The Hand of Thrawn

Hey everybody!
I’ve been rambling a lot in my recent blogs about Warhammer stuff, but it’s time for a change of scenery today as I switch over to my other obsession, Star Wars, and the Tim Zahn duology from 1997-8, The Hand of Thrawn!

The Hand of Thrawn

I first read these novels years ago now, completely out of sequence as I had just finished Zahn’s seminal trilogy, the Thrawn Trilogy, and was hungry for more! It was the summer after my GCSE exams had been finished, and I was free to read whatever I wanted, rather than trying to catch chapters of The Last Command in between revising physics, or whatever.

Specter of the Past begins with the discovery of a badly damaged copy of The Caamas Document – a datacard that details the Bothan saboteurs involved in the destruction of the planet Caamas long before the Clone Wars. The planet’s inhabitants, the Caamasi, were well-known peacekeepers and valued mediators, and the destruction of their world was cause for galactic outcry back in the day. The discovery that there were Bothans involved leads the New Republic almost to civil war, as several species come down either on the side of wanting to make the Bothans pay for their crime, or else on the side of those who believe a more peaceful solution is needed. Of course, plenty of folks are just using the discovery of the document to reignite old hatreds and resume petty conflicts that the Empire had pretty much put on hold.

While Leia attempts to keep the New Republic from fracturing too much, Luke is off trying to discover who is backing the Cavrilhu Pirates into attacking New Republic shipping, with what he believes to be clone pilots. His investigation almost leads to his death at their asteroid base, but Mara Jade manages to rescue him and, as they’re leaving the system, they notice an odd type of TIE-fighter lurking in the asteroid field.

Turns out, the renegade Imperial Moff Disra has been using the Pirates as part of his plan to restore the Empire to greatness, a plan that involves resurrecting Grand Admiral Thrawn through the use of the con artist known as Flim, and the tactical acumen of a Major Tierce, former Imperial Guardsman to the Emperor. He sets a plan in motion to cause said civil war above Bothawui, using elements from Imperial Intelligence to forment riots and general dissension over the Caamas issue, leading our heroes to try and find an intact copy of the Caamas Document, and name those Bothans responsible for destroying the shield generator, rather than holding the entire species accountable.

This is the background, and the duology takes us through the sort of galaxy-spanning epic that we expect from Zahn in his Bantam era. It really has that sort of feel that we know from the earlier trilogy – our heroes flying across the galaxy, visiting planets we have never heard of and encountering a whole load of weird aliens along the way. While Admiral Pellaeon is trying to sue for peace with the New Republic, Disra’s plans lead to a more subtle conflict with the Empire at first, which is a different change of pace for pretty much any Bantam novel. There is a lot of the shadow war with Imperial Intelligence, and while Flim’s Thrawn impersonation is seemingly flawless, he is nevertheless kept almost hidden from view, with merely the rumour of his return being cause enough to send the New Republic into a frenzy. The civil war is balanced along a knife edge that almost runs on too long, but is nevertheless built up really very well.

One of my earliest gripes with this novel was the fact that Zahn seemingly felt the need to bring Thrawn back from the dead. Of course, the book is pretty much from the off about a con game and we know it, but it did feel a bit like he couldn’t think up a more convincing villain for the heroes to go up against, so he just brought the earlier one back. Of course, when you get to the end of the book, and reflect on the story as a whole, it actually works really well.

We get to meet Thrawn’s people, the Chiss, and learn that Thrawn had in fact set up a clone of himself to return to known space ten years after his death, should that come to pass. Irony of ironies, it’s been ten years and now Disra puts his plan into action. The Chiss almost enter the war on the side of the Imperial Remnant, but by the end of Vision of the Future, it appears that they’re content instead to sit this one out, keeping their focus on the myriad threats of the Unknown Regions.

I find it interesting to go back and re-read these old novels, and compare them with what we have now from Disney. While I don’t feel that The Hand of Thrawn has held up as well as The Thrawn Trilogy, I still think there is a lot of good stuff in here, and it’s a shame to see so much of it just thrown out, really. The idea of the Unknown Regions holding some unimaginable threat was never really picked up on, of course, Vision of the Future was one of the last novels Bantam got to publish before Del Rey got the licence back and started the New Jedi Order off. However, the Aftermath trilogy does feel a bit like it’s picking up on this idea of the Unknown Regions and the threats there, having the Imperial Remnant following the Battle of Jakku head off there. What is going on, I wonder? Of course, Disney has managed to open up so much of the Star Wars galaxy once more, and really make it feel like a huge place, so we’re probably fine for now to leave the Unknown Regions as they are…

Naturally, given when this duology was published, Zahn has got a lot more Star Wars lore to pull from this time around, rather than having to make the whole lot up for himself, and there are a lot of references to Mike Stackpole’s work, particularly the Rogue Squadron comics. Baron Fel makes an appearance, and Corran Horn is something of a major second-tier character. Zahn and Stackpole are friends, of course, so that isn’t unexpected, but it does feel weird that we get that sort of detail this time around. There is also reference made to both the Black Fleet Crisis books and the Callista trilogy, though these do feel a little forced at times.

