March 2022 retrospective

Hey everybody,
March has felt like a long month, do you think? It seems to have been a long time since I last wrote one of these retrospective blogs, at least, and I was a bit concerned that I might have missed it! It’s also been a fairly slow month, in many respects, although I think that’s possibly due to me taking a week off work to sort the garden out, which meant my hobby time was otherwise fairly limited!

However, I did get the Tau Commander painted up quite quickly, which I was very pleased with! It didn’t seem to take all that long, either, so I was pleased with the progress there, though said progress then seemed to just atrophy, as I began casting about for other projects. I did have a pretty hefty focus on Warcry, and have managed to get all of the Red Harvest terrain built, as well as the Tarantulos Brood. I still have some of the Darkoath left to put together, but it’s getting there!

Warcry is such a beautiful game though, and I love how GW are still putting out content for us to devour. The Tome of Champions 2021 is a good example of this, keeping the game fresh with stuff all the time. Of course, I don’t play it anywhere near as much as I would like, so it’s hardly at risk of going stale for me, but even so! I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get some more games in soon though.

Kill Team Nachmund has been released, as well, and so I’ve also been spending time building up that, starting with the Corsairs and then terrain, as well as the Heretic Astartes upgraded models. This last in particular has now got me in full flow with my Chaos once more, as I’ve been working on some Black Legion guys as a bit of a palette cleanse following two-and-a-bit months of painting Sa’cea Sept. I do keep thinking that I need to return to the Tau, of course, but I do feel the need to get something different painted.

The Black Legion are proving to be a little troublesome for me, because of the amount of detailing etc, and I’m not all that sure about the scheme right now. I think Chaos Marines are probably just one of those model sets where they are difficult to get painted well, due to all of the baroque finery. In comparison the Tau were a piece of cake! For now, I’ve decided that I’m going to get five Marines and the Sorcerer finished, all models that I had started working on a long time ago, so it’s definitely something that I need to get finished!

Star Wars
March has been quite the month for Star Wars as well, though, as I have been reading The Fallen Star and watching the Prequel movies. My wife Jemma isn’t entirely fussed on watching them, but we started watching the Prequels mid month and have decided to just keep going through them all, so that’ll be good! It’s got me thinking about re-reading some more of the Legends books and comics, as I did talk about in last month’s blog, and so I’m planning to do something throughout the summer, so watch this space for that! Should be quite a hefty series of blog reviews and so on, but hopefully it’ll be interesting for you all!

We also had the first trailer for Kenobi, which is excitingly coming out in May, so not too long left now! Mandalorian season three is still on the cards for the end of the year, as well as the Rogue One prequel series Andor coming out at some point. This photo was doing the rounds in October 2021, purportedly showing what we could expect in 2022, but with Mando being pushed back, who knows when Ahsoka will be coming back to the screen?

Watching the movies has put me in such a Star Wars mood, though – that probably accounts for some of the hobby dip that happened. Though I have got those Legion miniatures out of the attic, so who knows whether that will be a feature going forward?! Legion is something that I have thought about a lot over the years, though my first serious thoughts came when we were a couple of weeks into the first Lockdown, and nobody really knew what was going to happen. It was a nice distraction at the time, but I ended up not doing anything with this as we all settled into the new normal, and I went back to 40k. Well, maybe something will happen this time?

I’m always a bit wary of making these sorts of announcements, because I invariably get distracted, but hopefully it’ll be a big summer of Star Wars here on the blog!

Arkham Horror LCG
I have surprised myself this month by playing a couple of games with this, getting three-quarters of the way through the campaign before (spoiler alert) my investigators were killed! In my game day blog on Tuesday this week, I had said I wasn’t sure whether I would shuffle up and try again, or accept their fate and close the book on Innsmouth for the time being. Well, I have decided to close the book, and have dismantled the decks for Stella and Zoey – they weren’t a bad pair, if I’m honest; I just don’t think I was as into everything this time around for some reason. Possibly because I was snatching games where I could, and not really making the time to enjoy the game.

I’ve since made up two new decks, using Ursula Downs and Lily Chen, and I’m pondering my next move as regards which campaign I’m going to set off for. I’m currently favouring The Forgotten Age, though the allure of the new Edge of the Earth is also calling to me! I did feel bad for skipping TFA when I embarked upon The Circle Undone, more than twelve months ago now, but obviously campaigns don’t need to be played in the order they were released, so that doesn’t really matter.

My Ursula deck is pretty standard fare, leaning heavily into her already-high investigation attribute to really bolster this, and then use it (so far as Seekers allow) to fulfil other tests, too. The theme of using one attribute for another is more prevalent in the Mystics, of course, but Lily is a curious one in that she has a very high combat attribute already, so I don’t necessarily want to include a lot of spells that allow her to use her willpower for everything. I have included those spells like Rite of Seeking that allow her to investigate with willpower though, and there are a couple of ways for her to improve her willpower too, as I tend to split my party in games, to cover more ground, and so I like to have my investigators able to be as flexible as possible.

Lily is also curious in that she is a Mystic who can only use Level 0 Mystic cards, but can lean into Guardian cards up to Level 5. Whether that’s simply to allow for her to use the butterfly swords, I have no idea, but I find it interesting that this is going to likely become a deck that bears no resemblance to its beginnings, although of course we shall see how that transpires! I’ve only played a Mystic a couple of times, but I seem to recall there are a lot of good, higher-level cards that I like. Hm.

At any rate, Mystic and Seeker are my two favourite classes, and so I am looking forward to taking these two out, whichever campaign I decide to embark upon!

