April retrospective

Hey everybody,
It’s the end of another month, and we’re already a third of the way through the year! After quite an eventful March, I feel as though my April doesn’t really measure up! Lots of real-world stuff going on, sadly, but as this blog is being published, I’m coming to the end of a very relaxing week away, which is hopefully going to help propel me to new heights in May! Well, we can but hope!

While perhaps not as much has happened in April, I think what I have been able to do has been pretty big! I want to start with Warhammer, because why not – indeed, most of this blog is probably going to be taken up with plastic crack! After a few years of having the game, I have finally made it round to trying out Warhammer Underworlds, and I think I’ve become obsessed…

In these coronavirus times, I’m still playing games with myself, so stuff like this and Warcry has suffered a bit, but nevertheless, I can say that I wholeheartedly love the idea and the playstyle and I cannot wait to play against a real person! The only warband that I have painted is still the Thorns of the Briar Queen from the Nightvault set, though I have recently made efforts to get the Godsworn Hunt warband painted as well, having made a start back when Contrasts were new and all. Very small progress, but progress nonetheless.

I definitely think I’m obsessed, though!

I’ve also been making some very decent progress with the Ossiarch Bonereapers! In my latest New Army Update blog, I showed off some Immortis Guard, as well as the plans for the Endless Spells and Arch-Kavalos Zandtos. Well, the Spells are finished, and while everything is just done to tabletop standard, I do like how these things have turned out! I must say, I struggled with each one to think of a good colour scheme for them – I wanted something different to the ghostly-green of the box art, but I never knew what! In the end, I went for ghostly-blue, in the main,as a nod to the Mortisan Boneshaper.

The army is definitely coming along, though. I’m trying to not get too distracted with Underworlds and other projects, so that it won’t be too long before I’ll have a fourth update blog with yet more finished miniatures! Although it is exciting to think that I’m only one model away from having that 1000-point list fully painted!

Of course, the Ossiarch Bonereapers are due for their own Underworlds warband to come out soon, talk about worlds colliding! So that’s definitely something to look forward to.

While we’re talking about new miniatures…

The next Broken Realms book is going to be accompanied by a slew of huge model releases, it seems, not least of which is a new Lord Kroak for the Seraphon, and this fabulous thing for Slaanesh! If I was excited for the plastic Keeper of Secrets back in 2019, I don’t even know where to start with this beauty! Slaanesh is, of course, my favourite, and I keep talking about how much I want to have a Slaanesh army. Well, given that they’re quite possibly now the most-supported of the four Ruinous Powers, it seems like I need to make a start with these glorious things! I do need to try and control myself at times, of course, but when things like this come along, I just don’t know what to do…

The Keeper is a big model, but these things look huge, due to the wings and everything. I really didn’t see this coming, but I definitely want at least one!

Moving away from the Mortal Realms now, I’ve been reading quite a bit of the Horus Heresy this month – mainly catching up on some of those books that I had left out up to this point.

Prospero Burns is the 15th novel in the series, and tells the story of the Burning of Prospero from the point of view of the VI Legion. Now, the book is by Dan Abnett, one of the Black Library’s greatest, and it deals with one of the most critical moments in the Heresy that has already had a fantastic novel covering those events. What’s not to like? Well, it’s Space Wolves, and if there’s one Legion I just cannot enjoy, it’s these. In all fairness to him, Dan does a great job and the story feels very much like a sort of Viking Saga. It’s told from the point of view of Kasper Hawser, who functions a bit like a Remembrancer for the Legion. He’s a noted academic from Terra, and we get to see some of his backstory investigating sites and the like. He seems to have a particular specialism in the Imperium’s past during Old Night, which was particularly intriguing. However, during one of these academic investigations, he is seemingly turned into a sleeper agent by the Thousand Sons, and sent to Fenris to live alongside the Space Wolves Legion, acting as an early warning system for Magnus to ensure Leman Russ is never sent against him.

What? Why would Magnus even think such a thing? Well, he is perhaps the only psyker on a level with the Emperor Himself, so maybe he had a premonition. Anyway, the Wolves keep Hawser in stasis when they discover his identity, before deciding to study him as he studied them, in an attempt to discover more of his intentions. We revisit a lot of ground covered by Graham McNeil’s book, including the Council of Nikea, where Hawser’s role as spy is revealed to him by Russ. Hawser and the Wolves attempt to discover what exactly is going on, and it eventually transpires that he was in fact possessed by a daemon of Chaos, with the purpose of ensuring the mutual annihilation of both Thousand Sons and Space Wolves. The Thousand Sons’ psychic potential had no room in the plans of the Ruinous Powers, and the Wolves are the only Legion to pose a real threat to Horus and his Sons. Makes sense, no?

The Burning of Prospero happens as we all know, with Russ and the Wolves decimating the Thousand Sons, and Magnus fleeing with his Legion into the Warp to the Planet of the Sorcerers. Hawser agrees to go back into stasis so that he cannot be used against Russ again.

I don’t know what it is, but I just dislike the Space Wolves, particularly in how they’re handled in the fiction. I get it, they’re Space Vikings, and everything is wolf this and wolf that, with pelts all over the place, and the battle brothers drinking mead and eating raw meat with their special fangs. If Chaos’ plan had worked, and the two Legions had destroyed each other, I don’t think I’d have been all that concerned with the loss of the VI Legion. Dan Abnett does a wonderful job of creating some truly atmospheric scenes, and we get a very interesting look at the Legion like nothing we’ve had before, but I found myself most often feeling that they worked particularly well when read as some kind of Viking story, and not as Warhammer.

But that’s just me!