In the midst of all the chaos, we of course get to catch up with Talon Karrde and his organisation, and get to see a lot of the smuggler chief’s history. It was interesting to see this sort of thing expanded upon, and we get a lot of links back to The Thrawn Trilogy and some of the plot points that were left hanging from that series are wrapped up. Notably, Mara Jade leaves the Karrde organisation at the end of the duology, although Karrde has already had an almost-replacement for her in the form of Shada D’ukal, the Mistryl Shadow Warrior from The Last Command. There is a lot of weaving of threads from earlier Zahn stories throughout the pair of books here, but I suppose Shada shows how far this goes when we get an almost synopsis of the short story Hammertong that Zahn wrote for Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. I wouldn’t say the references are particularly necessary to enjoy the books – I certainly did enjoy them when I first read them back in the day, having only previously read Zahn’s trilogy and Crimson Empire up to that point. But there is another layer that can be enjoyed if you have indeed read through the myriad offerings of short stories in this way.

Prior to reading the pair this time around, I re-read Jade Solitaire from Tales of the New Republic, which merely serves to show why Talon Karrde has a Togorian working on his crew now, as well as giving Mara Jade her ship, Jade’s Fire, which is featured in a somewhat significant plot point in Vision of the Future. It’s not necessary, for sure, but does add a layer or two that can be enjoyed. For me, I think it just helps to harken back to those days when the narrative was keen to explain away every single point in the movies and beyond, and brings back a lot of nostalgia for me. Talon Karrde’s journey into the Exocron system has even got me wanting to dig out my copy of The DarkStryder Campaign! Maybe that can be the subject of another blog here soon…

Don’t get me wrong, of course – it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Far from it, I was actually surprised to discover that I didn’t rate this duology nearly as highly as I remembered. I think a lot of that is down to the fact that I have such fond memories of reading these books as a sixteen year old, that now I’ve come to expect more from my literature in general, I found them to be a bit lacking. There is quite an effort made, I feel, to recapture the spirit of the Thrawn Trilogy, almost to the point where it becomes annoying, and I find myself wishing that Zahn had branched out into a completely new direction. Elements of the storyline such as Karrde’s plot were a lot more refreshing, because they had the hint of the earlier trilogy without rehashing it as much as, say, the Luke and Mara trek through the caverns of Nirauan – which Luke actually explicitly compares with their trek through the forest on Myrkr. There are also some vaguely silly scenes, particularly around the Caamas Incident politics. It’s nice that we get reference to the senate being rebuilt following the Almanian Uprising, that does help to make the universe feel really coherent, but the fact that the senate is populated by weird senators, one of whom is jabbering on about needing to sit on her eggs, just feels too out there. Weird.

There were also a lot of elements that felt a lot more like fan fiction than perhaps they should have been. I probably need to elaborate a lot more on this, so here goes. Any movie tie-in like this can of course fall under the heading of fan-fiction, as that’s basically what it is. However, for official licensed media by Lucasfilm, novels like these should feel more like a continuation of the storyline, and while new characters of course need to be introduced to keep the narrative fresh, the way that new characters interact with movie ones is usually where these things fall down. During the Thrawn Trilogy, the interaction was superb, and it felt like these people truly inhabited the same universe as the movies. But when you get a character (or characters) being made into something “better” than the movie heroes, the whole situation can quickly devolve, and it feels a lot like that happens in the scenes where Mara is berating Luke for his actions over the last few years. I know why it was included, of course, as the Bantam novels did have a tendency to make Luke into a kind of demigod at times, but it smacks of something I particularly dislike from Stackpole’s novel I, Jedi, where Corran tells Luke off in such a manner that makes Corran out to be a much better person – maybe even a better Jedi – than Luke is. It makes me cringe so much, and unfortunately that does happen a couple of times in the course of Vision of the Future. It feels very much like Zahn is trying to re-set the narrative by taking Luke away from the god-like portrayal of other novels, and instead set him up for the next stage (which may or may not have involved fighting the unnamed threats of the Unknown Regions), but has the end result of almost returning him to the sort of farmboy he was in A New Hope.

That was a bit rambly, but hopefully you can follow my point!

There is still a tremendous amount to enjoy from these books, and I can definitely recommend you getting a hold of them if you can and giving them a read. While they pretty much have no bearing on the Star Wars narrative post-Disney, of course, they’re nevertheless some of the better books to come out of the Legends canon, and are still some of my favourites!

Jumping on the beast-wagon

Hey everybody!
Well, if you’re one of my instagram followers, not only do you have impeccable taste, but you’ve likely already seen the post from last week about being seduced by the lure of the Beasts of Chaos battletome for Age of Sigmar. The musk is obviously heavy with those fine gentlemen. Ahem, anyway.

I haven’t played Age of Sigmar in years. In fact, I’ve only played it twice, and that was in its first edition, and I was playing with the new Stormcast Eternals. I did like those chaps, and still have my army from back in the day. At any rate, while I’ve made no real move to do anything more with the fantasy setting of Warhammer, I have been keeping an eye on things, and have often felt myself weakening as regards to getting back into it all. See, Warhammer Fantasy is what got me into this mess in the first place, and I will no doubt always have a soft spot for the Old World, even in its new incarnation.

While I was almost won over by the Daughters of Khaine (I did buy a couple of things, but then returned them and bought loads of Tau, instead) and the Idoneth Deepkin (I do actually have a box of something from that line, though I’m planning to turn them into Mandrakes for my Dark Eldar army – though I have heard they’re not quite the right scale? Oh, anyway), I’ve always managed to keep myself back from pulling the trigger on getting into Age of Sigmar with a full army. But when the previews started coming out on the Warhammer Community website, I was finding myself increasingly drawn to the Beasts of Chaos, and the idea of once again getting into the whole Fantasy thing, and so I have cautiously begun to dip my toe into the pond on that. Well, we’re probably mid-calf at this point, but I’m digressing.

