Hobby Resolutions check-in!

Hey everybody!
It’s New Year’s Eve, and so definitely time to check in for some progress against those Hobby Resolutions that I made twelve months ago! Spoiler alert: I don’t think I’ve done very well, all told…

So how did I do?

Build and Paint a third Ravager
Nope! But I have very recently returned to the Drukhari, and I do have two Ravager kits waiting in the wings, so this may not be so far off, after all.

Build and Paint an Imperium tank of some sort
Nope! When I originally wrote this, I was thinking of a Predator, but I have made no effort to do anything with this one. Well, I suppose I have that Baal Predator for the Blood Angels army that I haven’t really started work on yet…

Buy, Build and Paint Inquisitor Karamazov
I did buy him when I went to Warhammer World earlier this month, but I have neither built not painted him yet. Inquisitor Karamazov is one of those models that I want to have, just to have, and I don’t really have any ideas for him in an army yet. I suppose then, the fact that I’ve been focusing on getting armies built, at the very least, has meant this one has fallen by the wayside…

Continue to build up and paint the 1500pt Grey Knights list
For the longest time in 2019, I did actually consider selling off my Grey Knights, as they had barely been started as an army, and I thought I might just get rid of them before I went in too deep. But in the last couple of months, I’ve kicked this project back into gear, and have actually played one game with them. So progress has definitely been made – though the 1500 point list has definitely changed shape since I wrote this!

Finish off painting the Deathwatch models I have
Nope. Deathwatch were, for a time, a significant project for me once more, and I was trying to get a few models done. I think the most I have done, though, is some base coats on Watch Captain Artemis… I have a lot of Deathwatch models, though, so they will be looked at in the coming weeks, in an attempt to thin out the backlog. I don’t want to outright get rid of any, but I do want to try and clear some space, mentally, in my hobby.

Work out what I want to do with those Tyranids, if anything
I have indeed done this – I sold off a few models, I added a couple more, and I’ve not only started painting them, I’ve even had a couple of games with them! Definitely ticking this one off, then!

Work out what I want to do with the Tau army, if anything
I have indeed done this, as well – I sold off the whole lot, earlier in the year.

Paint 10 more Neophyte Hybrids, and paint 5 Hybrid Metamorphs
I haven’t done this, unfortunately. I think I’ve barely touched Genestealer Cults all year, despite their new releases coming out!

Paint 10 Skitarii, the Tech Priest Dominus, and the Dunecrawler
Well I’ve done the Skitarii, and I’ve done the Tech Priest – I just haven’t quite made it round to the Dunecrawler, sadly! I definitely need to take a long, hard look at the AdMech that I have, though, and thin those ranks out.

Paint some Ravenwing Black Knights, and the Darkshroud
I haven’t done anything with this, beyond undercoating them. Does that count? Probably not…

Paint at least one proper terrain piece (not just an ammo crate)
I have tried to do this one, what feels like all year – I just haven’t quite gotten there. The closest that I have come is getting quite a few basecoats and some shade on the Alchomite Stack, which is quite possibly one of my favourite of all the terrain kits GW produce as a result!

Paint some Nighthaunt and see what AoS is all about
I’ve certainly painted some Nighthaunt, and I’ve had three games with AoS, so I think this can be chalked up to a success! Though I would, of course, have preferred to have played more!

Paint the Doomsday Ark
I started… but I have definitely not finished…

Try out ShadeVault and Necromunda
Total failure on both counts!

Play more games, dammit!
Well, I played three games of AoS, as mentioned, as well as four games of Kill Team and thirteen games of 40k! If we’re counting other games, I also played the Dunwich Legacy campaign, as well as a couple of games with the new Hellboy boardgame. So it’s hardly been a prolific year for gaming, but it has still been really quite good, and I’ve met some really nice new folks to play against, which has been great! Moving house and having a baby has limited my time to some extent, for sure, but I’m hopeful that, now we’re in more of a routine, things can perhaps get back on track.

I’ll be writing more about my Hobby Resolutions for 2020 in another blog, but I think some of these will definitely be making a return – that terrain isn’t going to paint itself, after all!!

Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising

Hey everybody,
It’s been out for a while now, but I’ve been wanting to talk about the new Psychic Awakening series of books for Warhammer 40k since the event kicked off a couple of weeks ago, so what better time to start than now?! The series is meant to have massive ramifications for the 40k universe as a whole, and back when it was initially announced, we were promised something new for every faction. I’m sure we’ve had such promises before, but so far, we’re three books in at the time I’m writing this, with a fourth on the way, and it looks like they are actually looking to deliver on this!

Psychic Awakening Phoenix Rising

Book One, Phoenix Rising, deals with all things Aeldari, and the book is actually really quite interesting to delve into. The first thing that you notice about it is that it isn’t anywhere near as weighty a tome as the Vigilus campaign books from last Christmas. That is probably because the book functions more like a mini Codex, than a true campaign book, and there is correspondingly less in the way of lore.

It’s still there, for sure – I read somewhere that this series is meant to bring the Imperium as a whole up to the same point in time as the Vigilus stuff, which sort of functions as the “current” timeframe. That would seem to be correct, as the fluff here goes right back to the Gathering Storm in places, chronicling the rise of the Ynnari and putting that into the wider context of the Aeldari races as a whole. That does sort of make sense, as that earlier series was a 7th edition thing, so it’s good for new fans to have the same sort of context as the rest of us.

The fluff is followed then by a series of narrative missions to play, three Echoes of War missions that recreate some of the storyline in the fluff section, such as the Drukhari attack on the Ynnari, using manipulated forces of the Astra Militarum. Each of these missions has its own suite of stratagems that can be used, and there are also a couple of additional rules for Theatres of War, giving ongoing effects for the whole battle. Theatres of War is something that I don’t see used a great deal, but could be fun to play with if you wanted a really intense game of 40k!

