The Lucas Sequels

Hey everybody,
Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at the details that have been doing the rounds online about how George Lucas would have filmed the Sequel Trilogy. I’ve already talked about my own ideas on this subject, of course, so why not look at the man who started it all, anyway?!

This is a discussion of the new information that has come to light in the last week or so, and doesn’t take account of the heritage of Star Wars, which discussed a nine-part saga as far back as the late 1970s. Back then, when Lucas had reined himself in from a twelve-movie series, the final trilogy would deal with Luke growing in his powers as a Jedi, meeting his sister (who was not Leia), and a final confrontation with the Emperor in episode IX. Despite initially thinking it would be good to re-visit the characters when they were older, as time wore on Lucas came to realise that he himself would also be older, and the idea seemed to lose some interest. The setting for these movies was variously from immediately following episode VI, to 20-40 years afterwards, and focusing instead on the grandchildren of Darth Vader.

When filming the prequels, however, Lucas was quite clear that the saga was in six-parts, and was the story of Anakin Skywalker, his life, his fall and his eventual redemption and death. Now, however, we’ve been learning about his plans for a projected trilogy that formed part of the deal with Disney, and it seems as though the idea of a family saga has fallen by the wayside, as while we do hear about Luke and Leia, there’s no real mention of Han or of any children from either Skywalker sibling.

Interestingly, Lucas’ sequel trilogy would have dealt with the immediate aftermath of the Galactic Civil War, and shown the stormtroopers refusing to give up the fight. Something that the Disney trilogy got really badly wrong, in my view, is not giving us that necessary story between episodes VI and VII, so we’re left with this yawning gulf between the movies that merely cling to Luke, Leia and Han without any real substance behind them.

I also find it curious that Lucas was weaving in plot elements from the expanded universe, having Darth Maul return as the robot-legged criminal overlord that he was in season five of Clone Wars, and having Darth Talon as his lieutenant, in a role that has been likened to the Vader of the sequels. As an aside, I’ll be re-reading the Star Wars: Legacy comics this December, so stand by for more of an investigation into Darth Talon!

The main storyline, then, was to involve Leia trying to wrest control of the galaxy from the crime syndicates, and the renegade stormtroopers. Luke is in exile on the planet of the first Jedi Temple, trying to rebuild the Jedi Order. Elements of his outline, such as a female padawan reluctantly trained by him, and a blaster-toting teenager, made it into Abrams’ The Force Awakens, of course, in the shape of Rey and Finn. But I do recall Lucas being very upset around the time of episode VII’s release, so I guess rejection of his story ideas was a part of that.

I think it’s definitely interesting to have the idea of the fall-out from toppling a regime explored in the movies. While we’ll probably never see any of this stuff from Disney, I think they do still need to address what happened next, following Return of the Jedi. We saw tiny glimpses of this in the Aftermath trilogy, and there are some aspects of The Mandalorian that are also looking at the lawlessness of the New Republic period, but nothing that really covers the whole. I think we really need to get to grips with this story vacuum, and explore what was happening after the Ewoks put out their campfires, and see how the galaxy turned into a place where the First Order could rise up.

I do still hope that there are more movies told in the Solo series, that might explore Darth Maul as a crime boss, with or without Darth Talon. There are definitely stories to be told there, so I hope we get someone willing to follow up on this element – even if it isn’t in movie form, maybe a novel or three would sate my curiosity!

I also hope that The Mandalorian can continue for a long time yet, and maybe explore more of this idea of warlord stormtroopers going renegade and setting up mini-Empires in the far-flung reaches of the galaxy. Chapter 10 did touch on this, when discussing the perils of sublight travel, and I suppose we’ve also seen some of it with the feral Imperial warlord in Aftermath: Life Debt. But I think I’d like to see the idea explored properly – though I guess I’d like to see so many of the themes from this proposed trilogy developed more fully!

There has also been a lot reported about the planned sequel trilogy delving into the microbiology of the Force, and we’d get to meet and understand the Whills. Now, a lot of folks dislike the whole midi-chlorians thing from The Phantom Menace, and I’m also in that camp, but I think the prospect of learning more about the Whills is certainly very tasty. It’s a word laden with Star Wars lore from the early days, when the screenplay was said to be “from the Journal of the Whills”. Is Yoda’s species the Whills? What are they? It’s an idea that can forgive any multitude of Gungan sins from the prequel trilogy.

It’s all a bit irrelevant though, I guess, as these are not films that will be made. It’s always interesting to look at these things however, especially when it’s the creator’s own thoughts – however strange they may at first sound!

Grey Knights updates!

No, we’re not getting our codex anytime soon!

A few days ago, I finished reading the second novel in the Grey Knights series by Ben Counter, Dark Adeptus.

Dark Adeptus is the second novel in the Grey Knights series, and we’re once again with Justicar Alaric and an even smaller team of Grey Knights, as they investigate the mysterious reappearance of the planet Chaeronia from the Warp. An added complication is that the planet is a Forge World of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and so the Knights are forced to team up with the Tech Priests as they investigate what is happening. Making planetfall, the team discovers that the world has been overtaken by some form of tech heresy, with many of the structures suffused with a biological matter – clearly the Dark Mechanicus has taken root.

It eventually transpires the Tech Priests have been influenced by a daemon that has possessed the artificial intelligence of a Standard Template Construct (STC) for a Titan. The daemon has sent a signal through the Warp to the Warmaster Abaddon, as it feels he is the best recipient for the army of Titans that it has produced. Alaric and his team are able to thwart these plans after a climactic battle, banishing the daemon back to the Warp.