Beasts of Chaos are one of the classic armies from the World that Was, of course, and were incidentally the first army I played against in the AoS system. I remember at the time thinking they looked like great models, and around the same time I bought some Minotaurs (now called Bullgors). I never did anything with them, and I think I ended up selling them. Anyway.

With all the new stuff coming for the army, I’ve once again turned my focus to these delightful, hairy chaps, and have decided that here is the army that I’ve been waiting for to get my attention.

I’m hearing a lot of good things about Age of Sigmar 2.0, and there has always been a very vibrant Fantasy scene at my local store, so I reckon it’s as good a time as any to start getting properly into this stuff. For the moment, life seems to have settled a little, so I think it’s about time I looked into the other offerings from Games Workshop, and see what they have going on.

Endless Spells are something I have no idea about, but they do sound kinda fun, adding another level to the game. I’ve always played armies with no psychic ability in 40k, so magic and the like is something that I’m not 100% sure about. So that’ll be interesting to see where it goes. The fact that magic spells have models sounds great, anyway, and the flaming bull and magical horn look tremendous – not so sure on the birds, but they’ll make great Razorwing Flock proxies for my Beast Pack in my Dark Eldar army.

All in all, I’m really looking forward to trying my hand with the Beastmen.

But wait – there’s more!!

I’ve been talking with a mate about Blood Bowl, and we’re both going to give it a go at some point, with a bit of luck. Once again, it’s good to have the sort of game where all you need is one team to get going, so I think it’ll be nice to have something available to use should the opportunity arise. Naturally, I’ve chosen the Doom Lords, although I was also considering the Dark Elves at one point. I have no idea about getting into Blood Bowl, and have only today ordered the box of these chaps, so once I’m sufficiently along with the AoS Beastmen, I think I’ll start to look at the fantasy football team and see where I can go with them, also.

Stay tuned for more blogs where I ramble inanely about my adventures with Beastmen, as I get started with both Age of Sigmar and Bloodbowl!

Rogue Trader

Hey everybody!
It’s a bit of a retro-40k week here on spalanz.com, after my look at Necromunda (albeit in its latest incarnation) earlier in the week. So I thought I’d stay on theme for this post and look at the original rules for Warhammer 40,000 from way back in 1987!

Rogue Trader

Last year, 40k turned 30, and there were of course a number of celebrations of that fact, including the new 8th edition, and of course a facsimile reproduction of the original 40k rulebook, Rogue Trader. Sold exclusively at Warhammer World, the reproduction is pretty much entirely faithful to the original book, albeit with a revised publication history, and shows us latecomers to the game just where it all began.

I’m not going to go over the rules in great detail here, but I just wanted to share some of my initial thoughts and reactions having been leafing through the book of late.

First of all, the book feels entirely too much like a Role Playing Game, rather than a tabletop wargame. The black-and-white illustrations are highly evocative of the old Star Wars RPG from West End Games, and there are pages and pages of table of weapon stats that read a great deal like they’re for use in a RPG setting, in my view.

Rogue Trader

There is a lot of lore in this book, as well, which again adds to the RPG feel. Unlike with the recent editions of the game, where the lore comes first, the book is organised with all the rules in the opening chapters. The Age of the Imperium chapter then goes into great detail over all manner of things, such as the Imperium’s organisation and structure, before travelling over other alien races such as the Tyranids, Eldar and Orks. Notably, Genestealers are a separate race to Tyranids, and of course, we get the classic Squats as basically Space Dwarves, and Slann as Space Lizardmen. We also get a whole bunch of rules for different plant and animal life with which we can pepper the game.

There is a recommendation that games use a GM to keep track of all these myriad rules, which crops up in several parts of the book. There’s a nice little section on collecting miniatures, where the book recommends you plan your purchases before just buying lots and lots of shiny new toys – itself such a different tack from the current way of doing things! – and there is the suggestion that the GM will buy or convert all of the weird and wonderful NPC-like monsters and aliens that your armies can fight.

Conversions seem to be actively encouraged, with whole sections talking about suitable materials with which you can scratch-build terrain and the like. Whereas one person may just see leftover plastic yoghurt cartons, Rick Priestley sees a control tower just needing assembly! It’s all pretty fantastic, and feels just incredibly geared towards giving us the tools we need to really immerse ourselves in The Hobby as a whole.

Of course, the lore is a bit different then to how it is now. Of course, we have the Space Marines as the defenders of mankind, all bedecked in (MkVI) beaky helmets, but no mention of the Horus Heresy or Chaos in general. The basic backbone is there, for sure, but there is a lot that is missing from the established storyline in this book.

Rogue Trader

I said I wasn’t going to talk about the rules, but it is worth mentioning that the game otherwise feels quite similar to how it remains. The turn sequence is still move-shoot-melee, though there is a separate Reserves phase that follows melee combat, and the Psychic phase follows that, with the Rallying phase coming last (analogous to the Morale phase).

There are, of course, the whole host of byzantine charts that explain how to wound in close combat, etc, and vehicle firing arcs are gloriously a thing in this edition. I do miss that – it feels a bit weird that a vehicle, whose guns are modeled pointing away from the action, can still be a part of things. But I guess it does allow for speedier gameplay.

Rogue Trader

Anyway!

