The Genestealer Cults Codex is here!

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Genestealer Cults


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

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

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

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

Obsessed with Tau!

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Boba Fett (episodes 1-3)

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

Anyway!

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painting Tau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Painting Updates!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dark Coil (part two)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tau!

Back in 2018, I started a Tau army. It was glorious – but it was really short-lived, now I look back. I don’t know how much I spent on it, but it must have been a lot – I had a bunch of stuff for it, pretty much all built. I had two Riptides, after all! I had fliers, I had troops, I had loads and loads of stuff. But it outgrew me, and I definitely did not keep pace with the painting-to-building ratio, so was playing with a predominantly grey plastic force. I think I painted five units, tops. Looking back, though, I think it was perhaps the colour scheme that hampered me, as I never really sat down and thought it through, only thinking about the very broad strokes (green armour! blue markings!)

I think the Tau project was the first time I really had that sense of being overwhelmed with my hobby. I had thousands of points of 8th edition miniatures, and I found myself forever buying stuff to add to it. I did this with Dark Eldar, but it never felt overwhelming somehow. I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed with Genestealer Cults, but have done something about them. But I decided to sell the Tau army and cut my losses with just those five painted units.

The other factor that was at play last time, and one that I haven’t really thought about before, is that I just wasn’t into them last time. I bought the army because some of the previews on the Community page for their codex sounded exciting, and I was impatiently waiting for the books for Dark Eldar and Necrons (at least, I think I was still waiting for Necrons). The Tau book came out in the early spring, so I jumped with both feet, simply because they had a book and were an army with a vaguely similar playstyle to my other forces at the time: gunline.

So I bought an army, then sold it pretty much 6 months later, if not sooner, and hadn’t really given much thought to it until recently, when I started to read the Dark Coil stuff by Peter Fehevari. A few of those stories involve the Tau, and the way he really delves into the characters and provides much more nuanced looks at personalities, far more beyond the usual “space communist” meme that most people probably know.

It was reading The Greater Evil that really got me, though, and I’ve pretty much been hooked on the idea of the Tau since I finished that story. Not gonna lie, I think I might well re-read it soon, as I was so impressed with the way it unfolds, but that’s for another day. I have decided to start the army over, but I’m going to take it slow this time. I had the Kill Team Chalnath box for my birthday last month, which comes with Pathfinders with the new upgrade sprue, so have been busily working on them since New Year.

I’m painting these up as Sa’cea Sept, following the guide from the old How to Paint Tau Empire pdf from back in the day – the sort of icy blue-grey with orange sept markings. The whole sept markings/colour scheme for Tau is a fairly complicated business, I seem to recall, so I’m sure I’ll have a blog on that soon, with the fruits of my labours on researching that!

I also have asked the local games store if they can still get the Start Collecting box, as that has got a really nice core force (in my opinion!) It used to be one of the best value SC boxes around, as the Crisis Suits were priced so expensive the Fire Warriors and Ethereal were basically a fiver, or something. I’m sure there’ll be a Combat Patrol box coming out as well, but I thought I’d try and grab a Start Collecting if possible, as it would be a cheaper start for me! However, I’m determined that I won’t be going too crazy with this army. As I said in my Hobby Goals 2022 blog the other day, I’m planning to paint up just one unit per month, but taking this idea further, I’m only going to buy stuff as and when I need/want it. Start Collecting box aside, then, I’ve got the Pathfinders and that’s all for this army. If I can get the SC box, then it’ll keep me going until Easter or thereabouts, when I will then look at adding something else (possibly more Fire Warriors!) I think, if I can get to the middle of the month and have finished the current project, I might then start another – I sincerely hope that I could find myself in the sort of position where I can make some fast progress once the colour scheme is nailed down etc!

But for now, I’m keeping it slow and steady!