This first book in the series was released alongside a box set, Blood of the Phoenix, which repacked several Craftworld and Dark Eldar kits, as well as providing plastic miniatures for Jain Zar, Howling Banshees, Drazhar and the Incubi. I’m not a Craftworld expert, but the Drazhar model went all the way back to 1992, I believe, and so was really quite desperately in need of an update. I’d been hoping for plastic Incubi for almost as long as I’ve been a Dark Eldar player, so this box was highly anticipated! I mean, look at a comparison with their older models:

Jain Zar and Drazhar old models

Unfortunately, the box set was really quite overpriced – I think it was something like £150 retail, which is fine when you think the characters will probably be £25 each when released separately, and the new units will be around £30 or maybe £35, if the Chaos Marines release is anything to go by; it means you’re getting a whole bunch of the older stuff for about £30, which is a big saving. A lot of people weren’t too impressed, though, as the older stuff it was packed alongside has been out for years now, and people tend not to want that stuff. It was the sort of box that might be great for new folks getting into the hobby or wanting to start these armies, but for those of us who have been waiting for these plastics, it was a hard pass. As it stands, I picked up Drazhar on a bits site, and would be fine to wait for the plastic Incubi kit to hit retail, having already bought and painted up the finecast models if I wanted to use them in a battle before then.

New Drazhar is an incredible model though, I really liked him a lot!

Anyway, following the missions, the book sort of splits into three, as we get the new rules sections. First up are the Craftworld lot, which have the rules for Jain Zar and the Howling Banshees, as well as three pages of additional rules for other aspect warriors such as Dire Avengers and Striking Scorpions. It’s really quite an interesting little rules update in this respect, although I’m no Craftworld expert to know whether they’d be of any use!

The Drukhari section is a little smaller, having new rules just for Drazhar and the Incubi – I say new rules, they’re more like tweaks, really. Drazhar gets a bit beefier and now has the Lethal Precision rule the Incubi had, and the Klaivex can take demi klaives like Drazhar.

Both flavours of Eldar get new ways to create their own brand of chapter tactics with new Obsessions and Attributes. From a list of different abilities and effects, you get to choose two (unless otherwise stated) which give you your own custom rules for your chosen army type. I suppose it compensates for not having your own Stratagems and Warlord Traits by getting to pick two. There are four pages of Craftworld Attributes, while the Drukhari get a page of Obsessions for each of Kabal, Cult and Coven. Some of them are quite decent, as it happens, and I’ll talk about them a bit more shortly.

Finally, the book closes out with a reprinting of the Ynnari “Codex” that was featured back in a White Dwarf earlier this year. There is all of the lore, the rules, stratagems, psychic powers and warlord traits, so it’s nice to have that reproduced again here for convenience, and to ensure that Ynnari players can have those rules without resorting to trying to find the White Dwarf on ebay, or something.

All in all, it’s a pretty nice book, with a lot of different parts that you can pick and choose from. Obviously, Eldar players are the demographic for this, as Space Marines players will find nothing of interest here. But I do like these sort of books, which have a bit of story/background to them, some new rules, and then some missions and stuff to choose from, as well.


Yesterday, I played my final game of 40k for the year, a three-player game against Chaos and Necrons, for which I brought my own Drukhari – the first time they have had an outing since about May, I think!

It was a pretty casual game, with armies floating around the 1000 points mark. My buddy JP had had the Start Collecting Chaos Marines for Christmas, as well as more Havocs, so was keen to get those out. Matt was playing Necrons, in what was I think his second game of 40k (certainly his second game of 8th edition). We were using the multiplayer rules from the core rule book, so nothing too fancy, but I think it definitely helped that we were all very much into it not being a case of ganging-up on one player, but we were all trying to achieve our own objectives while attacking everybody else.

It was also really nice to finally get all of my terrain out and on the table!

I’ve been thinking a lot about doing away with Obsessions entirely, and playing lists more like I used to in the Index days, but instead decided to try out the new build-your-own with a Raiding Party force. Pretty much everything about the Drukhari army caused raised eyebrows from my opponents, and with good reason – they’re the sort of army where so many things just shouldn’t be the case, and yet they are. I’m particularly fond of the Hexrifle on my Wracks here, because nobody expects a fairly-dedicated close combat unit to include a sniper rifle, after all!

Wracks were possibly the star players here, taking out the Daemon Prince warlord for 1VP, followed closely by the Ravager which, over the course of my turn, finished off the Havocs unit before it could do anything.

However, I was very often forgetting a lot of rules – standard operating procedure, for sure, but I think the sheer number of moving parts to this army when you have all three subfactions present is just bonkers.

So for my Kabal, I took Disdain for Lesser Beings, which allows me to only ever lose one model to Morale (forgot about that, and lost two of my Warriors this way), and Toxin Crafters, which adds one to the damage characteristic of a poisoned weapon on a natural 6 to wound. I don’t honestly know if this would have made a difference (I forgot about the open topped rule for my Raiders for at least one turn), but there you have it. I normally use Kabal of the Obsidian Rose, giving me +6 to the maximum range of weapons, and I think I would usually prefer this to anything else, as I want to keep my Kabal gunline as far away from anybody as possible.

The Kabal rules in Phoenix Rising aren’t particularly game-changing, they are just some interesting alternatives if you don’t want to use those from the Codex.

Wych Cults are still a subfaction that I don’t know enough about, having only used them once previously. I mean, I use Reavers a lot, but the rest of them… I’d gone with Precise Killers, which improves the AP of a weapon on a natural 6 to wound, as well as Slashing Impact, which allows me to inflict 1 mortal wound on a 5+ when I finish a charge move. These are nice bonuses, and there are some interesting things in the book that I think could do with further investigation. I probably need to play more Wych Cults to get the gist of things, though.

