, rambling about my newfound love for the space communists of the 41st millennium, the T’au! I’ve been busy building up the Start Collecting box, along with a few other bits and pieces on the side, so have been thinking a lot about what it is that has drawn me to them after all these years of having no interest.

Well, let me start with this:

It’s a marketing video for the new T’au range that came out in 2013, so sixth edition, and showcases a host of models that are, to be frank, rather sexy. They’re also virtually all plastic, as well. Within that six minutes of Greater Good, only two of the miniatures shown are finecast – the two named characters – which is always a huge plus to me when looking at an army range.

While I do have some for my other armies, flyers are something that I tend to avoid in game terms, as they don’t really fit with my overall playstyle of wanting to command waves of infantry. However, there is something quite sumptuous in the T’au range of (actual) vehicles, and I find them quite alluring. Okay, that sounds weird, but all of the sweeping lines and rounded corners do feel quite aesthetically pleasing – as much as the Dark Eldar are quite spikey, there are also a lot of sweeping lines in that range, and it’s one of the reasons why I like them so much. While it’s true that all armies share a common design principle overall, some of them just look a great deal better when you assemble them all together than others do. Bravo to the army painting team for coming up with this truly awesome panorama:

I can only hope that I can get my own force looking this good when the time comes! True, I’m not going for the desert camo of T’au ochre, but even so!

Something that I always look for in an army is the cross-compatibility of bits, be they just weapons and heads or anything else. Dark Eldar have this in spades, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed building my force of them so much. While I’m still new to the whole T’au thing, it does seem like the infantry has the potential to have something similar, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can get out of them all as time moves on – I’m still quite excited by the fact the new Fire Warriors kit has three extra legs that I can do something with, I’m sure!!

Battlesuits are probably what most people think of when they think of T’au, and while the idea of a Riptide or two does strike me as rather fun for the centre of my force, I’m more looking forward to getting some Hammerheads in the middle of it all, much like the picture above. That looks like it should be an amazing-looking army!

Speaking of which, I’ve settled on my first 1000-point list to build! Naturally, with the Codex out at the weekend, many of you may wonder why I’ve even bothered to write this up, but I thought it might be interesting to see how the army compares from Index to Codex. So without further ado, here’s what I’m building:

It has the infantry base that I enjoy so much, as well as some vehicles to fly around and do what they do. I’m anticipating being confused by having so many drones zipping about as well, though it does seem to be the thing to pack in as many as possible, and they could be a useful screen, so why not?

I’ll be back next week with an updated look at this list, to see how it fares in the transition from the Index, and whether I can bulk up that Breacher Squad to a full ten-man unit.

Stay tuned!

It’s the GAMA Trade Show 2018!

Hey everybody!
So the GAMA trade show has happened, and there is a lot of exciting stuff going on that has, well, gotten me quite excited! I thought I’d do a quick round-up as per usual, and see what’s caught my eye this year!

It’s really cool to see something that isn’t kickstarter-related coming from Flying Frog right now, and while you do have to kinda squint to see them, there are two expansions coming for Fortune and Glory – Lair of the Spider Queen (much like the Crimson Hand expansion, adding in a new vile organization) and Temples and Treasures, which apparently has more generic villains as well as, unsurprisingly, rules specific to the Temples. Should be good!

Still waiting for more expansions for A Touch of Evil, of course, though I do still enjoy that game regardless, so…

There’s some news that the next big box expansion for Marvel Legendary will be Hulk-based, which I have to say doesn’t really inspire me with any great interest, as he’s not what I’d call a favourite…

I’ve not seen anything from Fantasy Flight this year, which is weird, but the big news for me right now is, you guessed it, from Games Workshop!

Yes! Kill Team is coming back! I do enjoy skirmish games, and so having this updated for 8th Edition is great! I’m guessing that there will be a starter-style box similar to that for 7th, with Genestealer Cults vs AdMech! And of course, the exciting thing here is the new terrain that will be accompanying the release. As if Sector Mechanicus wasn’t glorious enough! Very excited for this…

… as I’m also very excited for House Van Saar! While I do love the Orlock aesthetic the most out of the now-four gangs we’ve seen, I think there’s something quite creepy about these guys, and I will definitely be picking up a box. Well, I’ve already told myself I’m committed to picking up all of the Necromunda releases, anyway, but even so! These guys look really interesting, and I’m looking forward to adding them to my roster.

