January 2022 retrospective

Hey everybody,
January has been pretty damn productive, I have to say! I’m very impressed with myself, even if the month did feel like it lasted for about a decade. For starters, I’ve made a really good start with my new year, new army, getting two full squads of Tau Pathfinders painted, along with their associated drones. That’s been a really big boost, as far as I’m concerned, because I think I’ve shown that I can get a lot of models finished in a fairly quick turnaround. As with all these sorts of things, it’s often slower while sorting out the colour scheme, so now that I’ve got that sorted out, I think I should be able to keep the pace and have a half-decent army painted by the time Easter rolls around!

For February, I’m planning to paint up some Fire Warriors, again with their associated drones, so we shall see where I get to there.

I had my first game with the new Genestealer Cults book as well, and it was quite the uphill struggle, I have to say! The last time I had a game with these guys, it was 8th edition and I had no idea what I was up to, but the army was predominantly unpainted – this time, everything was painted, and it made such a difference to the visual style, I have to say. I had no idea about the stratagems, and I think potentially only used one or two the whole game – I was otherwise using Command Re-Roll all the time! I think I made a mistake with going all-Neophytes in my troops, though, and using the Hybrid Metamorphs for close combat seemed a bit of a waste as they really weren’t as good as I had been expecting. I think I’ve been clinging to the Metamorph bomb idea from last edition, but as I said last time, it’s something that I wanted to try, just to see what would happen.

I should clarify that the Metamorphs aren’t necessarily bad per se, they just didn’t seem to work well at the lower points limit. I think at a higher points game, they could still be useful as a bodyguard-type unit. We shall see!

For the next time, though, I’m making some swaps – so removing the Metamorphs and the truck, and taking the bikes and a group of Acolyte Hybrids. It seems there are some interesting things that you can do with the Atalan Jackals, so I’m excited to see what will happen there. I’ve made some notes, though, so have a better idea of what I can get up to with the army. Hopefully this is something that I will be doing more of as time goes on, and I try to improve as a player – I’m not talking tournament-dedicated or anything, but I definitely want to be a better player, and hopefully provide a better sort of game for my opponent. I’ll probably be talking more about this in the coming weeks, anyway.

I’ve begun the long and arduous process of going through my various piles of shame as well, in an attempt to properly thin the ranks once more. I’m sure there’ll be more to say on this in the fullness of time, of course, but I’ve discovered that I have almost 900 points of AdMech and 1300 points of Black Legion, which is quite a surprise! I have big chunks of Sisters and Tyranids, among others, which will all need to be looked at quite carefully in the coming months, as I really feel like I’m drowning in plastic at the minute. I have some projects that I haven’t touched either at all, or else for years, which is making me wonder if I’ll ever get round to them.

I think I need to be much more careful with my hobby spends and my hobby time, as the family grows and whatnot. I am somewhere in the area of having my hobby feeling a bit less enjoyable right now, like something I have to do, so it would definitely be an idea to give this some serious thought. There’s also so much coming out that I’m looking forward to…

I’ve also been chipping away at the scenery piece that I’ve got on the table, and it’s coming along quite nicely, I think! I have been through all of my Sector Mechanicus terrain pieces to see what’s going on. There is a lot still to do, but in all honesty I’m not focusing on this stuff right now, it’s all been about the Tau Pathfinders!!

It’s not been all about 40k though. I’ve been reading the Thrawn Ascendancy series, and have made it through the first two books of the trilogy so far. I’ve already written up some thoughts on the first book, which you can read here, and after finishing the second book last night, I’ll get my next instalment out sometime this week. I had the third book for Christmas, so will move on to that one next, I think.

A bit disappointingly, I’ve not been playing any Arkham Horror LCG for weeks, now! I played In Too Deep at the end of November, but for two months now it’s just been untouched! Meanwhile, the Edge of the Earth campaign that has been sleeved and is ready to go. I definitely need to get my act together, although I am clinging to the idea that I wasn’t really playing The Circle Undone until March, so there’s hope!

I am enjoying The Innsmouth Conspiracy, and I am looking forward to getting my teeth into The Edge of the Earth when the time comes! But everything has been so much about 40k so far, so I guess I need to just ride that wave!

The Book of Boba Fett (episodes 4 & 5)

Hey everybody,
We’re past the mid-point in The Book of Boba Fett now, and we’re getting ready for the end game. What is going on with Boba and his war on the Pyke Syndicate? Will the Crimson Dawn be involved? Where is Qi’ra? All these questions, and more!

The fourth episode tells the story of how Fett saved Fennec Shand from the sands, taking her to a mod-parlor in Mos Eisley to have her life saved with cybernetics in something of a call-back to last time and the cyborg street gang. In return for saving her life, Fett requests her help in reclaiming his ship from Jabba’s palace, so they sneak past the guards and manage to blast their way out. Shand decides to stay with Fett, whereupon they attack the Nikto speeder bike gang who killed the Tuskens, and then attempt to recover his armour from the sarlacc pit, but to no avail. When the sarlacc attempts to draw Slave I into its maw, Shand saves them by firing a seismic charge into it, killing the beast. One of the best sequences in the show so far, I loved it!

