Hobby Update 2021!

Hey everybody,
It’s New Year’s Eve, which can mean only one thing – let’s evaluate the past twelve months, and tot up all the places where I succeeded and where I missed out on my hobby goals that were projected a year ago! Spoiler alert: I don’t think I did very well…

Paint up the Sisters of Battle 500-point list (well, it’s a little more than 500 points, but the point stands!)
Hm. I did make some efforts with the Sisters during the year, and I think I have a colour scheme that I like now, but I have not made massive in-roads here, as the project was fairly quickly abandoned, if I’m honest! I don’t want to get rid of these models though, so I think I might give it some more thought in 2022 and see whether I can make more of an effort to get some models finished.

Finish up the Drukhari models – 5 Wracks, 3 Grotesques, 5 Incubi and Drahzar.
I did actually paint up 5 Incubi, and I’ve done the skin on both the Wracks and the Grotesques. But that’s pretty much as far as it goes. I don’t know if it’s been the lack of games, or something else, but I just haven’t really been feeling the Dark Eldar in 2021.

Paint up at least 2 Tyranid units, at least one of which is a big bug!
Well, this one failed pretty badly! I have sort of painted five Genestealers, but I don’t think that’s even a minimum-sized squad. Tyranids have been big on my radar during this year, but for whatever reason, I’ve just not really found the inclination to actually make this one come through, either.

Continue rescuing Necron models – Triarch Praetorians, Canoptek Spyder, etc
Okay, so I have painted some Necron models, but I haven’t really rescued all that many. They’re on my list – heck, some of them have been on my painting station for a long time! – and while I still have a lot of affection for the undead space robots, I haven’t managed to get all that many models painted this year. I did paint the five Triarch Praetorians that were a rescue job around two years in the making, and I have painted up a couple of the character models from Indomitus and the Psychomancer, so it’s not a complete failure on this one.

Paint more Grey Knights! At least three more units, maybe a vehicle too.
Well. I’ve not actually finished any further Grey Knights units just yet, but my goodness, I’ve been playing with them, and it has been great! I’ve started work on my second Strike Squad, but I really want to do these models justice, so I’m just slowly taking my time and working through them, and I hope that eventually I’ll have a good force fully painted up. As ever, stay tuned for this one!

Also paint more Chaos Marines! At least three units, and perhaps a bigger thing, as well.
I haven’t painted anything for the Heretic Astartes this year – shocking, I know! I believe there is a huge new release due for them in the new year, however, so I imagine there might be some more movement on this one soon…

Make a decision about the Scions, Deathwatch and AdMech models! Do I want to keep all of those Space Marines kits?
I don’t know! I really don’t know if I want to keep all of these extraneous models. I just want to have them, but I can’t really imagine myself ever playing games with them, really. AdMech I can possibly see myself playing as allies for maybe the Grey Knights or something, though I just don’t know yet… These are mostly just kept in the loft still, though. Shame!

Paint more terrain – mainly for Necromunda, but also general 40k stuff.
While I haven’t painted any more terrain (certainly not to completion), I have built up plenty. The Gang Stronghold from last Christmas, the new Kill Team box, the Sanctum and the associated ruins… There is a lot of terrain that has been constructed in 2021, and I think I need to be better at chipping away at this sort of thing, though without a real plan for it I do find myself floundering at times! All that said, I have done myself proud with the Zone Mortalis stuff, getting a few walls and columns painted up there. So it hasn’t been a complete waste, at least!

Okay, so if that’s all of the stuff that I had planned to do – what have I actually been doing with my time?!

To start with, I painted up a fairly significant chunk of Ossiarch Bonereapers, I think the final count has it around 1500 points of models there, not quite sure. I do love those models, and I’m thinking I might come back to them in 2022 if there are more models promised for release – archers, maybe?! I also painted up some of the Sigmarite ruins scatter terrain, a fairly quick job across some small pieces, and finally finished the Unmade warband for Warcry. That game has informed a lot of my time in 2021, I feel – and a surprise discovery of Underworlds meant that I spent a good chunk of the early part of the year in the Mortal Realms – which, of course, I hadn’t planned for!

Back in September, though, all of my hobby plans were slightly de-railed when I decided to throw everything out the window and focus almost exclusively on my Genestealer Cultists, having had the models since their initial release in 7th edition, but never really making any serious effort to paint them. Well, I’m currently around the 1200 points mark with these guys, which is just great, so I’m looking forward to getting their codex in the new year, and hopefully getting some games in with them!

Speaking of games, I’m surprised at how many times I was able to play GW games this year. True, a lot of these were solo affairs while we were stuck in one of the many lockdowns, but I’ve still managed to play Necromunda, Warhammer Underworlds, Warcry and Warhammer 40k during the year! Underworlds, as I mentioned, was a surprise at how much I enjoyed it, and while I might not necessarily be following it in the new Harrowdeep season, I do like the fact that I have a good collection of stuff to have (hopefully!) many fun and enjoyable games in the future. Warcry is a firm favourite, and the recent Red Harvest set has just bowled me over once again at how much they put into these releases. I’m still in the process of building this up, so I haven’t yet been able to try out the new mine terrain etc, but I am very excited to get it all finished, etc!

