The Talon of Horus, and an update!

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About a week ago, I finally finished reading this book, the first of the Black Legion series of novels by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. It took me what felt like an age to get through, and that was mainly because it felt like such a slog! I’m a fan of ADB’s work, with The First Heretic being right up there in my favourite 40k fiction, but there was something about this book that meant I just couldn’t get into it.

It is told in the first person, through the eyes of Iskandar Khayon, a sorcerer formerly of the Thousand Sons Legion, now of the Kha’Sherhan warband. He has been captured by the Inquisition, and the story unfolds as a narrative where Khayon is telling them how the Black Legion came to be formed. As a narrative device, the interrogation comes back every so often, though principally we’re treated to the account in the past tense. However, it is the interrogation scenes that reveal, I think, my main gripe about reading this novel.

Being told through the eyes of a sorcerer, ADB has taken a leisurely, almost archaic frame of speech that meanders through the tale as you would expect one to recount it around a camp fire, or something. It’s not like he goes off on tangents, or anything, but if you can imagine someone kinda waffling their way through a story, then this is it.

The Talon of Horus

The story begins with a kind of update of the situation since the end of the Heresy, with a lot of internecine conflict between the Legions since they have taken refuge in the Eye of Terror. It seems that the Emperor’s Children have been systematically attacking the Sons of Horus, and scored a particularly decisive victory when they defeated them at Lupercalios and stolen the body of the primarch Horus, which was being kept there in stasis.

The main impetus then for the book is to follow the disparate bands of legionaries, seeing a small group of World Eaters, Thousand Sons and Sons of Horus band together to defeat the Emperor’s Children (specifically, Fabius Bile). Along the way, we get glimpses into life for the traitor legionaries in the Eye, and it’s really quite fascinating to see what has been happening since the Siege of Terra.

However, the book tends to limp along – it’s not, I think, due to ADB’s writing, but more like a stylistic choice for the narration. While I feel as though this should be a book that grabbed my attention and never let go, instead the first 2/3 of the novel felt like a bit of a chore to get through…

That is, until Ezekyle Abaddon made his appearance.

One of the plot threads, much like it is some kind of RPG adventure, is for the legionaries to recover the Vengeful Spirit, the Gloriana-class cruiser that was Horus’ flagship during the Great Crusade and the Heresy. They gain intelligence from the Word Bearer Sargon Eregesh, and it all turns out to have been a plot from the mind of Abaddon, to help wage his war against Fabius Bile. The legionaries join with Abaddon, and destroy the Emperor’s Children stronghold at the Canticle City. There, they not only find Fabius Bile, but also his clone of Horus – and it takes Abaddon showing up in his terminator armour of the Justaerin, and kills him using the legendary lightning claw, the Talon of Horus.

As I say, it’s the sort of book that should have grabbed me while all the way, but it wasn’t until Abaddon showed up that I really began to enjoy it. Abaddon is every inch the commander his gene-father was, and this really comes through when we see him engage the troops that Khayon and the others bring to his banner. There is a real sense of charisma that comes out from him, in the same way that we see Horus Lupercal in Horus Rising.

So yeah, even if I didn’t enjoy the whole book as much as I perhaps wanted to, it did have one benefit…

After experiencing quite the hobby slump earlier this year, as I got towards the end of the novel, I found myself wanting more and more to start painting my Chaos Marines as Black Legion. And then I started work on the Helbrute!

It’s the model from the Dark Vengeance set which, in my opinion, has a lot more movement to it than the regular model – which is strongly modeled after the Space Marines Dreadnought. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a Dreadnought model, but there’s something a bit more animalistic about the Helbrute, which I would have thought warrants a bit more verve to its pose. Ah well.

It’s been quite fun getting this guy painted, even though he’s still a work in progress right now! I’ve really enjoyed getting the skin to look so… sore, and think it really helps to set the armour off. All that trim, though… crikey! There are parts that still need touching up, for sure, but it’s coming along nicely.

I’d had some time off last week, and had been hoping to get him finished by then, but sadly I didn’t manage to get round to it. That said, who knows what’s round the corner? The UK has been ramping up efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, of course, and as I’m writing this blog, we may be on the cusp of a nationwide lockdown, so maybe I’ll get a lot more time for hobbying! I guess we’ll have to see, though!

Whateer you’re up to, please stay safe out there, folks!

Dark Uprising

Dark Uprising. Potentially the best box set from Games Workshop ever.

What a box!

What miniatures!

The Corpse Grinders are creepy as hell, and I love them!

This terrain is just phenomenal.

I mean, it’s just awesome! Plastic zone mortalis!