I didn’t think this one was as good as the first book in the series, maybe because it started with such a strange plot device for the Grey Knights to be involved with. The daemon-hunters of the Ordo Malleus, involved in something that has no apparent daemonic link? Hm. As it moved on, though, the story was fine and everything, just seemed to be a bit of a stretch at times as to why the Grey Knights were involved. I think part of me still likes the idea of the chapter operating in absolute secrecy, to the point where they never work with allies without killing them afterwards to preserve that secrecy.

Of course, all of the Adeptus Mechanicus allies end up dead by the end of the novel, so I suppose that’s that taken care of! Interestingly, the foot soldiers of the Mechanicus are referred to as the Tech Guard, as being the almost drone-like meat shields in comparison with the more elite Skitarii troops. The novel pre-dates the current Adeptus Mechanicus line, though, which uses the Skitarii as a similar drone-like foot slogger. Though I do need to stop reading Black Library novels in the mindset of having miniatures for every eventuality!

So while this was a little disappointing after how much I enjoyed the first novel in the series, it is nevertheless good to read about the exploits of the Grey Knights!

My own exploits with the Grey Knights, of course, are less than amazing, although I am quite pleased to announce that I have finally finished painting the Purifier Squad that I had started almost two years ago! I don’t know why it has taken this long, if I’m honest, but it seems to have been the case where I had gotten so far with the models, and couldn’t seem to bring myself to finish them off. It’s the sort of thing that has happened before, of course, but it’s good to have them done.

I still have a long way to go with the army, of course, but I’m looking to get another Strike Squad painted soon, along with a Brother Captain. Maybe the Land Raider will see a coat of silver paint… I might not have the whole army painted by the end of the year, but I’m hoping there will be a lot more painted by the time we get to January 1st!

The Miskatonic Museum

Hey everybody,
Tuesdays have always been game days here at spalanz.com and, while I might not always be able to fulfill that with today’s crazy world, I thought I’d still take some time today to talk about the latest game in my Dunwich Legacy campaign, and have some reflections on the campaign system for Arkham Horror LCG as well. Let’s go!

Miskatonic Museum

So I played the third scenario in the campaign at the weekend, and had a blast as I went round the Miskatonic Museum, searching the darkened exhibit halls for a copy of the dreaded Necronomicon. The campaign is set in the months following the events of The Dunwich Horror, for those who don’t know, and the investigators are following up on some of the worries of Dr Henry Armitage, the librarian at Miskatonic University. As readers of the original story will know, Wilbur Whateley attempted to steal a copy of the book from the library, and was injured in the process – the game takes this and further expounds that the University’s copy of the Necronomicon was then sent to the curator of the Miskatonic Museum for safekeeping.

This scenario was not perhaps as immersive as the last, as there were a few more game-mechanics involved to simulate wandering the darkened halls of the exhibits. As we moved through the museum, the only monster in the entire encounter deck is the Hunting Horror, which never really dies but goes back to “the void” when defeated, from whence it can strike once more. As it turned out, I had some very good set-up draws for Roland, and he was perfectly equipped to dispatch it each time it turned up, meaning it wasn’t so much a threat as simply an annoyance. But I suppose, that might be the point.

Akachi was therefore left to do a lot of the investigating, which didn’t always work well despite having Alyssa Graham out from the start, giving her +1 to her intellect. As such, the game was a little slow. The object of the scenario is to fully investigate the Restricted Area of the museum, which is one of the many Exhibit Hall location cards that forms part of that separate deck. We ended up finding it fairly quickly, as it happens, and so a couple of card effects allowed both investigators to clear the location of clues very easily.

Akachi has taken possession of the book – in my head, it makes sense from a thematic sense, not just because she needs all the intellect help that she can get. As a Mystic, she would doubtless be attracted to preserving the tome, even if she isn’t going to use it herself – Roland, as a Federal Agent, would perhaps not be interested in keeping the book but rather turning it in (or worse!) Anyway.

Miskatonic Museum

Campaign Log
The investigators took custody of the Necronomicon, but sadly that does mean that we have given in to the temptation of power – we’ve added a cursed token to the pool (more shortly), but we have each gained 3 XP!

Now, I have never thought twice about the Chaos bag since I set up my very first game of Arkham Horror LCG almost four years ago. As it turns out, I’ve been playing the Dunwich Legacy campaign, both last year and in this most recent run through, with five additional negative counters! What kind of masochist am I?! I’m playing on Easy mode, because I’m overwhelmingly into the story rather than being brutalised by the encounter deck, but even so! What a fool. So I’ve sorted the bag out now, which is a good thing!

I’ve also been making some upgrades to the decks! In campaign mode, you can upgrade or swap out cards at the cost of experience points earned through each game. Cards have an experience cost denoted by the pips that they have in a crescent underneath the card’s resource cost, in the top-left corner. I’ve managed to get quite a bit of experience for my investigators so far, so it’s time to kit them out anew!

Akachi has upgraded copies of Shrivelling and Alchemical Transmutation to higher-level copies – cards will often have a better version for a higher experience cost, allowing you to hit harder or whatever. If you upgrade cards like this, the experience cost is only equal to the difference between the copies – a 3-cost card upgraded to a 5-cost card will only cost 2 experience, for example. However, you can also swap out a card for a completely different one, which I’ve done in a couple of instances, as well.