Of course, I do have something to aim for in mind – I definitely want a Commander, and a Riptide, and a good amount of Fire Warriors. I’m thinking I’ll get another Pathfinders box as well, and make more use of the upgrade sprue etc. Fireblades are always useful too, and some Crisis Suits would probably round things out nicely! Taking it bare-bones, it seems that would come in somewhere around the 1100 points mark, which is quite interesting as I’ve been playing a lot of 1000-point games lately. Definitely something to aim for there!

Basically, I’m not going to buy all of this and end up with it just looming over me before bailing out and selling the army again:

But I would like a Stormsurge at some point!

I think I’m going to keep the monthly retrospective blogs going for 2022 as well, so come back soon and see how I’ve gotten on with these guys!

Mythos delvings

Hey everybody,
It’s been another exciting Lovecraft season – in fact, it’s almost been like some kind of Lovecraft overload this last few weeks, as I’ve read all manner of weird fiction from both the master and several other mythos authors! After my two-part blog exploring some of the wider Cthulhu mythos stories, including some really significant works such as The Hounds of Tindalos, it’s time to once more immerse myself in the “baroque prince” himself.

This year, I’ve read The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the longest piece Lovecraft wrote, which has the distinction of having its own blog entry back in November, which you can check out here. Going right to the other end of the spectrum, I’ll start this year’s foray with several shorter pieces, beginning with the fragment Azathoth. This is just three paragraphs from a proposed novel by Lovecraft that date from 1922, intended to form a story “in the 18th century manner”, with Lovecraft mentioning Vathek as a literary inspiration. It is quite flowery and very evocative in its language, describing a character who is tired of the current age where imagination and dreams have died. It is possible that the themes it would have explored were later taken up in the Dream-Quest, though Lovecraft mentions in a letter the possibility of there being a more Arabian Nights flavour to the work. It is notable for containing the first mention of the blind idiot god Azathoth, although only in the title.

Slightly longer is Nyarlathotep, a “prose poem” from 1920 which offers a pretty grim picture of human society, with a lot in common with He. Nyarlathotep is presented almost like a travelling salesman, albeit one who has woken up from millennia asleep in Egypt. He offers society a very dismal picture of life, and his revelations cause all manner of mass hysteria in the streets. I’ve read that it’s possible the story is meant as something of a parody of Nikolai Tesla’s electrical demonstrations, although I don’t know if that was the intention. I have read this story before, though, and remember being really quite baffled by it then as well – it is very weird, and I think a good example that shows how Lovecraft used these bizarre names for effect and colour, without really a great plan behind them. 

Another “prose poem” is Ex Oblivione, which dates from the same year as Nyarlathotep but has a much more Dreamlands feel to it. A bizarre dream-like sequence from the narrator, telling of a dream of a bronze gate that he wishes to explore beyond. When reading papyri that speak of the gate, he discovers beyond it lies oblivion, and so takes a drug to induce him to dream again. Very odd, whether the gate is meant to be a metaphor for sex or otherwise!

Dagon is another short story and was one of the first tales Lovecraft wrote as an adult. There are, nevertheless, many of the hallmarks of Lovecraft’s style already visible here, such as the narrator near to the breaking point when he relays his story, the half-glimpsed slimy monster, the endless, madness-inducing blank vistas. It describes a seaman who escaped capture by the Germans during WW1 and coming across an expanse of rotting mire possibly thrown up from the ocean floor, walks in search of shelter. He finds a monolith carved with strange figures and runes, which attracts the attentions of a huge sea creature which appears to worship at the stone. Having been rescued at sea, he has taken to using morphine to forget what he saw, but when that proves ineffective, he decides to commit suicide. What a ride. Dagon, of course, would later surface as a religious cult in The Shadow Over Innsmouth, though the creature in this tale is possibly a member of the species and not the creature Dagon itself. Parallels have also been drawn with The Call of Cthulhu, which many think of as a re-writing of this story. It’s one that I’ve read before, but I honestly didn’t remember any of it from that earlier read!