Overall, I love the look of this book. It reminds me so much of the old Star Wars RPG, as I’ve said, but on closer inspection, it has so much in common with British comics of the era such as 2000AD. I’m not 100% sure, but I think my brother may have actually had this book when we were growing up. If he didn’t, then it was certainly something very much like it. It harkens back to a time when gaming like this was very much the province of the nerd squad, and so they could be as complicated as you liked, because nothing had to have mass-market appeal. Does that sound elitist? Probably. But I do find myself resenting, at times, how simplistic some games have become nowadays, and how generic fantasy and sci-fi often gets, in order to appeal to the larger market. But I guess that’s a discussion for another time.

Did you used to play with 40k in the Rogue Trader era? Have any fond memories of those days? Leave a comment, and let’s talk about it!!

Sin of Damnation

Hey everybody!
I recently finished reading the novella Sin of Damnation, also known as Space Hulk: the novel, so thought I’d turn this week into some kind of Warhammer 40k nostalgia week and talk about it here for a bit!

The novella runs to just under 100 pages, and reads a lot like a disaster movie. It’s basically a novelisation of the events of the classic board game, and takes us though the Blood Angels first company boarding the space hulk Sin of Damnation. I thought it was quite funny how it felt a little like a RPG storyline, with the terminators fulfilling objectives aboard the space hulk at the direction of the off-screen Captain Raphael, who seemed to be some kind of weird GM.

Of course, there is a lot of space marine vs genestealer action in the book, with some really nicely written parts from the point-of-view of the Broodlord. While the story lacks the scope of something like Shield of Baal: Deathstorm, there is nevertheless the sense that this is the antecedent of the Shield of Baal storyline.

As the story went on, I thought it was interesting to note that there were multiple Broodlords within the hulk, something I guess I hadn’t thought about previously. Just assumed that there’d be one overall leader that directed the hive mind. But there we go!

The book also includes a second short story that was published in the 2014 edition, Sanguis Irae, which follows the librarian Calistarius on another hulk, as he delves into the mind of a long-comatose Blood Angel who has managed to preserve his life despite being in the grip of the Black Rage, enough to allow his battle brothers to defeat a Navigator-Broodlord aboard the vessel. That was weird, I have to say, and I found myself trying to work out how such a creature would come to be – presumably a member of the Navis Nobilite was infected by a genestealer, so the child was both purestrain and a navigator? Who knows. The story was quite intriguing in the way it blended the recollections of the Black Rage guy, along with the fact that the Black Rage basically makes a Blood Angel believe he is Sanguinius in his final moments aboard the Vengeful Spirit. The three timelines of the story worked quite well, at any rate, and it wasn’t as confusing as perhaps it could have been!


Anyway, all this talk of genestealers has me wanting to share with you all some progress with my own brood!

As you know, I’ve been struggling for years now to get my Genestealer Cult models painted – I love the army, and love the models, but find it extremely difficult to actually make any headway with the force, due to the models being so insanely detailed. I recently managed to finish 11 Neophyte Hybrids, which I think has helped a great deal to see how I can get the colour scheme painted in bulk, and have therefore been ploughing ahead with some Acolyte Hybrids this time around – as well as the first of my Purestrains!

The minis are definitely coming along nicely, I think! I’m a little concerned that they look a bit too blue in comparison with the Neophytes, but they are more hunched, so it is slightly more difficult to make out the points of similarity between the two troops choices. But they’re painted with the same fatigues, armour and such – it’s just that the Acolytes have more carapace on show!

I’m quite pleased that I’ve managed to get these painted in a little less than a month, however – especially considering there has been a lot of Necron activity going on in the month, also!

I’m pretty much committed to playing the Cult in Kill Team for now, anyway, so I’ve got a few more models I want to paint up for that, then I’ll have my main force finished. My local GW has a campaign starting on the 15th, though I’m currently away on honeymoon so won’t be able to join in with that quite yet! Once I have my Cult sorted though, I’ll be able to focus once more on getting the Necrons reanimated in the Thokt Dynasty colour scheme, and that will likely take me up to the end of the year! Splendid!

Necromunda!

Hey everybody!
For a good while now, I’ve been posting the odd thing here that has been excitedly talking about the latest boxed game from Games Workshop, Necromunda. Well, I thought it was probably time that I actually took some time to look into this game and check out the rules etc, as I’ve been faffing about with painting some gangers from House Orlock and, more recently, House Van Saar. So I’d like to present to you all now a bit of an insight into my experiences as I try to get to grips with the rules, and my initial thoughts prior to getting any kind of game in.

Let’s begin!

First off, let’s talk about the setting of this game. Like a lot of Games Workshop games, the setting is really very well realised. It takes place on the hive world of Necromunda, where industry has taken over and the population ekes out a living in the ash wastes of the planet. In this harsh environment, gang warfare is rife, and several factions regularly clash in the Underhive. The gangs conform to several Houses within Hive Primus on Necromunda, the most notable are: Escher (all-women), Goliath (hulking brutes), Orlock (bikers), Cawdor (masked fanatics), Van Saar (technologically superior) and Delaque (spies and assassins).

There are other factions within the Hive, notably the Enforcers (Adeptus Arbites), but also bounty hunters, hired guns, generic hive scum and the like.

The game evolved from a skirmish game originally published through White Dwarf, with the original Necromunda itself arriving in 1995. A defining trait of this original game was its multi-level terrain, linked together with walkways and ladders. The game went out of print as the years wore on, until specialist games made a reappearance in the new Games Workshop of recent years. Necromunda was almost something of a golden goose for many fans, who were just chomping at the bit waiting for its announcement. When Shadow War: Armageddon was released early in 2017, this was seen as a bit of a disappointment – not only because the boxed game had such a limited release, but because it just wasn’t Necromunda. Fortunately, an announcement over the summer put those fears to rest, and Necromunda: Underhive was released in November 2017 with House Escher vs House Goliath. While tile-based, Necromunda was back.