40k has been good, as well. I’ve played a lot of games with Grey Knights, both small and large, and I think I’m getting to grips with the way these guys play now. It’s been a lot of fun to play the smaller scale games with James and his Black Templars, as we’re both learning these armies, but by extension we’re finally getting to cement the small rules tweaks of 9th edition in our minds, as we’re not playing particularly rushed or competitive, but instead taking the time to ensure we’re doing things properly. James is a great thinker about the game, too, and he watches more battle reports than me, so I enjoy the post-mortem afterwards as we go through what had happened.

Come back tomorrow, though, as I run through some of my hopes and dreams for the hobby in 2022!

December Retrospective

Hey everybody,
It has soon come round, hasn’t it? December has come and gone, and it’s once more time to take a look back at the month and see how much stuff I was able to get through!

It’s been a pretty good month, all told – I suppose the fact that there is usually a fair bit of time off work does help to get things done! I have been quite productive in several respects, though there will be a full-blown hobby retrospective coming later on today, so stay tuned for that!

After getting all of the Genestealer Cultists painted up that I had planned for my first foray, I kept going and got another squad of 10 Neophytes, a Kelermorph and a Locus done, as well as the two familiars! Considering I had first planned this as a 500-point list to get me started back in September, my current fully-painted Cult stands at a little over 1200 points now, so that is very impressive work, I think! Sure, they aren’t going to win any awards for best-painted army, but at least they’re all done, and I have most definitely broken the back of this job now! It seems weird to be talking about a hobby like a job, but having so many Genestealer Cults models built but not painted was turning into something of a nightmare for me, and I suppose a small part of me was wondering if I might end up selling them all off, as I did with the Tau army back in the day.

I’ve not been painting much of my Grey Knights, but I have been playing a lot of games with them! I think I’ve had four games with the Knights of Titan now this month, and it has been really nice to dig into the army and see how it all ticks. True, the first game did end up as almost a complete waste when I basically deployed wrong and felt like I was getting nowhere for the first round and a half! I’ve played a few smaller-scale games though, and it has helped me to somewhat get a better grip with what’s going on. Having an army that acts in every phase does mean there’s a lot going on, and of course my turns are that much longer because of it. At least the psychic phase has been simplified a little in that units now have a set power that they know, and you don’t have to fully kit out the whole army with different powers, and then trying to sequence everything right.

The last game was actually played last night, and in a shocking twist, I won! I think the bulk of the game, for me, was played in the Psychic Phase, with a combination of Smite and some of the offensive witchfire powers such as Vortex of Doom and Purifying Flame really doing work for me. It has been consistently disappointing for me to see how few shots I manage to get through with storm bolters – each squad is making 20 shots when within rapid fire range, but only actually getting 1 wound, maybe 3 wounds if I’m lucky. In fairness, we both rolled really badly last night, and it is always the luck of the draw how these things go. Having been underwhelmed by the Purgation squad in my last game, I went for three Strike squads, a Purifier squad, and was hoping for great things from my Paladin squad – but in the event, the Paladins being dropped in at the end of turn two did very little, so while Teleport Strike might seem like a good idea, I’m really going off the idea of using it as a strategy for now.

I won on points, anyway, managing to Slay the Warlord and score Engage on All Fronts twice (the second time thanks to a very lucky consolidation move from the Chaplain). I really should try and make more of an effort to paint these miniatures, seeing as how I’m playing more games with them, but I’ve found myself more into painting the xenos for the moment, rather than anything else!

This week, I have built up the Tau Pathfinders from the latest Kill Team box, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the army that I used to have. I’m not planning to go all-out with them again, as I found that I burnt out too quickly when I basically bought the whole army in one go, but I have been tempted to get more than just the Pathfinders… time will tell, I guess! But don’t be surprised if I’m suddenly talking about these guys once again on the blog!

My renewed interest in the Tau has in part been down to the miniatures, but also from reading the Dark Coil short stories of Peter Fehevari. A lot of these stories are set around the Damocles Gulf, and feature the Tau in some form or another. I’ve talked about the first three stories that I’ve read here, and I have another blog due out early next month about a few more, which is very exciting as it features one of my favourite stories that I’ve read to date! Stay tuned for that one!

I’ve recently started to read the latest Thrawn trilogy from Tim Zahn though, his Ascendancy trilogy. I’m about 100 pages into book one, Chaos Rising, and I have to say that I’m enjoying it rather a great deal! I can’t say that I was expecting it to be worse or anything, but there is a large part of me that thinks I’d rather he leave Thrawn alone and write about someone or something else, because the character had so much allure when there was mystery surrounding him! Now, we’ve got almost his entire life chronicled, and I’m not entirely sure we needed it! But the novel has been really good, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story takes me! I had the third book for Christmas, too, which was handy!