Okay, so I’ve got that out of my system…

The box set gives us not only this amazing terrain and fantastic miniatures, but we also get the third official campaign for the game, the Uprising campaign. This is very much a narrative campaign, that tells the story of Hive Arcos and its descent into anarchy (and worse!) The campaign follows the similar basic structure as the others that we’ve seen, with a preliminary phase (Insurrection) followed by downtime, then the second phase, Damnation. It’s pretty much order vs chaos, and gangs are supposed to follow a certain alignment, though do not normally deviate from that.

Something that I particularly like about this campaign is how coin becomes worthless in the Damnation weeks, and instead the hive’s currency is based on meat.

It’s very fitting for the Corpse Grinders, though in fact you could argue that the campaign is written perhaps a little too strictly to the narrative, and you are almost shoe-horned into using them as one side. The Book of Ruin does include a section that goes through some alternative Uprising ideas that could allow you to have less of a focus on that order came chaos struggle, however.

Of the three official campaigns, the Uprising campaign definitely seems to be much more specialised than the other two, which I’d argue are much more in keeping with the sort of gang warfare that the game is all about!

Gang War!

Hey everybody!
I’ve talked about this before on the blog, but I’m a huge fan of Necromunda. I’ve never actually played the game, sadly, but it’s definitely on the list to try out. While the world does seem to be getting a bit weird right now, I thought it might be nice to take the time and look through the stuff I’ve been collecting for the game up to this point (spoiler alert: it’s everything!) and see what I’ve got, ready for when that mythical first game might happen!

I’m starting with the Gang War supplements, though, which are all pretty much out of date now. Back when the game was released in 2017, we had rules for the Escher and Goliath models that were included in the set, but we had to wait until Gang War was released, a couple of weeks afterwards, before we had a full gang list. This was the supplement that gives the full weapons and wargear rules, and really starts to go into just what Necromunda is all about. Most notably, though, we also get 3D terrain rules, in the form of Sector Mechanicus rules.

This was a huge deal when it first came out, as a lot of the old guard who played the original Necromunda were quite vocal about the relaunched game being a 2D zone mortalis affair. So we have the rules for jumping or falling down, for climbing, leaping gaps, etc. It’s all very dynamic, and helps to really give the game a lot of flair, really!

The first Gang War book also gives us campaign rules for the Turf War campain. This is, in retrospect, quite a simple campaign that sees gangs basically fighting for superiority in the Underhive, by gaining the most reputation. I’m not going to dwell too much on this, because we’ve got another campaign within the Gang War series, which is much more fleshed-out. To support the campaign, we get six new scenarios.

Gang War II was the next supplement, which came out principally to support the release of the Orlock gang. In addition to the Orlock list, there are rules for hangers-on and brutes, such as rogue docs and ammo jacks. These really go to support the releases from Forge World that we’d been seeing up to this point, so it’s nice to have the support there. The centrepiece of the book, at this point, is the Underhive Perils rules, which have since been extracted as a pdf. These perils are the rules for the Badzone Delta-7 tiles that also came ut at the same time, but are now sadly out of print. I’m not going to go off on a rant just now, but suffice it to say, I really don’t understand why GW can’t keep game expansions like these tiles in circulation!

Gang War III is probably the book that I have spent the most time with, having spent a lot of time back in the day with my Van Saar gang. The book hasn’t really got as much extra content in it though, when you compare it with its predecessor. A lot of space is given up to expanding things like the trading post, and giving us a lot of different weapons options overall. There are, however, rules for exotic beasts and status items, new brutes, and House Favours, which allow players to gain little bonuses in the pre-game sequence that range from, well, nothing, to generating an extra Champion with 150 credits’ worth of equipment for that battle. I love little extra rules like this, as they all help to add to the depth of the game.

We also get ten new scenarios, plus two multiplayer scenarios!

Finally, Gang War IV – the thickest book of the four – gives us the rules for House Cawdor, but we get a slew of additional content that is relevant across all five of the gangs released up to this point. We have House-specific brutes, we have exotic beasts, we get rules for bionics and for psychic powers in the Underhive, and we have the centrepiece of the whole series, the Dominion Campaign.

The Dominion Campaign is something of the jewel in Necromunda’s crown. It is played by gangs fighting for control of territory, with the rules specifically stating how to structure the campaign, to ensure that it doesn’t run on too long – which, as the book says, runs the risk of players growing bored. The suggested structure is for a seven week campaign (weeks aren’t necessarily real-world weeks) which is divided into the Occupation Phase (3 weeks), downtime (1 week), and the Takeover Phase (3 weeks). Each of the outer phases sees the players play games, with downtime being mainly devoted to the bookkeeping aspect of the game, though some one-off games could be permitted.

In the Turf War campaign, gangs are basically fighting to gain reputation. In the Dominion campaign, however, players are fighting for control of territory, which has special effects during the post-battle sequence such as generating income. There are rules for advancing your fighters, and gaining additional skills, purchased through the XP gained from fighting in battles. There are rules for capturing fighters, trying to rescue them, or them being sold off to the guilders. The Takeover phase is particularly brutal, because you’re trying to take over territory controlled by other gangs, which really shows the struggle at the heart of the campaign.