I will say, as well, that I had an incredibly lucky roll on my Hekatrix’s blast pistol, and one-shot killed the Master of Executions! Given that the last time JP and I played, his Master of Executions took out my entire Grey Knights Purifier Squad in a single swing, I feel that has given me justice!

Combat Drugs are still a mystery to me, however…

Finally, for my Haemonculus Coven, I went with Experimental Creations, which increases the Strength of everyone in the unit, as well as giving a +1 to wound rolls when attacking units with lower toughness. That didn’t really come into it as much as I thought, but the +1 Strength was very handy! With Wracks being S3 but T4, you want them in combat, but their effective power is quite limited with just basic weapons. Anyway! My second Obsession for them was Masters of Mutagens, which means a natural 6 to hit against anything other than vehicles or titanic units is an auto-wound. That did come up quite a bit, which helped me to get rid of the Chaos Sorcerer, at which point there were no more Psychic shenanigans to endure.

It was a good game, and didn’t feel too much like a 1v1 with a bystander, though the Necrons just kept reanimating while Chaos and Dark Eldar were dying all around, meaning the final round was a bit one-sided. But we got to 5 rounds, so all was well!


I feel like Phoenix Rising is definitely going to be worth getting for Craftworlds players, and Ynnari too, but if you’re a Dark Eldar player looking for new ways to play the army, I think there is limited good stuff here. Possibly not worth it to the more competitive players, as nothing in there seems particularly game-destroying – and I’m guessing the more competitive dark kin won’t want to give up Agents of Vect so easily, anyway!

The Mandalorian (round-up)

Hey everybody!
So we’re now at the point where the final episode of The Mandalorian has aired, and we’re left with thoughts, hopes and dreams for season two, which was recently announced by series creator Jon Favreau. I thought I’d come along here and catch up with the series, after the first two installments of my look at season one, here and here.

Major spoilers to follow, guys!

Chapter 6 is a prison heist episode, as Mando attempts to earn some credits without returning to the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are mostly after his hide following the breakout from Nevarro. Taking a job from his old friend Ran, he teams up with a rag-tag group in an effort to break out the Twi’lek Qin from a New Republic prison ship. Qin’s sister Xi’an is part of the team, who all proceed to double-cross the Mandalorian and leave him on the ship, the pilot having activated a distress beacon. Mando isolates and defeats each member of his erstwhile team, then delivers Qin to Ran and leaves. Ran, attempting to launch a fighter to pursue Mando, has his space station blown up by New Republic fighters, who have followed the beacon Mando placed onto Qin.

It’s something of a throwaway episode, much like the previous two, but the series has been really good at taking this sort of extended look into the underworld, and continuing to give us decent action, even if the individual episodes are, well, episodic in nature. It harkens back to older-style TV series, which used a similar method of storytelling, much in the way the original movies harkened back to the adventure serials.

However, chapters 7 and 8 form essentially a two-part season finale, and the last episode is the longest yet at close to an hour. To begin, Greef Karga sends Mando a message explaining that the Client has overrun Nevarro, and proposes that the bounty hunter return, using the Asset as bait in order to draw out the Client, kill him, and free the planet. In return, Karga will call off the bounty on Mando and allow the hunter to operate in relative peace. Sensing a trap, Mando recruits Cara Dune and the Ugnaught Kuill to assist him. In addition, Kuill had salvaged IG-11 and reprogrammed him.

Along the way, Baby Yoda heals Karga following an attack by mynocks, and he reveals that his original plan had been to kill Mando and take the Asset to the Client for his own purposes. The plan changes, and Karga pretends to have captured Mando in order to get close to the Client, while Kuill takes the Asset back to the ship. However, the Client is contacted by Moff Gideon, who arrives in force with stormtroopers and deathtroopers, and shoots up the cantina where the meeting was taking place, killing the Client in the process. Scout troopers have been dispatched to recover the Asset, who kill Kuill in the process.

Chapter 8 picks up almost immediately, and we see that IG-11 manages to recover Baby Yoda, thwarting Gideon’s plans. In turn, the Imperials attempt to destroy the cantina, threatening the group with an E-web repeating blaster, and then incinerator troopers.

The group manages to flee into the sewers, where they discover the Mandalorian enclave has been all but decimated following Mando’s departure from the world. The Armourer remains, and informs them that some did flee off-world, and provides them with some assistance for their escape. She also tells them that the Asset appears to be a Jedi, the ancient enemies of the Mandalorians, and charges Mando to return it to its people. Following a lava river, the group manages to escape the Empire thanks to IG-11 triggering his self-destruct, but just then Moff Gideon pursues them in his custom TIE fighter. The Mandalorian uses his new jetpack to fly up to the TIE and plant some detonators on it, causing Gideon to crash.

In the wrap-up, Cara Dune agrees to stay on as Karga’s enforcer, while Mando must pursue his new mission, reuniting Baby Yoda with his people. Finally, we learn that Moff Gideon has survived the crash, cutting himself out of the wreckage with nothing less than the Darksaber!

Looking back, this series has been just incredible!

I was really gushing about how much I have been enjoying the small-scale adventure stuff in my previous blog, but that still holds true, even when we have the might of the Imperial Remnant under Moff Gideon. We have a fairly pitched battle, with massed stormtroopers as well as the more esoteric varieties that call on the expanded universe of yore, which continues to provide that element of fan service without seeming to browbeat us with it.

While Baby Yoda has clearly been the breakout character here, I think there is still a great story being told, and it doesn’t rely on this cuteness or anything to make it work. Chapter 8 brought us a lot of answers, seeing the extended flashback of Mando and getting, basically, his origin story. We also finally see him without the helmet, which was interesting as it did serve the story and wasn’t simply checking off a list.