And, of course, Codex Fish-People looks like it should be amazing!

Tau investigations, part one

Hey everybody!
Following my previous blog, where I very excitedly talked about the decision to start a Tau army, I’ve been reading up a few things about the space communists as I try to get to grips with the units. As with starting any new project like this, the thing that always baffles me most is just what the army is trying to do. I’m not a fantastic strategist, and so don’t always immediately see the synergies among units. It takes a while of reading around things for me to form a plan, and then that becomes the basis of which I can change and adapt as required. Waffle aside, though, I’ve been reading the article series on the Community website that talks about each of the Sept specific traits from the upcoming codex, as well as talking about specific units and what they do now. So I thought I’d talk about that here, and give some vague preliminary thoughts on what I’m going to be doing!

Coming first, of course, we have the T’au Sept itself. I should start talking about T’au, but as with my Dark Eldar, I think I’m too used to the older names. I’ll try, anyway!

I think everybody is referring to these things as Chapter Tactics, basically you pick a theme for your army – be it Space Marine Chapters, Necron Dynasties, or T’au Septs – and you receive an army-wide effect. The tenet of the T’au Sept allows all models from the T’au Sept to fire Overwatch on 5+. I think this is possibly the only thing that affects Overwatch in the game, and it sounds fabulous – just the thing Tau models need, given that they’re primarily a stand-and-shoot army, so end up being charged a lot.

Meanwhile, Bork’an Sept get to add 6″ to the maximum range of any rapid fire and heavy weapons they’re armed with. Pulse Rifles, Rail Rifles, Plasma Rifles – all of these things are rapid fire weapons. Oh, and Markerlights are heavy weapons. Markerlights at 42″? Well, why not! Furthermore, Bork’an have a specific stratagem that allows them to re-roll one dice when determining a random number of attacks, such as the heavy D6 of a Railgun with submunitions. Very nice when you manage to roll a 1!

While most T’au armies don’t want to find themselves fighting in close quarters, the Farsight Enclaves aren’t quite so bothered. I mean, sure, they’re still mainly a ranged force, Farsight himself quite likes getting up-close and personal with his Dawn Blade. Their tenet allows you to re-roll wound rolls of 1 against enemies within 6″, so either during Overwatch or else from Pistol weapons in close combat. Oh, and what was that about the Dawn Blade, it has increased from a mere Strength 5 to Strength 8! Crikey!

Dal’yth Sept is all about being sneaky, and they have the hilarious tenet of being able to claim the benefit of cover, even if they’re out in the open, provided they did not move in any way during their turn. Considering you’ll likely rarely be moving when going for the T’au gunline strategy, this could be very useful – as the article says, it gives Fire Warriors a 3+ save out in the open, which is nothing but useful! Perhaps not something to plan the army around, of course, but a Strike Team that wants to get within rapid fire range is going to be getting perhaps a little too close to the enemy anyway.

Vior’la Sept, the white one you see on the new box art, can treat rapid fire weapons as assault weapons, and do not suffer the -1 penalty for advancing and firing assault weapons. Now, most of the T’au arsenal is assault weaponry, it seems, so this can be incredibly useful for getting away from a steadily advancing force. Fantastic stuff!

As well as all the Sept Tenets, we have had a look at some of the changes from Index to Codex, and while I have no experience of using the Index, it does seem that the Codex has made everything so much better, overall.

Let’s get things straight from the top: a lot of folks are pretty miffed about the change to Commanders. Basically, you can now take only one Commander per detachment, and I think that’s absolutely fine. There was a thing called Commander Spam (ingenious, I know), about which this blog post goes into detail for the Index. While I love the toolbox-HQ, I don’t think I would ever want to take more than one, anyway. I plan on sticking a Cadre Fireblade in there for a second HQ slot if I want that Battalion detachment, or a pair of Fireblades for the Brigade (if I ever get there!) They have some interesting options available, these Commanders, and I think the limit is sensible if GW doesn’t want things getting too out-of-hand.