Star Wars: The Fallen Star (a review)

The final book in the first phase of The High Republic, The Fallen Star picks up with Marchion Ro’s plan to completely wipe out the Jedi, and undermine the Republic throughout the Outer Rim. Synchronous raids across seemingly insignificant planets drive a host of injured refugees to Starlight Beacon, which is currently in orbit at Eiram assisting with a relief project there. A further Nihil attack against a remote Jedi temple is seen as proof of the uncoordinated death throes of the Nihil organisation, which was believed destroyed following the Republic Fair.

However, Marchion Ro has secretly dispatched a team of saboteurs to Starlight Beacon, and soon the full extent of the Nihil is shown as the space station is blasted in two, with catastrophic results. While Avar Kriss had pursued the Nihil and believed herself to have found The Eye, Lourna Dee, Stellan Gios took over the mantle of Marshal of Starlight Beacon. However, he is almost entirely unprepared for the catastrophe that befalls them all, even when Elzar Mann returns from his exile to help with the relief effort.

As if the physical damage to the station wasn’t enough, the Nihil have also released at least one of the leveler creatures aboard, which causes significant problems for the Jedi as they find themselves unable to concentrate and growing in fear. The creature kills three Jedi Knights, and the disaster continues to take its toll on our heroes, with Stellan paying the ultimate price when the Beacon crashes on the surface.

I have been enjoying the High Republic series so far, but I did feel as though this book fell a bit flat. It is almost exclusively set on Starlight Beacon, which feels less like the plush advert for Republic splendour that it seemed to be in Light of the Jedi, and instead more like the Death Star, only somehow less exciting. The disaster-movie atmosphere, though, was great –just when we think our heroes are going to pull through, something else goes horribly wrong and stuff. I’m not a sadist, but I did like the fact that it really came across like a huge disaster, much more so than the Hyperspace Disaster that kicked off the series, actually.

Of course, this hyper-focus on the Beacon really felt like it worked to the novel’s detriment, as it felt quite claustrophobic, and I did feel the same as those trapped aboard in the cargo bay, trying to get off. Stellan, the man of action from the second book, is now struck down with the weight of responsibility and, when he does encounter the leveler briefly, it sends him catatonic for a portion of the book. I was surprised by that decision, although it did give Elzar the nudge he needed to take on some responsibility. That all being said, however, I did find myself wishing that Avar was back – she headlined the first book, and then seemed to just disappear in the subsequent instalments. Maybe she has been featured in other books, as I haven’t yet taken the time to discover those, but I thought it a bit strange that she wasn’t more heavily featured, as I really liked her character.

There’s a navigator called Geode, who is basically a rock. Weird, but it’s a huge and weird galaxy, so fair enough. I was surprised at how far this was taken, though, given that it seems everybody except Elzar accepts him as being a sentient being, who gives “a stony expression” or whose “silence said it all” and stuff. It was bordering on silly, though I guess on the whole it was kinda funny. Among those pilots trapped in the cargo bay, there’s a petty and venal guy who tries to rile his fellows up against the Jedi, intending to blast their way through the cargo bay doors etc. I hated him, and it took me a while to realise that actually, I hated him because the situation was written so well – of course, there’s always that one guy who thinks they know what’s best and ends up getting the group in trouble. It’s classic disaster movie stuff.

However, we get very little else besides the goings on on board the space station, and it does get a bit boring after a while. I read half of this book in one day when I was on the train to London and back, but then took a week to finish it as it just felt like a bit of a chore. I think we could have done with getting a bit more variety, even if it was from following some of the people in the top half of the station with Avar. It all just seems to get a bit boring after a while, for all that it’s a disaster book and should be exciting as we root for the heroes to pull through.

I also wasn’t a fan of the ending. We only followed three saboteurs aboard the Beacon, yet Marchion Ro sent seven? And the final pages that feature his address to the galaxy… I’m struggling to keep up, but I just don’t understand why he wants to eliminate the Jedi. I don’t get it, as the Nihil are a raiding force – is he trying to keep the Republic out of the Rim to ensure free raiding forever? He seems to want to rule the galaxy, but that seemed to come out of nowhere. I don’t understand him, he seems to be doing all this for the sake of being the antagonist – we haven’t yet got the twirl of the moustache with an evil sneer, but it’s not far off.

Now, I seem to be falling into something of a hater on Claudia Gray, which I’m not actively trying to do, but I’ve not really been a big fan of a lot of her books now. I mean, Bloodline is still one of my all-time favourite Star Wars books, and so whenever I read a book by her, I’m always that little bit disappointed that it doesn’t match up. I think it might be in part due to the hype she gets in the Facebook group that I’m in, though I think I have seen more general disinterest in this book, to be fair.

I think a lot of my complaints aren’t necessarily to be aimed at Claudia though, as it strikes me this is how LFL wants to tell stories right now – minimal exposition, maximum action. Who cares why anybody does anything, so long as what they are doing is exciting to watch/read?! Marchion Ro might be a cardboard villain because he isn’t allowed to be developed this early, given that we’ve been told of two more phases of the High Republic still to come.

I went into this one expecting it to be the conclusion to the trilogy, but it ended up more like the start of something. If we’d had maybe a hundred more pages of exposition at the start, then kicked off the series with this, it might have landed better. It’s not terrible, it’s just a bit unsatisfying.

Okay, so maybe I’m getting a bit too harsh here… I know that I’ve only read the three main novels in this series so far, and there are still the three YA novels, and three middle-grade novels, before we even start on the comic books. Maybe I’m missing out on something that would actually link things together… we shall see, I guess!!