I suppose it’s difficult to get away from the fact that the book just feels a bit superfluous, and really we could just have A Thousand Sons and miss this one completely, and the whole Heresy story wouldn’t suffer for it. I think this gets worse as the series moves along – I’m actually about to start on book 30, and I believe it gets a bit rough at times as the books range wider and wider, with more and more superfluous entries in the series. Prospero Burns was an interesting book in some respects, showing us marines in a different light, and it actually gave me the strange feeling of actually being a bit like a serious, grown-up novel, at times. No mere bolter porn, for sure! But ultimately, I just wasn’t that into it, and it really felt like a chore to get through it.

To help me get through it, I actually started to read something else, with a kind of reward system going on. Bad, isn’t it? Never thought I’d say that about Dan Abnett, but honestly I think it’s really just my own personal hang-ups about the Legion, and not the quality of the writing, that are colouring this review.

I read this book alongside my fellow bloggers Jenn and Dave, although I think I started a bit early and finished first, but you can now check out Inquisitor Jenn’s thoughts on the book here, and Dave’s review is now here! Be warned, though, punches have not been pulled!

I also read book sixteen, Age of Darkness. The second anthology in the series, I thought this one much better than the first, Tales of Heresy. Perhaps because more has happened by this point in the series, and so there is more for the short stories to tie into? At any rate, there are nine stories here, written by all manner of Black Library alums, including Dan Abnett who wrote Little Horus – the story of how Horus Aximand of the Sons of Horus Legion had his face cut off. Delightful! The stories all feel quite important, though I think that might be due to having read so far into the series now, coming back to this book has helped me make sense of how a lot of them fit into the overall series to date.

I thought Liar’s Due, by James Swallow, was a good story. Different, in that it dealt with a lone Alpha Legion operative as he sows discord throughout the normal people of the Imperium. It really shows how the XX Legion wage their wars, through intrigue and subterfuge, without needing to fire a shot themselves. Savage Weapons is a story that I’ve read before, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. It deals with a parlay gone wrong between Lion el’Jonson and Konrad Curze, and is I think the first time in the Horus Heresy that we get to seriously see the Night Lords (though I could be wrong there!) It is set during the events of the Thramas Crusade, which is notable for being an attempt to keep the Dark Angels from Terra by having the Night Lords run amok in Ultima Segmentum. The story is mainly told by ADB in this and Prince of Crows, one that I’m looking forward to reading at some point soon!

Little Horus and The Last Remembrancer directly link to the 29th novel, Vengeful Spirit, which I have covered in its own blog here. That is definitely worth the read, and I am still impressed with the breadth of that book!

Darth Bane Trilogy

It’s not been all Warhammer, though, as I’ve finally drawn to a conclusion with the Darth Bane trilogy! Not my favourite, by any stretch of the imagination – you can read my rambling thoughts on the final book, and the trilogy as a whole, here!

I’ve finally started to read the hardcover sensation that is Light of the Jedi, as well – the inaugural novel in the High Republic series. Be sure to check back for my review when that goes up!

It seems to be an exciting time for Star Wars, with the announcement of the “special event series”, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Originally slated to be a movie along the lines of Rogue One, it was announced as a series in 2019 but put on hold due to “script problems” a year later. With the announcement of the cast, though, we’re well on the way to getting this series in 2022, I believe, and I’m really intrigued to see what it’s all about. The Mandalorian has really shown just how good Star Wars on the small screen can be, and while I don’t know what the significance of “a special event series” will be, I would like to think that we’re in for something really special.

I just hope Obi-Wan and Vader never actually meet…

Lots going on right now to be excited for, though! The Cassian Andor spin-off series has already been filming since December, although we don’t have a release date yet. The Book of Boba Fett is set for release in December this year, though, and the third season of The Mandalorian will be out sometime after that, maybe this time next year? Definitely a lot to look forward to, at any rate!! I do wonder if we’ll get many more movies, with the way the TV series have been a success for Disney+ so far. I suppose it does hearken back to what I was talking about with WandaVision though, in that the series can show a lot more of the slow moments, whereas the movies seem to have to deal with just one big adventure. The upcoming Rogue Squadron movie is probably going to be something along these lines, I’d guess…

Oh yes, and I turned 7 on 21 April!

Anyway, I’m rambling here! Time to wrap things up. It’s been a slower month for sure, and I haven’t had the time for as much as I’d have liked, but things are definitely ticking along with the hobby, and you can definitely look forward to more Underworlds content as it continues to take over my life!!

The Darth Bane Trilogy

Hey everybody,
I recently finished up reading the third and final book in the Darth Bane trilogy, Dynasty of Evil, and while I’ve usually discussed these books in my end-of-month retrospective blogs, today I thought I’d talk about the final installment, and the trilogy as a whole, in a dedicated post. Let’s dive in!

Dynasty of Evil is the third and final part of the Darth Bane trilogy, and I’ll say this right now: I’m so glad it’s over.

Far from the desolate forests of Ambria, Bane and Zannah are now living in luxury in a mansion on Ciutric IV (I had to look this up, but it’s the setting for X-Wing: Isard’s Revenge – points for that, Drew, at least!) There, Bane poses as a rich merchant with an interest in Sith artifacts, and comes across mention of one Darth Andeddu, who apparently discovered the secret to eternal life. Tired and dismayed that Zannah hasn’t yet challenged him for the title of Sith Lord as befits the Rule of Two, he decides to find Andeddu’s holocron and make himself immortal, to ensure the survival of the Sith.