I’ve also been watching more Marvel movies with my wife, as we make our way through Phase Three for the umpteenth time. We did watch Black Widow earlier in the month, out of sequence a bit, and that was pretty good – though I suppose it’s all very much of a muchness with these films at this point! I’d not seen any of the standalone Spider-Man films since he joined the MCU, but we watched Homecoming earlier this week, and I was surprised by how much I did enjoy it! Not being a Spider-Man fan in general, I can’t say that it’s convinced me or anything, but it was definitely a lot more fun than I had been expecting.

The most recent Spidey film seems to be doing alright for itself, too, which is surprising to see in these strange times, but hopefully it means that we are on the way back to normality, or something approaching it!

I think that’s pretty much it for this month, though!

It has been a pretty good year, all told. I mean, I have had a pretty good run with my hobby, and I’ve had some good games, not just Warhammer-related, but also the card games. True, I still haven’t gotten very far with the Innsmouth Conspiracy campaign for Arkham Horror, but there’s time! I feel like January can be a long and drawn out month, so hopefully I’ll be able to get more done there to make the month more palatable! I’m hoping to play a bit more of that game, having spent some time recently sleeving up the Edge of the Earth campaign ready to tackle it soon!

So let’s hope for an exciting January! Have a very happy new year, and I’ll see you all on the other side!

The End of the Horror

Hey everybody,
Tuesday is of course game day here at spalanz.com, and a Yuletide Tuesday can only mean one thing – let’s play Eldritch Horror! It’s been a wild ride over the last few years, but we’ve reached the final expansion for that tremendous game: welcome to my Christmastime review of Masks of Nyarlathotep! This big box expansion was released three years ago now, and has been languishing untouched for far too long – so I am very pleased to have finally gotten round to playing a game with it! Up to now, though, I have only played one game, so this is very much a first impressions sort of blog, rather than an exhaustive review!

The expansion comes in a big box, but it’s worth noting right off the bat that there is no side board in this one. Curious, for many, especially because the content is only slightly more expansive than that of a small box expansion, but I suppose the amount of work that has gone into this box needs to be taken into account. So let’s start looking at what we get for our money!

Comparisons are bound to be made with Arkham Horror, of course, being the former big-box boardgame set in this universe, and it’s interesting to me that there is the inclusion in here of a mechanic that is lifted straight from the older game – personal stories. These are small cards that you take control of at the start of the game for your investigator – only two cards per investigator, though the entire game line is represented here, going right back to the core set, so don’t worry if you think someone might be missed! The front of the first card has a copy of that investigator’s picture, then the back tells you what they’re trying to do. When that condition has been met, you get to move to the front of the second card, which will give you a permanent boost effect for the remainder of the game. The story also has a second condition to watch for, however, which is usually determined by the game itself; if that is met, then you flip the second card and gain a permanent burden instead. For example, if Daisy Walker takes a rest action and spends 5 clues, she gains her permanent boost, which is to gain a free Tome asset, and in addition she reduces the sanity loss from Tome assets by 1. However, if she’s reduced to 1 health or 1 sanity, she gains the amnesia condition (or discards 1 clue or 1 spell if she already has the amnesia condition). All of the cards include their respective expansion symbol, too, so you know where they came from (and can sort them into those expansions, if you so wish).

It’s a very nice side-quest effect to have as part of the game, though I always feel like these things take something of a back seat to the actual game itself, especially in the game I was playing, which was against the new Ancient One, Nyarlathotep himself! There are two Ancient Ones in the box, which I guess bumps this up from a small box expansion. Nyarlathotep comes with just four mysteries, two special encounters and a wad of research encounters as we’d expect, and also a deck of four Adventures. We first saw this mechanic back in Mountains of Madness, of course, though here the Adventure is much more central to the story, as each of Nyarlathotep’s mysteries is tied to one of the Adventures, and completing that Adventure will solve the mystery. As a bit of mitigation, then, you only need to solve 2 mysteries to win, but it was a nice way to implement his Masks mechanic that is so integral to the character in other Arkham Files games. Each Adventure is linked with one of the Masks, such as the Bloated Woman or the Dark Pharaoh. The investigators are tasked with essentially stopping these cults to solve the mysteries, which I thought was a very interesting way of implementing this. I was also on the right hand side of the board for the longest time that I think I have ever played in this game! Each cult is linked to a part of the world, mainly Africa, Shanghai and Australia. Having Sefina Rousseau as one of my investigators helped in that sense, then, as she starts in Sydney after all! Nyarlathotep’s Cultists give out Corruption conditions, which allows for you to gain benefits at the expense of gathering Eldritch Tokens – if an investigator ever has tokens equal to their max sanity, they are devoured. It’s definitely an interesting mechanic, and I think this is perhaps the craziest incarnation of the Crawling Chaos that we’ve seen – he’s come a long way from being one of the simplest Ancient Ones to defeat in Arkham Horror!