In the present, Fett recruits Black Krrsantan to his cause, then holds a meeting of the other crime lords on Tatooine asking for an alliance against the Pykes. They all refuse, although do agree to remain neutral in the upcoming conflict. Shand recommends they hire out for additional muscle – cue the Mandalorian theme!

This was a good episode. Unlike some of the previous episodes, I think the flashback here was entirely justified, and I look forward to more Fett and Shand in the upcoming episodes. They’re both pragmatic, and I think they find a level of trust through that shared worldview. I hope they don’t decide to pull some kind of cheap twist by having her turn on him! The mod-parlor was interesting, as it’s a bit of a staple of dystopian sci-fi after all, but we’ve never really seen a great deal of that stuff in Star Wars, outside of Lobot. That it exists on Tatooine means surely there are much more upscale premises elsewhere in the galaxy – unless the idea is that it’s more of a deviant practice best kept on the Rim? Interesting, all the same.

In a move that will surprise nobody, then, episode five is the Return of the Mandalorian, and we catch up with Din Djarin as he collects on a bounty, before heading to rejoin other members of his covert on the ringworld of Glavis. There, he learns something of the darksaber’s history, and attempts to train with it, but finds it difficult, as he is fighting the will of the weapon. After giving the Armourer the beskar spear to re-forge into something for the Child, he is challenged by Paz Vizla, the only other Mandalorian to survive the massacre on Navarro, for the ownership of the darksaber. Din bests him, but when he admits that he has removed his helmet previously, he is told that he must atone by travelling to the mines of Mandalore, a world ravaged by the Empire. His first stop is to Tatooine, where he meets with Peli Motto who has found him a ship: an N1 starfighter from the Republic era. Together, they restore the vessel before Fennec Shand arrives, requesting his help for Boba’s upcoming war against the Pykes.

The internet has been going crazy about this episode, and with good reason. Is it the best episode of the series? There’s plenty to be said about this, I know, although I’m not sure I’d agree with many of the articles that I’ve read, which seem to be praising it for not featuring the eponymous bounty hunter. There has been plenty to enjoy so far in this series, even if it’s running at a much slower pace than we were treated to with The Mandalorian, and I think the fifth episode kinda shows that up, as so much happens in the same space as previous episodes, where the story just slides along somehow. You could definitely watch this episode as a stand-alone thing following the last season. It has so many call-backs and just fits right back in to that world that we all came to know and love.

The first half of the episode is almost like some kind of huge info-dump on the Mandalorians and the covert, even getting some flashbacks to the bombing of Mandalore and so on. We get a lot of lore here, which I’m hoping is something they really delve into when Mando season three kicks off, whenever that might be. The ringworld is a fascinating sci-fi trope brought to life as well, and I love the fact that we’re getting this kind of thing in these TV shows. It gives me so much hope for subsequent shows that we have due!

Then we have the Tatooine half, where we have the odd jokes about Peli dating Jawas, and stuff, but the nostalgia for The Phantom Menace is just off the charts, as Mando repairs the starfighter before taking it for a spin around Beggar’s Canyon. Awesome stuff! I thought it was just amazing to see how Jon Favreau is able to give us not only nostalgia for the original trilogy, but also Prequel era nostalgia – TPM is 23 years old, now, after all. The episode is loaded with all kinds of interesting bits and bobs, including naming that metal rod Han tries to brace the trash compactor with in A New Hope. Totally unnecessary, but wonderful all the same.

We end with Mando recruited by Shand, so I guess he’ll be joining Krrsantan in the last couple of episodes, which Ming-Na Wen has said will provide us with a new lens through which we view the series. Interesting. I’m sure it’ll be worth another watch, and I look forward to seeing how it all gets tied up in the end. Like I said last time, I don’t think it’s as bad as I had been thinking.

LVO 2022 Reveals!

Hey everybody,
We’ve had some early-morning reveals from the folks at Games Workshop, coinciding with the Las Vegas Open tournament. Necromunda, Horus Heresy and more have seen news, so let’s take a look!

The Bloodthirster that fought Sanguinius, Ka’Bandha is getting a model in the Forge World Characters series. Very nice it is, as well – though I’m guessing it’ll also be very pricy!

It does look pretty amazing, though, don’t you think?

The next Kill Team box is Nachmund, and will contain Eldar Corsairs against an as-yet-unknown enemy. The Corsairs can apparently be used by Eldar or Dark Eldar, which is nice – though of course, that’s not what these boxes are for! I love the fact Kill Team is sticking to its own thing, with weird groups of people – much like the Sisters in the last box. I wasn’t expecting this, but I love the idea and will for sure be picking up the box, which will also presumably contain the frontier terrain they recently showed off!

Eldar Pirates – cannot wait to see the rest of them! Or what they’re going to be up against!

Age of Sigmar is seeing a new box set, Daughters of Khaine vs Nighthaunt!

LVO AoS ArenaOfShades Jan28 Image3

This thing looks lovely, I must say. I am desperately trying to cut down on how much plastic I have in my life, however, and so have decided recently to try and get rid of my Nighthaunt, among others. As such, I’ll be passing on this one – but it just looks wonderful! A new Nighthaunt unit and character model, plus a new DoK model.

Ah well. There’s only so many hours in the day. I think it would take me the rest of my life to paint all the models I have – I need to draw a line somewhere!