The Conspiracy Deepens…

Hey everybody,
It’s game day once more, and time to continue on with my investigations into The Innsmouth Conspiracy. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last played this game, where I had just begun to realise what might be happening in the blighted coastal town…

5. Horror in High Gear

The fifth scenario sees us racing to the lighthouse at Falcon Point, after the revelations from the last scenario. This one is very interesting to me, it’s not very Lovecraftian, as it is basically a car chase in card game form, and it owes a lot to The Essex County Express from The Dunwich Legacy. The locations are all points along the Old Innsmouth Road, and when you reveal a location, it will have the “Road x” keyword, which tells you to put the next location from the deck in line. However, if you have to place more than 1 card, you also draw from a “long way round” deck, which slows your progress significantly.

Your investigators are in a vehicle, and as a reaction can get in or out, but are either classed as being in or being out of that car. Now, I couldn’t find an answer to this point when I was playing, but I decided that entering a location in the vehicle did not mean that I revealed that location – there were a couple of locations where you could spend clues to scout ahead, and peek at the next location in line, so playing the way I did meant that I could check for any “long way round” cards and avoid them.

This one was very much about location management, and we had a pretty decent headstart that made almost a mockery of the fact that several Hunter enemies were gathering at the furthest location from us. A couple of villains did pop up during the game, though mainly it was a case of investigating the locations so as to get the clues to spend that allowed us to safely exit that location. As such, Zoey didn’t have a great deal to do during her turns. I was also quite lucky in that Stella had a good combo from Lantern and Granny Orne, allowing her to buff her investigation attribute as well as lowering the shroud value of locations she’s at. That was a big help, anyway!

So I managed to evade pursuit before sunrise, and somehow was able to get 5VPs into the bargain! I think it’s definitely time to get the decks sorted out, and trade up on some cards.

6. A Light in the Fog

The next scenario is much more of a classic, creepy investigation. We’re at the Falcon Point lighthouse, in an attempt to get some answers. Everything starts off fairly standard, though I thought it could be quite brutal that doom hangs over from one Agenda to the next, meaning you’re on a fairly tight timer to get this done! Once Oceiros Marsh is defeated, the investigators have the key to explore further in the depths beneath the lighthouse, and things get very interesting as we have another of these scenarios where you’re exploring locations but it does feel very much like we’re in there – each row of locations is only connected horizontally, so you have to keep coming back to the central shaft to go further down. Very atmospheric.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I think I played this one very wrongly indeed! See, I didn’t seem to be getting very far in terms of investigation – I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for, etc. So I was aiming to resign when – bam! The lighthouse was basically washed away, and the caverns I was exploring began to flood. Wondering if maybe the Agenda would still present me with some way to fail forward, I carried on blithely playing, only to reach Resolution 3, in which The Investigators are Killed. Yikes!

Now, normally I’m of the mind that I would never look at the reverse of cards that I had not revealed during the course of a game, mindful of replayability etc. But I did turn over a couple of locations and found that there is another location that can still allow for you to resign, and so reach a more favourable conclusion, so I think I might need to re-set and try again. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all!

But that said, this is what the game is all about, isn’t it? Arkham Horror LCG is not meant to be easy, you’re meant to just about make it through. While I am considering re-playing this scenario, I’m also thinking that I might just accept that this is how it ends for Stella and Zoey’s journey, drowning beneath Falcon Point lighthouse, and basically re-start the campaign at a later date. It has been a very protracted campaign this time, after all, which makes me wonder if my heart really has been in it with these investigators. I’m going to give it some thought, and see maybe at the weekend if I can come to a decision.  

If this is how it ends, then I think it has been a pretty good campaign, overall. Returning to Innsmouth does feel a little bit more forced, somehow, than the Dunwich Legacy campaign, which seemed to follow on naturally. I have the impression that The Innsmouth Conspiracy is a prequel to the Lovecraft story, and so goes some way to prepare us for the eventual raid by the feds, but it did somehow just feel a little bit forced, to me. Nevertheless, the actual story of the campaign, at least so far as I got in there, does move along quite well. We have a bit of back-and-forth across the timeline, as we move between the past and the present. The scenarios each play quite differently, and so there is a lot of variety to be had throughout.

Definitely an interesting campaign…

Kill Team: Nachmund

Following the opening of the Great Rift, when the galaxy was split in two, passage across the massive Warp Storm was only possible in a handful of routes. The most stable of these was named the Nachmund Gauntlet, and saw much fighting during the Indomitus Crusade, as the Imperium fought to control the area and ensure communications remained open with the Imperium Nihilus on the other side. The fighting centred on the hive world of Vigilus, but was by no means confined there.

Kill Team Nachmund is the third box in the new edition of the skirmish game, and features Heretic Astartes going up against Aeldari Corsairs. Of the three boxes released so far, it has been the most exciting for me, as I have wanted everything within, not just a small fraction of the models. We get the beautiful new Corsair models, which skirt the lines between Craftworld and Dark Kin, coming with design elements from both but uniting into their own distinct range. I was very excited to learn that they could be used by Drukhari as well, although slightly less excited when I found out their rules were only in the Aeldari Codex. I know I have said previously that I like how the game is its own thing, I still like to multi-purpose some things!

The Heretic Astartes are the somewhat-new 10-man legionary kit, with an upgrade sprue that comes in a similar vein to the Tau Pathfinders that we had in the Chalnath box. Who knows whether we’ll get all of these options available when the CSM Codex hits, as we did for the Pathfinders – I mean, one of the upgrades is to make a regular legionary a psyker… Again, though, it’ll be nice to have a unit that is just for Kill Team, but with this box I do now have 30 marines for my Black Legion (more on this later).

