July 2022 retrospective

Hey everybody,
Already, we’re at the end of July! Quite incredible. This month seems to have flown by, while previous months do seem to have dragged. It’s been quite productive though, all the same, helped by a week off mid-month, of course! Unfortunately, I think I’ve pretty much used up all of my leave now, so have just one week left to look forward to, along with some odd days! Ah well. I suppose it makes these things that much better when they do eventually roll around! I managed to survive the fiery doom that was the heatwave, which was just horrible in my part of the UK – it turned out to be far too humid most of the time, with two days of just searing heat thrown in. I’m still trying to eat healthily, and I’m pleased to report that this month I’ve lost 5lb, so I’m feeling pretty good about that! Hopefully I can keep going with it, now that I think I’ve really begun to have that sort of lifestyle change and all.

July has seen a massive uptick in work on my Sisters of Battle, who have shifted from very much a neglected project stuffed up in the attic, to the object of my hobby devotion as we launch into the second half of 2022! We’ve been here with the Tau already though, and that burnt out fairly quickly, so I’m trying to pace myself. I don’t want to be making too many grand plans, but so far it looks really good! I’ve managed to paint up a unit of Sisters, a unit of Seraphim, and two characters. I don’t think it comes to a lot, points-wise, but with all of the other stuff that I have built, I’m still able to field over 1000 points, which is the level I’m kinda looking at for my first game with them, hopefully next week!

I haven’t played any 40k since April, so after a few months off, I’m hoping that I can get back into the swing of things with gusto!

I’m really pleased with the progress that I’ve been making with painting stuff this year, though. I don’t think I’ve actually bought that much stuff, but instead have been able to focus on painting what I already have. In fact, let’s do some maths… maths can be fun, right?

As you can see from my beautiful penmanship, I’ve painted up quite a lot of stuff this year! By my count, it’s 75 models (not including the Tau drones), so not too shabby. On first glance, that list looks quite good because the ‘painted’ outweighs the ‘bought’, but there are two army boxes in there, and two Kill Team boxes, each with two armies and terrain. So when you look at it in terms of comparable kits that I have bought vs painted, it’s a slightly different picture!

13 painted vs 7 bought sounds great – but 13 painted vs 19 bought is a little more disappointing. However, doing that has been really quite motivating for me, as it has made me realise that I am actually painting a lot of my backlog, at last! It’s also good to see that, while I’ve been buying some big stuff, I haven’t really bought a lot of stuff this year, adding to the backlog. So if nothing else, I think it’s been a really useful exercise to do this! I’m really hopeful that I can just continue to work at my backlog, and I have plenty of models to keep me happy for the rest of the year. Sure, there’s the upcoming Kill Team box of course, but I think I might call it a day after that one has released, too. I’m finding it exhausting to keep up with all of these big box releases – I’ve already mentioned how I don’t plan to pick up the new Warcry box, and I think there is a definite sense of fatigue here with just how much stuff they are putting out over in Nottingham. My most recent purchase was the Sisters of Battle Palatine, because I realised I didn’t really have a legal army to field (I have Celestine, and the Triumph, but in terms of practical models for the force…) so I think I might just keep my purchasing to any relevant kits that I think might be a useful addition to any of my many, many armies.  

Speaking of which…

I had an idea, last weekend, to get a single model from each of my current armies to see just what I have on my plate, and I was quite impressed actually! Ten army projects isn’t a massive amount, is it? Is it?! Please don’t tell me it’s too many!

Of course, I wouldn’t say that many of these are actually “finished”, as I have plenty of models still to paint for every force represented in the post there. There are only a couple of these where I would say I am swimming in models though – the Necrons for sure, the Drukhari, and probably the Genestealer Cults. Other forces are confined to a single storage box, and I have done some work already to thin out the AdMech. Tau, Grey Knights and Sisters have only really had models bought for them for the army, whereas others were armies where I just kept buying things without any plan.

I think I probably need to look at the Drukhari and Necrons that I have, and see if I can get rid of any models from these, as the Drukhari in particular seem to be very much out of control. I keep looking at all of the Wych Cult stuff that I have, but in all honesty don’t know if I’ll need as much of it. I suppose that might be a task for another time, anyway.

In general, I think it would be useful to have some kind of miniatures audit, and really get on top of what I have hanging about, and try to be a bit more ruthless with myself. I definitely need to sort out the loft in general, as there is a lot of stuff just generally slung up there, so I think this is going to be quite the task. But once that has been done, I would like to hope that I could have more control over what is going on in my life where the tiny plastic people are concerned!

In terms of games, not a great deal has been happening this month. I played some Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle with my wife the other day, and that was good, though we were playing with the Fantastic Beasts box and we’ve basically lost a lot! I’m hoping to get her into other games in the coming months – I’ve floated the idea of A Touch of Evil, and Eldritch Horror, so hopefully she’ll be open to suggestion and we can investigate the evil doings there! I’m very conscious of the fact that I have seemingly abandoned my play through with the Arkham Horror LCG as well at the minute, having still not gotten back to The Forgotten Age for a number of weeks now. I also have Lord of the Rings still on the go, as I want to get my teeth back into that with the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, but I have recently been thinking about shelving that again for the time being. I suppose I find it difficult to balance the scarce amount of spare time that I have, between having two real-life small people to care for, as well as all the other adult stuff that needs doing, and trying to fit in the hobby stuff with also gaming can be a bit of a chore. Especially, as in recent weeks, when I just feel the need to have a complete break and do nothing.

As the year plods on, I think I would like to plan to have some more game nights, whether that is gaming solo or with my wife, and I’d also like to try to play more 40k, as it’s been almost 4 months since I got any of these plastic people to the table! I am definitely spending more time on some kind of hobby treadmill, just trying to paint model after model, and I think the balance definitely needs to come back, with actual games forming a part of my hobby time as well. This, I suppose, is the down side to having so much hobby variety – nothing ever really feels like it’s done. Going through only a few of the armies to find a nice model for that earlier photo, I noticed a lot of Necrons that are “finished” but which need more work doing to them, and I think my Dark Eldar could also be shown a bit more love and attention. I would love to be at the point where I’m playing with an army, and I feel like just picking up a box of something, and then paint that box, before going back to playing the majority of the time. As it is, so far in 2022 I have played three games of 40k, and one game of Necromunda, but of the 200-odd days of the year there have been, I would say the vast majority of them have seen me building or painting some model or other. Again, looking at it like this is really motivating to actually game more!

I think August might see another hobby inventory taking place, anyway, and I can hopefully figure out what I’m doing with all my stuff!

Hopefully there will be more games and less procrastination though!!


Hey everybody,
I’m very excited to announce that I’m now the proud owner of the Marvel Champions LCG! This is my excited face.

The game came out in 2019, and I suppose at the time I was busy with a newborn child so gaming wasn’t massively high on the agenda! However, I’d not really been that interested in picking up the game until I was looking into it a few weeks ago, when I was looking at the older Star Wars card games, and thinking about how a possible future card game could work. I was tentatively interested, but kept telling myself that I shouldn’t really get into another LCG. Marvel isn’t high on my list of fandoms, truth be told, either, and I had sold off my Marvel Legendary collection a while ago, thinking I don’t really need a Marvel game. Yet something kept nagging at the back of my mind.

Then my buddy Tony started talking about it earlier this week, and I did a little more digging. I have to say, the game sounds really quite impressive. I’ve only watched the preview video from FFG, and have otherwise steered clear of actual gameplay videos, instead reading a couple of general reviews and so on. It sounds like a really good game, with a lot of replayability and a lot to enjoy. It’s got me really keen – and so here we are!

I’ve decided, with this game, to make it a bit of a feature on the blog – I really am excited!

Something that has been running around my mind for a while now is how we tend to learn to play games nowadays. Back when I was playing games with my ex-girlfriend, we would sit down and take, potentially, a whole day to learn how a game works. Something like Arkham Horror was a weekend experience, playing real slow to make sure we were doing it right. Nowadays, though, you just type it into youtube or something, and away you go. However, I want to get “back to basics”, so to speak, and really try to discover the game by myself as far as possible first. So I’m really looking forward to this as I take the time to work through how the whole thing works.

I’ve also treated myself to some new sleeves for the game, too! For years, I have been using FFG sleeves, which I first bought for the Star Wars LCG and then bought massive amounts for both Marvel Legendary (weirdly!) and Lord of the Rings LCG. I’ve reused most of these since for Arkham Horror LCG, and Magic of course, but I don’t recall the last time I bought new sleeves for a game. So there’s more reason to be excited!

New sleeves, new game – it’s very exciting!

I’m also fairly impressed with myself, because I’m buying into a pre-existing game without going all-in from the off! From my somewhat limited meta research though, it seems like you don’t need to get everything for the game, as the model isn’t the same as other LCGs where the monthly packs provide an on-going narrative, but it’s closer to the older, competitive LCGs that basically boost your card pool, while providing playable heroes for your collection.

I’m looking forward to having a game that I can enjoy without trying to constantly meta-chase, and one that it might be nice to add to from time to time.

But for now, I have over 300 cards to sleeve…

The Witcher: Time of Contempt

Earlier this week, I managed to finish the second novel in the Witcher series (the fourth book, confusingly!), Time of Contempt! And confusion is definitely the main order of the day, I think.