40k has been seeing a lot of Eldar news lately, as one of the oldest model ranges gets a plastic refresh, and there is a lot of news coming from the LVO about these guys.

The new Avatar of Khaine is taking centre stage among new Shining Spears (the guys on jetbikes, I presume), and a new Maugan Ra, Phoenix Lord of the recently-shown-off Dark Reapers. (The Phoenix Lords each lead a group of Aspect Warriors, though the Phoenix Lord for the Shining Spears is missing. I’m not up on my Eldar fluff, but at least we can say there won’t be a model for Drastanta anytime soon).

The announcement I was most looking forward to was for Necromunda, and it seems like this could be really cool. Ash Wastes is an actual expansion for the game, and seems to be set to contain vehicles – I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, indeed I’m not sure if I want vehicles in my Necromunda, but I’m sure it’s going to be pretty awesome, regardless!

Ash Wastes stuff was first shown off at one of the Forge World Weekender events in 2017, so it’s nice to finally get some actual movement on this!

“Battles in the endless polluted Ash Wastes, on foot and vehicle-borne”

“Rivals fight for dominance in the sprawling shanty towns clustered around the hive and scattered across the wastes”

“Foes defend huge convoys of Guilder cargo-rigs, or set deadly ambushes to seize their treasure for their house”

The Ash Wastes is one of the classic settings for the game, and evokes a lot in terms of nostalgia etc. The radioactive Wastes are crossed by trains that connect the hives, so I guess there will be a lot of train heist type shenanigans going on. There are shanty towns out there, and the buried ruins of factories and other buildings form the architecture of the Wastes, so we might see more stuff like the market stalls but set up as desert lean-tos, etc.

I’ve got some saving up to do, then!

The Genestealer Cults Codex is here!

Hey everybody,
Ascension Day has come, and my Genestealer Cults army has a brand new codex to ponder over! Or, as is usually the case for me, to be intimidated and confused by! I don’t know why, but I was forever confused by the options available to GSC during 8th edition, to the point where I only played with the army once, and I think I made a bit of a hash of things then, too. With a new book comes a lot of simplification, although there are plenty of other new rules to mull over – so let’s dive in!

I’ve been painting up my guys now for a few months – back in the last edition, I had something like 1200 points of the guys painted up. Well, out of this, I’ve assembled a 1000 point list that I had intended to use for a game this week, but feeling under the weather (not covid!) has put those plans back for the time being!

The core of the battalion is, of course, 30 Neophyte Hybrids and the Broodcoven, along with some of the chosen few in the shape of the Hybrid Metamorphs, then a quartet of the new support characters. In theory, I was thinking this would be a fairly straightforward list with which to try out the new rules, but I guess my first game with it will show! An Incursion Battalion gains me 6CP to start out, and I’m using one of them already on the Leaders of the Cult stratagem, which allows me to choose warlord traits for the three HQs.

My Cult is that of the Bladed Cog – to be honest, I’m sticking with this one for the time being, but I haven’t really checked out any of the others in the new book yet. Bladed Cog is my colour scheme, and has been with me since I started on my Genestealer Cult journey back in 7th edition, so to start out with, I’m staying with it. This gives me an army-wide 6+ invuln save, increases the range of ranged weapons by 3”, and allows each unit to reroll one wound roll when either shooting or fighting. There are so many rerolls in this army now, though, that it’s going to be difficult to keep track…

The Primus has the Mark of the Clawed Omnissiah relic, which allows him to do mortal wounds to nearby units at the start of the fight phase, as well as giving a 4+ invuln. The Magus and the Patriarch each know two psychic powers, and can attempt to cast two powers each turn, which is pretty big. The Magus has Psionic Blast and Psychic Stimulus, while the Patriarch has Might from Beyond and Mental Onslaught. I envisage the Magus with a bodyguard of Neophytes, while the Patriarch will be getting stuck in to the fight, alongside the Primus and Metamorphs.

The new rule for these guys is Crossfire, which most of the army has. A unit with Crossfire, if it either hits with 5 or more attacks, or hits with an attack that deals more than 1 damage, can give its target unit a Crossfire marker. Why? Well, when you target a unit with a Crossfire marker, you get +1 to hit; if the unit is also classed as Exposed, you get +1 to wound, and if the target unit has a marker, is Exposed, and you’re within 12” of it, that unit gets no cover save. What does Exposed mean? If you can draw a line between two of your units that have Crossfire, with said line going over one model from the target unit, it is said to be Exposed. I like it, it feels somewhat thematic, but it doesn’t feel huge or broken, but should come into play during the game. I feel like it might be more beneficial with multiple small units of, say, Neophytes, though equally you need those 5 attacks to hit, so a big unit won’t go amiss. There’s an interesting balance, I think.

However, the Nexos can just give an enemy unit a marker during the Command Phase, which could be quite powerful. If you really want some bonuses there, it could be great to just dump that on there straightaway. Indeed, given the way Command Points have changed since 8th, the Nexos has changed significantly. He also has the ability to extend auras in an interesting way – if you position, say, a Primus within 6” of the Nexos, he can pick any CORE unit on the battlefield to be treated as within range of the Primus’ aura abilities. Nice, huh?