The terrain is all Sector Mechanicus stuff, and I have read that the cost of this alone is equivalent to the box. So I am pleased to have that level of value here. More Sector Mechanicus stuff is always welcome, even if I have decided to just build it as the manual wants me to. Even so, I like it, and between 40k and Necromunda already, I’ll have definite uses for it all!

I’ve built the Corsairs very much with this game in mind. In 40k, they fulfil either troops or elites – with the former, you can’t mix rifles and pistols, whereas the latter has a greater flexibility. However, the 40k rules seem to want you to build all of the specialists available to the squad, but I have only gone for a couple, instead choosing to have more bodies rather than a particularly elite squad. For the Heretics, I think I might go for some of the fancy options too, but I haven’t entirely decided what I want to do with them, so have only built the sorcerer so far.

I mentioned before having 30 marines for my Black Legion, but I still haven’t really got that project moving, and have been considering a refresh – maybe going for a completely different Legion colour scheme. I have only painted the Master of Possession for the army, after all. But as it stands, I think that particular project might be a long way off, so I’m not giving it a great deal of thought for the time being.

Kill Team seems to be firmly in the release model of big boxes, which was exciting at first, but as time has gone on I’m already a bit wary of this release pattern. In a comparatively short space of time, we’ve had Kill Team Chalnath, Warcry Red Harvest, and Kill Team Nachmund, with Necromunda Ash Wastes seemingly closer than anybody had perhaps realised. It is a lot to take on, when these boxes are around the £115 mark, and I really don’t think it’s sustainable for me to keep buying them. I did think this after the Octarius box, but then I got really swept up by the Sisters Novitiates, and having more Sector Imperialis terrain. This box, as I’ve said, was full of stuff that I really love, so it was pretty easy to throw my money at it.

I’m hoping that I can actually resist the next box, and perhaps only pick up those elements that really interest me when they’re released further down the line. I do wonder what else they could do for the game, of course – whether we start to see a shift away from big boxes and instead just teams with upgrade sprues, when they run out of “new” stuff they can do. Maybe we’ll get the Elucidian Starstriders vs Gellerpox Infected box re-branded? They don’t have a lot of terrain sets that can be used in these boxes, either – so I am very intrigued as to where they could take this product line in the longer term. I think GW have been successful so far in getting a lot of interest and excitement around these releases with producing the new teams, but I can’t help but think that Kill Team is in a very weird place as regards how it is being released. I mean, we have the Compendium, but it seems the more exciting teams are those with the full rules from these boxes and the White Dwarf articles – and there aren’t all that many of them! There haven’t been “full” rules for Space Marines, Eldar, Necrons etc so far, which just seems a bit weird…

At any rate, Nachmund has been a great box to get my hands on, and I’m going to enjoy getting it all painted up and maybe even convincing some folks to play it with me! As for what the future holds, I think it’s going to be a very interesting time…

Necromunda Ash Wastes revealed!

The Ash Wastes have finally been revealed!

This box looks phenomenal, I am very excited. It looks like we’re getting a box similar to Dark Uprising, with two full gangs plus expansions to those gangs, then the terrain and a hardback rulebook, which is very exciting. I mean, I’ve held off buying the book since I had the Dark Uprising softcover, but now it looks like I won’t need to anyway.

House Orlock vs Ash Nomads, with two full gangs but also vehicles for those gangs! If you can call the bug riders for the Nomads “vehicles”. Very exciting there, for sure. I was initially a bit worried about the notion of vehicles in Necromunda, though plenty of the old-timers were excitedly reminiscing about how things were back in the day. I imagine there will be plenty of other insanity coming as other gangs get vehicle expansions, jetbikes for Van Saar maybe?

The terrain, while it perhaps looks a little sparse at first glance, does actually seem really interesting, with a lot of stuff going on with those hab modules and such. I suppose the whole principle behind this expansion is opening the board out though, so it makes sense. Of course, the new Sector Fronteris terrain could also make for a nice board for this particular brand of Necromunda, so I’m excited to see when that will be coming.

I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on this, even though it’ll probably be a very expensive box, so will need to be planned out carefully. I mean, I’ve just picked up the Nachmund box as well! I do wish GW would slow down with the big expensive box releases!!

Warcry Updates

The Tome of Champions 2021 is here, and it’s quite a hefty book in comparison to previous years! This is mainly due to the enormous appendix though, which has the Bladeborn Fighters rules.

The book is split into the usual Open, Narrative and Matched play, and incorporates all of the stuff we had for free on the WarCom website back last year, such as the Cursed City content, the AoS Dominion content, and so on. Open Play is a very short section, giving the rules for Siege Battles and using the example battleplan of the Siege of Carngrad. Narrative Play can be split into two, really, giving four more Branching Quests for each faction, different to those initially presented in the Red Harvest book, and four more Fates Quests, again one for each faction. The second part of the Narrative Play section is Narrative Campaigns, and reproduces the online content while also giving another one, which can be played co-op or solo, where you play against marauding Skaven in the city of Excelsis. It’s an interesting idea, although does require players to have 1200 points of Skaven and the Agents of Chaos book that shows their profiles. However, I imagine it could be quite easily adapted for Nighthaunt or something, as you’re trying to clear out an infested city. Matched Play introduces a new tournament pack, The Fell Nyroth, but without being a tournament kind of player, I can’t really offer much in the way of comment there.