As they say in the preview, the Coldstar Commander has been much improved by being able to take a wider array of weapons than in the Index. Previously, you’d get a missile pod and burst cannon, and you’d like it. Now, he can take up to four weapons like his Enforcer counterpart, which is quite exciting as he retains the 20″ movement and 20″ advance. Given that the Vior’la tenet can allow him to advance without penalty, he’ll be zipping all over the battlefield with impunity! Hopefully…

I really like the sound of what Riptides can do. Weight of fire seems to be quite important so far in 8th, and adding 4 shots to the heavy burst cannon feels like a nice improvement. Taking a mortal wound from the Nova Reactor in order to add a further six shots feels really nice – and for one command point, you can use the Branched Nova Charge strategem to charge 2D6″ as well, either lining your Riptide up perfectly for the next turn, or else getting him out of harm’s way when you need it most! Oh, but don’t forget, a Bork’an Riptide will be firing that heavy burst cannon at 42″ anyway…

Longstrike, the tank commander of the T’au, is really quite useful in that the Hammerhead Gunship he is poking out of treats enemy models as having +1 Markerlights on them than they actually have. Markerlights are quite the T’au thing, I suppose, in that a model equipped with them can choose to shoot them instead of any other weapon for its turn, allowing another friendly unit to gain some sort of bonus depending on how many Markerlights are on that unit. Markerlight effects are cumulative, and I think the magic number is 5, so only having to shoot 4 times and freeing up another model for another task is quite useful!

The Wall of Mirrors stratagem is an interesting addition that allows you to redeploy Stealth Battlesuits from near a Ghostkeel Suit anywhere else on the board. I can’t quite decide if it would be good to get the Stealth Suits close to the enemy, drop their homing beacon down (which is only destroyed if the enemy moves within 9″ of it, not if it is placed within 9″), then getting something out of a manta hold much closer to the enemy. Everything that goes in a manta hold to begin with (Crisis Suits and Commanders) doesn’t really want to be in melee… I suppose if your Stealth Suits have taken Markerlights, then it would allow you to move them into a better position to fire them? Hm.

All in all, I’m very excited for the new T’au codex, and have been busily building up my army ready to try it out as soon as I can. I’ll be back soon enough with my thoughts on my first army list and, hopefully, reports of how they have fared on the tabletop!

Another New Army!

Hey everybody!
I’ve been struggling with hobby motivation a lot over the last couple of months. I’ve had a lot going on with getting my house sorted and whatnot, which has undoubtedly not helped, but even so, I don’t think I’ve managed to properly finish any single miniature so far in 2018. Which is, itself, disheartening. I’ve had several projects going on, as well, which also aren’t really helping with my motivation: Tyranids, Genestealer Cults, Dark Eldar Wych Cults, and then re-starting with my Necrons – it’s all been rather a lot, I feel!

Aside from the difficulty I’ve experienced with trying to decide what to focus on, I’ve found that I’ve lost a bit of skill with painting, having not really done a great deal for so long. This was abundantly obvious when trying to paint the Neophyte Hybrids for my Genestealer Cult,  where the amount of detail on the regular troops was just insane. So I began to cast around for other things to paint, while I built myself back up to all that.

And then I decided to jump on board with Tau.

Tau Empire Fire Warriors

Now, I’m not about to launch into some grand tale about how I’ve always wanted a Tau force. I’ve never really considered them before, as I’ve always just been drawn to other xenos races. I know very little of their lore, beyond the usual stuff about space communists, and I only know that they’re a sit-back-and-shoot style of army.

But I think that new-ness, for me, is what has ultimately led to me getting into them as a force. Back in 2015, I painted up a single Tau miniature for a painting competition at my local GW, and I remember it being just so arduous due to the fact that the models were so small. Well, I’d not been painting for a very long time back then, so I suppose I’m more “into it” these days. Despite what I said earlier about feeling out of practice with painting minis, I feel like I’m up for the challenge, at any rate!

Let the adventure begin! #Warhammer40k #TauEmpire #Tau #newarmy

A post shared by Mark (@marrrkusss) on

So I’ve gone pretty extensively in on Tau, ready for the new Codex to drop in a week or so’s time. I suppose that can also be a factor here, having something new to look forward to and all the rest of it. While part of me wants to rebel at the notion of jumping on any bandwagon, I think sometimes it’s fine to see something new, like the look of it, and get on board with it, you know? Anyway… enough trying to justify my decision, I think!