I think that’s been the great success with the series as a whole, though, as we’ve seen some really great storytelling without resorting to an over-reliance on snazzy effects or something. It’s character-driven stuff, really reverting back to the type of the original trilogy. It really succeeds with the small-scale adventure, such as Chapter 4’s assault on the AT-ST, and through having some really great moments to build on the core characters, chapter 7 felt really good to see them now united in their cause.

Season 2 is expected next Autumn, and while we can assume we’ll be seeing Mando and Baby Yoda road trips while they attempt to find either (a) more Yodas, or (b) surviving Jedi, it has been suggested that we might also be seeing the formation of the First Order. Personally, I hope we don’t get that – The Mandalorian has been at its most successful, to my mind, when it avoided all of that galactic-scale stuff, and instead told its story of outlaws on the galactic fringe. If we start scaling things up, then I think we’ll risk losing the charm of what has made this season so successful.

Hopefully, Jon Favreau and co will stick to the formula, and have an overarching storyline that also takes the time for those episodic parts, where we can just continue to build on the characters. Speaking of which, while I think we can be fairly sure we’ll see Cara Dune, Karga and Gideon again in some capacity, I hope we get to find out what happened with Fennec Shand, as I’m pretty sure she survived at the end of chapter 5…

It’s been really great, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more live-action Star Wars on the small screen in the future!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everybody! Hope you’ve all been having a great festive season, no matter what you’ve been getting up to!

For me, the hobby haul has been limited to this beauty, which will no doubt keep me going for a while!! Gonna try to get this, plus two gangs, painted up in time for some games in a few weeks (or maybe months!)

The Rise of Skywalker (spoilers within!)

The Rise of Skywalker

So folks, I went to see the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, last night. The finale to the nine-movie saga of the Skywalker series, there was a lot of hype for this film in the run up, and I was getting a bit concerned that it might not live up to that, when it came down to it.

The story of the film picks up around a year following the last movie. There have been reports of the return of Emperor Palpatine, and Kylo Ren has obtained a Sith wayfinder device that he uses to travel to the planet Exegol, and finds the weirdly reanimated Sith Lord, who reveals that the whole First Order has been part of his plan, and that he created Snoke as a puppet to lure Ren to the dark side. Palpatine has an entire Sith fleet in orbit around the planet, and he promises to turn over the whole of his Final Order to Ren in exchange for the death of Rey.

Poe, Finn and Chewie gain intel from a spy in the First Order that confirms Palpatine has returned, and return to the Resistance with the news. Rey has read of a device within the Jedi texts she had from Luke, which can lead to the lost Sith world of Exegol. Luke had traced such a device to Pasaana with the help of a mysterious contact, and so Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewie travel there to pick up the trail. There, they meet Lando Calrissian, who helps them escape a First Order patrol, but through their Force bond, Kylo Ren discovers Rey’s location and travels there to confront her. Poe and Finn discover a Sith dagger on the that C-3PO translates, although he is forbidden from speaking the words due to his programming. However, the First Order captures the Falcon, and Chewie with the dagger – while attempting to bring the prison transport back to the surface, Rey accidentally destroys the ship with Force lightning. The Resistance heroes escape on the ship left behind by Luke’s contact.

Poe suggests they travel to Kijimi, where they can get the text out of Threepio’s memory. Unfortunately, this will come at the cost of wiping his memory completely. They go through with it, and while there Rey senses Chewie is alive on the First Order ship in orbit, which arrived following the Knights of Ren having tracked them. While Kylo Ren travels to the surface to find Rey, the Resistance fighters travel to the ship with the help of an old contact of Poe’s, Zorii Bliss. While Finn and Poe rescue Chewie, Rey recovers the Sith dagger and receives a vision of Luke’s contact killing her parents with it. The First Order discovers Finn, Poe and Chewie, but they are aided by General Hux, who reveals himself as the spy. Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that she is the granddaughter of Palpatine, who had ordered her killed as a child as he feared her power. He asks her to join him, and together they can defeat Palpatine, but she escapes with Finn, Poe and Chewie. Hux is executed by Allegiant General Pryde, who speaks to his former master, the Emperor, and orders the destruction of Kijimi.

Threepio’s memory banks have given the location of the Sith wayfinder device as Kef Bir, a moon in the Endor system. There, Rey uses the dagger to discover the location of the device in the remains of the second Death Star, but upon finding it, she is confronted by Kylo Ren once more. The two duel, and at a critical moment Kylo feels Leia calling to him through the Force as she dies. Rey impales him on his own lightsaber, but then manages to heal him through the Force before fleeing the planet in his ship. She returns to Ahch-To, and attempts to exile herself, but the Force ghost of Luke encourages her to face Palpatine and her destiny, and she leaves in his old X-Wing and with Leia’s lightsaber, using the wayfinder from Kylo’s ship to travel to Exegol. Kylo Ren realizes the errors of his ways, and after a hallucination of his father Han Solo, he throws away his lightsaber. The Resistance tracks her through the call sign on Luke’s X-Wing and follows her there, to be confronted with the massed Sith fleet headed up by General Pryde.

Rey confronts Palpatine on the surface, and the Emperor demands that she kill him, to allow him to transfer his consciousness into her and live anew. While the Resistance fleet attempts to battle the full might of the Sith, aiming to knock out a navigation tower to prevent the fleet from leaving orbit, Ben arrives to aid her and is confronted by the Knights of Ren. Through their Force bond, Rey manages to give Ben her lightsaber and he defeats them all. He joins Rey to confront Palpatine, but he manages to drain their essence to empower himself back to full health. While he Force-pushes Ben away, Rey is galvanised by the combined strength of previous Jedi (including Yoda, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan) and, using both Leia’s and Luke’s lightsabers, deflects Palpatine’s Force lightning back at him, and defeats him.