There is a lot of content here, and it’s interesting to see how the various battleplans continue to make use of the vast array of stuff that’s out there for Warcry. There are points adjustments across the board as well, making this much more akin to the General’s Handbook for AoS. In the Appendix, we get the fighter cards for the Lumineth Realmlords, Soulblight Gravelords, Dominion armies, and Bladeborn Fighters, which I’m sure will be the big draw for the majority of folks picking this up.

The rules for Bladeborn Fighters allow you to include the fighters from Warhammer Underworlds warbands within your games of Warcry, which is kinda fascinating as it opens up so many more options for playing the game. The way this works is to align each band to their Age of Sigmar faction, and then presents fighter cards that can be used when mustering a Warcry warband from that faction. So for example, the Thorns of the Briar Queen belong to the Nighthaunt faction, which means they can be added into the mix just like any other Nighthaunt model that has a stat card for games of Warcry. Each warband has one or two unique abilities that can be used, although they have access to the full suite of abilities from their parent faction, anyway.

I find this approach quite interesting, because it means that the Underworlds warband can be split up, they don’t come as a unit as I had initially expected. I suppose that makes sense, because some warbands are only three fighters, so could potentially have a very hard time going up against other warbands in the game. But it somehow loses a bit of the flavour that I like about those guys, and I think if I were to ever play with Underworlds warbands, I would try as much as possible to keep the band all together, if you know what I mean. Even the larger warbands are only around the 700 points mark (the Thorns are closer to 800, but still) so would need some bolstering from the more “regular” models from the range.

That said, I think I still prefer to keep things to the Warcry-specific warbands whenever possible, anyway, so it probably won’t turn into that big of an issue for me!

In other news…

I’ve finally built up all of the Tarantulos Brood miniatures! I think they’re one of the bigger Warcry warbands, which should be interesting to see how they play as they have a lot of lower-level fighters, it seems. I do love the look of these models though, and I think I might try and get them painted up sometime this year, rather than letting them languish like the rest of my Warcry stuff! However, I did kinda decide around summer last year that I would try to get the Iron Golem painted up next, so I don’t quite know how it’s all going to fit in! Unfortunately, I do seem to have stalled a bit with my Tau painting project, since I spent the beginning of the year painting nothing but Sa’cea Sept colours – I think I could well be due a change!

I think I’m going to try and get another game of Warcry in soon, as it has been quite a while since I last played. I think it could be fun to try out the new Red Harvest stuff as well, so hopefully I’ll be able to report back soon on that!

Warcry: Red Harvest terrain

Hey everybody,
I’ve finally finished building up the terrain from Red Harvest, and I’ve just had to come here to write about it because this stuff is just amazing!!

It’s gonna look even more stunning when painted…

The board is really quite full with this stuff, as well, which I’m quite impressed by, considering there are only four structures and then a host of sluices. I thought it would lead to a table that feels more open, but maybe that’s just the configuration, or something.

I’m very impressed, anyway. There are, as I say, four big structures that form the cornerstones of the terrain: two multi-level platforms, and two “delve engines”, the Pit Dredger and the Varanite Syphon. The Syphon is the beam engine thing that has that beautiful daemonic head at the top, while the Dredger is the winding gear with the ore buckets on it.

I particularly enjoyed getting the Dredger built, despite its reputation that I’d heard about with getting those buckets to line up! The winding capstan has got three poor unfortunate skeletons on there who have seemingly died in service to those Chaotic bands who are plundering the Varanite Delve, which I think is a beautifully creepy touch to this piece! Both platforms have got a lot of character to them, as well, with manacles and skeletons hanging around them. I’m really looking forward to getting these painted, even if all of the metallic barding is giving me palpitations!

In game, these engines have got rules whereby fighters can be pushed into the moving parts, dealing damage to them, and fighters within 1″ of its moving parts can turn the machine on, which damages fighters who are on or within 3″ of any sluices connected to the machine. It’s a nice way to interact with the scenery, and I love that kind of thing – even if, when I’m playing, I usually forget all about such rules!

Each machine comes on its own sprue, and the platforms likewise have their own sprue each. The sluices are doubled up, with two sprues of six sluices each. I can see this stuff being released separately at some point, either packaged as a machine and set of sluices, or also with a platform. It certainly seems to have been produced with an eye to re-packaging, anyway, the way these things are so self-contained.

The set also includes the barricades that were in the original set, which is nice to have as there are plenty of elements in common with the new stuff that keeps everything in the same aesthetic mould.

The two warbands, though, while they have each really grabbed my attention, are still in the process of being built. I’ve got a fair number of the Tarantulos Brood fighters built up, though only one member of the Darkoath Savagers so far. I really like both of these warbands, for different reasons, and I’m very much looking forward to getting them all built so that I can try them out. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some more games in with Warcry now that all of the lockdown measures appear to be easing, and the country is getting somewhat back to normal! Not many in my gaming circle have been too taken with it, sadly, so I think it might well need to be pickup games for the time being, but I guess we’ll see.

It is such a good game, so fast-paced and brutal, I really do love it. The terrain in this box is so different to anything that we’ve had so far, and lends quite an oppressive atmosphere when you see fully-painted tables of it. I find myself hoping that we might have almost the equivalent of 40k Sector Mechanicus stuff for Age of Sigmar, with more daemonically-possessed machinery to supplement this. Although of course, what we have in the box is entirely suitable for games of Warcry. I love everything about this box, though, and I’m so glad GW are continuing to bring out stuff like this for the game.