The Clamavus has also gotten quite fancy in the new edition, with effects that buff friendly CORE units within 12” of him (allowing them to shoot and still perform actions, or auto-pass combat attrition tests), and to adversely affect enemy units in the morale phase. He’s also kept his deny bubble of 12”, which I think is quite nice.

Don’t get me wrong, this army – well, this list, at least! – isn’t massively broken. Indeed, I was quite dismayed when I first read through the book at just how much has been taken out from last edition. My cherished ideas for the Metamorph bomb have all been struck out, as there are now very few ways to increase the number of attacks a unit can do. Metamorphs have been simplified so that they simply have “mutations”, there’s no claw/talon/whip distinction. Rather than the glorious 30-odd attacks, or whatever it was I thought I could generate, we’re maxed at 21 when blessed by Might from Beyond. Though I suppose there are so many ways to reroll these attacks, it’s not worth worrying over!

Of course, there will be plenty of ways to build out from this, and I think I’ve got at least another group of Neophytes painted already! I think it would be good to have two big blobs of Neophytes for Crossfire, and I’ve been thinking about 20-man units for a while, so watch this space on how that develops! As regards the bikers, though, I think I need to play with the army before I go any further there!

Genestealer Cults

Overall, though, I think the Codex does look quite good. A lot has been removed from the last book, which made me feel a bit adrift when I first started to look through it. I wouldn’t say I was an expert with the army of course – far from it – but I was beginning to understand some key combos and stuff, and so much of that has just been torn out now. But there seems to have been a lot more added in, a lot of tweaks overall, and I think it’s going to take some time to get used to, but I am excited to see what 9th edition has to offer the Cult. There seems to be a lot of really fluffy, cool things that we can do now, which on paper looks like it should allow for some really nice games!

Interestingly, Brood Brothers units have all been taken out of the Codex. So, no Cult Chimeras, no Cult Leman Russ, the Fragdrill has gone (I think the model has also been discontinued?) and we now have something more like a pure Cults book. Which is good, I think. A lot of Cult armies that I’ve seen have got so much Guard in them, between the Cult stuff from previous Codexes, and then allied detachments, that they have pretty much killed the feel of the Cult. Now, a Genestealer Cult detachment is going to be entirely Genestealer Cult models.

Oh, and Genestealers themselves now get Cult Creeds, so that’s a big one!

This is undoubtedly going to be simply the first blog of many where I get to play with my totally ordinary, totally normal mining guys, so do stay tuned for more!  

Obsessed with Tau!

Hey everybody,
I think I am definitely obsessed with the Tau Empire right now – I finished painting up the first unit of Pathfinders last week and have already bought and started work on the second box, thinking I should be able to get them done by the end of January given that it didn’t take all that long at all to get the first batch painted! I mean, I was trying to figure out my colour scheme for some of this time, so I’m hopeful that the second lot will be a bit quicker to get through!

It might seem a little odd to start with Pathfinders, a fast attack choice, as opposed to the basic troops choice, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as they’re quite similar in terms of the areas that need coverage. I really love the Pathfinders kit, I have to say. The addition of the upgrade sprue is really just gravy, but when I was building these guys, it really struck me how much stuff they come with. I mean, they have all three types of tactical drone, plus the three specialist drones (you can only build two plus the big lad). They have so many weapons options, it really is quite wonderful.

I think for February’s challenge I’ll move on to Fire Warriors, anyway, and see whether I am able to get them painted just as quickly! I have the Start Collecting box, so I think the first HQ I’ll do will be the Ethereal from there, though I do plan to get myself a Commander as soon as I can, as that should be a great project to paint up.

In rather exciting news, I’ve recently been promoted in work, so I would like to get myself something to celebrate, and have my eyes on the Riptide. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but this is for a couple of months down the line, when I’ve had my first wages post-promotion and all, so hopefully I won’t be adding too much to the pile of shame! The Riptide is a lovely model, though – I am still kicking myself over selling off my Tau, but in particular I miss the Riptide, as it was a really beautiful model. I think it also has the bonus of being a really nice centrepiece type of model but it isn’t as obnoxious as, say, a Stormsurge. Though I do want one of those as well!

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, here!

The Book of Boba Fett (episodes 1-3)

Hey everybody,
We’re about halfway through The Book of Boba Fett, the new Star Wars TV series on Disney+, so I thought I’d take the time today to get a few thoughts down about the first three episodes, much like I’ve done previously for The Mandalorian while that is streaming. Incidentally, how good is it that Disney don’t just drop these shows on us in one hit? I love the anti-Netflix way of slowly building a story rather than dropping a six hour movie on us in one go.


After the end of the second season of The Mandalorian, we learnt that Boba Fett has survived his trip into the sarlacc pit and has returned as, well, not quite a bounty hunter, but he’s once more wearing the Mandalorian armour. He’s also teamed up with Fennec Shand, who we met but briefly in the first season of Mando, and together they killed Bib Fortuna, taking over Jabba’s criminal empire. The series is written by Jon Favreau, and is exploring Boba Fett’s past while also showing his current activities in the criminal underworld of Tatooine.

The first episode shows how he escaped the sarlacc and was left for dead by Jawas, who took his armour. A tribe of Tuskens saved him, though kept him and a rodian prisoner. When Fett was forced to dig for black melons in the sand, a monster killed the rodian but Fett killed it, saving the life of a Tusken child. This begins to form a bond between Fett and the Tuskens, which is further explored through flashbacks in subsequent episodes.