The other Ancient One is Antediluvium, a reference to the Biblical flood. In game terms, we seem to be attempting to put down cultist uprisings, this time represented by a new take on the Mystic Ruins encounter deck that we last saw in the Strange Remnants small box expansion. The Ruins deck this time features encounters in Atlantis, Hyperborea, Mu and Pnakotus, so once again they’re really spreading out across the board. It’s a wonderful idea, and one that I had hoped we would see more of when Eldritch Horror first came out – the bland, numbered spaces on the board are all in specific locations, after all! There are no special encounters for Antediluvium, instead just a bunch of research encounters and the standard 6 mysteries, three of which are needed for victory. Taken side by side with Nyarlathotep, I find Antediluvium to be a little bit boring, though they are united by having the theme of international cultist rings, and I do like the new Mystic Ruins deck.

Seven new investigators join the team, rounding out the cast with a couple of new faces that were first seen in the second edition of Mansions of Madness, such as Agatha Crane and Carson Sinclair. Many of these feel like old timers now though, through their inclusion in the Arkham Horror LCG! Masks of Nyarlathotep brings the total number of investigators available for the game up to 55, which beats out Arkham Horror by 7, as it happens! There are some new monsters, including a horrific Star Vampire, and some new Epic Monsters. We get a dozen new Prelude cards to help make games of Eldritch Horror more varied and interesting, and we get three new gate tokens for the generic numbered spaces – Hyperborea, R’yleh, and Atlantis. New assets, unique assets, conditions, spells and artifacts round out the box.

One of the selling points for this box was the new campaign system, which seemed to fall pretty flat when it was released. I think that’s not entirely unfounded – a single page that describes the process doesn’t really seem a lot, after all. In a nutshell, you play six games with the same investigators, and if you’re devoured then you’re permanently out. Surviving investigators don’t come across to the next game with all possessions, but conditions do survive. It’s quite thematic, and I suppose it’s really not a bad way of doing this, but given how we’ve seen campaigns develop for other games, it does feel a bit simplistic.

That said, I don’t think I play something like Eldritch Horror for the campaign idea. I’ve said something similar when talking about the Hellboy board game a few weeks ago, but I do like the idea of a game existing on its own, and being played for the sake of the game, not as another step on the ladder, or whatever. Games of Eldritch Horror have fluctuated fairly wildly for me, either taking 1-2 hours max, or an entire evening. And I would rather keep it as a game that takes a while but one that I don’t feel it necessary to make more regular time for. I mean, I haven’t played a game of this since last year’s Dreamlands game, and that’s fine. (I mean, it isn’t, because I really enjoy it and would love to play more of it! But you know what I mean!)

As a finale to Eldritch Horror, I think it does fall a tiny bit flat. I don’t know if it was designed to be a full stop for the game, or whether there had been plans for more expansions that ended up shelved, but I think there could have perhaps been more added if it was in fact designed to finish off the product line. More generic encounters, maybe? Or more cards that allowed for mixing of expansions, much like Miskatonic Horror for the older game? I don’t really know how that could be implemented, as the Prelude mechanic seems to be a decent way of treating the whole game line as a big sandbox, but I’m sure there could be more done there. As it is, that big box does feel a little empty in comparison with other entries in the line, and that kinda makes me a bit sad for it as a whole. But this is the trap that I’ve previously warned against, and we need to take it on what is in there: Nyarlathotep is a fairly complex Ancient One, and I imagine he would have cheapened any small box by requiring so much content. It’s great to have him as part of the game, and his companion deity does provide another good opportunity to revisit the Mystic Ruins idea. We then have more of the same, in the great tradition of Eldritch Horror expansions, with the Personal Stories forming a nice little addition and gives content to the entire game series. Overall, I’m very pleased to have this stuff available for me to play with for many years to come, I suppose I just wish the game had gone out with more of a bang!

Now that I’ve explored each of the expansions for the game, I’d like to continue with covering Eldritch Horror with more gameplay style blogs, maybe with some degree of storytelling as each game unfolds. The game I played with this expansion ended up with many such storytelling points, including Sefina gaining a Dark Pact and going well down the wrong road, while Daniela really levelled herself up as a monster-hunting beast! There will no doubt be fun times ahead for the blog as I carry forth this plan, so stay tuned for this, and more!

Merry Christmas, all!

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, have a fantastic time!

I think I’m going to be quite busy for the foreseeable future – between the new Arkham Horror LCG campaign, Edge of the Earth, and also the new Necromunda stuff, it’s been a very nice haul this year! Of course, I still haven’t made any further in-roads with the Innsmouth campaign, after starting that at the end of last month, but the time will soon come, I’m sure!

Necromunda remains high on my list, as ever, and I’m really pleased to have begun painting the Zone Mortalis terrain. I am planning to make a semi-permanent market feature, gluing the stalls to the walls as opposed to trying to keep everything modular. I think the terrain could potentially stand up to having a little more permanency, after all…

The folks in Nottingham are already hard at work trying to get my money once again, though, with a new Battleforce box coming out that features new plastic Eldar and more new plastic Heretic Astartes! Just look at these Chaos Chosen! Beautiful models. 2022 could well see me finally put some serious work into these guys!