Tome of Champions 2021 is also out now, of course, which seems to have bundled in the DLC from last year with rules for the Warhammer Underworlds warbands, plus more quests and so on. Sounds like a cracking book, and one that I really need to get my paws on!

Star Wars: Thrawn – Ascendancy: Lesser Evil (a review)

Hey everybody,

At the end of February, I finished the third book in the Ascendancy trilogy, Lesser Evil. What a monster of a book that was! I thought the second book was a sprawling epic, but this one really took that idea and ran with it!

The book picks up almost immediately after the end of Greater Good, and we see Jixtus almost come out into the open this time, as he brings news of a dangerous alliance between some of the Chiss families, first to the Mitth, and then to the Clarr – a calculated move, as one of those families purported to be in alliance is the Dasklo family, deadly rivals of the Clarr, and so the wedge is driven further as internecine family politics begin to take over everywhere, including the navy.

Thrawn, always above family politics and forever putting his service to the Chiss Ascendancy first, does what he thinks he needs to do in order to end what he clearly sees is an attempt to drive his species to a disastrous civil war.

I’m finding it almost impossible to adequately provide a summary of the plot here, because there’s just so much of it, so let’s cut to the chase – spoilers ahead! Thrawn gathers his allies, Ar’alani etc, to Sunrise for a final showdown against Jixtus, and initially it seems the Chiss have indeed defeated themselves. However, Thrawn uses a gravity well projector to keep the Grysk ships in-system and trap them, which allows the comparatively lighter Chiss warships to virtually destroy the aliens. The Grysks self-destruct before being caught, as they are paranoid about anybody finding out about them. However, despite the fact that Thrawn was able to devise a plan to thwart this attempt on Chiss supremacy, it is decided that he is to be exiled, and draw all of the political heat from his colleagues.

Of course, the exile is a ruse for a fact-finding mission, as Thrawn has discovered a group of Neimoidians who have entered this region of space, fleeing the fallout of the Clone Wars and the emergence of the Empire. Thrawn determines to find out more about the Empire, and on it goes, roll credits.

This was a hell of a book, and the level of political in-fighting and back-and-forth was off the charts at times, as I was trying to keep up with which families were represented on which ships, etc! Sometimes, the level of selfish idiocy in the upper echelons of the Chiss did begin to astound me, particularly the actions of the Clarr patriarch! Thurfian seems to have moderated himself a little, now that he’s the Mitth patriarch, although I have read the entire trilogy and still don’t buy the reasoning for his wanting to bring down Thrawn.

There was a whole side quest with Thalias and gaining more understanding of the sky-walker program that I found really interesting, although some of it did seem a little bit like an info-dump just before the end, like it had been planned to be peppered more throughout the trilogy as a whole, but got forgotten and had to be wedged in somewhere. It was interesting, though, and while there was a part of me that felt it an unnecessary inclusion, the fact that Thalias meets Thrawn’s sister, and she has no desire to meet him because it would be pointless as she doesn’t know who he is, I did find quite emotional. Like, that’s a genuine reaction that I could imagine someone in her position having.

On a side note, the fact that Chiss core names appear to begin with the ending of their family name, so Thurfian from Mitth, for example, I did find quite silly at times. It was more pronounced in the last book, with the Xodlak family, I suppose, but I found it interesting that, if you’re at a family gathering, everybody’s name will begin the same way. Starting with a Th- might not be so distracting as starting with a Lak- of course, but it did make me wonder if a family could ever grow so large that they might conceivably run out of names?

I loved the inclusion of the Neimoidians at the end – a throwaway mention only, but it opened up a whole vista of possibility for me! I love the idea that other species who were caught up as perpetrators of the Clone Wars, like the Muun and the Koorivar, might also be going into exile at this time, and what that might mean.

Thrawn’s exile tiles very nicely into the next Thrawn trilogy, of course, which I’ve previously read (here, here and here!) It’s also worth mentioning that the plotline of Admiral Ar’alani pursuing any possible Grysk hideouts isn’t wrapped up until this trilogy, which I thought was quite interesting, especially as I’d forgotten about it until I’d finished reading this book!

Overall, I really enjoyed this trilogy, and I think I benefited a great deal by reading them back to back as I have. If I had tried to read them when they came out, I would most likely have forgotten a lot of details, because these books are literally dripping in the small stuff. It all very much needs a close reading to get the most out of it, I would say.

More Tau Thoughts

Hey everybody,
It’s been a week or so since I mentioned the Tau, and I’m clearly getting withdrawal! I’ve been giving a lot of thought to them, though, and think it’s time to try to get things straight in my head. I’ve also been doing some historical research through the previous Tau books, which has been quite interesting! But let’s not digress too far just yet!

Here is the list that I am currently working on getting painted.

It’s going really quite well, even if I do say so myself. I’ve been working on getting the Commander painted since I finished up the Fire Warriors at the end of February, and it hasn’t yet been a full week and I think I’ve made some really great progress with this guy! The armour is pretty much done now, so I need to work on the functional bits and pieces, getting the gyros painted and all the lenses, then the weapons and basing! Makes it sound so easy, but it will hopefully only take another week or so. I then want to get the Ethereal painted up, a project I’m hoping may not take me too long, after which I guess it’ll be on to the Crisis Suits! So that’s not bad at all, really! At that point, then, I’ll have the full list painted, the only issue then being that the list isn’t necessarily a good one.