Meanwhile, on the remote mining world of Doan, a Jedi has been killed while on the hunt for certain Sith amulets. Fearing his death will bring the Council to Doan, the royal family there send Princess Serra to Coruscant to tidy up the situation. Serra is the daughter of the healer Caleb, and discovers how her father died while on the capital world. This leads her down the path of retribution, where she engages the services of the Iktotchi bounty hunter known simply as The Huntress to find Bane and bring him to her.

The Sith amulets have drawn the interest of the Dark Jedi Set Harth, who recovers the artifacts and returns to his penthouse on Nal Hutta. Bane sends Zannah to investigate while he goes off to the Deep Core world Prakith in search of the holocron. Zannah finds Set and decides he’ll do as her apprentice, giving her the impetus to finally challenge Bane. On Prakith, Bane discovers the holocron in a fortress still devoted to the ancient Sith Master, and wrests the knowledge of eternal life forcibly from within while on the journey home. The effort of doing so leaves him exhausted enough that The Huntress is able to overpower him and bring him to Serra on Doan.

Zannah and Set return to Ciutric to find Bane gone, and so they also travel to Doan so that she can defeat her erstwhile Master. However, all hell breaks loose in the prison caverns of Doan; Set abandons Zannah after never really being convinced that the life of a Sith was for him anyway, while Bane and Zannah’s duel is cut short by the imploding caverns. Bane escapes with The Huntress, who is convinced her destiny lies with him, and they travel to Ambria, where Zannah catches up with him. They duel again, but the climax of that duel is somewhat inconclusive…

There is a lot going on here, although the novel’s pacing does leave it feeling like the main bulk of the action takes place on Doan. The set-up bounces between Ciutric, Prakith, Doan, Coruscant and Nal Hutta, before having the protracted sequences in the prison complex, and then that final denouement. Bane going on the trail of yet another holocron was a bit like an action sequence out of a video game. He goes there, kills everyone, takes the holocron, and leaves. All in the space of a chapter. Little to no thought is given to developing Prakith or the cult of Andeddu, more’s the pity.

We’re ten years on from the last book, and Bane is now in his 40s and, inexplicably, old. I suppose the subtext is that the Dark Side ages a person prematurely, but in a galaxy where I thought it was supposed to be a bit like Lord of the Rings (I’m sure at one point it was decided that average human lifespans were in the region of 120 years), having a 40-something with tremors seems a little… off…

I need to talk about the whole character of the book though. Once again, it feels very much like bad fanfiction. Bane and Zannah, posing as brother and sister, live in a fabulous mansion with untold wealth, and it all feels a bit too convenient, somehow. You know how, in the sort of bad fanfiction stories you’d read on the 90s internet, the authors would make their leading characters simply amazing, and they’d have the wealth to not need a day job, and they’d live in mansions without any thought to realism, and be just gorgeous and perfect? I don’t think Zannah is described as gorgeous so much in this book, but we do still get the descriptions of Bane’s rippling muscles and whatnot, and it just doesn’t seem to ring true, somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written my share of fanfic on this very blog, but I suppose I’ve never been under any illusions as to what I was doing! I’ve paid money for this book, and it’s just bad.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on this. Let’s try to pick over the bones a bit more.

Set Harth is a Dark Jedi. He’s tired of the stifling ways of the Jedi Temple, and decides he’d much rather use his Force abilities to live the playboy lifestyle of endless parties and silk shirts open to the midriff. That’s fine – in fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t been thought of before. He hunts down Sith amulets to increase his power, quite why I’m not sure, but it fits somehow with him wanting quick and easy results. The fact he doesn’t seem to do anything with that power notwithstanding, it was interesting to see a Jedi leave the Order and pursue a life dedicated entirely to hedonism. I wonder if he’s one of the Lost Twenty? His storyline with Zannah was one of the more convincing aspects of the book, and I like the fact that he not only makes it out alive by saving his own skin, but he also ends up with Andeddu’s holocron.

Is he a Dark Jedi, really? It’s explained in the book as something of a rogue Jedi, neither Jedi nor Sith. But he never really does anything in the same league as, say, Lumiya or Asajj Ventress. He’s just a bit of a selfish fop who prefers to go to parties than to safeguard peace and justice. I don’t get why he lives on Nal Hutta, because the planet is already under the control of the Hutts and so has presumably been terraformed into the noxious bog-planet that we know and love. Disconcertingly, at one point it is said that he lives on Nar Shaddaa, which would make more sense, although I’m not sure there’s much luxury on the Smuggler’s Moon – but this is 1000 years before A New Hope, remember, so that small point would have helped to distance the novel from the Prequels, a recurring failing for the trilogy otherwise.

The Huntress is a curious one. She’s an Iktotchi, a species with some precognitive ability, which she uses to track her quarry across the galaxy. Okay, I’m buying it so far. She’s able to plan to capture Bane, discovering his identity through her skills (somehow), and then bam! About two-thirds of the way through the book, she’s using the Force. It’s a bit like Mara Jade, going from struggling to do anything in the wake of Palpatine’s destruction, to being a full Jedi Master under the guidance of Luke Skywalker. I have no problem with that, because it hearkens back to the idea that anybody can use the Force with enough training, because the Force is prevalent in all life. Sadly, though, midichlorians are a thing, and I’m not sure the idea of awakening dormant abilities would entirely work, but who knows. Bane takes The Huntress as an apprentice, and gives her the new name of Darth Cognus. When Zannah defeats Bane (or does she?), she takes Cognus on as her own apprentice. Cognus has a long and storied career of her own, mainly chronicled in articles on the now-defunct Hyperspace website. So it was a nice touch to see this backstory fully developed and worked into the chronology.

