Fear to Tread

This is a Horus Heresy novel that I’ve had on my shelf for a very long time now, back from when I had just gotten into the series and was excited to find out more about it. I honestly don’t know why, but the Blood Angels kinda fascinate me as a space marine chapter – I don’t own an army of them, and have no intention of doing so, but I’m still weirdly drawn to them. Space Marine Legions all seem to have their counterparts between loyalist and traitor, but the Blood Angels, while they’re more commonly compared with the World Eaters for their assault-focus and brutal efficiency in close combat, are also similar in so many ways to the Emperor’s Children in their artistry. I suppose they don’t pursue things to absolute perfection, but there is a strong link between the two… and I do rather enjoy the Emperor’s Children in a lot of ways!

At any rate, Fear to Tread is the 21st novel in the Horus Heresy series, and is the first to truly follow the Blood Angels to the exclusion of all other Legions. While Sanguinius did pop up all the way back in Horus Rising, he’s here very much at the centre of things. We follow the Blood Angels as they battle the weird alien menace known as the Nephilim, before Horus then sends the legion to the Signus system with the report that there have been Nephilim sighted there. Horus has also learnt of Sanguinius’ dark secret, that of the Red Thirst, and hints there may be the answer to that problem held on the planet Signus Prime.

The Blood Angels travel there, but instead find that the system has been truly taken over by the forces of Chaos: there are droves of daemonettes along with bloodletters under the leadership of the bloodthirster, Ka’Bandha. The Blood Angels are joined on this expedition by a small coterie of Word Bearers sent by Horus, and another small band of Space Wolves sent directly from Malcador the Sigillite. As it turns out, Malcador has sent the Wolves out to all Legions, as he suspects that more may have turned from the Emperor in the manner of Horus and Magnus.

The war does not go well, as Sanguinius is seemingly defeated in single combat by the bloodthirster, prompting a shared madness of the Red Thirst to break out among his sons. The fighting is particularly brutal, especially among Amit and the Fifth Company (later the Flesh Tearers), who actually kill the Space Wolves while in the grip of this madness. Sanguinius is revived when a band of former librarians goes against the Edict of Nikea to bring him back psychically, and he manages to defeat the daemons with the help of the apothecary Meros, who sacrifices himself to a Chaos ragefire that had been intended to consume Sanguinius himself.

Fear to Tread

While there is nothing inherently bad about this book, I found it incredibly hard-going, and took over a month to wade my way through. I’ve noticed this with the last Blood Angels novel to pass under my nose, Devastation of Baal, which makes me wonder if it’s something about this particular chapter that I just can’t seem to gel with! I find it odd, though, considering – as I mentioned earlier – I do actually like the idea of and the lore behind the Blood Angels…

There are quite a few nods to other Horus Heresy novels, particularly the opening trilogy (the lone survivor from the planet Murder, brother Targa, was originally part of the ragefire that created the Red Angel, a daemon later presented to Horus by Erebus). Obviously, the use of the Space Wolves as the Emperor’s executioners also harkens back to A Thousand Sons, and the novel ends with Sanguinius arriving at Ultramar, which leads into the plans of Guilliman to set Sanguinius up as the head of the Imperium Secundus. It’s handy reading the novels in publication order, I feel, as things like this are a nice way of tying up the narrative.

Ultimately, I feel that not a lot happened in this book, and that it was essentially filler for what is already becoming a massive series. The whole point of the book is to test the Blood Angels, and attempt to bring the legion over to Chaos. Horus decides to eliminate Sanguinius lest his brother replace him as Warmaster, but none of that works. Yet the novel plods its way across more than 500 pages to do so. A lot of it just felt like padding, somehow, and I think it could have done with a trim.

I also haven’t really been convinced by Horus’ turn from the light of the Emperor in a lot of the novels where he directly appears, but here especially, his readiness to kill his brother seems to come out of nowhere. I think this is made especially glaring in that Horus and Sanguinius appear fighting side-by-side in the prologue; they have a very close relationship anyway, but not enough has been made of the break on Horus’ side, it just seems to be too much of a jolt. I know Horus is meant to be the bad guy, but sometimes (like here) he just comes across as evil for the sake of it.

It was good to have the Blood Angels and Sanguinius centre stage, but I do feel that a lot of the middle novels of the series tend to draw things out a bit too much.

The Devastation of Baal

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Well folks, it took me long enough, but I’ve finally made it to the end of this book! That’s not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my time on the Blood Angels’ homeworld during a Tyranid attack – the book is actually really good, with some tremendous action scenes, as well as being quite thought-provoking.

I think the main reason I found this heavy-going at times was just how arduous those action scenes can be. We get about 200 pages of space marines fighting Tyranids, and it did become a bit much after a while. There is enough peppered throughout to keep interest, don’t get me wrong, but I just found it difficult to want to return to that melee day after day.

Another reason why I found this to be quite heavy-going is the simple fact that I’m not that big of a Blood Angels fan. For sure, I enjoy the sons of Sanguinius as much as any other casual space marine fan, but I’m not overly interested in them to the exclusion of all else. And I think this is a major point for this book – if you’re a Blood Angels fan, you’ll absolutely love it. There’s nothing but wall-to-wall red armour where everything is named something to do with blood. We get a lot of Commander Dante, and learn what it’s like to be the oldest-living space marine of the Imperium.

So, the story is basically the attack on Baal from Hive Fleet Leviathan, in what often feels like a follow-up to the Shield of Baal series from 2014. Oddly, though, while it does feel like a follow-up, a lot of what is referenced comes from the campaign books, and not another novel, which just feels a little disjointed to me! Anyway, after a long preamble where the various successor chapters of the Blood Angels gather to accept Dante’s leadership, the Shadow in the Warp descends and the Tyranids begin their attack. After a gruelling battle, where Baal and its moons is basically devastated (well, it’s in the title…) the xenos are beaten back and Guilliman shows up with loads of new Primaris Space Marines.