Another story that I’ve read previously is The Music of Erich Zann, during the time when I used to read Lovecraft by the light of the Christmas tree. The story takes place in what is possibly Paris, where a poor student rents a room below the “genius” Erich Zann, a viol-player (not a violinist, as is often said, but apparently a genuine player of the viol, the forerunner of the cello). Zann plays in a cheap theatre orchestra, then comes home and plays utterly bizarre music through the night, which the student finds beguiling. Wishing to hear more, he presses Zann for a performance but is alarmed at Zann’s reaction to his request for the weird music. It seems the musician is playing his music to ward off some supernatural terror, which lurks beyond the garret window – though after the merest glimpse, the student abandons the house and can never return. It’s a story that Lovecraft said he liked a great deal, though later in life he worried that he had not been as explicit in what the horror Zann faced actually was. But it’s that subtlety that has otherwise given it critical praise. I do like it, its French setting lends it something of the air of The King in Yellow. I remember the Call of Cthulhu LCG had Erich Zann as a Hastur-aligned character, though cases have been made that Zann is facing off Nyarlathotep and, possibly, Azathoth itself (weird music vs weird music?) I suppose it doesn’t really matter – the atmosphere is key, as always, and the sense of weirdness comes through very clearly, without needing to resort to anything further. It’s almost like Lovecraft lets us decide in our own imaginations what is happening here, and I like it!

A bit more prosaic horror comes from The Hound, which is a story of grave-robbers haunted by that which they disturb. I believe it is intentionally over-the-top, as we follow the story of a chap who, along with his friend, has grown weary of what life can offer, so has started robbing graves. You know, as you do. When they dig up a similarly-depraved individual, they find a curious amulet which they take, but which prompts a giant hound-like creature to start haunting them. When the narrator attempts to return the amulet following his friend’s gruesome demise, he finds the hound-like beast occupying the coffin, and flees the graveyard, writing this story before he plans to shoot himself. I thought this one was more generically-scary, and aside from the language, it didn’t really feel a great deal like Lovecraft himself – until we get to the fact that this is the first time he mentions the fabled Necronomicon! Yes, the storied tome of unspeakable horror from the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, gets its first mention in print in this story. From reading around on the internets, it seems this is really the only reason to read this one. Ah well!

Sticking with some more prosaic horror, The Beast in the Cave was written when HP Lovecraft was 14. It’s actually not bad, either – I mean, I wrote a clarinet sonata when I was 14, but I don’t think I would ever be brave enough to publish it! HP, on the other hand, was churning out horror stories… This one is a fairly interesting one, as well – a chap gets distracted while touring a show cave, and having heard of colonies of people isolating themselves in the caves, goes off looking for evidence. His torch goes out and he hears something running up to attack him, so throws some rocks and manages to knock it senseless, whereupon the tour guide comes back and together they kill it. But the horror – it is clearly a mutated man! As I say, it was quite fun, all told!

To finish, though, I have re-read The Colour Out of Space, one of the big stories from Lovecraft’s later period (if such a thing can be said to exist). I call it a big story, though it isn’t long per se, it just seems to loom large within the Cthulhu mythos with which I am most familiar. The story is set against the backdrop of a reservoir being built, where, 40 years prior, Nahum Gardiner and his family saw a meteorite hit their land, thereafter the ground became tainted with some noxious substance and nothing grew well. The animals died, or ran off, and the family grew steadily mad, with their distant neighbour Ammi Pierce telling all of this to a surveyor for the reservoir after he has seen the acres of “blasted heath”. The reason for this tragedy is described as a “colour”, though one of unearthly hues, which had leeched from the meteorite into the ground, and driven the family mad when they drank water from the well. The story is pure, classic Lovecraft in so many ways, and features several hallmarks of his writing such as the “backwoods” informant, the indescribable horror, the science element, etc. Indeed, the story is often billed as sci-fi rather than horror, although Ammi’s account of his search through the Gardiner house really is classic horror – it is a classic blend of the two genres. The story was Lovecraft’s attempt to portray a truly alien adversary – the titular “colour” is just truly bizarre, almost like a cloud of vapour, which begs the question how is it sentient? Truly other-worldly. This one is what I would describe as one of the classics of Lovecraft’s tales, among the pantheon with The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time, and so on, one of the real heavyweights. I’m surprised, really, that I don’t really remember it from the last time that I read it. It has a very disturbing atmosphere to it, which continues to build and build – it’s really very good, and while it might not have Cthulhu or any of the other famed elder gods taking part in the proceedings, but it definitely succeeds for me!