The book pretty much picks up directly from the first, and expands massively on one of the plot threads that emerged towards the end of Blood of Elves, as we have an element of politics coming into the fore with this one. The invasion by Nilfgaard has prompted many of the kings of the north to stop using their sorcerers and shift alliances, prompting a sorcerers convention on the isle of Thanedd to discuss the future. However, the convention ends in a bloodbath, as factional in-fighting takes over, during which Geralt is seriously wounded. He recovers in Brokilon, and misses out on the majority of the action, relying on Dandelion to fill him in. Yennefer appears to be missing, while Ciri escaped Thanedd through a magical portal that dumped her in the desert to the east, the so-called “frying pan”. Nilfgaard is desperate to find her and forge an alliance to legitimise their invasion of Cintra, and they almost get her, but she escapes and joins a band of highway robbers called the Rats.

It took me almost a fortnight to wade through this one, because a lot of the time I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to want to read it. Now, the story is actually really compelling, and I’m finding myself really intrigued by what is going on, etc, but I just struggled to follow it from around the second-third of the book onwards. I mentioned last time how I felt a bit lost by the references to political alliances and so forth, feeling the need for a map almost, and this feeling is expanded tenfold here. I think it doesn’t help that we’re introduced to what feels like 30 new characters who suddenly splinter into factions, and during the magical coup portion I was just really lost, trying to remember who is who, and who they’re allied to, etc. After a while, I just had to sit back and, to some extent, let it wash over me!

I have since googled a map of the Witcher world, which has been very helpful in working out where everything is in relation to other things.

I also had to google a synopsis of the book after I had finished, and it turns out that Philippa Eilhart, who we met in the last book as a powerful sorceress with questionable motives for helping then seemingly hindering Geralt’s pursuit of Rience, has instigated a coup against members of the Council of Mages for conspiring with Nilfgaard. Following the Battle of Sodden, where the kingdoms of the north were able to defeat the forces of Nilfgaard thanks to the devastating intervention of the mages, the Emperor Emhyr wants to neutralise the sorcerers. One of the senior enchantresses, Tissaia, causes further havoc, thinking Philippa to be a warmonger, and removes the magical protection of the conclave chamber, causing all hell to break loose. One of the mages, Vilgefortz, is indeed in the employ of Nilfgaard, and is responsible for wounding Geralt while Ciri escapes.

The final two chapters, which deal with the fate of Ciri, were almost traumatic, and I think the character of Ciri is firmly cemented in the firmament here. Up until now, she’s almost been relegated to a Macguffin, without any major purpose beyond how important it is to have her safe. Now, though, she becomes her own person, and I have definitely found myself caring more about her because of it. Over the course of the book, we learn that she is actually a descendant of the legendary witch Falka, and is prophesied to bring about the end of the old world, and the birth of the new. We see a bit of this, when Ciri awakens her magical ability in the desert through channelling the Power through fire, with disastrous consequences. Has she really now lost all magical ability? Surely if she is such a child of prophecy, she’ll get it back? Hm.

The chapters are still very long, and the book kinda suffers for this at times, because we’ve left the story almost in tatters, with no idea whether Yennefer in particular has survived, or what’s going on. It’s almost like people are being forgotten about while the spotlight is on someone else. But I’m sure the next book will help with this, so I suppose it’s not a massive problem.

I ended up giving this story 4 out of 5 on Goodreads, even though I don’t think I really enjoyed it at the time! I think it’s definitely a compelling tale, and I think I would like to re-read the main body of the novels again when I’ve finished them, to kinda gain a better understanding of what’s going on. After reading this book, for instance, I definitely think I need to re-read those passages from book one that were talking about the kings and the politics, etc.

So yeah, weird in that I felt like I was wading through treacle at the time, but now that I’ve finished, I think there’s a good story in there!

No Longer Standard: Zendikar

Hey everybody,
It’s time for another one of these no longer Standard blogs! I wouldn’t say that I’m getting back into Magic per se, but I am definitely paying some more attention to the game once again, and have been enjoying looking through the collection to see what I have, and so on. Zendikar is one of the big planes that looms large in the lore, for me, and really seems to provide a certain something that really showcases what the game is about. I don’t really know what it is, there’s just something about this block, more so even than Ravnica or Innistrad, which just screams “this is Magic!” to me!

Zendikar was released in October 2009, and was the 50th expansion for Magic the Gathering, coming on the heels of the Alara block. Alara Reborn was apparently a bit of a dud, with 5-colour decks being pushed to the point where everything seemed a little bland, players were hyped for a new set on a new plane. The set brought us to a new plane within the multiverse, although we had seen the native Kor in earlier sets. Zendikar is also home to goblins and vampires, among others. The set was flavoured mainly around Land, with the new mechanic Landfall forming a big part of things. Landfall is an ability word that grants an effect when a land is played, so can become quite important if you get such a card early enough when you’re still building up your mana base. Land was also given importance by the inclusion of full-art land cards in boosters, the first time this was a thing in a regular Magic set. Players seem to love the full-art lands, but I’m not a big fan personally. However, they do excite the player-base!

One of the most important aspects of the original Zendikar set was the enemy-coloured Fetch Lands being printed. Allied colour Fetch Lands were a thing going back to 2002’s Onslaught, so having the cycle completed here gave people a lot more choice. Generally speaking, allied colour combinations get more support than enemy pairs, it’s just the way the game seems to be designed, so it’s always quite nice to get these things (especially for me, as I love Black/White and Blue/Green!) Fetch Lands also had a useful tie-in to the Land theme, as they would provide two Landfall triggers if that’s something you were going for. Of course, they’re not cheap, because they’re so sought after…

The style of Zendikar is quite distinctive thanks to the fact there are massive floating hedrons scattered across the plane. The theme was one of adventure, and I think this comes across when you look at the artwork on the cards, you can see there is that element of places to discover – somehow, the Zendikar artwork really manages to excite me into wanting to discover more of the plane! Priceless Treasures to be discovered was a pretty bonkers thing Wizards did to market the set, as well, by including cards from Beta and other early sets randomly in booster packs, including cards from the reserved list – they weren’t reprinted cards, but cards from the original print run that were obviously just lying about. So you could get one of the Power Nine cards from a booster, which is probably why booster boxes for Zendikar are so rare out in the wild, regardless of its age. It’s interesting, because when Wizards revisited Zendikar with Battle for Zendikar, they introduced Expedition Lands which were reprints with new artwork etc of powerful land cards from the past. Heretofore I hadn’t realised that this idea was a callback to the original marketing!

In addition to Landfall, we have Quest cards which are enchantments that gather quest counters on them, usually giving a reward at the end. A subtype of instant spells is the new Trap card, which have an alternative casting cost if an opponent did something this turn. Ally is a new creature subtype that was introduced, and will trigger off the number of existing Allies you have out on the board. Intimidate replaced Fear as a form of evasion, making the creature unblockable except by artifacts and creatures who share a colour with it. Kicker is back, and finally, the vampires of the set have the Bloodied effect which makes them more dangerous if an opponent is at 10 or less life.

The second set of the block was Worldwake, and was released in January of 2010. The set continued the theme of lands being important, and introduced Manlands (I think they now call them creature lands) which have the ability to turn into Elemental creatures until end of turn. Here we had the allied colour pairings; it wasn’t until Battle for Zendikar block that we had the enemy colour pairings. There are also Zendikon auras that you can attach to regular lands to make them into creatures. Multikicker was a new keyword introduced here that allowed you to Kick a card as many times as you could afford to pay the activation cost; you could then activate the ability on the card for each time you paid the cost. I like Multikicker for a late-game play, when you might have a lot of mana but not a great deal to do with it. It’s like including X-spells, where you can make an effect bigger the more mana you pump into it.

Worldwake brought us the first four-ability Planeswalker, too: Jace, the Mind-Sculptor. He’s a bit like Liliana of the Veil from original Innistrad block, in many ways – one of the mythical Planeswalker cards that excites the fanbase so much whenever the name is mentioned. His abilities are notorious, with a +2 that lets him look at the top card of a player’s library, then put it on the bottom; and a -12 that allows him to exile a player’s library and shuffle their hand to form their new library. Remember, if you can’t draw a card, you lose the game. Of course, Jace’s starting loyalty is 3, so it’ll take him a while to get there; also, he came out in a block that included the Planeswalker-killer Vampire Hexmage, who removes all counters from a card (meaning all loyalty counters in this instance, killing the Planeswalker). But he still gets consistently more play than the Hexmage, who is predominantly used in strategies to bring out Marit Lage from the Dark Depths – but that’s a story for another day.

Zendikar block concluded with Rise of the Eldrazi in April 2010, which was another large set and shifted its focus slightly to the massive Eldrazi creatures. They had been previewed of sorts on the card Eye of Ugin from Worldwake, but with no further explanation until this set came out. The set was innovative for the time, as it was the first time a block had had a second large set, which included basic lands and new mechanics etc. Subsequent blocks such as Innistrad would also have a second large set, but anyway. The Eldrazi are the focus here, colourless creatures native to the Blind Eternities, the space between planes, intent on destroying the plane by devouring its mana. It becomes clear in the set story that Zendikar has held these Eldrazi prisoner, but the hedrons are now opening and the Eldrazi are being released!