The effort of doing so is too much and she seemingly dies, but Ben returns and manages to heal her through the Force. The two kiss, and Ben becomes one with the Force. As he does so, Leia’s body follows. When all seems lost, Lando arrives in-system with a massive, rag-tag fleet of reinforcements and they manage to destroy the Sith armada, finally eliminating the threat of the First Order. While the galaxy celebrates freedom once more, Rey travels to the Lars homestead on Tatooine, and buries both Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers in the sand, having now built her own. A passing local asks who she is, and she reveals her name as “Rey Skywalker”.

As I said at the start, I was prepared to feel let down by this film, after the sheer amount of hype that it had received. On my way out of the movie theatre, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, but we had a 2 hour car ride home after meeting up with some friends, and talking it through really helped me to think about that. After sleeping on it, I’m pretty much convinced that it is a satisfying conclusion, but only to the sequel trilogy.

Let me explain.

I grew up with the original trilogy, but was in high school when the prequels started coming out. So I hadn’t quite formed that sort of opinion about things, but rather I was just enjoying the fact that there were more Star Wars movies being made, and I was around this time to see them. I think the fact that their numerical order helped: having always had IV, V and VI, it felt right that we were finally getting I, II and III. When the sequel trilogy was announced, I think it just felt like, “Oh, Disney has just spent a lot of money acquiring this IP, and they want to start playing in that sandbox”. I have never felt like the sequel trilogy needed to be made, in the same way that making the prequel trilogy made some amount of sense.

These films were originally about Luke Skywalker – he is the hero whose journey we are on. Vader is the villain who, in one of the most shocking plot twists in movie history, turns out to be Luke’s father and is eventually redeemed, but I don’t think anybody thought that the movies were about Vader until George Lucas started to make the prequels, and told us that, actually, these movies are about Anakin Skywalker, his fall and eventual redemption by his son. It was an interesting way of looking at things, and I guess I was suckered into that because, since the early 2000s, it’s been really nice to have that six-part film series that tells the whole story of Anakin Skywalker.

Now, we have the sequel trilogy, and the main protagonist is the granddaughter of the Emperor, but we’re being told that these films continue the saga of the Skywalker family. I’ve got to say – no, they don’t. If Rey had turned out to be the hidden twin of Ben Solo, then maybe. But she’s not, so the only way that these films can logically be said to continue the Skywalker saga is insofar as they kill off the Big Three from the original trilogy, providing that sense of closure while passing the torch to the next generation. Suddenly, the nine-part film series is mostly about Anakin, but is more about… what? There is now a lack of focus if we’re to look at these as one long saga. There is no central protagonist, because Anakin/Vader only lives through two-thirds of the movies, just like Luke is only present for two-thirds of the movies.

To my mind, the sequel trilogy did not need to be made, as it blurs those boundaries of a family soap opera that Lucas had intended all along. In his own ideas for the sequel trilogy – a pretty fascinating topic that I want to save for another blog – we’d get the grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker, making each trilogy about him, his children, and then his grandchildren. As it stands, while Ben/Kylo Ren is certainly a grandchild of Anakin, he is most certainly put into the antagonist camp, and I don’t think anybody could really say the trilogy has been about him, in the way that it has quite blatantly focused instead on Rey.

However.

When viewed as a film that wraps up the most recent trilogy, this works really nicely. There is so much that can be said about The Last Jedi having ruined Star Wars – again, I think I want to talk about this more in another blog – but seeing The Rise of Skywalker now, and thinking about how it fits into the third act of the trilogy, it seems pretty clear that JJ Abrams should have been in the director’s chair for all three. Things that we had seen in The Force Awakens should have continued into The Last Jedi, meaning that The Rise of Skywalker could then have maybe paused a little to actually explore some of these things in greater depth. As it is, there is a lot of story crammed into that 142 minutes. A lot. The first half of the film deals with some pretty frenetic searches for maguffins, and I think some of that could perhaps have been dealt with better if it had been set up in The Last Jedi, rather than JJ having to set things up and then resolve them in the same movie.

I suppose that is nowhere more apparent than with the reveal of who Rey really is. This, I feel, should have been explored further in The Last Jedi – a lot of the first part of the film should, I think, have been in that movie, especially her use of Force lightning on Pasaana, before we finally learn of her heritage here. I think more explanation of how, in fact, she is related to Palpatine is needed, as well – I’m no prude, but I don’t think the Sith Lord is the sort to go sleeping around, and while Darth Plagueis does paint him as something of a dapper senator, we’re still at the theory stage right now. For my own theory, I think it will either be a case of Palpatine having used the Force to create life again, or else some form of cloning experiment. I just hope that we’ll get to see something of that explored further soon, because it’s one of those niggling plot points for a huge nerd like myself, who will obsess over it until the shaaks come home…

Something else that I’d like to mention is how impressed I was with Leia’s inclusion. Considering the pledge was made to use nothing but deleted scenes, she actually has a much more substantial role in the film than I’d been expecting. Just when I thought we might have seen the last of her, she turns up again for more! Sure, some clever use of stand-ins has been made, but it was really nicely done, and I think it forms a fitting end for her character, as she passes the baton to the last generation.

It’s a busy movie, but it does have the time for some really nice sequences. JJ’s love of practical effects and real sets comes through once more, and I absolutely love it for that. Much like what we’re seeing with The Mandalorian right now, it’s stuff like this that helps give the show or the film that veracity that allows you to immerse yourself in the universe.

There are some incredibly wonderful little details that we see throughout the movie, I felt myself again getting sucked into the world, and wanting to know more about, for example, the Emperor’s creepy robed minions, or the denizens of Kijimi, or the “Sith assassin” contact Luke had been working with, etc etc etc. It’s such a real, lived-in universe feel, which is exactly the same feeling that we get when we watch the cantina scene of A New Hope, or the Jabba’s Palace scenes of Return of the Jedi.