The game lends itself really well to campaign play, with gangers leveling up as they gain control of more territory. This aspect of the game is something I hadn’t first realised, but have come to find really fascinating. In so many ways, Necromunda feels like an actual RPG, with some exciting opportunities for telling stories through the gameplay. There’s the chance for your gang to kidnap a member of a rival gang, gain the affiliation of bounty hunters and other hired guns through reputation, etc etc. It’s all pretty marvellous, I have to say!

Of all the Houses, I think I first liked the sound of House Delaque. Spies in trench coats hold a certain appeal for me, though it soon transpired they would be the last gang released for the game, coming around Christmas 2018 I’m guessing. When the Orlocks were previewed, though, I was enamoured, and immediately bought everything I could for these chaps. Their almost 80s biker aesthetic really caught my eye as being so very different to anything I was used to seeing from GW, and I set to work trying to get some painted.

Sadly, I set to painting these incredibly detailed miniatures – which feel a lot smaller than other minis from GW, as it happens – while I was trying to get over a painting slump, and it really didn’t go well for me. I lost interest, and put them aside in favour of the Tau army I started to build. Then this happened…

House Van Saar is the sort of thing I would never have thought I’d get into so much. I’ve been buying everything that they release for Necromunda as they release it, but hadn’t seriously looked into the game until a fortnight or so ago, when I got all the Gang War books out, and started to actually read the rules for gang creation. It helped that I’d also been working on Genestealer Cults for Kill Team, and remembered that the rules for using these in Necromunda actually came out in White Dwarf earlier in the year.

Looking again at Van Saar, I was enamoured, and have set to work making my actual gang with gusto! The only thing that has so far given me pause is the fact I’m not sure where I’ll be able to play it, as I don’t think my local GW really likes the specialist games being played there. But still, I’ve got six gangers to paint up as my starting force, and I’m loving it!

This past weekend, we’ve had House Cawdor released, the religious fanatics that look vaguely medieval, but still manage to fit the grim dark vibe really well, I think!

I’m still picking up everything for the game, of course, so have picked these dudes up as well, but I’m not sure if/when I’ll get round to building and painting them. Maybe soon I’ll draw up a list? I’ve been thinking a lot about drawing up starting lists for all the gangs that I have – even the Goliaths, who I haven’t so much as looked at the sprues for since I got the game for Christmas last year. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to convince my fiancée to play, though I might make a suggestion in the near future to see how she’d feel about trying something immersive. Eldritch Horror was a surprising success with her, so who knows!

At any rate, it looks like a really amazing gaming experience, and is one that I’m hoping to explore in depth soon enough!

A Service Announcement

Hey everybody!
Have you seen the exciting Rogue Trader Kill Team announcement over on the Community site? I’m so excited, I really can’t wait! It’s definitely out a lot sooner than I’d been expecting, anyway!

In addition to the Kill Teams themselves, we’re getting a bunch of new missions and two new Kill Zones, which seems like a decent way to go about these kinds of big-box expansions. Reminds me of the way regular board games get expanded.

Of course, it’s not so much for the missions and game boards that I’ll be primarily snapping up this box as soon as humanly possible! These models look beautiful, I cannot wait to add them to my collection – which brings me on to the second part of this exciting update, that they’re including mini-Codexes in the box so that they can totally be played in 40k!

Definitely time to get a move on with my Imperium army, as I’m guessing these will be used as some kind of allied detachment… Really wasn’t expecting this development, I have to say! I’m really hoping that the Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress game will do a similar thing, with either a mini-dex or at the very least datacards for the new models. I realise that I’m expecting that box to also have a bunch of Rogue Trader models in it, though a few online peoples have been suggesting we’ll get a more disparate group of heroes to play, rather than having two factions per se. But I hope for the latter, as two boxed games fleshing out the Rogue Traders in advance of, maybe, a true Codex: Imperial Agents would be pretty fabulous. But I’m getting ahead of myself here!

Excellent news, all round!

At any rate, I have yet more exciting news of a non-gaming variety to share: later this week, I’m getting married! So there will be a few scheduled blogs going out during my time away on honeymoon, and then normal service will likely resume towards the end of September. Hope you’ll all be good without me! 🙂

The Necron Codex – tactical thoughts

Hey everybody!
It’s been almost five months since I wrote a load of stuff about the new Necron Codex, so I thought I’d come back (given my recently reanimated love for the undead space robots) and have some more rambling thoughts about what the book has to offer. I should warn you now – this blog is most assuredly a rambling one, and runs to around 4000 words. So be prepared!

While I still have yet to play a game with the Codex Necrons, I wanted to talk about it here because the book has rarely left my side over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been looking at ways of building an army that is diverse and interesting to play, both with and against. This has actually proven to be more difficult than I’d first imagined, due to the fact that a lot of the Necron models appear to be more expensive than I remember.