Annihilator is a new mechanic specific for the Eldrazi, and forces the discard of a number of permanents from the battlefield when that creature attacks – representing their huge, devastating effect. Level Up is a mechanic that I’m quite fond of – it allows you to pay mana to level up a creature, giving it more effects and potentially increasing its power/toughness. It’s similar to X-spells as I was talking about before, nice to have outlets for a lot of mana in the mid-to-late game. Rebound is one of my favourite mechanics, allowing you to exile a spell as it resolves, then you get to cast it for free at the start of your next turn. Getting twice the effect from a single card is great, and I think I’m still in that phase of including Staggershock in almost every deck I build!

There are ten Totem Armor aura spells that essentially act as a kind of protection for a creature. Normally, when a creature is killed, it goes to the graveyard with all of its auras, but these spells essentially soak up the damage and one aura would be removed instead. You can still outright kill the creature, but if dealing damage to it, the aura would go before the creature is damaged. I believe there’s a Modern deck that uses all the totem armor on a Slippery Bogle creature, and so pretty much any aura card with totem armor is very difficult to come by…

I really enjoy Zendikar as a plane, and I think it’s one of the player favourites from back in the day. When I was first building my Magic collection all of those years ago, I remember feeling particularly impressed at being able to get my hands on cards from the block, as it held some kind of mythical fascination for me that I can’t quite explain! Zendikar vampires are some of the best vampires though, and as I do enjoy a good vampire deck, it’s only natural that I’d want to get my hands on some of those cards. When I was first getting into the game, though, Battle for Zendikar was the first main set I was around for, following Magic Origins (which was my first set), so I suppose there was a kind of borrowed nostalgia at work as well. Seeing the new cards in comparison to what had come before was really interesting, and learning how the story had evolved was great.

Remembering Zendikar block

I’ve been playing around with a bit of a janky white/green deck to kinda celebrate the original Zendikar block, which involves a few of the block’s mechanics and stuff. I don’t have a massive back collection, of course, so it’s not going to be particularly amazing, I’m sure, but I thought I’d present it here nevertheless as a bit of a first draft. I’ve not bought Magic cards for a long time now, and I don’t know if I’m about to for this particular deck, but it might well be the deck that brings me back into the fold, as it were! Last month’s vampires were fun, but this one has weirdly got me really keen to play once more! At any rate, let’s take a look!

Creatures (16)
Armament Master (2)
Kor Duelist
Kor Sanctifiers
Lightkeeper of Emeria
Loam Lion (2)
Greenweaver Druid (2)
Mul Daya Channelers
Gnarlid Pack (2)
Aura Gnarlid (4)

Instants (5)
Might of the Masses (2)
Harrow (2)
Bold Defense

Enchantments (11)
Eland Umbra (4)
Mammoth Umbra (2)
Snake Umbra
Boar Umbra
Sunspring Expedition (2)
Khalni Heart Expedition

Artifacts (7)
Adventuring Gear (2)
Hammer of Ruin (2)
Trailblazer’s Boots (2)
Seer’s Sundial

Land (21)
Plains (7)
Kabira Crossroads (2)
Forest (8)
Turntimber Grove (2)
Greypelt Refuge
Stirring Wildwood

There isn’t really a great deal to this deck. There are a bunch of totem armor cards in here, and more equipment than I would usually want, but it’s all there to buff up the select few creatures that I have. Stuff like the Kor Duelist gets double strike with any equipment on him, but he’s only a 1/1, so he’s a prime target for some auras to buff him up. There are a few green creatures in there who are useful in a variety of ways, including the Aura Gnarlid who gets bigger the more auras are on the battlefield. There are some anthem effects, some landfall triggers, some ways to get extra lands out to make more use of these.

Green and white isn’t my natural comfort zone, it has to be said – in making this deck, I toyed with pretty much every colour pairing with white, but ultimately it’s a deck that I’ve built within the limits of my own collection. I’m sure I could refine it down with better creatures, or shift the balance of stuff so there are fewer auras but more lands or whatever (21 lands does make me nervous!) but for now, this is how I’m choosing to build it.

A celebration of Zendikar!

I really love Zendikar as a plane – I think it might even beat out Ravnica for me as my favourite plane. We’ve been back there twice now, with Battle for Zendikar in 2015 and Zendikar Rising in 2020. I wonder if the plan is to return to the plane every five years? BFZ was the first Magic set I was around for all the way through spoiler season, as I came to Magic in June/July 2015, and I have tremendous affection for it. I also have a lot more cards for that set than original Zendikar! Zendikar Rising is more of a mystery to me, as it came out after I had fallen away from the game. I know it is mechanically related to Kaldheim, with the whole Party thing, and I think I did get some kind of preconstructed deck for it back in the day, but I’ve not really been paying any attention so I think I might take a look at that sometime soon. Who knows? Maybe I’ll revisit the White/Green deck with cards from across all three Zendikar sets! Wouldn’t that be something…

Heretic Astartes in 9th edition

Hey everybody,
Yes, I realise I must seem like quite the hobby butterfly right now! Just a couple of days after my Sisters of Battle appreciation post, I’m here talking about another army and my plans for it – I just can’t help it, I’m addicted to the plastic! I wanted to talk a bit about my Chaos forces though, after having spent some time during last week with the codex and having a look at things in terms of what I currently have for the army, etc.

Chaos Space Marines is a wonderful army, and one that I really like the look of. It seems like they can be quite difficult to make work, though I think a lot of that noise comes from the tournament folks who are continually complaining about issues with the book in comparison to the Space Marines codex. For their 9th edition book, though, there do seem to be some concerns, particularly around how terminators have rules that don’t reflect their plastic kit, or something – I’m not an expert, and I don’t even have Chaos Terminators (yet!) so can’t really comment on that.

To me, though, as something of a newcomer to Chaos (even though I’ve talked about the army for years now, and have had the models for longer!) the book does seem to be quite nice. The unit entries have been tidied up a little bit, and on the whole it does seem like an improvement – though to be honest, anything has got to be an improvement on how I would go about army-building in 8th edition, when I needed the codex, the Daemonkin codex, the second Vigilus book, and the Psychic Awakening book. Everything is wrapped up quite well, and presented fairly nicely, too.

There are a lot of new models coming out to accompany the new book, which is very exciting, so there are new entries that are reflective of that. Due to having a lot of new cultists coming, I have left out my own chaps from the current list that I have drawn up, as I think I’m going to stick to marines for the time being while I attempt to make sense of the army as a whole.

Let’s take a look at what I’m working with, anyway.

So there we are! I’m on the cusp of 1500 points, but this is what I have built and (reasonably) ready to go so far – some of it is even painted! It isn’t a legal force yet, as there are too many HQs for a patrol and too few troops for a battalion, but I do have another box of Traitor Marines that I could at least build up to make it work out. I think I would probably ditch the Master of Possession to keep the HQ slots in check for now, as I have no real targets for his Daemonkin abilities in the army – certainly not enough targets to make it worthwhile taking him. I still don’t 100% know how I would like to build the third unit of Legionaries, but I could always throw in some of my Cultist models to make the numbers up – a mob of ten models is 50 points, so there are some easy options there.

Marks of Chaos cost 15 points per unit when you upgrade a unit to have one, which feels a bit too much of an investment at the minute! That said, each of the four Marks grants an effect and has a second effect for units equipped with an icon, so I could potentially see myself giving one of the Legionary squads a Mark just for that, really. Of course, it’s not just these effects that you get, as the psykers and priests will know additional powers and prayers when they have pledged themselves to one of the Four. For now, I’m shying away from the investment, as I say, but I think it might be interesting to give, for instance, the Legionary squad a Mark of Tzeentch, which would improve the AP by 1 on each ranged attack in the squad, as well as allowing them to escape some damage when they fail a saving throw. Something to think about in the future, anyway.

At any rate, let’s take a look at some of these chaps in turn. To start with, I’m playing Black Legion, so I get to ignore all modifiers to combat attrition tests, and I get +1 attack if I’m shooting at the closest enemy, or if I made a charge move that turn. Nice! All models in the army have the Let the Galaxy Burn special rule, which is a bit like the combat doctrines for the Imperial Marines – in round one, they get exploding 6s to hit on Heavy, Rapid Fire or Grenade weapons; in round two, that is changed to Rapid Fire, Assault or Pistol weapons; round three changes it to Assault, Pistol or melee weapons. There are rules to change this a bit, including giving a unit all three of these effects whenever you might need it, but it seems to demand a certain staged level of play, which (to my mind) goes against what Chaos Marines are all about. They also get their own version of Bolter Discipline, called Malicious Volleys, which applies to the Legionaries and Havocs.

I might be talking about ditching the Master of Possession, but let’s start with him, anyway. He can cast two powers per turn, and I’ve given him Warp Marked and Possession, the former lets him mark an enemy unit within 18” and any Daemonkin or Daemon Engine units get +1 to wound against that unit; the latter lets him roll against the toughness of a unit within 9”, destroying a model from the unit if he succeeds, and dealing D3 mortal wounds if the unit is not destroyed by doing so. Some fairly decent shenanigans there, then, though I must remember that Possession will be no good against anything T7 or better! He can also add 2 to any psychic test he makes by dealing D3 mortal wounds to a nearby friendly infantry unit, as he makes a sacrifice to the Dark Gods, and any enemy psyker within 12” who suffers perils is dealt an additional wound as a result. This is quite useful if the Master of Possession goes into close combat against an enemy psyker, because after he has bashed them over the head with his staff of possession, that psyker suffers perils anyway.