We see Fett earning the Tuskens’ respect when he leads them against the Pyke Syndicate, whose spice train cut across Tusken ancestral lands. Fett extracts a toll from the Pykes, though they were already paying protection to a Nikto speeder bike gang, who later murder the Tusken tribe in Fett’s absence.

In the present day, Fett and Shand receive tribute from local Mos Espa businessbeings, but the mayor refuses to acknowledge Fett’s authority. When Fett and Shand are attacked by assassins, one of whom claims to have been sent by the mayor, Fett learns that a pair of Hutts known as “the Twins” have come to Tatooine to claim Jabba’s territory, and have arrived with the Wookiee Black Krrrsantan. When Krrrsantan tries to kill Fett, he is overpowered by a group of cyborg-youths Fett has employed as enforcers, and imprisoned. The Twins come to apologise, and inform Fett that the mayor has promised Jabba’s territory to another, so leave the planet, gifting Fett a rancor as they do so. Fett and the cyborg-youths chase down the mayor’s major-domo, who reveals that the mayor is in business with the Pyke Syndicate.

This has definitely been a slow burn for me, so far, I have to say. Unlike The Mandalorian, which pretty much had me hooked from the get-go, I have found myself, not bored exactly, but feeling a bit like I just want it to get somewhere, if that makes sense? I must say, after organising my thoughts for this blog today, I’ve found myself a little more interested in the whole thing…

I’ve never really been a big Fett fanboy, though that is probably more due to the fact that a lot of the literature about him while I was growing up made him out to be the supercool guy while kinda glossing over the fact he could never bring in Han Solo, despite being the best of the best. Anyway, the series is working to show a bit more of a human side to him, I think, and I find it interesting that he is shown to not be the very best, being overpowered by the group of assassins and rushed back to his bacta tank every five minutes. I guess that’s an after-effect of the sarlacc/exposure in the desert?

I am hugely into the criminal underworld and the galactic fringe, though, and so I love these aspects of the “present day” stuff that is going on. I find it very exciting that the Pyke Syndicate is playing such a big part of this so far – as we know, the control the spice mines of Kessel, and there are potential links to the Crimson Dawn that might make this series a spin-off from the Solo movie as much as it has spun off from The Mandalorian. It’s very exciting to me to see where this might be leading. If we don’t get Qi-ra and Maul in a movie sequel to Solo, then at least let’s explore this side of things with the TV shows!

The flashback sequences have been a little boring to me, I have to say – mainly because I find it quite dull that yes, Fett survived, and I don’t much care for going over every moment of that. But it is important development for the character, after all, showing him move from being a loner after the death of his father, to being accepted as part of the clan, to now (seemingly) assembling his own family around him. Though the less said about the cyborg street gang and their shiny hover Vespas, the better…

It’s still early days, of course, and I do think we could be in for some very exciting stuff down the line, as the stage seems to be set for war. There’s not much left from the trailer now that we haven’t already seen, but with four more episodes there’s still a lot of room in which to work. I assume there aren’t many flashbacks left – perhaps showing his rescue of Shand from the desert – so hopefully we can concentrate more on the conflict with the Pykes (and the Crimson Dawn?) and whatever else we have to go on! I wonder if we will actually leave Tatooine, as I feel like the Twins might have more to say, and maybe a trip to Kessel would be due? Who knows.

It’s not The Mandalorian, which has made me a little sad, but writing this has made me realise it’s not actually as bad as I had been thinking it was. I might just go back and rewatch the series so far, in advance of next Wednesday’s episode…

Star Wars: Thrawn – Ascendancy: Chaos Rising (a review)

Hey everybody,
Shortly before New Year, I started reading the first book in the Ascendancy trilogy by Timothy Zahn, and I have really enjoyed this book. It surprised me, because I have been feeling a bit of Thrawn burnout where Zahn is concerned – I mean, the man’s list of Star Wars books at this point is quite impressive, and almost all of them feature the Chiss in some form! We seem to be at that point where we’re at peak Thrawn saturation, only missing out on Thrawn: The Toddler Years to really complete the picture. But I digress!

The novel is set almost exclusively in Chiss Ascendancy space, and aside from a couple of pages, it features no movie characters whatsoever. It feels so oddly divorced from mainstream Star Wars, that it surprised me as I read through it, how established Thrawn now is in the canon, that he can carry so much story, etc. But almost all of the technology is also different to the established Star Wars stuff – the Chiss use plasma weapons instead of ion weapons, for instance. It’s very alien, and I kinda like that.

The story starts with an attack on Csilla itself, and follows Thrawn and Admiral Ar’alani as they uncover a military force that is seemingly making its way to Ascendancy space, conquering peoples en route. The Nikardun Destiny are led by General Yiv “the Benevolent”, who has conquered many of the systems and political regimes on the borders of Chiss space, but due to the rules the Chiss hold themselves to, they are unable to launch pre-emptive strikes against him. Cue Thrawn, manoeuvring himself and his forces to allow for such a strike to come off and thus defend the Chiss.