Arkham Horror LCG

Roland’s deck, however, felt a bit more difficult to upgrade. Akachi had a clear path, really – upgrading her spells to better copies of those spells, while keeping the majority of her supporting cards the same. For Roland, there weren’t a great deal of cards for him to upgrade to. However, I’ve come across a couple of gems that are definitely worth mentioning. The above Keen Eye is a Permanent card, which doesn’t have a resource cost in the top left: it starts the game in play, and can never be discarded. It costs 3 experience to purchase, however, so it’s not something you’re going to play with in your very first game! However, if he has the resources to play it, it can be very strong! I’ve also gone for the Guardian tarot card that came out during the Circle Undone cycle, giving him +1 strength.

These cards are pretty neat, as they are a new type of slot (so don’t take up a hand or body slot, etc). While Roland might not be one for reading the Necronomicon, I can totally see him being the sort of superstitious type who might well be carrying a tarot card with him.

I really like the deckbuilding in Arkham Horror LCG now. When I first started playing, I was a little bit dismayed that I couldn’t find viable cards to include in my strategies, but I think that was probably my inexperience with the game showing – thinking about what you want your investigator to do usually makes your decisions quite easy. For Roland, I wanted him to fulfill the roles of fighter, healer and investigator, which he is quite well-equipped for, having access to a lot of healing cards as a Guardian while also being able to tap into the Seeker cards for investigation. Akachi, on the other hand, was initially a bit more complicated to build for, until looking properly into the Mystic possibilities, I turned up a lot of ways of using Willpower for other tests (such as fight or investigate actions). With a massive Willpower attribute to start with, along with myriad ways of increasing her attribute there, she is again quite straightforward. Of course, the Mystic class does have a lot of tricks that you can use, which can make it less than simply straightforward

I’m really enjoying myself with this game though, and I’m looking forward to playing through all of the scenarios on offer!

The Dunwich Legacy

Hey everybody,
After beginning once again to follow the campaign of the Dunwich Legacy last week, it’s time for part two of my adventures, as I head for the seedy gambling den of the Clover Club, on the trail of Dr Francis Morgan!

The House Always Wins

This was a really enjoyable scenario, I have to say! It starts out with the investigators trying to get into the exclusive Clover Club, which is fronted by the La Bella Luna restaurant. When you’re in there, it’s all a bit tense but nothing bad really happens until you deal the first Criminal enemy damage – it’s really evocative of being in the gambling den and trying not to draw attention, scoping things out while all the time being scrutinized by the criminal underbelly. I’ve never really had that sort of feeling before, where you play a game and it almost plays out like a film in your mind’s eye, you know?

For example, one of the locations is the bar, where you can “have a drink” to gain two clues. Importantly, none of the locations in the club offer you clues at first, but you gain them through taking actions other than simply investigating. Roland walked up to the bar and took a drink, so he was able to get two clues but it’s going to come back later on, I’m sure of it – however, it really felt like he’s been looking around and has found nothing, so has heavily sat down on a stool and ordered a Manhatten or something.

Anyway!

Things didn’t stay calm for long, of course, and as soon as it became inevitable, I had Roland shoot the Pit Boss and another of the mobsters, and all hell seemed to break loose as a result! Roland was definitely playing more true to form in this one, I think – he has been something of the investigating investigator so far, while Akachi was actually able to deal more significant damage with ease, due to using her willpower attribute to fight thanks to spells such as Wither and Shrivelling. Here, however, Roland was able to perform as I had expected, shooting everything in his path and healing Akachi when it was needed most. Indeed, the tactic of almost leaving her to just take damage while she went around gathering clues, then Roland healing her up for her to keep going, worked out quite nicely!

When it was needed most, however, Akachi was also no slouch in combat, having really great stats across the board. She finished off the Conglomeration of Spheres enemy (after the hilarity of Roland shooting it almost to death), and proved instrumental in gaining the trust of Peter Clover himself. It was an epic struggle in the end, although I completely didn’t realise that there was another exit to the Club, and allowed the agenda deck to tick down without fully exploring the locations, meaning that I was forced into the fourth resolution – the club pretty much explodes, and we’re dragged from the rubble by the police!

Campaign Log
Naturally, the O’Bannion gang has a bone to pick with the investigators, and unfortunately, Dr Francis Morgan was kidnapped. Each of my guys has suffered 1 physical trauma because of the club collapsing on top of them, which I’ll come to shortly, and due to this catastrophe, the investigators were unconscious for several hours. However, we have each gained 4 XP and an additional 1 XP from the experience!

Interlude: Armitage’s Fate
The Dunwich Legacy campaign also includes a little story piece in the back, where the story is determined by the outcome of the previous two games. Now, as I had been unconscious underneath the rubble, Dr Henry Armitage was kidnapped! That’s now three academics that I have proven unable to rescue. Some record here, huh? However, we were able to glean some information from his notes, which has given us a bonus 2 XP, so my investigators now have 11 XP each to spend on upgrading cards in their decks!

Some more thoughts
I really liked this scenario! I think we see a glimmer here of how stilted some of the scenarios are, in order for them to tell a story that has a logical progression into one of the four prepared resolutions, but once you’re over the amount of stuff that you need to do during setup, it plays beautifully. Despite the fact that they both suffered physical trauma, I’m quite excited to see where this could go – during campaign play, trauma basically lowers your maximum health or sanity (the game refers to “taking damage”, whereas all the other Arkham Files games refer to “losing health/sanity”, and so I think of it this way). Last time, I took Ursula and Jenny all the way through the eight scenarios, but I’m intrigued by the possibility that I might lose one of these investigators…

I’ve not yet given much thought about upgrading my decks, but I am hoping very soon to buy a second core set (finally!) which would be a very useful purchase for making the decks more consistent. I find that, even with four full cycles of cards to choose from, I do have some limited choice with card pool, and so noticed today that both investigators were drawing some fairly chaff cards. It would be much better if I could get that consistency that would allow for every draw to have much more impact. So that will be interesting.