My Sorcerer knows Prescience and Infernal Gaze, which are two psychic powers loaded with memory for me – I’ve talked about this before, but painting up my first ever army while listening to 40k battle reports, I can remember hearing all these terms from back in the day, and it brings all those memories back! Prescience gives +1 to hit for a friendly unit within 18”, and Infernal Gaze is a witchfire power that lets you do mortal wounds for every 4+ on 3D6 (or 6D6 if you rolled 10 or more for the psychic test). Very nice stuff, particularly as I don’t see him otherwise being a very useful model – he won’t likely be leading from the front, at least!! The force stave always makes me smile as a weapon though – something akin to the badge of office for a psyker, it just makes me smile to think of the guy beating people around the head with it!

My Dark Apostle is the beefed-up Warlord of the team, though. This may change in time, as I am considering getting myself into the whole Chaos Lord scene – I do have the model, of course, from Blackstone Fortress, but I do think I might make my own, in the fulness of time. For now, though, my warlord is chanting prayers to the dark gods from a book dripping with Warpfire! I love the model, it’s just a stunning centrepiece, and I’m really looking forward to getting him painted up in the fulness of time. Natively, he knows Dark Zealotry and one other prayer, and he can chant one of those prayers that he knows. I’ve given him Warp-Sight Plea for this purpose, so he can either let core or characters within 6” re-roll hits in melee, or he can let them re-roll shooting hits of 1 and deny cover to the targets of that attack. However, I have given him the relic Inferno Tome, which allows him to know one further prayer, and whenever he chants a prayer that is heard, the closest enemy unit within 18” suffers D3 mortal wounds! Wonderful! His second prayer, then, is Omen of Potency, which gives him +3 attacks and improves the AP of his melee weapons by 2. Very nice, he’s now making 8 attacks with his accursed crozius, which is S6 AP-2 and D2. Not bad, eh? There isn’t much in the way of stratagems to make this worse, just Death to the False Emperor to re-roll hits and Veterans of the Long War to get +1 to wound roll. There is also the stratagem to chant an additional prayer, so he can potentially buff himself up and then get to re-roll hits in melee.

The Exalted Champion is a bit like a beefy lieutenant model, as he weirdly has a combi-melta as standard! Something I hadn’t realised, but anyway! He allows core units within 6” to re-roll wound rolls of 1, so he goes hand in hand with the Chaos Lord in that sense. He’s very much a model that I have built and primed, so that’s pretty much why I’ve got him in the list for now!

I have two big blobs of Legionaries, and I was surprised when working out the points for the list at just how expensive these guys are! The first squad is the Shadowspear unit of ten, so is fairly standard, and it comes in at 210 points! The next squad is the upgraded one from the recent Kill Team box, so has some interesting options in there, and the addition of the psyker in the unit is really what has pushed this one up to 240 points. I’ve given this psyker Warptime, the psychic power that allows a unit to move twice – he will most likely be using it on his own squad, I’m thinking, but it might be nice for positioning if he can send other folks out into the wilderness, as well!

Legionaries are, of course, the backbone of the army, and I would really like to get three groups of ten models in the army, at least (can you imagine bigger squads forming a massive gunline?!) Now, a gunline might actually be a red herring here, as they are incredibly punchy in melee – 3 attacks base, and the chainsword giving them +1A. Interestingly, while they have the normal rules for one special or heavy weapon per five models, they can also take 1 plasma pistol instead – which I suppose makes sense if you wanted to make an all-melee unit and felt like the special or heavy weapon would therefore be a waste. The unit now has rules for almost all of the Kill Team options as well; I was particularly pleased that you can make one of these chaps a psyker as it gives so much interesting flavour to the unit as a whole.

Writing this blog has really made me want to get building that third box of guys now!!

The elites section of the codex is quite interesting, especially with the advent in a week’s time of the new Chosen coming to general retail. Still no possessed yet, sadly, but they’ll be here soon, I hope! I’ve got a Helbrute in the list, which is the original model from Dark Vengeance – and, interestingly, that is the model that is used for the codex entry photo, even though the model isn’t available any more. The regular Helbrute is such a boring one in comparison, it really turns the argument about monopose models on its head! I do like the Helbrute for the fact it has a decent threat level – it’s making 5 attacks, each at S12 AP-3 D3, so against power armour he’ll be hitting on 2s, if he’s taken so much as a single wound, he’s re-rolling any 1s in that attack. He can tear Terminators apart with those angry fists, to say nothing of Primaris Marines! But that’s not all, because while he’s getting into battle, he can be firing his multi-melta, which is always fun! The Helbrute also gets his very own stratagem to shoot at a unit that has shot at him that turn, provided the shot hit.

The Venomcrawler is another of these units that is in the list simply because I have it built up, a relic from the Shadowspear box. However, the fact he grants +1 to a psychic test for friendly psykers within 9” is just fascinating, really! Makes him almost some kind of daemonic pet for the Sorcerer, although I’m sure it’s designed more for the Master of Possession. At any rate, he’s making 6 attacks with his soulflayer tendrils, which are delightful at S7 AP-3 D2, and he also has an Assault 3 gun that is only marginally less potent at S6 AP-2 D2. Very handy for harassment, for sure, and I think it could be a useful model to pair with the Sorcerer to help him concentrate on the Warp.

Finally, the heavy support slot begins with my Havocs, built up with two missile launchers primarily because I felt it was the right thing to do at the time, rather than because I wanted them! However, they do offer a kind of flexibility, so I suppose I can’t complain too much! I do love the heavy bolter as a weapon, and if I had the unit over again I would probably have given them another one. The reaper chaincannon is a bit of an auto-include for the unit, of course, and any kind of gun that’s throwing out 8 shots at S5 AP-1 D1 is something to think about. Havocs, of course, have part of the cost of their big guns baked into the unit, and heavy bolters come free for them, but even the chaincannon is just 5 points extra. It seriously makes me think about getting another kit and building it differently. I don’t think they’d take too kindly to being mutilated by having the missile launchers hacked off…

Obliterators are a fun unit, aren’t they? They no longer roll for the fleshmetal guns weapon characteristics, just a random roll to see how many shots it does once you’ve selected one of three profiles to use for the attack. One of those profiles has the potential to do 15 shots, which is quite worrying – especially when you discover the little nugget that they can fire into combat with these bad boys! It’s not enough that they’re doing 4 attacks at S10 AP-3 D2, but they can potentially then fire 15 shots at S5 AP-1 D1 at you in the next shooting phase – that is quite upsetting to be on the receiving end of it, I’m sure. They’re also Daemonkin, so will benefit from the Master of Possession’s shenanigans. 90 points each isn’t too bad either!

Interestingly, Mutilators have now gone from the codex, so my theory of a new plastic kit for Obliterators/Mutilators is out the window (coupled, of course, with the upcoming box of two Obliterators and Venomcrawler, of course!)

There is a decent amount of punch across this army, I think, so it should be really good to try out on the table once I’ve made my adjustments! Taking out the Master of Possession, and adding in a third batch of Traitor Marines at roughly 200 points would bring the total up to 1480, so I’m sure I could kit that third squad out to hit the 1500 mark, which would be nice! With all of that firepower and all of those attacks coming out of the army, it’s a nice image to have, for sure!

Sisters of Battle: Planning Stages!

Hey everybody,
If you follow me on Instagram, or if you’ve been checking in with the blog regularly over the last week or two, you’ll have seen an uptick with my work on the Sisters of Battle, as I have made an effort to make something with the army. This is really nice for me, because it’s a really beautiful force made up of stunning miniatures, but one that I have had shelved for years, and came close to selling it all off after having stagnated for so long with them all.

I’ve already talked about my long struggle with colour schemes for them, and there have been several blog posts over the years that I’ve written that saw me attempting to build an army, only to then become disheartened by the level of detail on them. But, hopefully, no more!

For 9th edition, the army I think is fairly similar to how it worked in its last incarnation. We still have the army-wide rules of Acts of Faith and Shield of Faith, as well as Sacred Rites. Everything has been ever-so-slightly tweaked, though, so while the names are the same, they don’t always quite do the same things as they used to.

So what do all of these things mean?

Acts of Faith is the biggest one, and has a full page in the codex to explain how it works. At the start of the battle round, you gain 1 miracle dice – you roll a D6 and the result is that miracle dice’s value. Once per phase, a unit can perform an Act of Faith, which basically means you substitute a miracle dice for a single dice in an advance, charge, hit, wound, save or damage roll, or one morale test. So if you rolled a 6 for the miracle dice, you can swap out the meltagun damage roll for that 6, and if you’re shooting from 6” away, that will guarantee you 8 damage against your target – awesome!

In addition to getting that one miracle dice per battle round, you also get one if an enemy unit is destroyed by your army, or if one of your units is wholly destroyed. Almost feels like you might need multiple small units in the army to try to capitalise on that, really! Now, while only one unit per phase can use a miracle dice, any unit that has a Simulacrum Imperialis can perform an Act of Faith even if a unit has already done so. So it’s going to be key to sequence your battle, as you don’t want to find yourself performing an Act of Faith with a unit that includes a Simulacrum before you then need to use it on a unit without!