I think it’s been interesting, the way that I’ve approached this one, having started with two groups of Pathfinders because of the fact that’s what I had “in stock”, so to speak. If they were a troops choice, then that’d be fine, but being fast attack, it does leave me with a bit of a hill to climb in so far as getting an army to go around them. I do have some of the more utility troops now though, so where does that leave me, army-wise?

So, as I think I said before, I’m playing these chaps as Sa’cea Sept when I get to my first game with them, as that is the colour scheme that I am using. Sa’cea gives my infantry Dense Cover when they are targeted from more than 12” away (Dense Cover is -1 to hit, so that’s nice). Vehicles get the same when they’re targeted from more than 18” away, though I don’t yet have any vehicles in the list. Finally, Vehicles and Battlesuits can fire heavy weapons in close combat with no penalty, which is also irrelevant just now as all of my Battlesuit units are equipped with Assault weapons. But anyway!

For the time being, I am considering this force to be working around the Crisis Team. I’ve talked many times in the past about building an army around a unit or group of units, and for the time being, my Crisis Team is that unit. These guys can move 10” and, thanks to the suite of weapons that I have equipped them with, I’m hopeful that they will be quite a deadly mobile threat. Two guys have got plasma rifles and burst cannons, missile pods and multi-trackers, and the shas’vre has a cyclic ion blaster, fusion blaster, early warning override and missile pod. From the missile pods, that is 6 shots with a 30” range, S7, AP-2 and 2 damage each. So that’s quite nice for some high-toughness models if I need to clear them out. There are 12 burst cannon shots, which are only S5 and AP0 D1, but that’ll be good for going against some marine equivalent types, and is the reason for bringing the multi-tracker on those guys, as that piece of kit gives exploding 6s to hit when targeting a unit with 6 or more models. So those two pieces of kit go hand in hand quite nicely, I think. The sergeant equivalent here, the shas’vre, has got a cyclic ion blaster which is three shots at S7 AP-2 and D1, but it can be overcharged for S8 AP-2 D2, much like a plasma gun for the Imperium. It’s only 18” range, but with each model having 4 wounds, it might not be too much to worry about overcharging it at least once in the game for some additional damage. I think that I see myself targeting characters or monster-like creatures with that the most, as it has a potential for some high damage output and stuff. And it’s a similar story for the remaining weapons, really. Plasma rifles have a huge threat range of 30” and, while only one shot each, they are firing that shot at S8 AP-4 and D3. So it has the potential to put some serious holes in things. On top of that, the squad leader has a fusion blaster, which is the Tau equivalent of a meltagun, 18” range with one shot at S8 AP-4 Dd6, though that increases to d6+2 at half range. So there is some degree of lethality among the more suppressive-fire style of weaponry. In total, 24 shots will be coming out of the team, with exploding 6s from the two guys.

Now, the elephant in the room of course is that Crisis Suits are hitting on 4s. However, I’m bringing two Marker Drones for them to use, which will potentially grant +1 to hit against the unit hit by the markerlight, so I have two possibilities with having the two drones, but remember I’m backing the army up with 2 groups of 10 Pathfinders, who together are firing 15 markerlights. So I’m thinking that Pathfinders will be the key element in lighting up the field at the start of the turn, especially as they have the vanguard move, and can fire markerlights at the end of the movement phase, to keep that mobility.

That’s pretty much going to be the beauty of having so many Pathfinders on the board. While I do have some of the fancy tech in those teams as well, I am predominantly using them for the markerlights, with any shots that they can put out being bonus. They have three rail rifles between the two groups, which are nice one shot S8 AP-4 D3 weapons that dish out mortal wounds on a successful wound roll, and two ion rifles which are similar to the cyclic ion blaster, though unfortunately Heavy rather than Assault. 30 pulse carbine shots will be good for harassment though, and I think that’s going to be my secondary use for these guys. Each squad also has a Recon Drone, which comes with a burst cannon, so depending on how I’m able to string everything out in the battlefield, the Pathfinders have the potential to be quite a disruptive unit, while simultaneously providing the support for the big guns from stuff like the Crisis Team.

Adding to that level of disruption is the new tech on the Pathfinders, one piece of which is the Neuroweb System Jammer. This simply makes the unit available to use the stratagem of the same name, which gives one unit within 18” of it -1 to hit until the start of my next shooting phase. It’s all about being annoying, but I think this is a good place to start talking stratagems. There are some fairly decent ones in here that should be very useful throughout the game. Dynamic Offensive stands out for me as a perfect fit for my Crisis Team, as for 1CP I can advance them a straight 6” and they don’t suffer the penalty for advancing and firing Assault weapons. So straightaway I’m getting a 16” move with them, and some of those guns had a 30” range to them, meaning that unit is one that you have to take notice of. The Coldstar Commander does allow them to advance a straight 8”, though without negating the penalty. The Repulsor Impact Field can be useful in a pinch, shortening charge moves against Battlesuit units by 2”, so if a unit had only just made a charge, I can turn that off for some defensive capability. Jet Pack units also have a fire and move stratagem for 1CP, so I could move the Crisis Team the 16”, shoot, then make a normal move of 6” afterwards. Wow!