40k Updates!

Hey everybody,
I had another game with the Grey Knights this week, 1000(ish) points of my guys vs James and his Black Templars force. We’re still both learning these armies, and to some extent we’re also just learning the ropes of 9th edition as well, so it’s been good to build up like this. We were playing the mission Centre Ground, from the core rulebook, which felt a bit similar to our last game where we were vying for control of four objectives arranged in a cross-like pattern in the centre of the board. However, neither of us went for the mission-specific secondary objective; I think I was closest to it, where I was using the Grey Knights-specific objective where I was purifying the objective markers. On reflection, though, it seemed a bit ridiculous as I only scored 2 victory points from that one, and didn’t get any of my other secondaries! James, however, scored a couple, plus controlled more objectives as the game went on, so it was something ridiculous like 30-odd points to just 7!

Our forces were similar to the last game, though the increase in points from the Black Templars bringing a Repulsor tank meant that I could bring my Paladins, plus a Chaplain. I also swapped out the Purifiers for the Purgators, though I think in the future I might keep the heavy support squad for larger point games, as they did not seem to do anywhere near as much as the Purifiers accomplished in the last game.

Mistakes were made on both sides, but from my perspective, I think sending my Paladins up against the Repulsor tank was a big error. True, they did destroy it, but it also whittled my squad down two just the two guys who, moving up to destroy an Intercessor squad, were promptly mowed down by the Emperor’s Champion like wheat before a scythe. That guy is a serious problem, I really ought to target him with Smite or something!

I destroyed the Repulsor, as I said, and I also destroyed the Redemptor Dreadnought, but it came at the cost of my Paladins, and my Chaplain, and one of my Strike Squads. The Nemesis Dreadknight had been deployed in reasonably open ground, as well, and when I failed to get the first turn, I saw it singled out and destroyed before it could even do anything! What a shame! The Chaplain was also a bit of a mistake because he stayed behind when the Paladins moved up to attack the Repulsor, meaning he could then be targeted thanks to the tweak in 9th edition to targeting characters – as he was not within 3” of a squad, he was a legitimate target. Sad face. But he had done some work, with the litany to do additional wounds on 6s.

Learning points for me, though, are most definitely to use cover more effectively, as it was really quite surprising the way the battle unfolded for me! The board did look really good though, if I do say so myself – I definitely need to start painting my terrain, though!!

On that note, I’ve built up the Sanctum kit, at long last! This is a really beautiful model, I have to say! It’s huge, and I love it so much – I’m gutted that I forgot to bring it with me to the game. Hopefully next time it can form a cracking centrepiece!

I also had the new Kill Team Chalnath expansion for my birthday last weekend, so I’ve got a lot more Sector Imperialis terrain to get through now – exciting times ahead, for sure!

The Dark Coil (part one)

Hey everybody,
Today’s blog kinda follows on from my reading the Genestealer Cults novel by Peter Fehevari back in September. I was of course aware of his other stories, but hadn’t realised the extent to which they are interrelated, and so was keen to explore this further. The fact that the bulk of Fehevari’s work is in short story form does help, of course! There is an excellent blog here on the wordpresses that covers, to some extent, the way to approach his work, and I can highly recommend that you check this out beforehand. Fehevari himself has said that there isn’t a reading order, per se, but certain things will become apparent to you if you read one tale before another, and it’s through looking at these things that I’ve got myself a rough map of how I want to read these stories.

For the uninitiated, the Dark Coil stories are set in a corner of the Damocles rift that allows for the Imperium to interact with the Tau, and also Chaos; we get space marines and guardsmen, battle sisters and Inquisitors, and of course, Genestealer Cults! It doesn’t have a beginning or end, and the stories don’t really interconnect, although characters cross over and so on. One of the main hallmarks of Fehevari’s style is certainly making real the horror and gritty aspects of the 40k universe – there is a very visceral sense that almost transcends the normal “bolter porn” style stories that we get, and instead it’s treated in a very adult manner, somehow. Does that even make sense? It’s much more serious in the way that it deals with those aspects of the 40k universe that have previously been used as parody, to the point where it’s almost just easy to dismiss.

At any rate, let’s get started!

I’ve got three stories to begin with, two fairly short ones and a novella.