I’m going to try my best to chronicle my adventures with the Tau on this here blog, and see how things pan out as I build, paint and play with the new army. I’m still not entirely sure on my colour scheme – not knowing any of the lore is both a good and a bad thing here, as I don’t know what to do for the best! But for now, I’m focusing on building up the contents of the Start Collecting box, and trying to get all of that sorted. I want to do this almost as a Tale of Four Warlords style of monthly updates, but as I’m starting from behind I’ve decided for the first goal to have both the Start Collecting box and one other (probably a Commander) built and painted by the end of April. That should give me enough time to not only get the building and painting done, but also to get to grips with the lore and the army on a more cohesive scale.

I’ll probably post semi-regular updates anyway, but the first major one will be done by 30 April, so keep your eyes peeled for that! For now, I thought I’d share with you the fruits of three days’ labour on the Start Collecting box:

Age of Sigmar – Daughters of Khaine

Hey everybody!
A couple of weeks ago now, I mentioned getting a bit intrigued by the upcoming Aelf release for Age of Sigmar that is centred around the return of Morathi to the Mortal Realms. Well, I couldn’t contain my excitement, and picked up a Blood Coven box that I promptly spent a Saturday afternoon building up as a Cauldron of Blood. What an impressive miniature, that is!

However, I’ve been casting about since, building and half-heartedly painting a number of different things, never really getting anywhere. So, as the Daughters of Khaine are the new hotness right now, I thought I’d spend some time going through the various Warhammer Community articles and reading up on these beautiful and impressive new miniatures! Well, why not, right?

Morathi Daughters of Khaine

So then.

The witch aelves of Morathi all serve the elvish god of battle, Khaine, though few are aware that the god did indeed die when the World That Was was destroyed. They are led by Morathi, who was instrumental in the capture of the Chaos god, Slaanesh. With the Dark Prince’s capture, the lost aelven souls were released, and Morathi was rewarded with terrible power, which she has used to re-make the witch aelves in new and interesting forms.

It all sounds rather magnificent, I have to say! I’m quite intrigued by the Slaanesh connection, for sure, but the subterfuge that emerges from Morathi’s story is particularly compelling. It’s also really awesome that she is a single character that comes with two models for two versions of herself – the only other character in Warhammer that I’m aware of with this sort of twin-aspect is Orikan the Diviner, the Necron Cryptek who can attempt to become Orikan Empowered, though with the same model. Not so for Morathi, who has her “regular” look as High Oracle of Khaine, and her demonic-snake look as The Shadow Queen:

And what a look it is, as well! She’s huge, if those Witch Aelves are anything to go by! She transforms from her regal form to that of the big snake if she has taken wounds, which is quite thematic as it shows her rage breaking through her sorcerous concentration. She is reportedly quite the beast in combat, though I think the High Oracle form is to be preferred for the command abilities she possesses. At any rate, it sounds fantastic as a mechanic, and the coolness factor of having a general with two such stunning models is really quite something!

While Morathi might be a stunning pair of models, she’s not the only new miniature coming out with this new release!

The Melusai are borne from the soul-essence released from Slaanesh (which makes me think that Slaanesh really has been finished now), twisted by aeons of hatred into mutant snake-like beings. Perhaps more than anything, it’s these that I love the most from the Daughters of Khaine for their ancient Greek look, something that is only enhanced by their rules of turning people into crystal statues. There’s definitely a gorgon vibe coming from this range, and I love it all!

They aren’t the only mutants, of course, as Scourges Khinerai also support the witch aelves on the battlefield, their wings giving them a deepstrike ability that just makes the unit feel like Dark Eldar (but with fewer clothes on).

I’m really liking the look of these new aelves, and I think this is just the faction that I’ve been waiting for to get me back into Age of Sigmar. Curiously, I’ve been feeling a bit lost when looking at the warscrolls and such, as despite having played this game back in the day, it feels like an entirely different beast these days. Maybe I’ve just had my head in the 41st millennium for too long, but it does feel like it has changed a lot in the last few months/years.

Anyway, I’ve got a couple of things on order for these zealots now, so I suppose it’s time I continued building up those witch aelves from the Blood Coven box!!