I mean, that’s the nugget of the story. There is a lot to take in, and as usual, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we only start to see unravel as the book takes its course. Interspersed within the main narrative, we have a series of Memories, which run back to the time when Thrawn was a cadet (although they aren’t purely Thrawn’s memories). It got confusing (for me) somewhere in the middle where the Chiss are going up against a race of people they had previously had contact with, and so the memories and present-day narrative were both referring to the same species and people and so on, and I had a moment where I wasn’t sure what was happening! But in the main, it’s a really interesting way to tell the story, as we get a lot of foreshadowing while also getting more insight into the Chiss.

And that’s really what this book is predominantly about. Thrawn, we know, is never in any danger, and neither is Ar’alani, as both appear in chronologically later novels. We’re pretty assured that Thrawn will triumph, even when we’re being told he’s put a foot wrong or made an error, or something. However, we get to learn so much about the Chiss and their culture, we’ve really never had this level of insight into an enclave of the galaxy before. We do get some sense of the history of the Chiss, and the planet Csilla, though more weight is definitely given to the military and political structuring, and the family thing was quite interesting. I particularly liked the idea of someone giving up their family name when they had achieved a certain rank in the military, when their family becomes the military. The whole thing with the sky-walkers that comes up in the middle book of Zahn’s previous Thrawn trilogy is greatly expounded upon, as well (and we get the other side of the conversation Thrawn has with Anakin in that book, which is the only anchor point we have, really, to help date this book to the existing Star Wars chronology).

Overall, it was a very strong book, and I think the story, even if I did get confused in the middle, was really good. The one thing I just couldn’t seem to get my head around was the character of Thurfian. A leading member of the Mitth family (Thrawn’s adopted family), he seems to have it in for Thrawn basically to provide him with some character conflict. Thrawn’s continued military successes should surely throw reflected glory onto Thurfian, but he is instead scheming with a senior member of another of the Ruling Families to bring Thrawn down. I feel like it would have made sense for the Irizi to make their offer to him, he rebuffs them, and then they are the ones scheming to bring him down. It felt a bit weird, to me, and a little cheap.

But that’s pretty much a minor thing, in the general scheme of it all! I really enjoyed this one, and I have already launched myself into the second book to continue the story, so stay tuned for that one!!

Painting Tau

Hey everybody,
A while ago, when talking about my Tau army plans, I mentioned researching the “proper” painting guides and whatnot for Tau miniatures, so today I thought I’d share the fruits of these labours! In some ways, this is a bit of a companion piece to a post I wrote last time I was collecting Tau, where I looked at all the different support systems that are represented by bits in the plastic kits. Of course, the correct way to paint your miniatures is “however you want them to look”, but being a huge lore nerd, I do often like to paint my stuff correctly in terms of the established lore. If you’re like me, then you might find this useful!

First of all, Tau are divided into Septs, in the same way Space Marines are divided into Chapters. Unlike Space Marines, however, Tau Sept colours are limited to the markings, not the overall armour colour. The armour, instead, is meant to be painted as camouflage, to help the warriors blend in to their battlefield surroundings. The classic Tau scheme of ochre is a generic desert camo, and the Tau Sept colour is white. Vior’la markings are red, but the armour is mostly shown as white in the promotional stuff from GW, I presume as a kind of snow camo. In theory, you could paint Vior’la in the ochre scheme, with red Sept markings, and that’s fine – the Vior’la are fighting in the desert! I’ve only really come across it with my Sa’cea Sept, but the lore suggests that different Septs are more proficient on certain battlefields – Sa’cea specialising in urban warfare, so their armour is largely shown as that blue-grey colour. Sa’cea Sept markings are orange, though, which always makes me smile because surely they’d be a dead giveaway in an actual war setting?

This brings me on to the next point, though. Whereas mostly we’re taught that basing should complement the miniature, and allow it to stand out to some degree, with Tau you almost want the miniatures to blend into the basing – something I’ve only seen rarely, but it does look fantastic when you see it done well. As if the miniature is somehow rising up from the base, or something.

Moving away from painting for a second, we need to talk about Castes. The Tau civilisation is a caste-based system, with the Tau people split into five. The Earth Caste is the engineers, the Air Caste is the air force, the Water Caste is the diplomats, and the Fire Caste is the infantry. The Ethereal Caste is a breed apart, and these mysterious beings form the ruling elite of Tau society.

For the tabletop game, Fire Caste is really the only one that matters, although Ethereal miniatures do exist (and of course, Air Caste is represented by fliers and in Aeronautica Imperialis). Let’s look at the ranking system:

Cadet: Shas’saal
Line trooper: Shas’la
Sergeant/veteran: Shas’ui
Elite bodyguard: Shas’vre
Field Commander: Shas’el
General: Shas’o

This structure is somewhat mirrored across the other castes, with different prefixes for each (Por’ for Water Caste, Kor’ for Air Caste, Fio’ for Earth Caste, and Aun’ for Ethereal Caste).

Why is all of this important? Well each rank has a slightly different paint scheme to consider! A single team of, say, Fire Warriors, will have Sept markings that denote they all belong to the same squad. The squad Shas’ui / Sergeant has the Sept colour on both shoulder pad and sensor vane, to mark him out among the rest. Speaking of shoulder pads, the symbol on the pads of Fire Warriors is that of their Caste, and not some kind of chapter badge-analogue.