It’s really quite spectacular, and feels exactly like the sort of blended RPG/skirmish game that provides a truly immersive experience. I’m not doing this justice really, but the narrative that comes out of the book is really quite something, and definitely sounds like a lot of fun!

While the publication of Gangs of the Underhive, and of course the updated hardcover rulebook, all of these books became obsolete. I still haven’t yet picked up the rulebook, but I’m planning to do so soon. I believe, though, that it consolidates everything that has been published with these books, and the gang lists are all rolled into Gangs of the Underhive, of course.

While there was widespread condemnation when GW initially published the new books, given that people had spent a year collecting up these Gang War books to have the rules for all of this stuff, the point of these books was to allow for people to play the game for a year before the full six gangs were released, and they could consolidate everything, making the most of the player feedback over those twelve months to ensure the rules take note of the errata etc. Even though I personally didn’t get to play during this time, it’s still nice to have these books to look back upon, and I definitely made use of them when building my guys back in the day!

February Hobby Retrospective

Hey everybody!
It feels like the last couple of months have just flown by in a haze, and I hadn’t found much time to either hobby or come here and ramble about all manner of junk – I’m sure you’ve all missed that! I’ve been in a bit of a hobby slump of late, though, and haven’t been much in the mood to do anything. Feels like I’ve lost my hobby spark, and was struggling to get it back. Well, I recently took a major shift and decided to work on some Age of Sigmar stuff, as fantasy miniatures always feel like something of a breath of fresh air when I’ve been painting 40k for a long while, and I think my work on some Warcry stuff lately has begun to get me back in the saddle!

I mean, who couldn’t love that face, right?!

At the start of the year, I’d been thinking that I’d like to get a Slaves to Darkness army at last, and so had some vague ideas following my purchase of the battletome, mainly involving at least one Warcry warband, possibly two – the Cypher Lords, and maybe the Unmade. I had the idea of using a lot of rag-tag cultist-types, so also threw in the Godsworn Hunt, but the actual Chaos Marauders kit does put me off a little bit, so I had thought I might pick up some of the Bloodreavers as stand-ins, but I think that’ll be a long way off. I then thought about picking up some Wrathmongers to use as Chaos Chosen, as while I love the look of the kit, it is finecast, and so I doubt will stand up to the rest of the army now that the Warriors have been re-done. With that, though, I had begun to think that this could be the first time I look at creating a Chaos army with a distinctly Khorne feel! Normally I go Undivided or Slaanesh, but this could be interesting!

It definitely helps, having something I’m not normally into!

I’m still playing around with the Slaves to Darkness idea, as I’m not entirely sure how I want the army to look. I’ve got vaguely 900 points (or thereabouts) plotted out, with the units I’ve mentioned plus a Chaos Warshrine (because that model is just so iconic!)

But yeah, I’ve started now to really go heavy into Warcry, and I’m interested in getting a warband finished so that I can play a game. The Cypher Lords are probably the models I’m furthest along with, having done some experimentation with Contrast paints back in January, so that could be a plan. I think I have all of the monsters released so far, too, so could see myself adding in a Mindstealer Sphyranx at some point (more for the theme, than anything!) So it’s all definitely quite exciting!

I suppose I just need to look into the rules now, and see if I can get a game sorted!

However, it’s not been all fantasy-related this month!

I’ve been slowly chipping away at this gent for a week or so now, having gotten some of the silver done, as well as thinking about the overall scheme that I’d like to have for it. When I first painted a Triarch Stalker, the results were decidedly different!

I’m hoping to get the two of them painted up for the army soon (the older model has been stripped, and is ready for re-painting as soon as I get my act together!) I might even get a third, not sure yet. That targeting relay rule is just so good, I feel as though they should be staples of the army!

I think the Necrons are possibly going to be my 40k focus for a while, as I’d really like to get my army up to scratch now. They are my first love, and I definitely enjoy playing them when I get them to the table, so it makes sense that I should have more toys to field than just waves of infantry! As fun as waves of infantry can be, of course!

The old bĂȘte-noir of the Doomsday Ark has also been at the back of my mind, and I think I’d like to get that painted up sometime soon, too. Though that’s probably going to be a long project, as well, so I suppose we’ll have to see how I go with that one!

As much as I do still enjoy the hobby and the game, I think I’d like to break out of the Warhammer thing more, though, and play more of a variety of games. I’ve sold off so many of the old favourites that it’s a little bit scary to think about, but I do still have plenty to enjoy. Stuff like the Ghostbusters kickstarters, all of that Hellboy goodness, and the classics like Eldritch Horror and Lord of the Rings LCG – I’m hopeful that this year will see a resurgence in my non-Games Workshop gaming, anyway!

It’s always good to have a variety, after all!