That’s it for another year!

Hobby Goals 2022

Hey everybody,
It’s January 1st, a day so full of promise, so it can only mean one thing: time to come up with a list of hopes and dreams for the coming year, probably none of which will actually come to fruition by this time in 2023! This year, I’m planning to try something a little different, though, in the hope that it might actually lead to something more achievable! Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Terrain
I always find myself a little… not bored, per se, but I find terrain a lot more difficult to approach. I think wanting the scenery to look good without going to town and picking out all of the detailing on it has me at war with myself over how to actually paint the stuff! That said, I have painted up a few bits and pieces now, and I am quite pleased with how it has turned out, by and large, so I think if I can keep chugging on with the odd bits and bobs in the next twelve months, I might get into something of a rhythm with it.

It has definitely been a good idea to paint the zone mortalis stuff on a slow and steady basis, just doing two sections at a time. It helps, of course, having a colour scheme nailed down in advance! But I will definitely be getting more of this stuff painted up in the coming year – whether I get the entire Dark Uprising set finished by the end of the year, who can say! But you never know…

Hobby Goal: paint some more terrain!

Adepta Sororitas
I love these models, I think they look superb, and I really want to make sure I do a good job on them – which is probably why it has been taking me so long to get them painted! In 2021 I did come up with a colour scheme that I was pleased with, and which I wanted to paint, but it wasn’t that long before my youngest daughter was born, and everything kinda went out the window until I settled on the Genestealer Cults models for the rest of the year. For 2022, I’m thinking that I will try to take things a bit slowly, and just work on one unit per month. My thinking is, if I tell myself “I want to get this squad of Sisters painted by the end of the month” and no pressure to get more done, but equally I still have a bit of a time limit on there, it should provide enough motivation and, once I’ve finished the first unit, I’d like to think that will inspire me to keep going!

Hobby Goal: get more models painted! But only on a month-by-month basis.

Ossiarch Bonereapers
I spent a lot of time last year painting up this army, and I love it dearly. Unfortunately, I don’t know anybody who plays AoS nearby, or even who has an interest in it, so I’m not really sure where I stand with this right now! I’m probably going to paint up the cavalry and the catapult, as I already have those ready to build up. I would also like to have another box of the Mortek Guard, but I think I might actually hold off on any further purchases until I’m sure I’m going to actually get anything out of them on the table!

Genestealer Cults
I’ve painted up a lot of these guys in the last four months, but I still have a lot to get through! I might slow down a little and paint one unit per month, as with the Sisters, though equally it might be an idea to keep up the pace in the hope that I can steam through everything! I don’t think I’ll be buying anything else for the army just yet, but I suppose you never know once the codex arrives! My current sights are set on getting some more Acolyte Hybrids painted up next, as I think I only have one squad of these painted, and also the Nexos, as that is a great model! We’ll see, anyway.

Hobby Goal: continue the good work!

Tyranids
Speaking of the Cults, I do also want to make some in-roads with their four-armed masters. I really felt like I was on the cusp of making a proper go of things with the Tyranids in 2021, but it seems like that wasn’t to be as I switched my focus to the Cult instead. I am in danger of casting my net too wide at this point, I know, but I think it would be nice to have a solid force of Tyranids to play games with as well. I think I only played 2-3 games with them back in 8th edition, but I remember feeling like it was a really good experience, as the army is one that has a great variety of units at its disposal – there are good psykers, good melee units and some good shooting. It’s like a decent all-rounder army, with so much character from the variety of bug models on offer! Back in September, I primed three Tyranid Warriors, and I believe I’ve got a few other models also primed and ready. So I would like to get everything that is in this state painted by the end of the year, if nothing else!