I’m considering trying out one of the standalone scenarios next, but playing it as a part of this campaign, so we’ll see how that goes! In my next campaign blog, though, I’ll be sure to detail the upgrades that I bought – stay tuned!

Decadence & Decay: The Warhammer Preview!

Decadence and Decay

This weekend, we’ve had another Warhammer Preview from the Community team, looking at a whole bunch of stuff from across a multitude of game systems. Let’s take a look!

We’ve got a new campaign coming, which looks like it might be the start of bringing out these lieutenant models that were teased a while ago: Death Guard vs AdMech (with Imperial Knights, and my favourite Drukhari!), which should be fun! I’m a bit curious about the title for the book, “Act One”, which seems to imply there’ll be more where this came from, which sounds a lot like another Vigilus. Remember when we had Shield of Baal, which was a Blood Angels vs Tyranids, with some Necrons and Sisters action on the side? When we had Warzone Fenris that was just Dark Angels, Space Wolves and Thousand Sons? 7th Edition had a lot that needed to be fixed, but at the same time, it was nice when a campaign had a much tighter focus. To me, it doesn’t matter if my Necrons aren’t featured in the current campaign – if I have a different campaign coming up that might have them front and centre instead. By trying to have all of the factions involved, it seems to dilute something from it, and can make a lot of it seem forced. But I guess we’ll see!

Getting back to the Drukhari, though…

Oh man, we’re going to be the first xenos codex of 2021! Hopefully we’ll be able to play actual games with it soon after, too! I’m very excited to see what is on offer, as I’ve heard we’re going to lose that penalty for mixing Kabal, Cult and Coven. I mean, I’d been experimenting with a mixed force that went back to the Index days towards the end of 8th edition anyway, so this will be good to find out more!

We’ve been promised “lethal combat damage across the board” – I hope that transpires to making a lot of the Cult units truly horrible. Whenever I’ve taken Wyches to games, they have rarely (if ever) made up their points in terms of the damage output. I mean, they should be truly terrifying to come up against, but end up just being a bit… meh…

The Dark Angels are also getting their Codex, with promise of more stratagems to hunt the Fallen. I mean… they’re really pushing the theme on this, fair play, but it’s very niche, don’t you think? I’m sure if you’re a Dark Angels player, and have regular matches against Chaos Marines, you’d benefit, but so many of these rules specifically mention the Fallen. I don’t really know what you’re going to expect from the new book, but I’ve definitely moved away from the army (despite loving the aesthetic!)

Okay, let’s get to something that I’m really excited for now! House of Artifice is coming to update House Van Saar in Necromunda, guys!

I am very excited about this! As we’ve seen for three gangs already now, we’ll be getting new leader-types and new juve-types – but my goodness, we’ve got juves on hover boards! I mean, Christ! This looks fantastic!

I’m looking forward to seeing what the rules are around these leaders as well, with their spider-arm weaponry up top there. They look great, and while I do love the main gang box, I do like their posture!

I’ve been somewhat on the fence about the new Direchasm set, although the fact that it has Slaanesh mortal units in there, I will most likely be picking it up in due course! However, these Slaves to Darkness do look really wonderful, and not just for the board game – that sorcerer character looks great, and I think I’ll definitely be picking up a box!

Speaking of Slaanesh, though…

Oh my good god, YES!

Sigvald the Magnificent was the first Warhammer novel I ever read, and I’m probably always going to have a soft spot for him (steady!) This miniature looks utterly amazing, and I absolutely love it. Some of these re-imaginings of Old World characters have been a bit… off… but I really love this new Sigvald – he’s definitely looking magnificent, don’t you think? It’s got just everything, and I really want to get this model…

In case you aren’t sure – I like it!

And this isn’t all for Slaanesh…

We’re getting Slaanesh mortal units! The Myrmidesh Painbringers look like the kind of perfect warriors that I’ve been expecting from the Prince of Pleasure, and I think they personify that excess that the god is all about. Looks like a dual kit, as well, with these Symbaresh Twinsouls:

Where the Painbringers are perfect soldiers, the Twinsouls are just weird. Slaanesh isn’t just about sex and drugs, of course, and there is so much more to explore when it comes to the Dark Prince, I’m so glad we’re now getting to see this.

I thought we were being spoiled when we had all of that good stuff last year, with the new Keeper of Secrets at the head of the range of plastics. Now, we’re finally getting to explore the mortal side of things, and we’re seeing Sigvald at the head of his own Decadent Host! It’s a glorious time to be alive – dare I say, it’s magnificent!!

The Dunwich Legacy

Hey everybody,
After a long time flirting with this game, I think I have finally taken the plunge to go all-in with the Arkham Horror LCG, and have been playing it quite a bit in recent weeks as I attempt to once more get to grips with things. Last summer, I managed to get myself through the entire Dunwich Legacy campaign, but only chronicled the start of that adventure here on the blog –  The Dunwich Horror is my favourite Lovecraft story, though, and I feel that the campaign deserves another run-through, so I’ve decided to tackle it once again, and will be coming back here regularly to talk about my plays! That is, at least, the plan!

The Dunwich Legacy

Dr Armitage is worried his colleague Professor Warren Rice, might be in trouble, so he has asked for your help in finding his friend. He seems unreasonably nervous about his colleague’s disappearance considering Professor Rice has only been “missing” for a matter of hours…

Much like last time, I’ve started with Extracurricular Activity, as we try to find out what’s been happening with Dr Armitage’s colleagues. It was a lot of fun to get into this scenario, I have to say – I’ve played The Gathering so many times, it’s a very nice change to have what I suppose is a “proper” game, as things get underway and we can see what the game has got to offer. I’d made up new decks for Roland Banks and Akachi Onyele recently, so set out with this pair and thoroughly enjoyed myself!