There’s an interesting stratagem that effectively allows you to catch a unit in a crossfire: pick an enemy unit, and two friendly units that are within 18” of that enemy and visible to it. They can only attack that unit, but they improve the AP by 1 for that attack. It might not be something that I lavish on the Crisis Suits, or even the Pathfinders, as they have specialist weapons and whatnot. But when I have a second group of Fire Warriors, I’ll be absolutely aiming to set this sort of thing up, for pulse rifles or pulse blasters shooting at AP-2! On top of that, there is the Relentless Fusillade stratagem that allows a Strike Team to make double the shots regardless of rapid fire range, and improve the AP. And that doesn’t take account of the Mont’ka Philosophy of War that improves AP! 20 shots from what you thought was a basic gun, coming at you with AP-4? What’s not to like there! Finally, there’s another interesting one, Shocking Firestorm, where each model destroyed by a shooting attack counts as two models for the purposes of Morale. I think that could be useful where I’m only targeting the unit with a couple of guns, so I’m not expecting too many great things. Interesting options, though!

I mentioned the Fire Warriors just now, I don’t think I’m going to be doing a great deal of anything too fancy with them, as they’re basic troops (albeit with S5 AP-1 D1 guns). That leaves the two HQs. The Ethereal on Hover Drone has got his Chaplain-like Invocations ability, where he can intone one of the two Invocations he knows. Storm of Fire allows a nearby Core unit to shoot without any actions failing, and Zephyr’s Grace gives -1 to hit against a nearby Core unit. He’s a handy utility guy, with some melee capability, though I don’t think I’m going to be throwing him into close combat!

The Coldstar Commander is one of my favourite models in the Tau range, and is coming with a lot of firepower. For starters, I’ve given him the airbursting fragmentation projector, almost because it’s such a ridiculous sounding weapon that I can’t help but like the sound of it! A blast weapon, it’ll be firing at least 3 shots (or “bomblets” as the 6th Edition codex puts it) against a unit of 10 men at S4 AP-1 D1, and you can target units not visible to the bearer. The high-output burst cannon is Assault 10, which I did have to double check when I first came across it, but there it is, and those ten shots are at S5 AP-1 D1. He also has a missile pod for a further 2 shots as already described. You might be thinking, that’s not particularly scary, and in all honesty you’re right; I’ve given him a shield generator for a 4++ and a Gun Drone to get a bit of extra damage out, but he’s not about drawing attention to himself like that. His Signature System has some built-in defence, whereby melee attacks are -1 to hit against him, and anybody in combat with him will fight last. He does have the Prototype System whereby he can drop grenades on top of a unit he has moved over on a 2+, dishing out D3 mortal wounds, so there is a bit more damage output there, and his Warlord Trait allows for a bit more accuracy as he can re-roll hits and re-roll wounds. But while he’s hopefully not going to be a washout, he isn’t screaming “come target me!”

But a model that is pumping out potentially 15-18 shots per round with a fairly decent accuracy must still be taken notice of, which leads me to the over-arching plan for the army: target saturation. If the Pathfinders are being annoying as hell, but they’re on opposite sides of the field; if the Crisis Team is being mobile and deadly, and you can’t keep up with them; if there are 20 pulse rifle shots coming from the Fire Warriors, with the support turret shooting out 4 grenades at units you thought were in cover – where do you concentrate your fire? There is a lot that is going to be coming at you, and with some careful positioning, I think it should be quite horrendous to face Tau in their shooting phase before you can begin to think about tying them up in melee.

Without trying to get ahead of myself, my immediate plans for the army after I’m finished painting the Crisis Team and the HQs is to add in a Breacher Team. While I do like Relentless Fusillade for the improved AP shenanigans, I think variety is nice, and they do have the stratagem to re-roll wounds and negate cover. Their pulse blaster is a shorter range, though can potentially be quite deadly in the unit is firing within 8”. That will also bring the list up to around about the 960 points mark, so I can start to think about planning in some 1000 point games!

As I said at the top, I have been doing a bit of historical research about the army and seeing how it has transferred from 6th/7th edition, through 8th and into 9th edition. As it happens, the cost of this army has come down quite a lot, from 1022 in 6th to 888 in 8th, and now 848 points. Of course, some stuff like the Crisis Suits and the Coldstar have illegal load-outs when you compare them with how they could be built back in the day. What has surprised me the most, I think, is how the Crisis Team has changed in costing, coming in at more than 100 points more expensive last edition. I’m hopeful that they will really be the stars of the show, though, and while I’m fully prepared to see them wiped off the table before they can do anything, I am keen to see how they do in the real world as opposed to all this paper lark!

I suggested at the top that the list isn’t going to be great, and then rambled for ages about how good I think everything is going to work together. Well, that’s still true, I think it will work really well, but it definitely needs something more than I have right now. More troops will definitely be handy, and the Breachers will take care of that. I am thinking that I might get myself a couple of transports for some greater flexibility, plus the Devilfish also has the option for that vanguard move at the start of the game, to give greater deployment capabilities. The true centrepiece of the army that I am working towards, however, is going to be the Riptide. That beast is definitely going to be a distraction for the rest of the army, no matter how he’s equipped. I do like the heavy burst cannon for its 12 shots at S6 AP-2 D2 each, though do I arm him with two plasma rifles or two fusion blasters? Both are very interesting options, but I think it’s going to be some time before I have to make that decision. At any rate, having a Knight equivalent striding around is going to take the heat from the Crisis Team, I think, who will likely still be causing carnage among everything else, so I’m hoping that this will prove to be a really nice army to play, when I get it to the table!

Buying a unit and then painting it has definitely been the way to go for me this time around, though. Even though I have the Combat Patrol box in hand while I’m still working on the other stuff, I don’t feel overwhelmed this time around, and it’s all really quite manageable. Other projects, the Sisters being a case in point, are kinda dragging me down by the amount of stuff that I have for them, and I really don’t have that same level of excitement and positivity about those projects as I do about the Tau. Who knew plastic could have such a profound effect on a guy?!