Necron Codex

I think, on the whole, that the book for 8th edition is a wonderful addition for the army. I feel that a lot is indeed expensive these days, and while it is perhaps irrelevant to talk about the points costs compared with 7th, it does intrigue me to see just how much more expensive a lot of the units are now. I think I worked out that my first Necron army I fielded in 7th would cost around 100 points more now in 8th…

I suppose this has led me to feel that Necrons are a lot more of an elite army than perhaps I’d been thinking up to this point. While a lot of 8th seems to involve horde armies, the Necron ability to return slain models to surviving units can help to counteract the need for a lot of models on the board at the start of the game. Indeed, it would likely be overpowering to have an army of 60+ models, all of whom can potentially keep coming back when they’ve been killed off! Instead, then, I need to try to focus my game plan on keeping my dudes alive, and actually strategize

When I wrote up this blog last weekend, I was planning a 1200-point list around a bunch of units that I’ve already got painted up (or will have painted in short order), and briefly talked about having to re-evaluate my strategy of throwing myself into the face of the enemy when I play games. This has been a tactic for me for a long time now, and sometimes it does seem to work – going balls-out can have its place, especially when it might not be what an opponent is expecting. I’ve noticed this in particular with my Dark Eldar army, where people will be expecting me to hold back and try to shoot my way out of the battle, whereas I often end up charging with Venoms and throwing wave after wave of Wracks into close combat. (I’ve also talked previously about how this slightly-crazy way of playing games can perhaps be to the detriment of the overall play experience).

Necrons

I’m not by any means planning to become some sort of power gamer. I’m also not intending to become some sort of tournament player. But I do want to try to get better as a gamer, and see if I can’t up my game a bit in the attempt to make for a better gaming experience overall. So I’ve been turning over this idea in my mind as I’ve been writing and re-writing my ideas for a Necron list, and I think I’ve finally come up with something that should be good – both to play, and to play against. There’s still something of the core of the list I mentioned last time within this one, but it has already begun to morph into something a whole lot more…

So yeah!

List Construction
First off, I want to talk about how I went about building this list, as I feel like this has been a major departure for me. So often with my 8th Edition lists, I’ve started with the premise of, “I need to build a battalion”, and have ended up with having some units in the list that I might not necessarily want to be in there. Or, I’ve tried to forge my army out of as many detachments as I can, in order to gain as many command points as I can. While it’s true that command points and stratagems are a key part of the game now, the cornerstone of any army needs to be just that, the army itself.

So, rather than looking at what unit slots I needed to fill, instead I looked at the units on a case-by-case basis, seeing what they did and looking for synergies, and once I’d collected them all together, looked at how I could fashion that group into a detachment. As it happens, I’ve managed to end up with three detachments, which will net me a total of 10 command points to start the game with. Not bad, considering!

Unit selection
So I decided which units I wanted to take based on what they were up to, and how they could work together, rather than looking at what I needed to fill a certain detachment. However, every list needs to start somewhere, so I took as my starting point the Catacomb Command Barge, a model that I had finished painting just yesterday. The Command Barge has the Wave of Command ability, which lets you add 1 to the hit rolls of nearby infantry (among other things). This ability works extremely well with tesla-wielding infantry, of course – tesla weaponry has the exploding dice rule of turning hit rolls of 6 into three successes, so with the +1 from Wave of Command, tesla will be triggering on 5s as well as 6s. Splendid! Let’s get a max squad of 10 Immortals with tesla carbines in there, right away.

Necron Immortals

So I’ve got some shooting synergies going on here. Let’s look for some more. Hello, Triarch Stalker! This is a unit that I’ve never really thought a great deal about, other than to dismiss it as too expensive. Well, I’m building a list with the idea that all the units are expensive, so it’s not down to how many I can cram into my list anymore. The Stalker has the Targeting Relay rule that allows all friendly Necron units to re-roll hit rolls of 1 when targeting the same model the Stalker has targeted in that phase. Doesn’t matter if the Stalker actually hit the unit, it only needs to target it. Of course, this might be a double-edged sword, as the Stalker may well kill that unit before its rule can have any benefit for the rest of the army.

I’ve already got one built with a heat ray, but have decided to go here for the twin heavy gauss cannon because of the S9 AP-4, which should be really handy overall. The two weapons are the same cost, anyway, so it doesn’t make a great deal of difference.

The Stalker packs a punch, but I wanted to include a few other choice bits in the list during my first sweep through the Codex. The Annihilation Barge is a nice kit that should do some decent work, with a total of eleven tesla shots coming from both the twin tesla destructor and the underslung tesla cannon. While it won’t benefit from Wave of Command, weight of fire should account for at least a few 6s – even from someone like me!

Finally, I’ve included yet more tesla in the form of three Tomb Blades. The models are notoriously fiddly to put together, but I bought a few boxes back in 7th edition and have recently been thinking about them since finding them again. Having two tesla carbines on each of them will give me twelve tesla shots this time, so I’m again hoping for some successes with the exploding dice. I’ve equipped them all with nebuloscopes to allow them to target models in cover as well – I’ve never really had to deal with cover in my meta so far, but the upgrades for tomb blades are really cheap enough that you might as well go for them!

First thoughts
So my first thoughts were as follows: having an HQ slot buffing an infantry squad to get the most out of their shooting, while being a pretty tanky unit in and of itself; a support unit that will allow the rest of the army to re-roll hit rolls of 1, and a couple of fancy units that would take advantage of that while presenting their own kinds of threat – from weight of fire, strength of fire, and sheer speed across the tabletop. So far, everything in the list is posing quite a significant threat – everything is hitting on 3s in the shooting phase except the Barge, which is hitting on 2s, and this collection of units is altogether putting out a startlingly high number of shots: 6 from the Command Barge (assuming we’re in range for the Staff), 2 from the Stalker, 20 from the Immortals, 11 from the Annihilation Barge, and 12 from the Tomb Blades!

But that’s only going to be a core of 792 points, so what else do I want in the army?