The Dunwich Legacy

I’m very pleased to say that I didn’t remember the scenario all that much as I was playing it, so I wasn’t able to “game” it as I thought might be possible in these sorts of circumstances. Looking at my blog from last year, I turned out rescuing the professor, but the students didn’t make it out so well. This time, however, due to a combination of events in the encounter deck and a random path of exploration that turned up a lot of clues, I found myself in the dormitories and rescuing the students, leaving the experiment in the alchemy labs.

Interestingly, I didn’t have a great deal of enemies come out of the encounter deck, so the game did feel quite relaxed, although the treachery cards that I drew were just horrible (more in a bit!) Of course, I’m not an expert at this game yet, so I did still need to consult the rulebook at times, but I think it went quite smoothly overall! I think the worst part, for me, was a string of failed investigate checks – both investigators had an entire turn where nothing happened because all the checks were failed!

The Dunwich Legacy

Campaign Log
So: Professor Warren was kidnapped, but the students were rescued. I managed to accrue 4 victory points, so both of my investigators have got some XP to play with, although I think I might play another scenario before I start looking to upgrade the decks.

Some thoughts
I find these decks curious to play. Akachi is built as quite a powerhouse, if I can get the right pieces of her deck into play. Something I noticed with the core set play-throughs is that she was a bit useless until the deck “comes online”, but once she was there, I kept drawing cards that felt redundant. This time, however, it was a slightly different story as I was getting some pieces that I needed, but I was also getting a lot of good stuff overall, which made it feel like she was a real player. Roland, by contrast, had some real bum draws, and wasn’t getting very far with either the investigation or combat. I drew Pushed into the Beyond for him rather a lot, also, which discarded anything useful that I managed to play! I do often find this with playing card games, that I will usually find myself just accumulating resources with nothing to spend them on – not sure if I need to give the Roland deck a tweak, but then I’m not really sure what I need to put in there!

Both signature weaknesses were drawn for the investigators, and both were overcome, which I was very pleased about.

It was a lot of fun though – stay tuned for scenario two, coming soon!

Beyond Lovecraft

Hey everybody,
Christmas is coming, and inevitably I’m getting into the mood for some mythos tales as I play more of the Arkham Files games and get into that side of things, but I thought it might be interesting to see beyond Lovecraft and investigate some of the authors that have contributed to the mythos, specifically of course, the games!

Let’s start with Robert E Howard, the man who is credited with single-handedly creating the Sword & Sorcery genre. Conan the Barbarian was perhaps his greatest creation, although Howard also wrote weird tales, and weird West stories, and created Solomon Kane and Kull. 

The Haunter of the Ring is an interesting little story that deals with something more akin to black magic than actual cosmic horror. A Hungarian occultist calls forth the dark powers of the haunter to exact his revenge upon the man who stole the woman he loved, by using her as his instrument of vengeance. He gives her a ring that temporarily allows the haunter to take over her body, whereupon she tries to kill her husband. Very weird, some nice mythos elements from aspects such as the magical dabbling, but I think overall it lacks that sort of thrill from the stories that deal with the ancient ones.

The Horror from the Mound is one of Howard’s weird west stories, and concerns the down-on-his-luck cowboy Steve Brill, who notices how his Mexican neighbour skirts a mound and questions him about it. With dire warnings not to investigate it ringing in his ears, Steve impetuously digs up the mound, though is initially dismayed to find it seemingly empty. However, following a shadowy shape to his neighbour’s house, he witnesses the old Mexican being murdered. Returning to his house with the written notes from the Mexican’s hut, Steve learns the mound was constructed to contain the body of a vampire, at which point he looks up and sees said vampire looking through his window! It’s a fantastic pulp story, and is full of suspense and horror. Definitely recommended!!

Next up, we have the almost controversial figure of August Derleth. The man who is responsible for preserving and publishing much of Lovecraft’s work after his death. Derleth had attempted to bind Lovecraft’s mythological creations into a cohesive narrative, the Hastur mythos, though in life Lovecraft rejected the idea. In the years following Lovecraft’s death in 1937, however, Derleth wrote stories that worked towards a single coherent pantheon of Great Old Ones and Elder Gods. Many have since denounced this move, of course, leading to a somewhat chequered reputation for him. 

The Return of Hastur is an odd duck. It has a poor reputation among Lovecraft devotees for being the story that first attempted to classify the mythos by elemental means. An elderly scholar dies, and asks that certain books be destroyed, along with his house. However, his nephew contests this action but subsequently grows to rue that decision, as he learns that his uncle had made a pact to provide a haven for the return of the ancient one, Hastur. For a good chunk of the tale, it actually reads very much like a Lovecraft story, but there are several unfortunate parts that really try too hard to force themselves into the mythos, that it reads like bad fan fiction. I think it was also a very poor decision to include an actual reference to The Call of Cthulhu as a weird tale itself, as it just rang too false for me. I’m not sure that the story deserves quite the amount of hate that has been directed towards it, but I’m equally disappointed that the story is effectively worse for trying too hard.