Darth Bane Trilogy

I think there are two things that I find really problematic about the trilogy. The first has been well-documented since I covered the first book, and that is just how badly-written it is, with flat, one-dimensional characters and no effort to distance itself from the Prequel era despite being set 970+ years before the events of The Phantom Menace. The second is just how pointless the whole thing seems. Darth Bane was developed by George Lucas in the backstory for Episode I, as the founder of the Sith Rule of Two. He’d then made a couple of appearances, and it seems like Drew Karpyshyn was tasked to bring these elements, such as they were, into novel form.

Somewhere in here, there is an interesting story. The disaffected student of the Dark Side, wanting more than Lord Kaan was offering with his Brotherhood of Darkness, engineers the destruction of the Sith Lords he sees as the pretenders, and determines through his own study of ancient texts that the way forward for the Sith is not to share power, but rather to focus it in a single Master, who will train an apprentice to one day take over the mantle. This way, the Sith can work to bring about the destruction of the Jedi and their own eventual triumph. Darth Bane does this, setting himself up in the centre of a network of spies and such, engineering minor border disputes that lays the groundwork for the Separatist movement. He also furthers his knowledge of the Dark Side through the acquisition of Sith artifacts, and visits places of previous Dark Side power from the ancient past.

It’s a story that I can get behind, but the execution is just so poor that I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am with the trilogy. I think this disappointment is further fueled by the fact that the SW book page that I follow on FaceBook is almost rabid in its love for the trilogy. I was surprised at the negative reaction I got when I made a post there, hoping the second book would be better than the first!

It’s such a shame, because Karpyshyn is obviously not a bad writer – he was lead writer on that most beloved of Star Wars games, Knights of the Old Republic, and I don’t recall being this disappointed with his The Old Republic novels Revan and Annihilation. I’ll have to revisit those books at some point, and see if they’re in the same league…

There are so many missed opportunities with this series. While I suppose it was inevitable that Path of Destruction would re-tell the story of Jedi vs Sith, I wish we had been given more context for that conflict because I’m still none the wiser, and reliant on Wookieepedia articles to make sense of this period of time. Rule of Two could have been better, and indeed in some respects was perhaps the best of the trilogy in a weird reversal of the usual “bridge syndrome” trilogies can fall prey to. Dynasty of Evil seems to leave the door open for more Bane, as it is left unclear whether Zannah was in fact victorious, or if Bane succeeded in transferring his essence as per the teachings of Darth Andeddu. Maybe the title refers to the notion that every subsequent Sith Lord in Bane’s model actually has the essence of Darth Bane inside of them? I guess we’ll never know, because these books are now Legends, and while possible to be retained within the new canon timeline because nothing is taking place at this time, I really hope they are left alone.

Flashpoint: Argovon

Hey everybody,

I’ve been looking through a bunch of old White Dwarf magazines to read up on the Warhammer Underworlds articles that I always used to skip, given my new-found obsession with that game, and I thought I’d take a look at the Flashpoint stuff that was published there at the end of 2020. A three-part narrative campaign system, Flashpoint: Argovon System gives a narrative rule set for games that follow the developing story of the Task Force XI.

The system is deep within the Pariah Nexus, and forms a site of strategic importance in the Imperium’s war against the Necrons, which seems to be the main focus for 9th edition. In the first part of the campaign, we have Theatres of War rules for three distinct worlds, as well as a set of eight new Agendas. The planet rules are wonderful additions, giving rules such as ‘Miserable Weather’ on Sarronik, or ‘Avalanche Risk’ on Hishrea. I love stuff like this, though it does tend to be forgotten about when you’re trying to cope with a myriad other rules going on!

The Agendas are very interesting, especially because they’re pretty much all for armies that don’t have codexes yet, so it gives a nice bit of extra crunch when playing games. There is one for the Necrons, though, as we’d probably expect from the narrative. These all gain a mix of war zone points, which contribute to the win conditions, and experience points.

Part two gives correspondingly fewer rules than the first part, but does give us bespoke missions to play. Both are for the Crusade system, which I still need to properly understand but seems to fit strongly with narrative play. Each mission has custom stratagems and agendas, to further add to the unfolding story, though part two is mainly about the xenotech!

A new agenda, Search for Xenotech, allows infantry and biker units to search terrain to gain one point; there are four universal stratagems that can be used for one xp and one cp, giving benefits of cover as well as providing pretty offensive benefits in the shooting phase. Some quite nice effects there, which will perhaps make the agenda action worth performing!

Xenotech continues to be important in the third and final part of the campaign, where players get to choose a stratagem from a list of six on offer, starting with the player who has the most points. The stratagems are quite nice, and I think they’re probably geared towards those armies who don’t yet have a codex to give them more options. I’m not sure I could say they would make it worthwhile gathering as much Xenotech as I could during the previous campaign phase though!

We also get two more Crusade missions, following the story of the Argovon war. Lastly, we have the rules that come at the end of the campaign, assigning battle honours and crusade relics. These are quite nice, as it happens, and the relics are only available to those players with XP. So I guess there’s the incentive!

Overall, there are some pretty great things going on with this idea of Flashpoints – while the rules are perhaps a little more sparse than I’d have thought would come in this kind of thing, I suppose the rules team don’t want to lavish too much work on this kind of transient content. The real meat, though, comes in the narrative bumph included in the articles. Each instalment runs to more than 20 pages, making this about half the size of a regular campaign book from 8th edition. The articles are all written from an in-universe perspective, and alongside the main text we have plenty of additional material, such as journal extracts, and planetary profiles. It really reads like the kind of material you’d find in a sourcebook for a role-playing game. It’s the sort of effort that I really appreciate, and makes me feel ever more justified when my wife asks me why I’m keeping old magazines!