Codex Sweep, Round Two
Having built a core of destruction, I next went about looking for units that would have some interesting synergies, but also that would benefit from some use of the stratagems. I have ten command points to play with, and I don’t want to use them all just on the Command Re-Roll.

Returning to the HQ slots, I decided to include an Overlord, to make use of the My Will Be Done rule – basically Wave of Command once again. These two rules don’t stack, so I’ve included another squad of ten Immortals, this time with gauss blasters. Why gauss? Well, I do like variety, and gauss has some AP whereas tesla does not, so it’ll be handy for using against the more resilient units I’m possibly going to be facing. There is a nice 1CP stratagem called The Phaeron’s Will, which allows you to use My Will Be Done on a second infantry unit, so I’ve included a group of five Immortals, and a group of five Lychguard, to give him a choice on who to bestow these riches.

 

The Lychguard are my favourite kit in the entire Necron range, something I’ve mentioned time and again in my blog. I’m surprised I’ve only included one unit in this army, but they really are quite expensive for including more. I’ve been having vague thoughts about trying out an all-Lychguard elite force sometime in the future, but for now, it remains a dream. Anyway! The reason for choosing the slightly more expensive option of sword-and-board over the meat grinder of the warscythes is that it will allow me to make use of another cool stratagem, the 2CP Dispersion Field Amplification, which gives a 3++ save until the end of the phase, and for every unmodified 6 rolled when making those saves, you bounce the shots back at the attacking unit. This could be a very cool distraction unit, or else a unit that will allow me to move up the board unscathed.

I’ll be bringing a Lord with the unit, who is equipped with a warscythe simply because it’s an awesome weapon, and the Lord himself has The Lord’s Will, who grants a re-roll to wound rolls of 1 for units within 6″. That is actually quite useful for such a cheap model, and works well with the Stalker giving re-rolls to hit rolls of 1. My plan is to have the Lord move around, and to keep everybody else moving around the board rather than remaining static and open for assaults. With a bit of luck, it’ll be a half-decent strategy that will keep my opponent on his or her toes!

Also in this batch of units, I’ve got a trio of Canoptek Wraiths. Some of my favourite models in the army, Wraiths have gotten expensive, even before adding the wargear. But in compensation for that, they have also gotten really quite decent, with a lot going in their favour between the Wraith Form special rule that allows them to fall back and then shoot and charge, not to mention moving across the board unimpeded. They also have a couple of stratagems that work well with Canoptek units, so it’ll be good to try some of these out. They may be expensive, but for what you can do with them, I think they could well be worth it.

I’ve also been looking to cover more bases in this second sweep through the Codex, and so the Lychguard and Wraiths should give me some fairly decent close combat capability to go alongside my shooting. The Overlord and Lord are good utility HQs that work well enough in either phase, and this batch of units is rounded out with a Cryptek, who is equipped with the Canoptek Cloak to enable him to make the best use of his Technomancer abilities, healing those units with Living Metal while aiding others with their Reanimation Protocols. Just a decent enough utility HQ, but also providing another target for my opponent due to his healing powers. Necrons can already be quite an annoying army to play against due to Reanimation Protocols, so by having a unit that makes these even better will help with the psychological warfare, as well as aiding with target saturation.

This second sweep brought me a further 790 points, so it’s time to fill in the final few hundred points to round things out properly.

Third and Final Sweep
Up to this point, we’re approaching 1600 points, and so it’s time to start picking just a couple more units that would be nice to have in the list. It’s time to have a bit of fun, really, as most of my bases are now covered. I could just max out some more troops slots, or fill the remaining points with Lychguard (I’ve done it before!) But I’m still trying to learn the nuances of the army, and trying to work out what I want to play with, and perhaps more importantly, I’m trying to work out how to play Necrons well.

First up in this section are the Deathmarks. I talked a lot about my own utility HQs, but what about everybody else’s? Or – worse yet – psykers? Necrons famously have next to no psychic defense, but if that psyker is a character, they do have snipers that can try to get rid of any Smite shenanigans, hopefully before they get too out of hand. The Hunters from Hyperspace special rule allows them to deepstrike in, and the synaptic disintegrators they are armed with allow them to target characters, doing additional mortal wounds on 6s. They also have the Ethereal Interception rule, which allows them to pop out of reserves behind an enemy unit that has just arrived as such, and then shoot at it. It is slightly better than it was last edition as you can still shoot in your own subsequent shooting phase, though I don’t know if I’ll ever want to make use of this as well.

The Doomsday Ark is a model that I’m very much looking forward to getting finished and down on the table. In terms of my Great Reanimation project to re-paint my Necron force as Thokt Dynasty, I’ve been holding off this one as I want to try and get troops and other core units painted up first, but since doing the Command Barge, I’m definitely in the mood to try and get more vehicles and war machines in my army! The doomsday cannon, when fired from stationary, is S10 AP-5, which feels like it might be overkill, but seriously, the amount of Knights swanning around the game right now mean we need to have something that can give them a run for their money! If it’s not being weighed down by sheer volume of shots, it needs to have something big thrown at it, and the Doomsday Ark definitely fits that bill. It’s also a really cool looking model, so I suppose there is that going for it, as well!