The Dweller in Darkness bears a very strong resemblance to Derleth’s earlier The Thing that Walked on the Wind, having the setting of a cabin in the woods in the author’s native Wisconsin. The narrator is on the trail of a disappeared academic, and goes up to a cabin on the shunned Rick’s Lake with a fellow graduate student, in an effort to pick up his trail. The trail leads them through several Lovecraftian tropes, we get a link between Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep, and the new Great Old One, Cthugha, a fireball which is depicted in opposition to the other two in Derleth’s pantheon. There are definite shadows from Lovecraft, particularly The Whisperer in the Darkness (recording the otherworldly voices via dictaphone, for example, and the conclusion describing the footprints). I did think it was a good story, and better than the other one, as this definitely tried more to be its own thing. I suppose I just feel disappointed when Lovecraft’s stories are brought into the story as support for the eldritch horror that lurks.

Finally, we come to Clark Ashton Smith, another of Lovecraft’s correspondents, whose reputation rests as much on his poetry as his weird fiction. Prolific as a writer, Smith created the prehistoric world of Hyperborea, as well as the “Dying Earth” continent of Zothique, writing many tales in these and other settings.

I read The Seven Geases specifically because I wanted to read the first mention of Atlach-Nacha, the “dream weaver” that looms large in the mythos. I had no real idea what to expect, if I’m honest, and the tale is definitely one to be filed under W for weird! It forms part of Smith’s Hyperborea story cycle, the legendary continent once situated in the present Arctic before the Ice Age. The land is lush jungle, populated by dinosaurs and the ape-like Voormi, before human settlers arrived from elsewhere on Earth. One such settler, Lord Ralibar Vooz, is leading a hunting expedition onto Mount Voormithadreth when he interrupts the sorcerer Exdagor, who places upon him a “geas” or curse, to present himself to the subterranean god Tsathoggua as a sacrifice. It turns out, however, that Tsathoggua is quite full from a recent sacrifice, so sends Vooz under a second geas to the spider-god Atlach-Nacha, who is far too busy spinning his webs to deal with Vooz’ arrival, so sends him to the “antehuman” sorcerer Haon-Dar, whose minions imprisoned within the walls and floor of his palace would not be properly sated by eating Vooz, so he sends him to the Serpent People, who are advanced scientists and already have a human specimen, but don’t have any use for him, and on it goes. 

The story is meant as a comedy, with a fairly silly and blunt ending that made me wonder just what on earth I’d been reading! But when I understood that it’s meant to be a sort of darkly comic parody, I could actually appreciate it as quite enjoyable. It’s particularly noteworthy as being the first mention of both Atlach-Nacha and Abhoth (who places upon Vooz the seventh geas) in the mythos, Ancient Ones who loom large within the wider Cthulhu mythos. While other writers have more fully fleshed-out Atlach-Nacha into the “dream-spinner” we all know and fear, Abhoth is pretty much here what he/she has always been since.

The Hunters from Beyond is much more ‘classic’ mythos, dealing with strange, extra-dimensional beings who have been serving as models for an artist, although recently they have been acting with a bit more independence. It sounds familiar because it is modelled after Pickman’s Model, of course, but I thought it worked quite well with a certain element of suspense brought about, not because the end was in any real doubt, but more because of the expectation of it, if that makes sense. It’s also worth noting the narrator is one Philip Hastane, who has cropped up as an ally in a few Arkham Files games to date!

I’ve definitely enjoyed delving beyond my favourite, HP Lovecraft, though I will certainly be taking the time this Christmas to once more delve into the mythos and read some more weird fiction!

Grey Knights: let’s talk Paladins

Hey everybody,
Following on from last week’s post about the Grey Knights, as I get ready for something of a major push towards finishing as many of these minis as I can by the end of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the list that I have and what I can do with it to field an army at the 1500-points mark, and have come up with something that I am quite excited for, so thought I’d talk about it here today!

There was quite a bit of talk in last week’s blog about the idea of the Paladin bomb, and while I have expanded the list a little with a second box of these chaps, this isn’t actually something that I’m going to be focusing on too much – principally because of the points cost for these guys! However, I have taken the opportunity of a second box to fill out the squad to five men, and have used the other bits to create a Paladin Ancient, the banner-bearer that gives nearby models +1 attack. 

Having five Paladins does give me the option to equip two of them with special weapons – the wording on the datasheet in the current Codex does actually say “two”, and not “up to two”, which means that you can’t just put one in there, unfortunately. Paladins are 50 points each, and the weapons just add to that, so given that the current build of daemon hammer and two with pairs of falchions just screams melee-orientated unit, I didn’t then want to spend points on giving them ranged weapons that they wouldn’t be able to use when the unit got into combat. True, the special weapon only replaces the storm bolter, so they are still able to be equipped with melee weapons, but it’s all additional points that I’d rather spend elsewhere. I’ve gone for two additional guys with halberds, as the +1 attack for paired falchions is nice, but really, the +1 strength from the halberd should be very nice as well, so it’s a decent blend of attacks in there (especially with the daemon hammer hitting at S8!).

The choice of psychic powers for each unit is also really offensive. The Paladins have Purge Soul, which is almost like a leadership contest between the squad and their target. The Paragon, the sergeant for the Paladins, is Ld9, which is only one point above a marines’ sergeant, however, the important note here is that the Paladins will be running around with the Ancient in tow, giving them +1 to their Leadership value. There is potential for a couple of mortal wounds on a decent roll, here, I feel! Speaking of the Ancient, he has Inner Fire, one of the powers from the new Dominus discipline, which lets him roll a number of dice equal to the value of the psychic test for the power, and deal a mortal wound for each 3+ rolled. 