We’re currently now in the middle of the Charadon War Zone, which seems to link in with the Book of Rust, so I guess that we can see these types of Flashpoint articles continue in White Dwarf for a long time to come! They’ve even bled into the Mortal Realms to tie in with the Broken Realms series. It does seem like a great use of space within the White Dwarf magazine – my only criticism of it all really is that it’s coming out in the middle of a global pandemic, when we’re not able to meet up so freely with friends and play games!

Warhammer Underworlds

Hey everybody,
Today is game day once more here at spalanz.com, and today I’m going to talk about my latest obsession: Warhammer Underworlds! It’s been out for years, and I’ve had the Nightvault core set hanging about for a couple of years now, but only recently started thinking about it seriously for the game, rather than the miniatures as part of the larger Age of Sigmar game.

I do love the miniatures though, it has to be said they’re some of the best fantasy sculpts out there!

Anyway, Warhammer Underworlds is heavily marketed as the competitive miniatures game, and you can really tell just from reading the rulebook. Everything is quite strict and laid-out, trying really hard to cut out any room for error or misinterpretation. Of course, some rules can come across a bit thickly, if that makes sense, though subsequent “seasons” have sought to refine the rules to the point where, I believe, they’re in the best shape yet.

Seasons, I hear you ask?
There have been four seasons, as the time I’m writing this. Shadespire, Nightvault, Beastgrave, and Direchasm. To remain competitive, while keeping the bar for entry somewhat low, a system of rotation was introduced to keep only the two most recent core boxes current – something akin to Standard for Magic the Gathering, I guess. Whether additional formats will come in time, along the lines of Modern say, I suppose time will tell. At any rate, the cardpool is kept small enough that it doesn’t become too arduous to build a deck for the game.

A deck, you say? But GW are a miniatures company!
Ah yes, Games Workshop is mainly all about the minis, for sure. But Warhammer Underworlds is a curious mix of miniatures and deckbuilding. When assembling your warband, you build two decks; an objective deck and a power deck. At the start of the game, you draw three objective cards, and five power cards; the objective cards are exactly that, objectives that you can aim to score throughout the game. These can be scored immediately or at the end of the game, and upon achievement they give you “glory” – at the end of the game, the player with the most glory wins.

Power cards are a more immediate benefit, which come in two flavours – upgrades and gambits. Upgrades can, well, upgrade fighters for the cost of the glory that you have earned (this doesn’t remove that glory from your final pool, though), whereas gambits can be more one-time effects. With Nightvault, the game had the addition of Magic, and several gambits come in the form of spells, which can be used only by wizards in your band.

There are of course many rules for deckbuilding, which is pretty much true of any such game of course. You can only have 12 objectives, only six of which can be “surge” objectives (the type you can score immediately once the conditions are met). The power deck must have at least 20 cards, no more than half of which can be gambit cards. Additionally, you cannot use multiple copies of the same card.

So how do you play?
The game lasts for three rounds, which are split into four activations for each player. Perhaps the best thing about this game is that it follows an I go/You go principle of alternating activations, so you don’t have to sit through one person working out their strategy for the whole turn. Warbands come in many sizes, from three to nine fighters, though you only have four activations to work through each round, causing a lot of decisions as to who you use and who you leave back.

Each fighter can move, attack, charge or go on-guard. In addition, there are player activations that you can take, such as discarding and drawing cards. Interestingly, fighters can be activated more than once per round, however once a fighter moves he receives a token which means he can’t perform the same action again. In addition, if the fighter charges, he receives a token which means he can’t be activated again. But in theory, you can move the fighter in the first activation, and then attack with the same fighter in each subsequent activation. Very useful if your warband is reduced to one fighter!

The game uses special dice, which can be a little confusing at first of course, as with any game that uses such dice. The white dice are used for attacks; black for defence, and blue for magic. Each fighter’s card uses a fairly elegant system to show how they move, attack and defend, as well as their wounds characteristic.

On the left we have the weapons, showing the range (in hexes), number of attack dice rolled, as well as what you need to roll for a success, and then how much damage the attack deals. Attack dice have two hammer symbols, one crossed swords symbol, and a critical success symbol. When attacking, a critical success symbol has the potential to cancel out any successful defence roll, and the other way round.

Rather than trying to cover the whole gameplay thing, it might be easier if I just link to the GW video where Becca Scott explains it all:

While you can attempt to destroy your opponent’s warband, the game is all about playing the objectives, of course, and at the end of the game, the player with the most glory is the winner – even if they have no fighters left standing.

I’ve recently picked up the Direchasm box, which I’ve been eyeing up for a while because of the Slaanesh warband, but decided it was high time I actually see what I’ve been missing out on all these years. The short answer, of course, is a lot of fun! Sadly, due to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, I’ve been unable to play real games, so have been checking things out by playing against myself, but already I’m pretty hooked!

I’ve played one game with each core game so far – although I think I may have sold off the Stormcast that came in the Nightvault box, so instead I used the Godsworn Hunt warband, which I have hanging about because I love the aesthetic so much. As shown up at the top, the Thorns of the Briar Queen warband is the only one that I have fully painted up, though, so it was a pleasure to get those guys out at last!

It’s definitely the sort of game that I can see myself really immersing into. I’m not about to go ahead and plough a lot of money into all the various warbands, of course, but I would like to pick up a few (probably ones that I have already earmarked for their miniatures) so that I can get a wider cardpool to use, and of course having different warbands to try is always going to be a nice bonus!