It was a pretty good ending to the sequel trilogy, and I don’t think it’s going to come under anywhere near as much fire as The Last Jedi has. I don’t think of it as being a conclusion to the entire Star Wars saga, though, but it functions perfectly well as the capstone to the new sequel trilogy.

And I just can’t wait to see where we go in the Star Wars universe next!

The Grey Knights

Hey everybody,
It’s my birthday today, so to celebrate I’m writing about my current Warhammer 40k obsession, the Grey Knights!

I started this project last December, as a bit of a small-scale thing to have a change from all of the other, bigger projects that were swirling around the hobby desk. It started with a single box of miniatures and the Codex, and while I still think it’s quite an understated project in comparison to, say, my Dark Eldar or Necrons, the ranks are growing here, so it’s more than likely going to turn into quite the army before too long!

Today, though, I want to talk more about the lore of the Grey Knights, and some of the reasons for why I find them fascinating. I have actually played a game with the army as well, so I’ll no doubt talk about that also!

The Grey Knights are a chapter of Space Marines created in the closing days of the Horus Heresy by Malcador the Sigillite, right-hand-man to the Emperor (if such a thing can be thought possible), as a sort of last bastion of hope against the daemons of the Warp. As many will no doubt be aware, the Emperor had withdrawn from leading his sons during the Great Crusade to reunite humanity across the galaxy, to instead concentrate on his “webway project”, an attempt to find a faster-than-light travel path through the galaxy that did not rely on the whims of the Warp and its daemons. When Horus fell to Chaos, taking half of the Space Marine Legions with him, the galaxy was slowly overrun with daemonic incursions, as more and more foul rituals were enacted by those Legions falling from the light of the Emperor. As such, Malcador gathered about him a small band of twelve: four mortal men, and eight Space Marines, who would form a core from which to build this new Chapter.

The moon of Titan, in orbit around Saturn, had been provisioned for the foundation of the Grey Knights, and the Space Marines were placed there in secrecy to begin the process of building a psychic defense. The recruits Malcador had discovered were all peerless in their devotion to the God-Emperor of Mankind – some of whom were actually drawn from those Legions who had become corrupted by Chaos, thus showing their purity of spirit. The eight found hundreds of new recruits awaiting the rites of passage to become full Space Marines themselves. The moon of Deimos had also been moved from its orbit around Mars to act as a specially-linked Forge World to serve the fledgling Chapter. As a final defense, Malcador hid the moon in the Warp itself, as the Horus Heresy drew to a close and the Emperor found himself interred within the Golden Throne.

While the four mortal men went on to found the Inquisition, the Space Marines eventually emerged from the Warp during the Second Founding, with their ranks fully formed of a thousand Space Marines. Time had flowed differently in the Warp, of course, and many centuries had passed for them to train. However, not everybody was fully apprised of the existence of Chapter 666, and within a century of the Second Founding, most records of the Grey Knights had been erased from all but the most secure files.

The Inquisition is the direct manifestation of the Emperor’s will, and concerns itself with safeguarding humanity from three distinct threats: the alien (Ordo Xenos), the heretic (Ordo Hereticus) and the daemon (Ordo Malleus). Where Inquisitors are in need of military forces to aid them in their mission, they can call upon the forces of the Deathwatch, Adepta Sororitas, and the Grey Knights, respectively. The Ordo Malleus is considered to be the heart of the Inquisition, as the core tenet for which the organisation was founded – preservation of the Imperium against the forces of Chaos.

The Grey Knights go through rigorous trials before their aspirants can don the aegis armour, and it has been said that only one in a million will have what it takes. Aspirants are drawn from across the Imperium rather than a single or small collection of recruiting worlds, and the Gatherers – those Grey Knights too old or injured to take part in active duty, but whose psychic might is still formidable – also have the ability to recruit from the Black Ships that travel the Imperium, gathering up psykers to fuel the Astronomican. Some select Space Marines chapters also notify the Gatherers if they find a novitiate of particular psychic ability, whom they would consider a likely candidate for the Grey Knights.

In terms of Chapter organisation, there are eight distinct Brotherhoods of warriors, made up in varying degrees from the Grey Knights specific squads – Strike Squads (think Tactical Marines), Purgation Squads (heavy weapons), Interceptor Squads (fast attack), and Terminator Squads. These Brotherhoods are each led by a Grand Master, and fall under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Grand Master. At this point in the 41st millennium, the Supreme Grand Master is the living legend that is Lord Kaldor Draigo, renowned for his insane exploits such as jumping in and out of the Warp at will, battling with Greater Daemons like it’s a walk in the park, etc. In addition to the Brotherhoods, there are also two separate companies – the Purifiers and the Paladins.

The Purifiers are those Grey Knights who are utterly incorruptible, and who reside within the Chambers of Purity. Their very presence in the Warp is anathema to all but the greatest of daemons, and so they are tasked with preservation of the Iron Grimoire – the single record of what dark horror lies trapped on Titan, and against whom the Purifiers form a kind of null-defense. Their numbers are few, though – just 44 men under the leadership of Castellan Crowe – and so they are rarely deployed to the battlefield en masse.

The Paladins are the champions of the Grey Knights, peerless warriors who often serve as the elite bodyguards of the Grand Masters. They function a little like the elite first company of other Space Marines chapters, clad in artificer terminator armour. (One of the distinctions of Grey Knights is that any of the Brotherhoods can afford to field terminators as part of their force, not just the first).

Specialists like Chaplains, Librarians and Techmarines are deployed where they are required, rather than falling under the purview of any one Grand Master.

The arsenal of the Grey Knights contains some of the most expensive, and the most holy of weapons known to the Imperium. It’s also a bit mad, when you think of it.