Having units that can take part in every phase is a big draw for the Grey Knights, and is why I think they are so expensive as models. If all of those psychic powers come to pass, they could be doing upwards of 6 mortal wounds to a unit before they even shoot anything! Everyone has a storm bolter, of course, so within 12″ of an enemy unit that’ll be 10 shots from the Paladins and another 2 from the Ancient, hitting on 3s and likely wounding on 4s, then the juicy stuff happens when they’re in combat. Each Paladin has got 3 attacks, but the banner from the Ancient gives them +1 attack if the model is within 6″ of it – so best-case scenario, we’re looking at 20 attacks. There are two models equipped with falchions, so we’re now up to 22 attacks. The Paragon will be using his four attacks to hit on 2s with a S8 AP-4 D6 weapon (with 3 damage, minimum), which should be nice! The falchion-guys will be using their 10 attacks hitting on 3s and wounding on 4s (most likely), while the halberds will be making 8 attacks wounding (potentially) on 3s. Both the halberds and falchions are AP-2, as well, and D3 damage each. 

Stratagems for the Grey Knights are not particularly fantastic, if I’m being wholly honest, but there are some useful things hidden away that can bolster the knights of Titan, and thinking about the Paladins in particular, there is help to keep them alive by reducing damage dealt from ranged attacks (for 1CP), once they’re in combat there’s a stratagem to give them +1 to hit rolls (for 1CP), you can keep any Paladins on the battlefield until they have had a chance to fight back (for 2CP), and the classic Honour the Chapter will allow the unit to fight again (for 3CP). 

Some really interesting options in there, I feel – and all of this is just through the use of those six models. The Chaplain’s litanies, and the Grand Master’s Rites of Battle ability, can allow them to re-roll hit rolls, should those characters be nearby as well. It is difficult to get the kind of crazy aura shenanigans of some armies with the Grey Knights, for sure, but I do like the fact that you can still get some really interesting stuff going on for them.

As a bit of a footnote for this, Paladin squads have the Combat Squads ability, meaning that you can take a unit of 10 models and, before the battle, split them up into two units of five models. Given the fact that you can take two special weapons for every five models, this allows you to break up a squad into melee-orientated and shooting-orientated. However, the points investment for this kind of squad is ridiculous – almost 600 points for the ten-man unit. It’s definitely cheaper to take a Purgation squad if you want ranged firepower in the list, as the weapons alone cost cheaper when equipped to a non-terminator model. Sure, you get the terminator stat-line on the Paladins, but the weapons aren’t any more accurate when equipped to the bigger guys, so while this option did at first intrigue me, I don’t think I’m going to be rushing to build four psilencer-wielding Paladins anytime soon! 

Expanding the Mansion

Inside abandoned hospitals, secret laboratories, and forgotten cellars, scientists are conducting depraved experiments that will drag humanity to the brink of the abyss. Only a small group of investigators can discover the truth and put an end to these mad plots before it’s too late…

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy


The first expansion for Mansions of Madness, Forbidden Alchemy, delves into the sort of laboratory horror that filters through some of HP Lovecraft’s short stories, as we look at the strange goings-on in the private laboratories of crazed scientists. It’s been three years since I looked at the base game on this blog, and even though a lot has happened in that time, including a second edition of the game and me selling off my own copy of the first edition. But I still want to get round to exploring the expansions here, almost as a retrospective or comparative, looking at how things have been implemented across the variety of Lovecraft games in the stable!

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy


Forbidden Alchemy is the type of small-box expansion for the game that gives us very much more of the same. We get some new investigators, again some classics from the Arkham Horror stable, and classic monsters like the Byakhee. There is, of course, the over-arching theme of mad scientists and the like, but in the main the expansion is fairly straightforward, if I’m honest. I always find it quite curious when talking about expansions like these – they’re the sort of expansion that I appreciate, because sometimes when I like a game, I just want more of the same. Sometimes an expansion for a game will greatly change the base game, almost to the point where you wonder if you’re playing the same thing, and while that can be nice to change things up a bit, sometimes you just want a new hero to try out, or whatever.

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy

There are new puzzles in this box, themed of course around Alchemy, although these do change things up from the base game’s puzzles in that you don’t have the same kind of correlation between the investigator’s intellect and what they’re trying to do, but instead it’s all a bit random. Very thematic for the expansion, but I don’t think they’re necessarily better than the earlier puzzles.

The expansion is wonderful, though, for the scenarios it includes, featuring none other than Herbert West and his foul experiments! Crawling hands trying to grab the investigators when they least expect it… nice!

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild was the big box expansion for the game, which featured a slew of new components for the game, and was themed somewhat around the Dunwich Horror. We go outside of the mansion this time around, and have scenarios that actually involve that forsaken hill where the Horror was banished. 

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

This expansion literally blows the game wide open, not only simply by virtue of being outside, but a lot of the structure of Mansions of Madness has gone, but in a good way. You’re not forced to follow a specific chain of clues to reach the objective, but rather can gather clues with almost total freedom. This sea-change necessarily means that the stacking of Objectives has also been replaced with a more flexible kind of end game in sight, and it’s really quite something!

There is a scenario that is a sort of whodunnit, where you can question townsfolk and gain them as allies as you try to discover a cult leader; there is a scenario where the investigators are trying to hide ritual pieces that the keeper is trying to discover, in order to enact a pre-chosen ritual. There’s a weird sort of dungeon-crawl type of scenario where you’re trying to escape a misty forest, and you build the map as you go. 

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

We also have the Dunwich Horror itself, in a scenario that sees the keeper trying to summon it, and the investigators trying to complete tasks set for them by Zebulon Whateley in order to foil these summoning efforts. 