The Crown of Thorns is a short story about the Angels Penitent space marine chapter, a successor chapter to the Blood Angels, and their dark history as they moved away from their history as the Angels Resplendent. The chapter originally was the only one to not succumb to the Black Rage, but now, it seems, their chapter is almost entirely Death Company. The coming of a stranger to the chapter’s fortress monastery seems to have triggered the Flaw emerging into the marines, and the introduction of much more barbaric customs. Have they fallen from the Emperor’s light? The Emperor Condemns, they say…

Next on the list is Fire and Ice, a curious novella about the Interrogator Haniel Mordaine on the run from the Inquisition, after his perceived part in the assassination of his mentor, Inquisitor Escher. Mordaine is trying to meet with the mysterious Calavera, who can apparently help him root out the influence of the Tau in the sector, and thereby giving Mordaine a victory that will help to redeem his name with his superiors. His journey takes him to the ice world of Oblazt, where the Tau are making a serious push for winning the hearts and minds of the hivers there through the Unity revolution. The Calavera has taken a high-ranking Tau prisoner, and Mordaine questions him in an effort to recover some standing. It’s a fascinating story, one that peels back its layers while still keeping enough up to obfuscate what is really going on. It’s the sort of story that no synopsis will ever do justice to, the sort of story that you just have to read and absorb. As I found to my chagrin, it doesn’t really help reading it over a protracted period, either – it’s a novella, so longer than the average Black Library short, but it really would benefit from being read in one sitting. Fehevari has a reputation for being a very intricate author, and this story has got so much under the surface, it isn’t always abundantly clear what is going on, where the story might be going, etc.

Lastly, The Thirteenth Psalm is another Angels Penitent story that I found a bit funny at first – you know how I said Fehevari is normally much more serious than a parody? The story brings us to Oblazt and the Angels Penitent’s crusades to track down and destroy the works of art they had created in the days before the coming of the Undying Martyr. Chaplain Castigant Bjargo Rathana leads a task force to recover a mirror from the estate of a noblewoman, along the way berating his fellow battle brothers for possible lapses into creating artworks once again. The estate is Chaos-tainted, as it transpires, and the discovery of the mirror prompts Rathana to question his own purity at the end.

All three tales seem to end with a lot of questions for us as the reader, though by far and a way my favourite here is the novella, Fire and Ice. According to my Goodreads, I had read this back when I was building a Tau army, but I have no recollection of doing so; I can certainly see myself re-reading it in an attempt for greater understanding (and in one long read-through!) Though I guess that’s the beauty of these stories, in that they do leave you hanging…

Grey Knights!

Hey everybody,
It’s back to the Grey Knights today, as it is that time of year when I get back into my beloved Chapter 666. As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been reading the third book in the Grey Knights series, which has prompted me to get back to the models that I have been working on for years!

Alaric is back in action with his squad of Grey Knights, reinforced after the events on Chaeronaiea, supporting the Imperial Guard on the planet Sarthis Majoris, which is besieged by the forces of the Archenemy under the leadership of the Aspiring Champion, Duke Venalitor. Alaric seeks Venalitor out on the battlefield for single combat, and is bested with shocking ease, finding himself transported to the daemon world of Drakaasi alongside his fellow battle-brother Haulvarn. On the nightmare world, he is approached by one of the slave labourers who asks him to find something called the hammer of daemons, in exchange for which he will provide the perfect armour with which Alaric can fight for his freedom.

There are a series of gladiatorial fights across the world, although it becomes apparent that Alaric is not breaking. Venalitor uses a bound daemon of Tzeentch to attempt to break Alaric but merely causes the Grey Knight to lose his sanity temporarily, which makes him fight with greater ferocity than before. Coming back to himself, however, Alaric leads a slave revolt and, through his time with the daemon attempting to break into his mind, he learns that the hammer of daemons is in fact a ship, which remains spaceworthy on the world. Alaric and many of the slaves manage to escape, Alaric using a saviour pod to return to the nearest Inquisition outpost.

This novel felt very different from the previous two in the series, almost making me question just how much of a series it is intended to be. I suppose they are bound together by the central character of the justicar, Alaric, but they are a little bit like standalone adventures, really. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but worth pointing out, I thought. There were a lot of parallels, I thought, with Graham McNeill’s novel Dead Sky, Black Sun, where Uriel Ventris and Pasanius voyage to a daemon world to make penance. After a while, the gladiator-esque scenes began to bore me a little bit, as Alaric is taken from daemon city to daemon city, sparring with all manner of creatures and building up an almost celebrity status as a fighter. I know it was necessary to the plot, but it wasn’t really how I pictured a Grey Knights story reading – I think it might have been to do with just being Alaric solo. Also – he was bested by Venalitor a bit too easily for my liking. The man’s a justicar, after all! He should be better than that!

I was also dismayed with the fact that Alaric was unable to use his psychic ability, and while he did give that daemon a run for its money, he still lost his grip on reality for a while. A Grey Knight justicar? Seriously? Hm. Overall, there is a definite sword-and-sorcery feel to this book, and a lot of it felt very much like a Warcry of generic Age of Sigmar style novel, as we have daemons and Chaos and gladiatorial combat. It’s all a bit weird as it didn’t feel much like 40k at all. I’ve read some reviews where people found the data daemons of the last book a bit weird, so were glad this one was firmly back in Chaos, but I just couldn’t get into this as the sort of low-tech book masquerading as 40k!