The rotation thing that I mentioned before does give me pause, though. The Nightvault game that I had yesterday was played using cards and warbands from that season – kinda like Block Constructed for MtG, I suppose! The way that rotation works, all the Warbands currently out there are still legal, including any warband-specific cards they have. But each warband is sold in a pack that includes 60 cards, roughly half of which are “universal” – when a season rotates out, those universal cards go with it. If a card is then featured in a new, current season after being printed in the older one, you can use the old printing if you like. I’m not sure how many cards that affects – there are probably sites out there that crunch these sorts of numbers! – but it’s something I find interesting insofar as longevity of the product. I’m not trying to say that I’m against rotation per se, especially when you think I’m trying to get into the game during its fourth season, so would otherwise have quite the task ahead of me to do so! But while I like the look of the Beastmen warband from Beastgrave, I’m probably not going to buy that set because it’s going to be rotating out this year…

Obviously, rotation only affects tournament play and I don’t think I’m likely to be playing in any such events with a baby due in two months’ time, but I’d like to get as much play out of my stuff as possible. Luckily, Direchasm seems to have the greatest number yet of warbands that I’m actually interested in – along with the Slaanesh Hedonite warband from the core box, there are Slaves to Darkness and Ossiarch Bonereapers, Idoneth Deepkin and even Seraphon.

I’m two games in, and already I can feel myself getting sucked in to the whole thing. I’m finding myself pondering deckbuilds, and wanting to read up on all of the Glory Points articles in White Dwarf that I have, up to this point, been ignoring. The rule book covers all kinds of different scenarios and has rules to cover supporting other fighters during activations etc. There is a lot of depth to the otherwise basic gameplay that I tried to summarise earlier! I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m going to be talking about this game again, and most likely soon!

Vengeful Spirit

Hey everybody,
I’m determined to make a proper effort with the Horus Heresy series this year, starting with the juggernaut that is Vengeful Spirit!

This book, the 29th in the series, has felt like a breath of fresh air, after the last few books which were a little more difficult to get through, and always felt like they were going nowhere. I suppose I’ve been a little put off by the chunky size of this one, but almost as soon as I’d made a start on the book, I was enjoying it!

We’re back in the thick of the Heresy, with Horus reassembling the Mournival to replace both Loken and Torgaddon following the purge of the Legion. The story picks up immediately after the short story Little Horus, which I haven’t yet read (my bad), but the Sons of Horus have successfully defeated a White Scars assault on their primarch at the planet Dwell. There, Horus has learnt of the planet Molech, about which he has some hazy memories that he doesn’t understand – all the primarchs are supposed to have eidetic memories, so why can’t he remember it? He meets with his brothers Fulgrim and Mortarion, who were also there, and all three come to the conclusion the Emperor himself has tampered with their memories. According to the information Horus has learnt on Dwell, Molech could be a site of great power, possibly where the Emperor gained his god-like power. As they begin to plan their assault, however, they come under attack by an Iron Hands warband, and Horus basically decimates their ships by jumping onto them and pummeling them with his mace, Worldbreaker.

On Terra, Leman Russ decides the best course of action is to lead a surgical strike against Horus, and with Malcador’s help recruits Garviel Loken to lead a strike team of Knights-Errant to board the Vengeful Spirit and basically light the way for Russ’ attack. The team travels to Titan to arm and assemble in full, and Loken discovers his personal remembrancer Mersadie Oliton is being kept a prisoner there.

Meanwhile, the spirit of Ignatius Grulgor returns to Mortarion, fully corrupted by the power of Nurgle. The Sons of Horus find themselves with their own daemon, when Serghar Targost and Maloghurst the Twisted use the braindead body of Gor Geraddon to bring forth the first of the Luperci, Tormageddon. The Luperci are the Sons of Horus equivalent to the Word Bearers’ Gal Vorbak, and Tormageddon was initially brought forth by Erebus from a fragment of the soul of Tarik Torgaddon. The Traitor flotilla arrives at Molech shortly after the balance of power has shifted, with the Imperial Governor there killed by his own son during a beast hunt.

The Battle of Molech is pretty grim, and forms the epic central narrative of the book. The first couple of hundred pages have all that set-up, then once everyone is in position, it’s a bit like all hell breaks loose, first in the void and then on the surface. The ground assault takes place to allow Horus to learn exactly what happened on the world all those years ago with the Emperor, and in fairly devastating fashion, he finds out.

The Emperor made his bargain with the Chaos gods on Molech, gaining the knowledge with which to make the Primarchs and all the rest of it. As we know, the Emperor didn’t intend to keep his side of the bargain, and so the Ruinous Powers created the Warp storm that scattered them all. It’s hinted at early on – how did the Emperor manage to leave Molech if He left His starship on the world? – but the revelation of what exactly Molech’s importance is still managed to surprise me!

The fighting is intense, but Horus finds his way to the Warp gate, and in suitably mystical fashion, travels through and becomes empowered by the Ruinous Powers. Meanwhile on the ship, Loken and the rest discover a cult surrounding Targhost as he is about to create another Luperci, and the team destroy them all. However, Targhost’s “death” reveals that he is possessed by none other than the daemon Samus, which kinda traumatises Loken. Horus, already somehow aware of them aboard the ship, has sent a team to capture them, and following a brutal skirmish, the Knights-Errant are brought before the Warmaster. Horus tries to convince Loken to rejoin the ranks of his Sons, but despite a deep-seated desire for that earlier belonging, Loken refuses and more fighting breaks out. Iacton Qruze attempts to kill Horus himself, and many others go down fighting, but the surviving members of the strike team are rescued, to return to Terra.