Finally, we have a small Scarab Swarm base to round out the points closer to 2000. Scarabs are just an annoying little unit that have the hilarious Self Destruction strategem for 1CP that allows you to remove the swarm before close combat, and roll a D6 – on a 2+, a unit within 1″ suffers D3 mortal wounds. Spectacular stuff! Could be worth including more Scarabs just for the hilarity factor! Ages ago, I bought a load of Scarabs from a bits seller, so have plenty of them hanging about. They’re a unit that can be fun to build, as you design the look of the base with scarabs scuttling over terrain or space marines…

Necron scarab base

This third tier of units is very much in the vein of just stuff that I’d like to try out, so I’d like to try to keep it flexible enough that I can switch things out as the mood takes me. Of course, there’s nothing to say the rest of the army will survive any future culls, but there are models like the Canoptek Tomb Stalker and the Tesseract Ark that I have and would like to see if I can fit them into the list in the future. But for now, I think I’m going to stick with this list, and with just the Codex models while I truly get to grips with the new book.

Necrons Tesseract Ark

The Fancy Stuff
So that’s the army units that I’ll be using, along with a selection of the stratagems that have caught my eye. What about all the fancy bits?

To start with, I’m sticking with the Sautekh Dynastic Code, which allows me to treat all ranged weapons as Assault weapons if I Advance, and additionally I suffer no penalty for moving and shooting Heavy weapons. That’s why I’ve quite brazenly fitted a transdimensional beamer on one of the Canoptek Wraiths, as I’d like to see what the weapon does, but I don’t have to worry about keeping still. I’ve also got gauss cannons on the Barge and Stalker for the same reason, really.

Sautekh was originally chosen because it seemed like a decent enough code, but also because I was looking at using Orikan the Diviner for my list. I may still include him in the future, but for now I have no other plans for him.

The Sautekh-specific stratagem, Methodical Destruction, allows other units to add 1 to their hit rolls when targeting a unit that has already been wounded this phase. It’s 2CP, so not something you’d consider lightly, but can be quite useful (and again links in nicely with the Stalker’s rule, and the general plan of having a lot of focused fire).

As far as Warlord Traits go, I’ve gone for Hyperlogical Strategist. It’s the Sautekh-specific Trait, and allows for CP refunds on a 5+ (as well as re-rolling a single die once per battle). I’m not overly fussed by this, if I’m honest, and Warlord Traits in general tend to be one of the most likely abilities that I forget during a game. I’d be equally happy with experimenting through all six of the generic Necron traits, as well, as there are some fairly good ones in that bunch – including Immortal Pride, which allows the Warlord to Deny the Witch. Could be interesting! At any rate, my Warlord is probably going to be the Command Barge, just because I’ve always used the Barge in this respect in previous games. Though I could just as easily see myself swapping it to the Overlord on foot.

Finally, relics – or, Artifacts of the Aeons, as they’re known here! I’ve never been amazingly overwhelmed by how powerful these relics are, unfortunately, which often makes it difficult to decide what to take. I’ve previously just gone for Sempiternal Weave to get +1 Toughness and +1 Wound, but I could just as easily go for the Orb of Eternity to get a second round of Reanimation Protocols at +1 for models within 3″ of the bearer. I’m not a fan of the Sautekh-specific relic, the Abyssal Staff, as it changes the Staff of Light from Assault 3 to Assault 1, with mortal wounds available subject to too many confusing conditions. I’d rather just stick with my regular Staff of Light and be done with!

I’ve recently been thinking about re-painting the new plastic Overlord, which would give me access to the Voidreaper, though that Voidscythe is expensive yet fine as it is! So that’ll probably be something for the more distant future.

But there we have it! My new Necron army, finally decided upon!

Necrons Thoky Dynasty

Army Progress
So where am I up to with getting these models done? Well, not quite as near to finished as I’d like, sadly!

I think everything is definitely built, though I’d have to check what I’ve armed the Tomb Blades of yore with. Probably will need to re-do them to be completely correct on the tabletop. The Doomsday Ark is a big issue insofar as it’s in about 20 sub-assemblies, so that couldn’t be fielded right now. But I’m otherwise not too bad on the building side of things. Painting wise, I’ve not gotten very far beyond having the gauss Immortals, the Cryptek and the Command Barge finished, though! I’m about to start work on some tesla Immortals, and have the Annihilation Barge sitting on my desk covered in green spray paint, so will need to do something with that soon.

But the good thing about all of this is, I don’t need to buy any new models just yet!

Looking to the future, I’ve already mentioned the Forge World inclusions I’d like to make – though again, I’ve already got those models. I’m thinking I might make an investment in a second Doomsday Ark, depending on how well the first works for me. Within the many models that are waiting for me to build, I have a second Triarch Stalker as well, which is another model I’m thinking about doubling down on, as I can foresee the Targeting Relay rule making it a high priority for my opponent if it means I’m getting a lot of mileage out of it.

Necron Immortals

Overall, then, I’m really pleased that I’ve finally managed to come up with an army build for the Necrons that I’m actually happy with. It’s been a long process, overall, and I’ve gone through a number of iterations before getting here, but here I finally am! Having spent a lot of time lately reading over the Codex and trying to figure out where I want to go with an army, I think I’m reasonably clear now on what I want to be doing on the table. I’ve gone for bigger blobs of troops in order to maximise on Reanimation Protocols, and have as many buffs and synergies as I can get into the list while still keeping it fun and engaging for me. It should be a really exciting process to finally get the army finished, and I’ll be sure to check in here with both painting updates and news on how well the army performs when I’ve finally started to get some games in with it!

Hopefully I’ll be able to at least play once before Chapter Approved 2018 will no doubt come along and change a lot of the points costs or unit/weapon abilities! At least I can use that as my inspiration…

This blog is definitely running a bit long now, though, so I think I’ll close it up here. Hopefully it’s been interesting, maybe even useful, but you deserve a break now, so go put the kettle on and relax!