In rather exciting news, I’ve also had two games with the Grey Knights last week! First of all, I had a 1500-point game with my buddy JP and his Heretic Astartes, that was just bad for me as I made the ridiculous blunder of deploying almost my entire force into Teleport Strike, meaning I only started the battle with a land raider and a Dreadknight on the table. Going second, my first turn was just grim (though I did get off a pretty nice Overwatch with all the hurricane bolters on the land raider!) and the second wasn’t much better! Time was making fools of us and so I deployed the whole force onto the table during my second turn, and saw some nice turn-ups (killing Abaddon was a highlight, for sure!) but it was really just sad.

My second game was against James and his Black Templars, which was a much smaller-scale game at 680 points (basically the contents of the new boxset, for him!) This felt like a much more manageable game, I think it helped me because I am pretty new to the faction, despite having been working on them for years! So having just two troops, an HQ, an elite and the Dreadknight was a much better way to see what things do!

In both games, the weight of play was really in the psychic phase, for me. Against the Templars I did have a lot more opportunity for shooting and whatnot, as it was a smaller table etc, but without closing to melee range I was mainly playing the psychic phase. Which is fine, it’s where the Grey Knights are very comfortable after all, but I would like to see what all the Nemesis force weapons can do! I think that’ll be my goal for the next time I play, anyway.

The Dreadknight is definitely a great model, and I think it was in winters seo review of the codex where he said it’s like GW want to sell more of them, it has had a lot of nice additions made now. In the game against the Templars, the walker decimated both a Crusader squad and the Marshal, between the psychic, shooting and melee phases, so it’s definitely something I want to play with more often!

I actually tabled James by the end of turn three, but still lost the match on victory points, which goes to show how important the mission can be for 9th edition! The most horrifying moment in that game came when his Emperor’s Champion charged into a Strike Squad and basically cleaved his way through the entire unit, doing 6 attacks (all hitting) with AP-5 and 3 damage each. My guys never stood a chance!

Something that I really like about the new book – indeed, something I like about the edition as a whole right now – is how it feels like everything is quite balanced. Balance and GW, you say? Well, it’s only in my experiences so far, of course, but I don’t think there’s really anything where you can say “this is the way to play this faction” and no other army builds work. There are so many nice options out there in the books that I’ve played with/against, nothing seems to be hugely overpowered. It’s just all good stuff, and it does seem to prompt an experimental attitude as you might like to try out a number of different builds. But then, this is coming from me as a non-power gamer. I’m sure more competitive minds than I will find ways to break things, but the core rules themselves don’t seem all that ridiculous just now…

I’ve got more Grey Knights games lined up soon, so I’m looking forward to more experimentation soon. In the meantime, I need to get painting these chaps!!

Genestealer Cult uprising is real!

Back in September, I decided that I really wanted to make the dream of a Genestealer Cults army come alive, and wrote this blog detailing my plans to just paint 500 points – some of which had already been painted to some degree. Well, people, this week I have not only surpassed that initial list, but I’m knocking on the door to 1000 points of Genestealer Cultists fully painted!!

I’m so excited, I can’t begin to tell you!

From having what I now feel to have been a fairly modest list of just 500 points, I actually have 900 points of Cultists fully painted, and it’s only the beginning of December! There’s still time to get to 1000 points before the year is out, I feel!!

The most recent additions to the army have been the Hybrid Metamorphs and the Goliath Truck, the two units that brought my initial 500 points to a close. The Metamorphs had been further along than I’d realised, and when I got them to the table to paint, I was quite pleased that I wouldn’t have so much work to do as I’d initially thought! The truck has been red for years, but it has taken a lot of work and I’m still not convinced by it – somehow, the Red feels far too flat! But I’ve both shaded and highlighted the panels, so I’m not sure what else I can do!!

In addition to these models, I’ve been working on the Patriarch, a beautiful sculpt and another model that was further along than I’d realised. There were just the odd details of his talons and the whole basing thing left to do. I’ve also touched up the Magus a little, trying to make his robes a little nicer and repainting the ribbed collar to match the dirty grey of the miners (it was originally brown, for some reason!)

All of this means I have a lot of great options in terms of the characters. I think the Primus might be next on my list for some further attention like the Magus, but for now this is a fine-looking bunch of totally normal guys from a mining community!

The Neophyte troops are wonderful models, and some of my all-time favourites, even if they can be heavy-going to paint! Seeing them like this, however, has really inspired me to keep going with the Cult – as I really want to create that sort of horde feel with lots of bodies swarming up! Sure, T3 models aren’t particularly scary, but 60 T3 models will take a hell of a lot of shifting!

I also have the initial batch of Neophytes, armed with autoguns from the initial Deathwatch Overkill box set. I have two of these squads, of course, bulked out to 10 with the addition of the crew from the Goliath kit – but they don’t really have a squad leader model. So I might be doing some jiggery pokery there, soon.