There are a number of other rules that interact with these things, such as relics and warlord traits that allow specific models to gain one for you and so on. But the feel is very much that these Acts of Faith will be quite rare, and you won’t be subbing out dice left and right – making it feel very much like a clutch moment in the battle (queue angelic choirs, light from above, etc!)

Shield of Faith grants a unit a 6+ invuln save, and also lets you attempt to Deny the Witch with any unit with this rule – you only roll a single dice, but a 6 will always succeed regardless of the Psychic Test result. Sisters hate the Psykers!

Sacred Rites are a series of 6 rules that you can use to affect the course of the battle – you select one and it remains in play, but there are ways to tinker with this as well, including ways to give a specific unit multiple Sacred Rites, which are quite nice. The Sacred Rite that I have chosen for my force is Divine Guidance, which improves the AP by 1 of a ranged attack when you roll an unmodified 6 to wound. Most of my army, as you’ll see, is going to be shooting, so this should be quite useful!

The Orders are still present, with the six Orders Majoris having a suite of special rules, and there are two pages of rules that allow you to make your own Orders. I have gone for the Order of the Sacred Rose, which is the Order that I was using for last edition (and which I had attempted to paint, at one point!) They have the army-wide rules to auto-pass combat attrition tests, and when performing an Act of Faith, you can roll a D6 and on a 4+ you get a miracle dice back. So that could be very useful to keep the supply going! The Sacred Rose stratagem gives you exploding 6s to hit, which is always a favourite rule of mine, so that should also be helpful for several of my units!

Now, there are a lot of rules here, and I think I need to really get some games in with the force before I can properly begin to weigh these up as to their utility. As this goes on, I think it’s possible that stuff will change, whether I look at creating my own Order or move to one of the others, or whether I invest more in those rules that increase my miracle dice, or allow me to really shape the Acts of Faith that I perform. But I need a starting point, so this is what I have chosen!

So this is what I’m building towards. It’s actually not that bad really, the core of the army is coming from the launch box, with a couple of squads being added in to bulk that stuff out. For those of you who may be interested, the contents of that box now come to 470 points (keeping the Canoness upgraded as she is here). I think there is a fairly decent balance among the army at this point, with the big blobs of Battle Sisters posing quite a decent threat, the lighter Novitiates can run about doing whatever I might need of them, objective grabbing or backfield support, the Celestians can help the Canoness get into range and the Retributors can sit on objectives roasting anybody who comes close. The Seraphim can cover the battlefield pretty well, and that just leaves stuff like the Repentia and the Penitent Engine to fill in wherever they may be required.

Let’s have a closer look at some of this stuff, though.

The Canoness, as the star of the show, allows core units within 6” to re-roll hit rolls of 1, and her rod of office extends this ability to core or character units within 12”. She can also improve the invuln save of core units within 6” by 1, so the army-wide 6++ becomes a 5++ for one unit close to her. Core units are obviously the troops, but also the Retributors, Seraphim, Repentia and the Celestians. My plan for the Canoness is to be hanging about with her bodyguard team of Celestians, who are packing a fairly serious punch with the melta weaponry there. The Canoness cannot be targeted while she is within 3” of the Celestians, and they in turn get +1 to hit while they’re within 6” of her. So they have +1 to hit and are re-rolling 1s to hit, which is lovely. But wait! Celestians also have their own stratagem that gives them +1 to hit! Marvellous. Now, there are two boltguns in the team, which are Rapid Fire 1, so that’s fine, but then we have the combi-melta and the meltagun, both Assault 1 weapons firing at S8 AP-4 D6 damage. They have a 12” range, and melta once more means a bonus when within half range, so we’ll be getting fairly close for these things to go off properly. But getting extra close isn’t a horrendous problem because I also have the heavy flamer in there, with 12” range and Heavy D6 shots that auto-hit (so no need for the Canoness this time, but I like the big flamer anyway, so meh) with each one being S6 AP-1 and D1. So big flamer and scary melta should hopefully give people pause before coming after the pair of units. And there is also the stratagem to allow you to make the maximum number of hits on a flame weapon, but if we’re already using a command point for the additional +1 to hit, using 2CP to get 6 flamer shots might seem like overkill.

The Celestians are also the only squad I’m currently giving a Cherub to. These little guys can basically give you a miracle dice once per battle – you roll 2D6 and choose which one you want, and you have to use it on the phase you rolled it otherwise it’s lost. It’s still considered to be an Act of Faith, so you can’t perform two Acts with the unit, but it might be useful, especially if my miracle dice aren’t looking that brilliant!

The Palatine has an aura to allow core units within 6” to re-roll wound rolls of 1, which can sometimes be the more useful of the two abilities, and I think it could be funny if a unit like the Celestians were to cross over within both of these auras, but I don’t think it will be my primary focus for the army. In the main, I’m hoping to get her working alongside one of the big blobs of Sisters. Possibly the second squad, with the meltagun and the heavy bolter, as I think having an expensive unit stuck in melee is always upsetting, but I have given the Palatine a warlord trait for -1CP that will allow a core unit within 6” to fall back and still shoot. The warlord trait, Light of the Divine, also allows her to use any miracle dice as a 6 when performing an Act of Faith, which could prove to be very useful! I’ve upgraded the Palatine’s bolt pistol to the relic, Wrath of the Emperor, which is a slightly punchier pistol as S5 and AP-1, but is also Pistol 4, which is just lovely!

The only problem with pretty much the entire army, though, is that they’re pretty much all Toughness 3, and even the Canoness has 5 wounds. I suppose that’s why things are pretty cheap, though.

Staying with the second Sisters squad for a second, that is a surprisingly expensive unit, though it’s mainly because of all the weaponry I’ve tooled them up with. The condemnor boltgun is almost entirely situational, as it has the option for dishing out mortal wounds to Psykers, but it does make for an interesting combo with the stratagem that adds +1 to hit against a Psyker, so that could be handy! I had originally included a flame weapon in there, because there used to be a fairly hefty focus on the “holy trinity” of bolt, melta and flame weapons (if I remember correctly), but as this is now limited to a single stratagem, which grants +1 to wound when firing these weapons at the same unit, I’ve moved away from that a little. Instead, I have a meltagun with its delightful melta tricks as I’ve already mentioned, then the heavy bolter for three S5 AP-1 D2 hits, and then eight boltgun shots which are all rapid fire 1, so if I’m in range for the meltagun to be firing that’ll be 20 shots coming at the enemy, most of them regular bolts but with enough other bits and pieces going on to cause some chaos, with any luck!

Moving on to the Dialogus, another fairly key unit for the army here. Her aura adds 1 to the leadership of core or character units within 6”, which can be useful, and she has a second aura that allows an Adepta Sororitas unit within 6” to alter one miracle dice by 1, up or down, when performing an Act of Faith. That’s very nice, I have to say! The big change for the Dialogus is that she is now a Priest, and has the Chaplain-like prayers that she can intone during the Command Phase. (The Dogmata model is also a Priest, and I do fancy getting one of those at some point). She knows War Hymn, which grants +1 attack to core, character and engine units within 6”, so the Penitent Engine gets some love from that, and I’ve given her Refrain of Blazing Piety, which allows her to dish out D3 mortal wounds to an enemy unit within 12” (3 mortal wounds if that unit is Chaos). She’s otherwise not very durable, so I think having the attack prayer could be of more use to her than being a blessing battery for the army, though there is something to be said about providing target saturation for the opponent, and forcing them to not know whether it’s best to attack the annoying unit or the unit making everything else more annoying.

The Repentia are one of my melee options in the list, and will hopefully be dishing out 8 attacks at S6 AP-3 D2 each, though their massive chainsaws are -1 to hit. So they’re hitting on 4s unfortunately, which is always a bit of a downer for a melee unit. They have the Zealot rule, though, which allows them to re-roll the hit roll on the charge, and the Repentia Superior allows them (and herself) to advance and charge, and she grants them +1 to wound when they are within 6”. They also have a 5+ feel no pain save, which should help to keep them alive when they’re being targeted, but otherwise there’s little hope for them – they’re very much a cheap unit that should be able to deal out some damage before crumpling like a wet paper bag as there isn’t much in the way of stratagems to keep them going.

The Sisters Novitiates are my other melee focused squad, and they have quite a good profile for the scout equivalents in the list! There are eight models who have Novitiate melee weapons, which grant an additional attack (so that’s 16 attacks for these girls), and they get +1 attack on the charge, so 24 attacks coming at the enemy, granted they’re on 4s to hit, and will likely be 4s to wound with no AP, but that’s quite something! The Novitiate Superior also has a power sword, so she’s making 2 attacks of her own at -3AP, which is helpful! They also all have pistols for the following shooting phase, whoever survives the fight back. In a way, it’s a shame that the full range of Kill Team upgrades doesn’t get rules, but I suppose having a scout with a Condemnor Boltgun, for instance, or a scout version of the Dialogus, might be a bit odd, but surely they could have allowed Scout Dialogus access to just War Hymn, and it only affects her unit? Hm.