The Grey Knights are most often seen wielding the Nemesis Force weaponry, psychically-charged weapons that are capable of felling daemons with ease. The power channeled by a Nemesis Force weapon directly corresponds with the psychic power of its wielder. Most common is the Nemesis Force Sword, though lighter Falchions and longer Halberds are also widely used. Nemesis Daemon Hammers combine the destructive potential of the thunder hammer with Nemesis technology to create a weapon few daemons are capable of withstanding. The Nemesis Warding Stave is a more defensive weapon, with a hollow haft that contains refractor-field generators capable of projecting out a gravitic force that can protect the bearer.

While most Grey Knights carry wrist-mounted storm bolters to pack some punch at range, there are also those warriors who carry the more specialized weaponry for the squad. There are three special weapons that are seen wielded by the Grey Knights – the incinerator, the psycannon and the psilencer. The incinerator is basically a fancy flamer, whose promethium reservoir has been blessed against Chaos. The psycannon is similar to a heavy bolter, using psychically-charged, silver-tipped bullets with a negative charge that allows them to pass through any psychic defense a foe may attempt. The psilencer, purported to be of xenos origin, uses the condensed psychic might of its wielder to destabilize the daemonic core of the foe, sending it back to the Warp. Crazy!

Of course, each Grey Knight is a powerful psyker in his own right, and upon induction to the rank of full Space Marine, is given a new name that is itself a fragment of the true name of a specific daemon. Thus, while the physical weapons these warriors wield are capable of striking a grievous blow to the denizens of the Warp, and his mind capable of impossible feats, even the Grey Knight’s own name is a weapon to be used against the Archenemy.

Grey Knights are just so over-the-top, I love them! Dating back to the very beginnings of Warhammer 40k, being introduced in the Slaves to Darkness supplement to Rogue Trader, they were expanded upon during subsequent editions through such infamous books as Codex: Daemonhunters and the like. In third edition, army lists were expanded from simply using terminators, to giving a greater flexibility of squad-building. Fifth edition saw new plastic models for the army, and expanded the list to include the four infantry builds from the Strike Squad box that we still have today. Paladins and Terminators got similar treatment, and the Nemesis Dreadknight was introduced as a new choice.

It’s really the fifth edition Codex, which was specifically a Grey Knights Codex as opposed to the Ordo Malleus, Inquisition, or Daemonhunters book, from where all the hate and complaints of being “overpowered” come. Written by Matt Ward, the book includes the hilarious Kaldor Draigo and his antics, slaying daemons before breakfast and the like, and such rules as the ability of any Nemesis Force weapon to instantly kill an enemy. Inquisitors were still in the book, which was nice, but the amount of hate it gained seemed to mean that subsequent Codices have been pared down, to the point where Grey Knights in 8th edition, while hardly unplayable, are certainly difficult to get anywhere with.

For starters, they’re expensive. I mean, I played a game at 1200 points, and had around 20 models on the table. The new Chapter Approved has helped a lot, of course, so that I can now field an actual battalion at 1200 points, but it was really quite surprising to see how many points these models weigh in at!

They may be expensive, points-wise, but they do look so damn fancy, I absolutely adore them. While I’ve often said that the Neophyte Hybrids are my favourite basic troops unit for the amount of detailing they have, the basic Grey Knights Strike Squad just looks so damn cool. They’re like the fanciest of Space Marines, with the most amazing, baroque armour – I just love them! And don’t even get me started on the Paladins! More than perhaps any other force in Warhammer 40k, I think these guys really show off that Gothic aesthetic so well. Well, maybe the new Sisters will give them a run for their money…

The level of detailing on these models is just amazing, and playing an army of psychic space monks is always pretty hilarious! As I said, I have actually managed to play a game with them (finally!) so thought I’d ramble a bit about that now as well, now that I have some experience with them!

I was playing against Chaos Space Marines, and I guessed I’d be up against a lot of daemons as JP had recently taken delivery of the Khorne half of Wrath and Rapture, so Grey Knights were a useful choice there. Playing Maelstrom of War is always difficult, as the luck of the cards can often mean losing despite playing a better game overall, you know? I didn’t get first turn, though, and so my army was really quite decimated by the time I got to even do anything. As with any elite army, each loss hurts all the more…

Every model being a psyker meant that I really had to get to grips with the Psychic Phase this time. I had visions of psychic powers bouncing round the table, as my HQs were given the more protective powers while some of the more offensive ones went to the troops – trying to remember the sequence was tough, but I think I did manage to get some decent play here. Across the turn, I managed to dish out over 40 unsaved wounds, and basically wiped the entire daemonic contingent of 20 Bloodletters and 3 Bloodcrushers from the table, with them having done precisely nothing to me. So that was useful!

However, my ability to play the actual mission was greatly stunted by the fact that I had so few warriors left to do anything with, and when JP used his Master of Executions to wipe out my Purifier squad in a single swing, I pretty much knew it was game over for me! The game lasted just one and a half rounds, as I conceded at the start of my second turn, being down something like 8VP to 0!

Like I said, though, Chapter Approved has been very kind to Grey Knights in particular, and my list for the game has seen around a 300 point reduction, overall, so I am intending to shift a couple of things around and create a battalion for the next outing for the Sons of Titan! That does mean, however, that I need to get a third Strike Squad box…

This has changed somewhat since the first Grey Knights list that I drew up, I must say! Crucially, I’ve swapped out the venerable dreadnought for perhaps the most divisive model in the line, the Nemesis Babycarrier Dreadknight. I’ve come round pretty much full-circle on this unit, from not wanting to give one house room, to seeing it as a good focal point for the army. They’re certainly bigger models than I’d been expecting, at any rate!