I really liked this book, a lot. As I said at the start, I had been growing a bit disappointed in the series, as it seemed to just be expanding outwards with no effort to move the story on. Here, however, perhaps more so than with any other novel since Fulgrim, it feels like the book is a direct sequel to the opening books. There are so many elements that are drawn from the earlier novels, it makes things feel much more cohesive than at any other point in the series so far, I think.

A big part of this, of course, is that this is very much a Horus novel. We have three main characters that we follow – Loken, Horus Aximand, and the Primarch himself. Mingled into this are so many other elements that the book does begin to feel quite bloated, especially the second part with the main battle. A lot of the negative reviews that I’ve read seem to focus on this perceived bloat, but I think it somehow adds to the truly epic frame of the story. It’s like, we had the opening trilogy/five books which truly set the scene, then we go off into the wilderness somewhat as we explore all of the side stories and whatnot, but here is where the series begins to rein in those threads and we start to get something more like cohesion across the whole Heresy. A lot of the story that has been told in short story form, including the Garro series of audio dramas etc, is also worked back into the mainstream of the novel series here.

It’s a huge task, and it has lead to a correspondingly huge book. Some of the story does, at times, feel like it’s probably a bit unnecessary. The whole Knight storyline for the Titan legions of House Devine could probably have been cut out, of shortened, with more focus instead on the combined garrison of Blood Angels and Ultramarines, as that felt like it should have had more time devoted to it. Indeed, the Blood Angels seemed otherwise to be utterly pointless as an inclusion. Another seemingly unnecessary inclusion was that of the Red Angel, which felt almost like it had been shoe-horned in simply because it is something that has happened already in the series, and so can also be referenced. I suppose it makes sense that Horus has it, so it maybe would be mentioned in a book about the primarch, but it all just fell a bit flat, somehow.

But none of that really detracts from the whole, overall. It’s a meaty epic of a book, and now that I come to think of it, we’ve not really had anything like this in the series yet. The Horus Heresy is an epic story in every sense of the word, and I think Vengeful Spirit is quite possibly the first book (at #29) to truly show us that epic scale of the subject matter.

Very much required reading, I must say!

Oh, GeeDubs…

So the new Warhammer Quest board game is no longer available online. I mean, it’s not even out yet, this is being written during the pre-order week. But they’ve been hyping it for months, and now have sold out. I believe they’re making more, so it’s probably not going to be a problem – the quote is something like, they’re going to keep the base game in stock as they have done for Blackstone Fortress, which is still available as I write this.

But the way this sold out during the pre-order window, much like Piety and Pain, and Indomitus, and the plastic Sisters box, makes me baffled, for sure!

It feels very much like GW are increasingly all about the big splash releases, selling big boxes in small quantities rather than just letting people access their product in a more reasonable fashion. There is internet cynicism abound, of course, which blames shareholders and so on, but it definitely feels like GW has at the very least, shuffled a little away from being all about public engagement. On the one hand, they’re giving us incredible releases like Cursed City, but on the other they’re not really giving everybody the chance to experience that. An actual pre-order system, whereby you register your interest to buy the product and then they go ahead and fulfil that, would perhaps have been better, going up right at the start of the hype season.

I mean, they’re a fairly large company. They should be able to deal with that, right?

As it is, my interest was kinda waning anyway, but now I’m just thinking, I have enough plastic to keep me going. I’m fine with this. I don’t really have the energy for big splash releases anymore…

/grumpy old man rant 🤣

Star Wars Galaxy Guides (part two)

Hey everybody,
Almost a year to the day after taking a look at the first six Galaxy Guides for the original Star Wars RPG from West End Games, I’m back to take a look at books 7 to 12, as I get all warm and nostalgic for Star Wars in the olden days!

Galaxy Guide 7 is all about Mos Eisley, and brings together a variety of bits and pieces from the guide covering episode IV, plus Tatooine Manhunt, then builds upon it. We have profiles for all the personnel we could ever hope to encounter, from the Imperial Governor right on down to a lowly Squib droid dealer named Mace Windu. Yep, back before the prequels this was just another name running around in the background of the lore. Funny, huh?

The eighth book is all about Scouts, and is somewhat renowned for being the first of the WEG books to take things firmly into the New Republic era. It has a lot that deals with expanding the frontier, with stuff like planet generators that allow GMs to go crazy with creating their own area of SW lore. Book 9, Fragments from the Rim, is such a curious beast, I don’t know where to begin! It’s almost like a compilation of odds and ends that we’re trimmed out from other books – chapters cover everything from Rebel SpecOps to leisure activities and music in the GFFA, and take in both the Empire and swoop gangs, big business and the criminal underworld along the way. It’s so bizarre, I just love it! I feel like this one, more than anything, is truly indicative of how much of a sandbox the WEG system could be for the RPG. Truly amazing.

Guide 10 is all about Bounty Hunters, and would have been the essential book for players who want to use a bounty hunter character in the game. We get some background on what hunting is all about, specifically how it is regulated in the Empire, and run through character creation and profiles of notable hunters, including of course all six hunters who answered Vader’s call in Empire. The book is a fascinating exploration of bounty hunting, giving loads of in-depth information on everything from weapons and other tools, to the various Guilds and such. It concludes with an adventure specifically designed for three bounty hunter characters. All in all, it does exactly as you’d expect, and I imagine you’d find this book indispensable if that was the career path for your character.