Maybe for the 10th edition Codex…

For now, however, this is what I am looking to build towards. I still have stuff like the second Battle Sisters squad, and the Celestians, to build, and I still need to paint an awful lot of this stuff, but I think it’s all slowly coming together. I’m on such a high with the Sisters right now, though, that I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a decent amount of stuff painted for the army before I get distracted by something else!

Looking even further ahead, I am considering a Dominion Squad, as I will have five Sisters left from the Celestians box (unless I just bulk up the Celestians to 10), and I think I would like to get one of the tanks built. I have a lot of stuff for the Sisters still to build, such as the Exorcist and the Immolator, a couple of Penitent Engines, another Seraphim squad, the Triumph, a box of Repentia and an Imagifier. I’m trying not to go too crazy here though, because I think there is a bit of a balance that needs to be struck with the force – there are a lot of units available for it, almost too many. I’ve not really thought this about any other force, but the Elites slot in particular has become really top-heavy now that Command Squads have been sundered. I wonder if that would ever change, and allow us to bring them back into a single unit? As it stands, the Dialogus and Hospitaller can be included without taking up a slot, but the Imagifier doesn’t have that luxury. Hm.

I would like to focus more on having significant units, rather than the smaller units (which kinda goes counter to the point above about gaining miracle dice) which can sometimes be difficult to keep track of. I definitely want to keep it primarily Sisters-focused, so I don’t want to get into Death Cult Assassins and Priests and so forth. I think it should look really nice, having Battle Sisters and the smaller squads like Celestians and Retributors, and then having some of the tanks in support as well. While I said I didn’t want to go crazy buying anything, I am considering getting either some of those Paragon Warsuits, or some of those Celestians with shields, who look nice for a melee option.

Something that I’ve long wanted to try is adding in Thaddeus the Purifier from the Blackstone Fortress game, as the model is so cool and I think would make a really nice addition. That always felt a bit too difficult with the old book, however, but the Missionary HQ option seems almost made for him now, having the correct wargear and so forth, even if the picture used for the codex entry is of the old metal model. The rules are also somewhat clearer, as well, in that now everything has the Adeptus Ministorum keyword, so his aura ability will cross over to cover the Battle Sisters squad (though given that his leadership is the same as a Sister Superior, I don’t think it would ever be necessary). I’m not sure if the last book was the same, but I remember having the feeling that building an army for Sisters in 8th edition felt a bit like a tough prospect, and it always struck me as a bit difficult to actually make things work. The new 9th edition book feels a lot better in this regard, which has made me pleased!

Anyway, for now, this is my entirely too-long blog post about my current obsession for 40k, the Sisters of Battle!

Sisters Reborn!

Well folks, I didn’t quite expect this project to go as well as it did!

Last weekend, I decided to try again with the Sisters of Battle, and stripped the paint from those ten Battle Sisters who had, god love them, been through the mill with at least 2-3 colour schemes, individually. I then thought I’d try out a new scheme again, using as test models some of those from the multi-part kit. However, the paint stripped off so beautifully from those original ten that I’ve decided to keep going with those, and I think by Thursday I had produced my three test models!

These really were quite good, and the scheme didn’t seem to be entirely too onerous to complete. Grey armour and purple cloth, with grey guns and grey bases. Very grim-dark, I think. That’s really what I wanted, as well – I think there’s something rather majestic about the classic black-and-red scheme with pure white details, but when it comes to thinking about actual warriors in the 41st millennium, those guys and girls have got it really tough. I think the fairly muted scheme really reflects this, too, which is nice!

I really didn’t expect to do all ten – indeed, after doing the three testers, I thought I might do three more, and continue on quietly like this, but actually it made more sense to just try and do the whole squad, at this point. It was a bit of a scramble to get them all finished last night, but I’d got to the point where there were just a small handful of details left, then the rims of the bases…

I’m really happy with them, anyway, and having finished the whole squad in a week (a few days, really), I think this bodes really well for the future of the army.

But painting up more Sisters of Battle hasn’t been the only thing I’ve done – I’ve also been building the Novitiates from the Kill Team box that came out a while ago! These girls are primarily melee focused, so they will fit in with the general feel of my army I think, and the models really are quite spectacular. I definitely want to get another box of these at some point, so I can get all the fancy models built as well as some more of the bread-and-butter troops. Going with melee options fits in with my idea for having them as almost zealots keen to prove themselves in battle, rather than equipping them with the autoguns.

I have plenty of stuff built up already for the army, however, so I need to make sure I’m not going to be getting too far ahead of myself with building yet more units. I want to keep going with painting more models for the force, so I think my next move might be the Seraphim squad, because it really bothers me that they are just floating around without bases. I might do a character or two as well, so that I can get ahead on that front a bit, too. 10 models doesn’t seem to have been that cumbersome to deal with, all told, so I think 6 or 7 should definitely be fine!

Famous last words…

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Episode II takes place ten years after the invasion of Naboo, and Padme has taken on the role of Senator for the planet now that Palpatine has been elected as Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. There is still unrest in the galaxy, as the former Jedi, Count Dooku, disillusioned with the Republic has begun to draw many star systems into his cause, seceding from the Republic and forming the Confederacy of Independent Systems. The unrest has caused several senators to back a Military Creation Bill, which Senator Amidala fiercely opposes. She forms part of the leadership of the Loyalist Committee, with other like-minded senators such as Bail Organa of Alderaan.

When Senator Amidala arrives on Coruscant for another vote on the Bill, her ship is attacked and her decoy Corde is killed. Amidala is convinced that Count Dooku is responsible, putting her somewhat in opposition to the Jedi Council. However, at the Chancellor’s request, she is assigned Obi-Wan Kenobi and his padawan, Anakin Skywalker, as protection. That night, another attack is made on the Senator by the bounty hunter Zam Wesell, who is pursued by Anakin and Obi-Wan through the skylanes of Coruscant, but she is herself killed before she can tell them anything, by a mysterious figure in a jetpack. When the Jedi analysis droids fail to identify the weapon, Obi-Wan takes the toxic dart that was used to hill her to his old friend Dexter Jettster to identify while Anakin and Padme prepare to leave the capitol world.

Discovering that the dart is from the planet Kamino, Obi-Wan attempts to find it in the Jedi Archives but all mention of the world has been erased. Obi-Wan heads to the co-ordinates regardless, and discovers the world right where it should be. On landing, he discovers that the Kaminoan cloners are expecting him – indeed, that his presence is overdue. Obi-Wan learns that the Kaminoans have created a clone army on the orders of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, using the bounty hunter Jango Fett as a template. Fett, who claims to have never met Sifo-Dyas, tells Obi-Wan that he was recruited by a man named Tyranus. In payment for his service, Jango has asked for an unaltered clone of himself, who he has named Boba. He informs Yoda and Mace Windu of developments, and they ask Obi-Wan to bring Fett to the Temple for questioning. After a brief fight, Fett manages to escape from Kamino, but Obi-Wan is able to place a tracker on his vessel.

On Naboo, Anakin and Padme grow close, Anakin confiding in her that he is in love with her, and has been since they met. Padme refuses to allow her personal feelings get in the way of her duty to the Republic, however. When Anakin has a prophetic dream of his mother in pain, the two leave Naboo for Tatooine. However, Anakin discovers that Watto had sold Shmi Skywalker to a moisture farmer named Cliegg Lars, who freed and married her. They travel to the Lars homestead, where Cliegg informs them that a party of Tusken Raiders kidnapped Shmi a month ago, and they have been unable to rescue her. Anakin heads off alone into the Jundland Wastes and locates his mother, who is barely conscious – she just manages to have an emotional reunion with her son before dying. Enraged, Anakin slaughters the entire camp and returns to the Lars homestead to bury Shmi.

Obi-Wan tracks Jango Fett to the droid foundries of Geonosis, where he learns that Count Dooku is formalising treaties with a number of big businesses, including the Trade Federation. The Viceroy, Nute Gunray, has requested Senator Amidala’s death as a condition of pledging his support to Dooku’s Confederacy. Obi-Wan records a hasty message to Anakin, as he can’t reach Coruscant, before he is taken captive by the Geonosians. Dooku attempts to sway Obi-Wan to his cause, and tells him that he has learnt that the Senate is under the control of a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious. Obi-Wan refuses to believe him.

Anakin receives the message and re-transmits it to the Jedi Council before he and Padme head to Geonosis with the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO in tow. However, they are also captured. As they are being led to their deaths, Padme tells Anakin that she loves him, too. They are led into an arena and chained, alongside Obi-Wan, to stone pillars before three huge creatures are released with them while Dooku, Fett and Nute Gunray look on. Anakin is able to take control of the Reek through the Force, and uses it to rescue Padme, the Reek killing the Nexu that was attacking the Senator. At that point, Mace Windu appears in the box behind Dooku, and around two-hundred Jedi ignite their lightsabers around the arena. Dooku unleashes his battle droids and a huge battle ensues.

Jedi and droids are destroyed in droves, but when Dooku offers Mace terms of surrender, Yoda arrives with the clone army to evacuate the Jedi. Battle is taken to the Separatists then, and Obi-Wan orders the clone troopers with him to pursue a fleeing Count Dooku, whereupon he and Anakin attempt to defeat him. However, it soon transpires that they are no match for Dooku, who is one of the Jedi Order’s most revered swordmasters. He manages to defeat both of them, whereupon Yoda arrives in the hangar and confidently overpowers his former padawan learner. Dooku is only able to escape by bringing the ceiling down on the unconscious forms of Anakin and Obi-Wan, distracting Yoda.