Hobby Goal: paint up all of those units that are currently primed; finish off any part-painted models.

Other things
This is a fairly broad category, I know, but I don’t really know where else to lump them all! I have a number of other projects that are percolating away in the background, and I would like to see some sense of completion. The Delaque expansion box (to say nothing of all the other Necromunda stuff that is hanging about!), Warcry stuff, Drukhari stuff, AdMech stuff… it’s all mounting up!

I still haven’t decided what to do about the Tempestus Scions, the Deathwatch, or the Blood Angels that are predominantly unpainted and languishing in the loft. While I’m undecided, though, I’m not touching them in case I end up selling them and then regretting it. I have (somewhat) decided that I want to keep the AdMech force that I have roughly where it is – there’s possibly a third squad of Skitarii that I need to paint, and some Sicarians. I might get the Skitarii Marshal, not sure, but I am thinking to just keep those chaps where they are, and it’s not going to be a serious army project for me, per se. It’ll be something I can throw in alongside the Sisters perhaps, or else just keep for small games. I love the models so I don’t want to get rid of them, but similarly I don’t want to expand beyond my means any more!

I have a lot of Drukhari models that haven’t been looked at for quite some time now, and I think I need to have a clear out, if for no other reason than to clear some headspace. There are a lot of Wych Cult models that I’ve got partly painted (or worse) that I’ve never used, and I would like to have more of these ready to go, but I know I also have a lot of Kabalite Warriors that I probably don’t really need, so should try to thin out some more.

There are also a lot of Necron models that I need to paint, but I am pretty sure I do want to actually keep all of these, having thinned the ranks a few years ago. I have some Lychguard and some Wraiths that I really want to get painted, so I should probably make an effort with those. I also have some more Immortals that need paint. But the Necrons force isn’t as in need of attention as some of the others I have!

I also find myself in a bit of a quandary now with my Chaos Marines, because I have a lot of these models but so few painted, I’m unsure as to whether I should just cut my losses and call it a day with them, as it’s just yet one more army that I have to do stuff with (plus I play a lot of games against Heretic Astartes, so it could be a bit boring). But the models are so beautiful, I find myself thinking I might just keep what I already have, and not get anything else. But then, there are new plastic Chosen coming out, and I’m kinda in love… I suppose we shall see, but I do feel there might be a sort-out on the cards for these!

Hobby Goal: try to get my life sorted!

Tau Empire
So I’ve left the biggest one til last, but I have plans to re-do a Tau army in 2022. The codex is coming out soon, I believe, so I think it’s as good a time as any to make an effort with this project. However, having previously bought an entire army in one hit, and building it but then being kinda scared off and selling it all, I think I need to have a much more measured approach this time around. I currently have built the Pathfinders unit that was included with Kill Team Chalnath, and I think that’s fine, I’m going to get these guys painted up in January and that will be it. Then in February, I’ll get something else (probably Fire Warriors), build and paint them, then that’ll be it. And so on, and so on. By the end of the year, I think I should have a nice army, but I’m currently planning to have a small game (perhaps!) at Easter, as in four months I am hoping that I will have painted enough units to make this happen. I want to reiterate, though, that this is not going to turn into a monster for me – I am (for once!) going to take my time, and build this slowly. I suppose time will tell, but I have enough projects going on now that I don’t think I can afford to go off the rails in any way, really!

Hobby Goal: start a new Tau army, painting up just one unit per month.

In conclusion, I think I need to try my hardest to focus on what I still have left to paint, and just get on with it. If I can take this measured approach of just one unit per month, I think I could definitely see results – and if it inspires me to maybe to more than one, then all the better! I’m being purposefully hesitant, as I don’t want to over-commit myself and end up feeling bad for not getting anywhere, but also I know that when a project inspires me, as I saw with the Genestealer Cults in 2021, I can definitely do more than one unit fairly quickly, and so will see my progress ratchet up. Here’s hoping for a very successful 2022!