Psychic Powers are still something of a mystery to me, as I don’t quite know what is best with what. Astral Aim, allowing you to target units that you can’t see (as well as denying them cover saves) is perhaps obvious for the Purgators, who will be doing the most shooting. However, these powers allow you to target friendly units within 12-18″, so I’m going with the idea of giving them out almost at random, because everybody should always have a viable target. At least, until I know the army better, that’s my plan!

Hence, my mental image of psychic powers going off much like a ricochet…

I’ve really enjoyed deep-diving into the codex these past few weeks, and coming up with the list. Playing with the army was a bit confusing, but I’m really looking forward to trying them out in this new list, just as soon as I can get everything built, at least!

In the meantime…

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Chapter Approved 2019

It’s that time of year again! Chapter Approved has arrived, with a whole load of extra stuff for games of Warhammer 40k. Always an exciting time of the gaming year! This year’s book has landed, and is a bit of a curious fish in comparison with the previous two, my thoughts on which you can read here, and here!

As per usual, the book is broadly split between the three systems of play – Open, Narrative and Matched. Open Play includes a few pages that discuss various ways of using the Open War cards – one of which is a variant that we use quite a lot at my local store, whereby three cards are drawn for each of deployment, mission and twist, and one is picked to be the one. Interesting way of looking at things, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily. There is also a sort of open war generator, where you roll to see what type of units you compose an army from. There’s a D66 table that includes stuff like “1 troop unit” and “1 champion or 3 troops or 1 elite or 1 heavy support or 1 fast attack”, which seems like a very flexible and open-ended way to go about building an army to play a game with! Not sure if that would be for me, but there we have it! I’m not going to say that the Open Play section feels thrown together, but it does feel a little bit more haphazard than previous years.

Narrative Play, as usual, includes what I think of as a true expansion for Warhammer 40k. Spearhead is a game variant that uses armies comprised of the big guns – tanks, obviously, and their analogues across the other factions. There are the main rules, three missions to play, and two pages of stratagems specific to the game mode. Even if your army doesn’t have tanks, you’ll have something in here that will allow you to interact with them – for example, Tyranids can benefit from a stratagem if one of their synapse creatures is in range of an enemy vehicle. It’s much like the Cities of Death rules that came in last year’s book; it feels like a real, self-contained expansion that doesn’t really require a standalone book release, but it’s really nice to have a different way to play the game like this.

There are also rules within the Narrative Play section for linking games – not in the traditional sense, but rather how to play games of Kill Team, Apocalypse and “regular” 40k and tie them all together. It’s an interesting conglomeration of looking at the three different systems, and there are even rules for what the designers call “parallel games”, where you break off partway through one to play the other, the outcome of that then influencing the remainder of the original game. It’s a very interesting way of playing, and if I were to ever have the time to play 40k for, say, a weekend, it might be worth a try!

The third aspect of the Narrative Play section is Challenge Missions, where one player has a clear advantage over the other at the start of the game. There are three missions to play through, with their associated stratagems, along with narrative ideas for why one army might have the advantage.

Finally, we come to Matched Play, and the main focus for me, at least! We get more missions to play under the Eternal War banner, and more Maelstrom of War missions that use a variant of deck construction whereby you build a tactical objective deck consisting of only 18 cards (half the usual number), and have a hand of five that you play from throughout the game. Feels very different to the usual way, but I suppose it helps to streamline things by removing those cards that you don’t like to go for (thinking of Domination here!) or those that you have no hope of achieving if you know the army you’ll be up against (Witch Hunter when going against Drukhari or Necrons, for instance).

The Appendix has, in previous years, been where the defining meat of the book has been found, though this year that does feel a little like things have changed. Whereas in 2017, we had the additional rules to help those armies who hadn’t yet had their Codex released, and in 2018 we had the beta-Codex for Sisters of Battle, 2019 is a much more muted affair. There are the datasheets for the Slaanesh daemons that have previously been released in the assembly instructions for each model, along with some more updated datasheets for additional Chaos daemons.

Fortification datasheets are also included, and there are some rules for some battlefield terrain that, I think, we have previously seen in the 2017 edition.

The big selling point for this year’s book, however, is the Munitorum Field Manual that is included as a separate book in the bundle. Previously, we’ve had pages of lists of models and wargear that have seen points changes for Matched Play, making it a fairly difficult process to build a list, as you’d first need to check if the unit (or its weapons) has had a change, before then referencing the tables in the Codex to work out the cost. Well, no more! Chapter Approved 2019 brings us all the points for every model and piece of wargear across the entire 40k range – including Forge World models! It’s a fairly hefty tome for a saddle-stitch softcover, but it makes it so much easier to build an army now, knowing that everything is in there, whether it has changed since the Codex came out, or not!

Major takeaways seem to be that Grey Knights and Necrons have seen the best army-wide reductions overall, though I’ve done some research into Tyranids and Genestealer Cults, and I think I’m going to need a lot more models to fill my lists now! Look out for upcoming blogs where I take a look at the impact of CA19 on my current armies!


There are some fairly insistent rumours doing the rounds at the minute, predicting 9th Edition to be launched in the summer of 2020. Whether it’s a significant overhaul, or whether it forms something more akin to a v8.5, people seem to differ on, but the prediction of the new edition is nevertheless gathering steam, and some of that seems to be using the bloat that we’re seeing from stuff like Vigilus and now, Psychic Awakening, as the reason. I always assumed that Chapter Approved was the way to ensure the game stayed fresh enough that we wouldn’t need another edition for a while, but I suppose nothing can get in the way of the capitalist machine!

It would possibly be useful to have the Codexes updated with those new models that we’ve seen in recent releases, and while I do love a good campaign system, I think Psychic Awakening stuff would be better off being inserted into the relevant Codex as a second edition (as happened with Space Marines and Chaos Marines following the Shadowspear stuff). Is that what will happen? Who knows. I do hope though, whatever the plans for 40k as we move forward, that Chapter Approved continues to be an annual feature for the game!