The eleventh book is devoted to Criminal Organisations, and we have a good look into the black market, the galactic fringe, and the Hutts. Again, it’s a great source book, though mainly I guess this one is for the GM, as it involves a lot of the sort of background material that I would appreciate having to hand, to make my campaigns more interesting. The twelfth and final Galaxy Guide is another compendium of alien races, with stats for all manner of stuff, mainly the Jabba’s Palace chaps that we’ve not seen before, but also several created for the RPG.

All in all, these Guides are tremendous for the amount of content that they pack in. The quality of this stuff is really top-notch, as well, going to the nth degree with what may be required for the game. Getting the storied history of so many criminal organisations and such is really great, even if I think you’d be really hard-pressed to use it all, even in multiple campaigns!

I think the type of stuff we get in these books speaks volumes as to what Star Wars was back in the 1990s. So much of this, and the other WEG books, covered material out on the galactic rim, without really venturing much into the conflict in the Core worlds. We have criminals out on the fringe, and rebels really acting on the sidelines. Which is really what the original trilogy was about, when you think about it. Cloud City was about as sophisticated as those movies got. Subsequent game systems blew the galaxy wide open, and with the help of the prequels, Star Wars became something a bit more refined. But it’s always so much fun to go back to these game books, and relive what Star Wars used to be.

Hope you’ve all enjoyed this jaunt down memory lane with me! There will be more WEG blogs in the future, because I have them all, so don’t think I’m done with these sorts of reminiscences!

New Army update three

Hey everybody,
I thought it might be a nice time for a look at what I’ve been doing with the Ossiarch Bonereapers since my last update more than a month ago. The short answer to that question is, not a lot, but I wanted to take a bit of time today to show off the few efforts that I have made, regardless!

I’ve got three Immortis Guard painted up, which was quite wonderful really. Considering they’re much bigger than the Mortek Guard, there are very few real differences between the two models which allows for an easy scaling-up of the scheme. The only real difference here is the hafts of the dread halberds, which I painted with Drakenhof Nightshade and then lightly drybrushed with Teclis Blue. It gives enough of a contrast to the blades and other elements, but keeps the ethereal theme of them being mystical ghostly things.

I’m looking forward to trying these out, more than perhaps any other unit that I’ve painted so far – they look great, in my opinion, and I think they should be quite hard-hitting. Each model has 2 attacks with the halberd, and 2 with the shield; then they can attack again with the shield for 2 more attacks. The halberds hit on 3s and the shields on 4s, so fairly decent, and the halberds have -2 rend and do 2 damage on each successful hit. Finally, the shields do a mortal wound on the attack roll of a 6 in addition to any further damage. I know there are a lot of variables here, but there is still a lot of damage potential, for sure!

What else?

I’ve built up the Endless Spells for the faction, which are an exciting set of models – much bigger than I’d first thought they would be! I only actually have one wizard in the army so far, the Boneshaper, so I would need to get a few more for maximum effect, I suppose! The Ossiarch Bonereapers spells are “soul-linked” to the caster, meaning that only that player can move the spells that are predatory (all of them!) which gives some degree of control over them that other armies don’t get with their own.

I particularly like the Bone-tithe Shrieker (the one in the middle there), as it adds 1 to the hit rolls for units which target a unit within 12″ of this spell. All of them are pretty good though, which gives me the additional incentive to get more wizards in the force!

I’ve also built up Arch-Kavalos Zandtos, who will be the second hero for my army. I am a little hesitant, having built him entirely, and I hope that it won’t be too cumbersome to actually paint him. As usual, of course, I’ll be using the Contrast paints for the most part, which should help things along well enough. Fingers crossed that I can do it justice, anyway! He comes with two command abilities, one of which gives re-rolls to units wholly within 24″ of him, the other adds 1 to attacks for units wholly within 12″ of him. There are also a couple of nice abilities that he has to help with his offensive capability, which I think would make him a real force to be reckoned with!

What does all of this look like, then?

I think this is a great start to the army. Of course, I have no idea if it would work really well on the table, but I’m looking forward to getting it there. Just two more models to go before this list is finished, of course, though I’ll probably paint up all three of the spells so that they’re done and dusted.

So, all in all, things are going really well right now! We had some good weather earlier in the week, so I’ve been able to prime them with Grey Seer already, so I’m hoping to get these things painted up soon enough! With the arrival of the secondborn expected in mid-to-late June, I do feel a little like I’m on the clock with getting these things finished! I am definitely excited to have gotten so far with the army in such a short time.

What’s Next?
Once these models are finished, I recently picked up some Kavalos Deathriders to add in to the mix, and I still have both Vokmortian and the Mortek Crawler to build and paint up. However, I do also find myself wanting to get a second box of Mortek Guard, as I think it could be handy to have more troops. It will also get me to my first battalion, Mortek Shield-Corps, which will be good. I suppose I’ve been hanging fire on that because of the potential for a Start Collecting box to come out at some point, and I would naturally be getting one in due course!

I’m also wondering if we aren’t going to see some more units in due course, maybe archers or mace-wielding Mortek Guard. I’m very excited to get hold of this warband when it comes out, though, so that’ll be another few models to add in to the army!

With the current additions, I’ll push the army just over the one thousand points that I was initially aiming for, though with the Deathriders et al, I’ll be at 1640 points – and of course, if I were to add in Arkhan the Black, that will bring me to exactly 2000 points! Would it be a good force, with those Leaders involved? No idea… but I’m sure it’d look good on the table!

The Secret Army Project

I have a secret army project that I’ve decided to start working on in April. Yesterday’s retrospective post has a clue, but I’m hoping to be able to burst upon the scene with at least some completed units by the end of Lockdown here in the UK, so stay tuned!

Two and a half months (hopefully!) to work on getting something together…

Exciting times ahead!!