Shas’ui are the lowest rank permitted to pilot a battlesuit. For a Shas’ui pilot, the Sept colour is used for the sensor vane only; for a Shas’vre pilot, the entire helmet is in the Sept colour. A Shas’el Commander has the helmet in the Sept colour with the sensor vane in the armour colour, and a Shas’O pilot has the Sept colour on the whole helmet, with Sept markings matching the armour colour. So for Vior’la, for example, a Shas’ui has a white helmet with a red vane; a Shas’vre has a red helmet; a Shas’el has a red helmet with white sensor vanes, and a Shas’o has a red helmet with white Sept markings.

For battlesuits, the breadth of markings seems to be quite random. There will be the usual markings that show the suit belongs to a specific Hunter Cadre (the term used for a Tau battle group), and then different suits can have honour markings, or heraldry, etc. It all seems to end up pretty haphazard as to which panels get the Sept colour, though, and some suits get additional colours to help break up the large panels – for instance, Vior’la have white and pale grey on the armour, presumably to help with the camouflage.

I’ve talked a lot about Sept markings so far, but what are these markings? Well, it’s basically a set of lines and pips, the arrangement of which is specific to the squad/cadre that a unit belongs to.  Hunter Cadres are the force organisation of Tau armies, organised into one grand Hunter Contingent under the Shas’o. The force will include Fire Teams, Broadside Support, Pathfinders and others. Stuff like this is always an interesting way to think about how to go about collecting a force, though obviously there’s more than one way to build your army! In the following illustration, you can see the Sept markings that are used for each of these squads, as well:

Ultimately, of course, you can build and paint your army however you like. Your choice of units and colour scheme is only really dictated by you. However, GW have gone to great pains to establish a lore behind these things, and this is something that does in particular interest me, so I do like to keep to that wherever possible. There’s definitely more to be said on this topic, but that’s something for another blog! Hopefully, if you too are a lore nerd, then this post will have been of some help in getting the Tau painted “properly”.

Painting Updates!

Hey everybody,
I feel like 2022 has started out in a really positive way for me and the hobby! I’ve been painting every evening, which always makes me feel better about things as I can see my progress with stuff.

To start with, I’ve been having a lot of fun painting up the unit of Tau Pathfinders. Initially, there were some hurdles to overcome as I was trying to devise my paint scheme for them, working from the old Citadel pdf guide, and even once that was sorted, I was somehow finding it easier to paint models one at a time. Urgh! However, since the weekend I’ve gone for more of a traditional batch paint style, and have gotten them to a decent point so far.

The cloth is drybrushed with Mechanicus Standard Grey and then Dawnstone, only lightly. I’m toying with the idea of then shading with Nuln Oil, but for now have left it as it is. The armour is then painted with Russ Grey – the original mini I painted up then had an all-over layer of Fenrisian Grey, but I’m thinking I may go for an edge highlight of that instead. I’m also going to try and line shade them with Drakenhof Nightshade. The skin is a light drybrush of Mournfang Brown and Squig Orange – a departure from the normal Tau skin tone, which would otherwise have been too close to the armour colour.

For the weapons, I’ve gone for a layer of Dawnstone and then Administratum Grey, then a shade of Drakenhof Nightshade, aiming for a slightly patchy look to simulate camo. This is largely the scheme – there are some metallic areas that I will paint accordingly, and some of the special kit is painted with Sotek Green and highlighted with Temple Guard Blue, but in the main the basic scheme is quite straightforward. The scheme is also replicated across the drones, and I was initially a bit concerned that they might look a little flat, having no highlights, but really that’s kinda the point – I want a sort of plasticky look to them, if you know what I mean?

I’ve bought a Start Collecting set for the army as well, as I thought it would be good to get the Crisis Suits and Fire Warriors for such a good price, as well as a bonus Ethereal. They have recently announced the Combat Patrol box, which switches up Crisis Suits for a Ghostkeel and Stealth Suit team, and includes a Cadre Fireblade as well as Ethereal and Fire Warriors. So that’s very impressive, though the price will be adjusted as well, no doubt! However, I paid £54 for the SC box, and CP boxes are £65.50 at my local shop, so it’s not much of a hike – and I have been thinking about a Ghostkeel recently, more for the model than any kind of desire for a stealth aspect to the force! I really think the Stealth team looks goofy, so I don’t know if I’d want those guys as well. But anyway!

I’ve also been painting some more terrain, which is just wonderful! Back in 2020 I painted up a Ferratonic Incinerator but didn’t make any notes on the scheme, more fool me. Interestingly, though, it is fairly close to my Tau – the actual vats are drybrushed with Russ Grey and Fenrisian Grey, and then Administratum Grey, in a crosswise pattern to try to simulate paint. The walkways are Macragge Blue, which has been heavily drybrushed on, then further drybrushes of Fenrisian Grey and Screaming Skull have been added to lighten it up a little. The support struts are just drybrushed with Administratum Grey. I’m then picking out pipes and associated bits and pieces with metallics, trying not to go too overboard.

I’m painting up a Galvanic Magnavent this time around – it’s one of two that I have built, though neither of them is built according to the instructions! I think I’ve always been a bit like that – as a child with Lego, I would always enjoy more the alternative builds from the back of the box, you know? So I have the current build, and I have this one, which was the first one I had built.