Moving forward, I think I’m going to try and tackle one more Neophyte squad this month, as well as the two familiar models. I don’t want to try to bite off too much, of course, and it’ll no doubt need some thinking to make a halfway decent army out of all these disparate elements, but regardless, I think it would be really good to have a solid basis for my Cult, in advance of the new Codex that we’re expecting to come out next month!

Im getting through them, slowly…

Black Widow (2021)

Yesterday, my wife and I watched the new Black Widow movie, which I have to say, we both really enjoyed! It’s a prequel of sorts, taking place shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and the fracture of the Avengers. It struck me as a little bit odd, coming out now rather than at the time, but this is a film that has been in the works, to some degree, for years.

Here be spoilers…

It’s obviously not an origin movie, as we had a lot of that for Natasha in Age of Ultron, but it still manages to give us a similar sort of feel all the same. We get a short flashback at the very start, where we see Natasha and her family, before flashing forward to the “present day”, and Natasha is out on her own once again. After a run-in with Taskmaster, who (it turns out) is after her for some vials she is unwittingly carrying. The vials came from her “sister”, Yelena Belova, and when the two meet up in Budapest it transpires that the vials contain an antidote to the chemical controls used on the Widows by the Red Room. Natasha, who believed the Red Room destroyed when she and Hawkeye assassinated General Dreykov in Budapest, teams up with Yelena to put an end to Dreykov’s control once and for all.

In order to get to Dreykov, they break out Alexei Shostakov from prison – their “father” and 1980s Soviet super soldier. He guides them to Melina Vostokoff, their “mother”, former Widow herself and currently working for Dreykov as a scientist. Melina alerts the Red Room, and all four are taken prisoner, however it soon transpires that Melina is trying to help Natasha bring Dreykov down. The Red Room is revealed to be a floating facility anchored near St Petersburg. Dreykov reveals that both he and his young daughter survived the bomb attack, although he was forced to use technology to keep her alive as the Taskmaster. Dreykov calls all the Widows to help him take down Natasha, but Yelena has recovered more antidote and deploys it just in time. Melina manages to disable one of the engines keeping the Red Room aloft, though fortunately they are all able to escape, Yelena killing Dreykov in the process.

Everybody goes their separate ways, Natasha heading off to help her fellow Avengers. In the post-credits scene, Yelena visits Natasha’s grave and meets her handler, La Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who tells her the next target is Hawkeye, who she says is to blame for Natasha’s death.

I really liked this, as I said at the start. It is pretty much classic Marvel movie, with plenty of action but also a lot of humour. I think the dynamic of dysfunctional family that is used throughout the latter stages of the film really helps with this, though also having the character of Yelena being a bit sassy and stuff was a nice touch. She has a lot of time with Natasha, of course, and I particularly liked the back-and-forth they have over superhero poses. I believe Yelena is being set up to take over the mantle of Black Window in future MCU outings, starting with Hawkeye. I haven’t yet seen any more series’ since WandaVision back at the start of the year, so I definitely need to catch up here. Especially since we have the magnificent Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the role of the Contessa! That was lovely, I have to say.

David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov was almost light relief really, though the film worked really well having so much light relief – even if some of these moments were coming from a dark place. Rachel Weisz as Melina was also a very solid choice, it was interesting to see her in that kind of mother-figure role, after having been in so many action films herself back in the day. In the middle of all the dark humour though, Scarlett Johansson cuts a much more serious figure, as she takes on her personal crusade against Dreykov in an attempt to free the “enslaved” Widows under his control.

There is of course a lot of action as well, with the destruction of the Red Room at the end reminding me a lot of the helicarrier stuff at the end of Captain America 2 – intentional? I don’t know. The earlier film gave us a lot of Natasha, after all. While Black Widow is less the spy movie that Cap 2 manages to be, and more straightforward revenge flick, we do get some elements of espionage to keep us on our toes.

It was really great to finally be able to sit down and watch a Black Widow solo movie, something that I don’t think I’d been expecting after the bumpy road over the last 16 years of its genesis. While perhaps not as tortured as Spider-Man, this is nevertheless a character who was fought over before coming into the MCU for Iron Man 2 back in 2010. She’s popped up in so many of these films since, with some serious parts to play, that I’m just so thrilled that she finally gets her own movie.

I don’t want to get into the whole “female superhero thing”, because people far more eloquent than I have already discussed such things going back to Captain Marvel and before. But suffice it to say, there really was no need for it to have taken this long for a solo film to be made. Black Widow was established as an Avengers headliner back in 2012, after all. I did kinda like the way she was becoming a bit like Nick Fury though, where she had a significant part to play in any film she was in, but like Hawkeye, she wasn’t destined for her own movie. But as time went on, it kinda went beyond the joke. I mean, she was a huge part of Winter Soldier, after all. However, we’ve got her movie at long last, and it’s great. It still feels a bit odd that it’s essentially out of sequence, being released as the first movie in Phase Four while taking place shortly after the film which launched Phase Three. But I guess that’s just me being weird!