On Coruscant, the Jedi mourn for the outbreak of the war, and a bitter Bail Organa watches on as thousands of clone troopers muster for war. Dooku rejoins his master, Darth Sidious, and brings him the plans for a mobile battle station. On Naboo, in a secret ceremony, Anakin and Padme are married.

Attack of the Clones is one of those films where I don’t know where to begin with it. On the surface, there are so many problems that I can’t seem to get past them and find myself cringing at the dialogue, particularly the “romance” bits between Anakin and Padme. It seems quite unbelievable, and while it is make-believe, I find it really hard to understand how Padme would fall for him, when their interactions that we see are primarily him whining and her giving non-committal “uh-huh” responses. It’s the sort of thing that has led to numerous fan theories that suggest Palpatine is behind their romance, adding another layer to the corruption of Anakin. The actual acting does also feel quite wooden at times, though I think that’s a combination of the dialogue and direction. I think Lucas himself has addressed some of the issues with this, where he explained that 80% of the story of Anakin’s fall takes place in Episode III, but the other two movies only have about 20% in total, and were necessarily padded-out. However, there seems to be so much effort made to show how Anakin’s behaviour foreshadows his turn into Vader, we forget that actually, Anakin should have been a great Jedi hero – the “good friend” that Obi-Wan remembers when he is telling Luke all about his father. Indeed, we get pretty much one scene with Anakin and Obi-Wan acting like they’re actually friends, then the rest of it is the two of them bickering, presumably because Anakin needs to be shown to be flawed? The end result, though, is a forced romance and generally an uninspiring hero, who spends most of the film away from the action anyway.

The film is part mystery-noir type, with Obi-Wan’s investigation providing what I think is by far the more interesting storyline. It’s unfortunate, then, that the full vagaries of the plot aren’t entirely explained during the course of the Prequels. Who is Sifo-Dyas? How exactly did the Clone Army come to be created? It has taken a myriad of background explanations, many of which are now “legends” anyway, to explain a lot of this, which is unfortunate. There is a lot of ground to cover, after all, and I think this is one of the downfalls of the film being placed so far after the first. If Count Dooku had been in the first film, if the Separatist plot point had somehow been better set up earlier, it might have helped, but unfortunately we have a fairly stand-alone film for Episode I, and here we seem to be rushing to place all of the threads in line so that they’re ready for Episode III, which itself needs to quite neatly intersect into the original trilogy.

Visually, the film is quite something. We start on Coruscant, and see more of the plush Senatorial residences before heading into the underbelly (which is itself still quite genteel, somehow). Kamino is evocative of that 1950s style sci-fi with its tall, willowy-aliens and ascetic, clinical whiteness. Geonosis is basically a bug hive in a desert, and pulls that off very well. Tatooine feels a bit like it’s shoe-horned in there to bridge the two trilogies, first bringing back Watto, and then letting us see a young Owen and Beru at the homestead, which was faithfully recreated from set photos of A New Hope. Of course, the loss of his mother is a big catalyst for his eventual turn to the Dark Side, but I do find it a little bit wearying after a time, that so much of the film feels like it needs to foreshadow Anakin’s turn into Darth Vader. Indeed, aside from just how much of a predator towards Padme he is, I was surprised when watching it again just how many warning flags Anakin is giving off. It’s no surprise that Mace later says he doesn’t trust Anakin in the third movie.

Count Dooku is, for me, one of the best things to come out of the Prequels. It’s a bit like Alec Guinness in the original trilogy, having Christopher Lee in a movie does lend it that sort of gravitas. Criminally under-used across both of the films he appears in, I think it would have been so much better if he was at least alluded to in the first movie. Then by the time of the second film, we could see Dooku being the political firebrand but not the evil Sith Lord, maybe as he sways more planets to the Confederacy. Then halfway through he invades Naboo and we get to see Anakin in action, providing us with a compelling reason why Padme might actually be interested in him. Sure, it re-treads the first film by having another invasion of Naboo, but maybe that could be the source of tension for the first part of the film, having the people of Naboo at risk of more pain and torment? But I could go on about this all day. It remains a real bugbear for me, that Padme comes out of nowhere and says she thinks Dooku tried to kill her. Why? Where’s the evidence? It needs to make some kind of sense…

However, the Arena battle, while initially very much a Gladiator rip-off, does continue the sense of spectacle that we initially had with the podrace in Episode I, and the sight of all those lightsabers really does get the blood going, I feel. I remember watching one of these sneak-peak type documentaries during the making of Episode II, where they talked about wanting to show the Jedi in their prime before the dark days of the Emperor’s purge, and I think that works really well here. The final battle, both in the arena and beyond, is quite something, and I think the climactic lightsaber duels, particularly seeing Yoda in action, are really stunning. There was a missed opportunity, I think early on Ki-Adi-Mundi and Plo Koon were supposed to lead a team into a droid control ship to shut down the battle droids as happened on Naboo, only the newer B2 battle droids didn’t respond. It would have added more layers to the battle, but was apparently cut for timing.

In terms of actual cut scenes, there isn’t much to speak of. There are a number of scenes with Padme’s family on Naboo, where we meet her parents and learn more of her life before becoming Queen. We also see her on trial on Geonosis, which forms a nice kind of segue between her capture in the foundry and then being led into the arena. Padme is definitely a character who gets short shrift in the Prequels, almost like Lucas didn’t know what to do with her. It isn’t until Episode III where the worst cuts take place, though.

A lot of these cut scenes are also in the novel, which helps to further explore Padme’s background and emotions, and makes it quite clear that, while she is very much devoted to her duty to the Republic, she sees her sister Sola and her children, and dreams about perhaps having that life for herself. It doesn’t entirely make it easier to see how she could fall for Anakin – I’ve long been more convinced that it would make sense if he was some kind of accomplished war hero, rather than a trainee Jedi who screeches “it’s not fair” and such – it does give us some understanding that Padme does want a more “normal” life, and so on. The novel also includes scenes with Shmi and the Lars family having a happy life together, and even expands on Jango’s relationship with Boba.

As regards the actual Clone War, it’s an interesting genesis within the history of the Star Wars universe. As we know, the first reference was in Obi-Wan’s chat with Luke in Episode IV, where the war seemed to have been in the somewhat-recent past but wasn’t expanded upon further. While it was mostly off-limits, Timothy Zahn made the suggestion in his original Thrawn trilogy that the clones were bad, and there were evil scientist Clone Masters who were attacking the Republic. Even Lucas considered making Lando a clone, hailing from a planet where the population reproduced via cloning, possibly meaning such planets were originally the aggressors. That the clones turn out to be the good guys in this film is something of a plot twist, I suppose, with numerous attempts since to help retcon these things.

All in all, not a bad film, but not a great one either. A bit of a step down from Phantom Menace, even though I do like the set up to the Clone War, and the mystery-noir investigation

Star Wars LCG: Imperial Navy deck

Hey everybody,
Following on from my blog earlier in the week about my Rebel Alliance deck for Star Wars LCG, I’m back to talk about the Imperial Navy today, and run through the deck to see what it’s trying to do during the game. For a brief run-down of deckbuilding in the Star Wars LCG, you can check out my Rebel blog, too!

So without further ado, let’s get to it!

The Ultimate Power x2
The General’s Imperative x2
Imperial Command
Lord Vader’s Command
Death and Despayre
Deploy the Fleet
Family Connections
Unstoppable Advance

This deck works frighteningly well, I have to say. It has worked out pretty well, really, that in my recent upsurge of playing with this game, my wife has been using the Imperial Navy and I’ve been playing with the much jankier Rebels! It’s not like the deck just runs itself, and I’m not trying to do the other half down at all, but Jemma isn’t really a Star Wars fan like me, and she isn’t all that into this sort of game, I don’t think, so it just works nicely that the deck is quite efficient for what it does.

Star Wars LCG

Let’s start at the top, with The Ultimate Power. This is the Tarkin set, and has a number of punishing cards in here. The objective itself cannot be targeted by more than two units, and Tarkin lowers the hit points of enemy objectives by 1. It also has the infamous Superlaser Blast card, which straight-up destroys an objective, just like that. You can see why there are two copies in the deck!

Star Wars LCG

The General’s Imperative gives us General Veers and Blizzard Force, and the objective itself increases the reserve when it is undamaged. Veers has the useful ability of granting Walker and Trooper units an additional unit damage icon, and there are a lot of Troopers across this deck so that will be quite handy! There are two AT-ST walkers with Shielding in the set, a Turbolaser Battery enhancement you can sacrifice to discard all enhancements from play (which can be devastating if played at the right time), and a Battle of Hoth fate card, which is a new card from the Hoth cycle that I really like for its flexibility, either damaging or healing Hoth objectives. I’m not convinced of the need for two copies of this set in the deck, if truth be told, but I’m keeping him in there for now.