I love this scenery, and I really want to do something fancy with it all. I mean, certainly do something fancy to link up some of the kits that I have! In addition to the big pieces, I’ve got the Haemotrope Reactors and Alchomite Stack stuff that would possibly look fantastic with something to link it all together. I’m not sure what, though, and I’m not sure how, but I think it would be marvellous! I guess we’ll just have to see.

The Dark Coil (part two)

Hey everybody,
Today, I’m continuing my look at the Dark Coil series of interrelated stories by Peter Fehevari. The first part of this can be read here, and I talk about his excellent Cult of the Spiral Dawn here. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Out Caste is one of the micro-short stories that the Black Library put out for their advent calendars. It is a meditation by the Pathfinder J’kaara as she muses on former battles and, in particular, how she gained the scar down her face plate, ultimately taking on a new name, Jhi’kaara. She’s a character who recurs throughout a couple more of the Dark Coil stories, so it’s a nice bit of background for her.

The main event this time around is The Greater Evil. I’d been looking forward to reading this one for quite some time now, mainly because the “cover” had got me really excited. It’s difficult to talk about this story without giving too much away, but let’s try anyway! The story starts with the rediscovery of a Water Caste ambassador Fai’sahl who was thought to be lost, so a delegation is sent to the Yuxa system to extract him and check on his progress. He tells the Tau forces that he has succeeded in bringing the Greater Good to the region, though the Ethereal Kyuhai, a different type of Ethereal called a Seeker, decides that the delegation will be led by another Water Caste official, Adibh. Something is evidently not quite right. We also see the action through Voyle, one of the gue’vesa auxiliaries who has embraced Unity but is hearing strange voices in his sleep. Arriving at the skyhive in orbit above Scitalyss, they are met with Fai’sahl who speaks in raptures of his success, and is keen to lead the delegation to the leaders of the hive, although to do so they will need to pass through rebel districts. Things quickly disintegrate as it becomes clear that they have been led into an ambush – though what is exactly ambushing them? And what is the link between Voyle, the ambushers, and a previous mission when Voyle was part of the Imperial Guard?

I mean, I just can’t praise this short story enough. It’s a little longer than the usual shorts, though I’m not sure if it’s comparable with Fehevari’s Fire and Ice novella that I talked about last time. Perhaps because it is slightly more compact, the story really packs a punch. I must admit that I was initially getting confused by the various Tau honorifics, and a lot of characters have similar-ish names, which lost me occasionally, but I’m thinking that I might well read this again soon, where that side of things might not be too much of an issue. There are all the hallmarks of classic Fehevari in this story though, all wrapped up in that wonderfully pervasive sense of wrongness that he manages to write so well. While it’s a Tau story, I think the atmosphere of the decaying skyhive is captured beautifully, giving us more of an Imperium feel than the clean lines of the usual Tau stories. Of course, the Tau are centre-stage, and while the main characters might be Water Caste, we have the awesome set piece action scene of a Crisis battlesuit really going for it near the end, which is really quite stunning, and I suppose it’s how the unit should behave in combat.

I think this story is what has pushed me over the edge into building a Tau army once more, though having already read quite a few stories with Tau in there, I suppose it wasn’t a huge nudge that was required! I just can’t recommend it enough, it was seriously good!

A Sanctuary of Wyrms is a great little story set on the tainted jungle world of Phaedra. It is the memoir of Asharil, a member of the Water Caste who has come to the planet despite its reputation among the Tau for being something of a dumping ground, instead thinking it would be the perfect place from which to study humanity. Her superior assigns her to a deputation accompanying a cartographer, along with a Fire Warrior and her team of human auxiliaries. The Fire Warrior is none other than Jhi’kaara from Out Caste. They come across an Imperial bunker on an island deep in the jungle, an island seemingly infested in sentient trees – the “sanctuary of wyrms”. Burning these trees to the ground, one of the humans is stung by a dying sapling and dies. The bunker, which bears the seal of the Inquisition, is broken into and inside the Tau find horribly mutated creatures, along with a dead Magos Biologis and eight dead space marines from the Deathwatch. It all goes horribly wrong when the cartographer decides to take a closer look at a spore bomb deep in the heart of the bunker, though.

It was a really good little tale, I have to say – there is a wonderful sense of atmosphere created throughout the story as the team walks through the jungle, and especially as they explore the bunker. The ending, when the spore bomb explodes, is kinda shocking in a way, as the story seems to have built up quite slowly, until everything just explodes into action and it all goes to hell. I thought it was really interesting to see the relationship develop between Asharil and Jhi’kaara the Fire Warrior, as the water and fire castes managed to get along to some degree –following the mutual understanding that their strengths lie in different areas.

Three very Tau-centric stories, the latter two of which are real stand-outs, in my opinion. The Greater Evil might be the single most impressive story that I have read so far, though A Sanctuary of Wyrms is also pretty damn impressive, too. These two are really great examples of what the Dark Coil seems to be about, I suppose – especially with their sense of wrongness, their coil and spiral imagery, and the way the elements of the 40k universe are intertwined to create some truly wonderful tales. It just seems to get better and better!

Next, I’ll be reading Fehevari’s debut novel for the Black Library, Fire Caste, so stay tuned for that!