It’s really everything you’d expect from a big-box expansion, though. The altered gameplay that comes from being outside and not having to complete the clues in strict order, along with a raft of stuff that, some of it being highly themed to the new set, but still can be added in to the base game if you so wish. 

Mansions of Madness is one of the great Ameritrash games where the theme is prioritised over everything else, although of course this game doesn’t just paste a theme onto some random basic game engine. There is so much going on in any game that it can make for a really immersive experience. The expansions are very nice additions, although Forbidden Alchemy did have a lot of trouble when it first came out, requiring the inclusion of a set of cards to replace “broken” components of the game. That did make for a very confusing box opening, I must say!

What I find quite interesting about this game is how it chooses to implement the mythos side of things. Call of the Wild is nothing like Dunwich Horror for Arkham Horror, or The Dunwich Legacy cycle for the LCG. It’s probably closest to the latter, in that both games take aspects from the source material and re-imagine them, but MoM has an extremely tenuous link to the Lovecraft tale, while at least the LCG tells a fairly compelling tale set in the aftermath of the story itself. 

Forbidden Alchemy has no real antecedent in the other mythos games, of course, although it does scratch a very nice itch from the source material. Lovecraft himself was very interested in modern science, and I think if he had had the money, would absolutely have been one of those gentlemen scientists with a private lab in the basement. Quite a few of his stories include some form of science, with tales like Herbert West – Reanimator and Cool Air having almost the main focus of the story being on pushing the limits of scientific discovery. It’s definitely a lot of fun to see that given some attention within FFG’s stable of Lovecraft-themed games, in my view!

Mansions of Madness is now in its second edition, where the keeper has been replaced with an app, allowing for a fully-cooperative game experience. I’ve not really looking all that closely at the second edition, having pretty much downsized my collection when I moved house last year to a core of games that I regularly played, and the Cthulhu-themed games were pretty heavily hit. To all appearances, though, MoM2 is going well, with the most recent expansion, Path of the Serpent, being released twelve months ago. With five expansions that all look to be somewhat along the lines of big box entries, it definitely seems to be doing well for itself!

Ravenor Returned

View this post on Instagram

#nowReading #Warhammer40k

A post shared by Mark (@marrrkusss) on

Last month, I finished reading the second book in Dan Abnett’s Ravenor trilogy, which I think in many ways surpassed its predecessor with just how brilliant it is! The book sees the Inquisitor return (unsurprisingly!) to Eustis Majoris, to further his investigation into the illegal Flect trade that seems to be centred on that world. The members of Ravenor’s team infiltrate their way back on-planet, and set up shop in a town house in order to continue their operation, each member working in a different role in the Administratum building to gain some insight into what the Magistratum is doing with the imported cogitators from the Mergent Worlds.

Patience Kys is working to transcribe what appears to be gibberish when she passes out, to be promptly hauled off for interrogation, being asked repeatedly for what word she saw or tasted when she fainted. It turns out that the Magistratum is attempting to unlock the Chaotic language Enuncia, and certain phrases and grammar can be found within the Chaos-tainted logic engines recovered from the Mergent Worlds. Enuncia gives the speaker the power to re-shape the world around him, causing reality to shift or allowing for a pretty powerful physical attack, although it does cause problems for the speaker, such as nosebleeds or worse.

Remember Ravenor’s arch-nemesis Zygmunt Molotch, from the prologue of the first novel? He was attempting to recover more of the Enuncia lexicon when Ravenor’s team caught up with him. As it happens, we learn that Molotch is indeed behind the goings-on here on Eustis Majoris, also! Through Chaotic means, Molotch had been wearing the face of the Lord Governor Barazan, and manipulating the Minister for Subsector Trade, Jader Trice, into using the power of the Magistratum to further his plans.

***

The second book in a trilogy can often lapse into “bridge syndrome”, where it exists purely to provide a bridge between the set-up of book one, and the conclusion of book three, and there are very few trilogies out in the wild that are able to handle a middle book well. Ideally, I suppose, the story should broaden out, we should get to see more character development, but the pace shouldn’t really slacken off from the first one – and this is exactly what we get here. Arguably, a lot of the character development went on in the first book, anyway, but we get location development, in that we learn more of the planet and its various organisations and institutions. We get some new characters, who seem to be set to continue on as part of Ravenor’s retinue into book three, as well, but the main thing that is notable about Ravenor Returned is the breadth of story in here.

There is a lot of intrigue going on, with competing Chaos cults on the planet and a deepening of the Contract Thirteen storyline from the earlier book. As was the case last time, we get the terrific sense of atmosphere from the hive world, as well, with some really evocative descriptions being given that bring the world to life. It’s all just delightfully gothic and incredibly evocative!

One of the plot elements of the story is that the hive itself is laid out in some deliberate manner by the heretical architect Thedor Cadizky, in a storyline very reminiscent of the original Ghostbusters movie, where the tower block is built along paranormal lines to specifically channel the occult. I thought that was quite a nice touch, somehow, as it lends a sense of history to the plot, somehow.

A secondary plot-thread deals with the Magistratum Marshall, Maud Plyton, who almost stumbles on to the conspiracy when investigating a supposed suicide. The storyline is actually really interesting, and serves as a nice counterpoint to Ravenor’s investigation, adding more pieces to the puzzle without revealing too much until we’re nearer to the end. Maud joins Ravenor’s retinue at the end of the book, so I’m expecting to find out more about her in the third novel of the series, anyway.

I’m not sure what else there is to say about this one, really, other than to go out there and read it! It’s such a good book, full of intrigue and rich in detail – it’s one of those things that just reminds me why I love 40k so much!