Star Wars LCG

Unstoppable Advance gives Veers the big guns to play with – two AT-AT walkers and an AT-AT Assault Formation! The AT-AT walkers can blow up enhancements instead of their combat icons triggering, which can be useful because their objective damage is edge-dependent (and it’s thematic if you get them to blow up the Hoth shield generator this way). The Assault Formation, however, has three objective damage icons that you don’t need the edge for, and when it focuses to strike, you can damage each enemy Hoth objective. This and Tarkin can one-shot objectives by themselves! Shame it wasn’t Veers, for flavour, but never mind. The set also comes with Aggressive Assault, which allows you to damage each enemy objective if you control a Hoth objective – with only three in the deck, it’s a little more situational. But the set is very thematic, and really heavy-hitting, so I can’t ignore it for long!

Star Wars LCG

Imperial Command is the Admiral Motti set, and Motti himself effectively grants Elite to a unit. As he can be focused for two resources, this has an inherently good use, though if someone like Tarkin or Vader is being swamped in focus tokens, it can be a useful effect to use there, too. He comes with another resource-granting unit, and two Troopers to provide some good targets for the additional Trooper boosts in the game. However, Orbital Bombardment is the main draw for this set, an enhancement that grants each unit an additional objective damage icon. This will become very useful, as you’ll see!

Star Wars LCG

Lord Vader’s Command is the Darth Vader set, his first appearance in the Imperial Navy faction. The objective increases the cost of enemy events by 1, which can be annoying, and he comes with a card that can cancel enemy events, placing them on top of the deck. Effects like that, while annoying, aren’t quite so devastating here because your opponent will be drawing, potentially, 6 cards minimum, so the ability to know one of those cards and prepare for it isn’t so powerful as it is in a game like Magic, for instance, when you only draw one card per turn. There are two Probe Droid cards who deal damage to enemy objectives when they leave play, then Vader himself, who is of course Elite, and grants an additional objective damage icon to his fellow attackers. Very nice. Between Vader and Orbital Bombardment, then, we’ve got units dealing at least two points of objective damage in combat, not to mention whatever else they might have already on their card. And Tarkin very helpfully reduces the hit points on objectives – smashing!

Star Wars LCG

Death and Despayre brings out the big guns – the Devastator star destroyer, Lord Vader’s ship during A New Hope. This bruiser has the potential to deal four objective damage if you win the edge (two if you don’t), and two unit damage, and with the buffs already mentioned, you’d be one-shot blowing up objectives in a very short game! In addition, the Devastator allows you to pay 1 resource to increase the Death Star Dial when you destroy an enemy objective. But that’s not all, because there is another unit here who gives the same effect for two resources; and you get an enhancement that provides those two resources, just in case you need it. Another enhancement grants +3 hit points to your own objectives, and finally, there is a copy of the Heat of Battle fate card, allowing you to deal one damage to an enemy unit participating in this combat. It’s a really nice objective set, and works well with the other sets like Tarkin and Vader, both mechanically and thematically.

Star Wars LCG

Of course, the Devastator costs 6 resources, which is why Deploy the Fleet might come in handy, as the objective allows you to reduce the cost of a capital ship by 1 in return for damaging the objective itself (but that’s fine if you enhance it properly). If you don’t have the Devastator, that’s okay – there are two copies of Death Squadron Star Destroyer in here, which have three objective damage icons on them. Non edge-dependent damage icons, at that. And they have Shielding. There are additional cards in the set to make playing these expensive ships easier, but the fact that these star destroyers, coupled with any combination of Tarkin, Orbital Bombardment and Vader, will be blowing objectives up all over the place, it’s just brutal! And I have been on the receiving end of this before now, believe me!

Star Wars LCG

Lastly, Family Connections is the General Tagge objective set, and the one that came from later in the game’s history than the other cards in the deck. I’ve tried to make the decks interesting like this, while still sticking mainly to the earlier card pool for the time being. Tagge allows you to return Troopers to your hand rather than they leave play, so long as they cost 2 or less; this set has two, and Admiral Motti’s set also has two. The objective also allows you to place Shield tokens on each trooper you control when you refresh – there are an additional two Troopers who would benefit from this, which is a nice to have. The set also has the Imperial Discipline enhancement, which forces your opponent to damage an objective when a Trooper leaves play – yikes! I almost need to find more sacrifice outlets to trigger that! The big news though, is that Tagge himself also has two objective damage icons. Tarkin, Tagge, Vader, Orbital Bombardment = objective kill each round. It’s just brutal, I say!

This deck can become a thing of beauty when you see all of the internal synergies lining up to smash you in the face. With the way the game works, you get to draw a significant portion of your deck across the average game, as well, which works out really nicely with this kind of deck. It’s nice to see a lot of your deck, for sure, but it kinda doesn’t matter with a deck like the Rebels, where there are no real key pieces for victory. With a lot of synergies going on though, it’s really useful for the Imperial deck.

I’ve not really been playing with the other four decks that I’d built for the game, as we were only using the Empire and Rebels decks for our games thus far, but I might continue on with this look at the other decks anyway, as it has been fun to talk about them – mainly because I’m still just obsessed with this game right now!

Star Wars: The Approaching Storm

Well, guys, I finished it!

The Approaching Storm is one of those Star Wars books that I know I don’t really like, but nevertheless I find myself willing to reread it more easily than the more truly dull books.

The seemingly insignificant planet Ansion is tied by many treaties to its more powerful neighbours. President of the Commerce Guild Shu Mai hatches a plan to have Ansion secede from the Republic, which would mean the planet’s neighbours would also be compelled to do so, creating the start of the Separatist movement. Shu Mai asserts that nobody would notice if Ansion did leave the Republic, yet within a page or two we learn that actually yes, many people are also aware of the network of treaties and alliances that bind Ansion and others, and the Jedi have dispatched both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luminara Unduli, and their padawans, to mediate this “border dispute”.

The planet of Ansion exists in tension between the city dwellers, many of whom wish to secede to open up free trade, and the nomads who roam the open prairies, who wish to remain in the Republic to keep the protection afforded to them by the many Republic acts in favour of ethnic groups. The Jedi offer a bargain to the city folk, to stay in the Republic if a treaty can be negotiated with the nomads. And so the Jedi embark across the prairie to find the Overclan, to whom the rest of the nomads generally listen.

Eventually they find the Borokii nomads, and a treaty is negotiated, and the Jedi are able to keep Ansion in the Republic, and all is well.

So, why did I give this book a 2-star rating on Goodreads? Well, I like my Star Wars books to have the sort of planet-hopping adventures with actual consequences or significant changes taking place. There’s nothing wrong with a book that is set on just one world, of course, provided the story is actually good, and stuff happens. However, TAS achieves very little, if anything, of consequence. We get some attempts to foreshadow Anakin turning into Darth Vader, while cognisant that he’s just a teenager, and the book actually marks the first appearance of Shu Mai and, indeed, Count Dooku himself. I think the book was marketed as a lead-in to Attack of the Clones while actually the only real impact it makes on the film is to explain Mace’s remark about Obi-Wan and Anakin returning from a border dispute on Ansion.

The book gives us Luminara Unduli and her padawan Barriss Offee, though, and these two are really very interesting. Their inclusion was meant, I believe, to act as a counterpoint to the relationship of Obi-Wan and Anakin, plus the added bonus of being able to say “I know them!” when they have that brief two second scene in the arena on Geonosis. However, as representative of what Jedi are supposed to be like, I think it’s really interesting to see the two of them throughout the book.

I also really like seeing Shu Mai predominantly acting as the villain of the piece. She’s a bit like the shadowy puppet master, even though we know she reports to Dooku etc.

Many of the bits I like about the book come in throwaway sentences, unfortunately. One such is a discussion of how diplomacy works when there are millions of languages in the galaxy. As it happens, the Jedi take a kind of short language course as they travelled to Ansion, allowing them to converse with the natives out on the prairie without the need for a protocol droid. It’s interesting, because we don’t normally get this kind of detail in Star Wars books.

Most of this book is spent with the four Jedi crossing the grasslands, and we get a variety of scenelets that allow us a glimpse into the planet. In terms of novel writing, I can’t help but admire the breadth of scope we get here, seeing all manner of minutiae from across the rolling plains. But as a Star Wars novel, against the backdrop of galactic secession that we know will form the backdrop to the clone wars, I really don’t care why a certain grazer has six legs, or a certain other grazer has three eyes arranged vertically rather than horizontally. It’s interesting on one level, but I don’t want a Star Wars book to be on that level, if I’m honest.

Thinking about this now, I want this book instead to dive into who Count Dooku is, why he’s the leader of the group of industrialists who want to leave the Republic, and why Padme thinks he would try to kill her. I want more galactic intrigue, too – not this bumbling low-level stuff we get here. Fine, if Ansion is the best we have, then let’s still send four Jedi there to mediate – but let’s show it for what it is, and have all eyes on Ansion. Let’s find out what Bail Organa thinks about the situation, or whoever is in charge over on Corellia or Kuat.

And the biggest thing, let Ansion secede. The Jedi should fail, and this book becomes more than just a throwaway Obi-Wan and Anakin story, but instead it actually shows the beginning of the Separatist crisis, which is already about to kick off as the opening crawl flies up the screen.

However, instead we have a zoological gazetteer of Ansion that is vaguely tied in to the GFFA. Which is a shame.

Anyway, let’s try not to get too down on things. We have that great romance coming next (cough), it’s time for Attack of the Clones!