A lot of people have already been talking about how Guilliman saves the day yet again, and have voiced their complaints that the novel falls down because of the over-use of this device. However, I have to say that I don’t really share this view. True, the Tyranid attack stops and the Indomitus Crusade shows up, but it doesn’t truly feel like Guilliman actually defeats them. Dante and his combined Blood Angels forces do the vast majority of the fighting, and Guilliman himself actually ascribes the victory to Dante. Instead, Guilliman really only shows up for the clean-up. The main turning point comes when Cadia falls, light-years from Baal, and the Cicatrix Maledictum basically destroys the Hive Mind’s synapse long enough for the Tyranids to actually be beaten back.

Leaving entire chapters-worth of Primaris marines behind does feel a bit like a forced ending, of course, as we essentially have the Blood Angels updated for 8th Edition. Now you too can field countless droves of Primaris marines in your Blood Angels army, because Guy Haley told you it’s what happens! Seriously, it’s not the worst way of bringing this development into canon. There is an interesting scene near the end between Dante and Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers, where Seth calls the Primaris replacements for the marines, and their lack of the genetic flaws of the Blood Angels means that, while they may wear the colours, they will never be true sons of Sanguinius. Which is an interesting way of looking at things, to be sure.

Dante’s reaction is similarly thought-provoking, as he seems to have a bit of an epiphany whereby his attempts to preserve the Chapter almost cause Baal to be lost to the xenos. It makes the reader question whether space marines are too caught-up in their own past glories, and whether they really are willing to lay down their lives in service of preserving the Imperium. It’s a subtle point, but I really found it intriguing.

Of course, fans have been endlessly discussing the scene between Dante and Seth, and whether there will be a civil war between the old marines and the new. While we’ve been seeing fractures already like this, I don’t think GW is going to go down this route too much, as I can see it causing further problems with the integration of the product line. People already hate them, it seems, so why encourage that divide? Doubtless, it would be interesting, but I don’t foresee anything too much just now.

Anyway, overall this was a good book, and fans of the Blood Angels will of course love it more than anyone!

Space Hulk!

Hey everybody!
It’s Tuesday, so it’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com! To celebrate the return of the classic boardgame Space Hulk to stores this weekend, I thought I’d get all topical-like, and look at the game that I picked up back in September 2014 – let’s go purge some xenos!

Space Hulk

The original game dates from 1989, and was instrumental in launching terminators and genestealers into the Warhammer 40,000 universe as the icons that they remain today. Over the years, there have been a number of re-iterations of the game, as detailed in a recent article on the Warhammer Community pages, with third edition coming in 2009, and the current, fourth edition, coming five years later. Common to all iterations, of course, is the cast of twelve Blood Angels terminators, and the horde of genestealers:

Space Hulk

Space Hulk is played in Missions, and there are sixteen missions included in the Mission Book. Each mission will tell you how many models you start with – how many marines, and what they’re equipped with, and how many ‘blips’ the Genestealer player starts with. There are a number of entry pointed marked on the set-up map, from where the blips can enter the board on the Genestealer player’s turn. I’ll talk more about this in the Reinforcement Phase, below.

Command Phase
At the start of the turn, the Space Marines player randomly selects a command points counter, each numbered from 1-6, to indicate how many command points he has for that turn. Space Marines can take a number of set actions, however these points indicate the number of additional actions the marines can take. If the marines use more command actions than is printed on the token, they automatically lose!

Once the command points counter has been placed, the Genestealer player starts the timer, which gives the marines a defined window of 2’43 to take actions for the entire team.

Action Phase
Each Space Marine has 4 action points he can use to take a number of actions, from a menu of 11 total actions. Each of these actions takes up a number of action points, such as opening a door for one point, or firing a heavy flamer for two points. You need to completely finish the activation of each marine before moving on to the next – the only exception being if you then come back to that marine to spend a command point. While firing their storm bolters at the genestealers itself costs a point, marines can also fire at the end of some movements for no additional cost.

When moving, models move in the direction they are facing, and to turn 90° costs the marines an action point. These marines are clad in tactical dreadnought armour (terminators, to you and me!) and so are fairly bulky; the narrow confines of the space hulk therefore impede their movement, whereas the Genestealers are much more lithe and nimble.

Genestealers have a total of 6 action points in their turn, and can spin about to change their facing at no extra cost once they have spent each of those points.

Space Hulk

Shooting stuff
Space Marine Terminators are equipped with a panoply of wargear that will help them to purge the xenos aboard the space hulk, most commonly the storm bolter, but also larger stuff like the heavy flamer or assault cannon, and combat stuff like power fists and lightning claws. Each of these weapons has various rules associated with it, as detailed in the rulebook. Storm bolters and assault cannons have no maximum range, you just need to see the model you’re trying to hit. The flamer is an area-effect weapon that can only hit up to twelve squares away. When rolling to hit, you roll two dice for storm bolters, three for assault cannons, and as many as there are models in the area for flamers, and if you roll a 6+, a 5+ or a 2+ for each respective weapon, you hit the model and it is destroyed.

Normally, you can only do stuff on your own turn, but the marines can take an Overwatch action which effectively readies them to fire at genestealers on their turn, instead. Only assault cannons and storm bolters can do this. Overwatch shooting takes place at the end of each genestealer’s action within 12 squares and line of sight of the marine on Overwatch. It can be a useful tactic to put a marine on Overwatch, to force the Genestealer player to re-think their strategy if they don’t want to lose that model.

Unfortunately, Overwatch does come with a price for the marines and, if he rolls doubles on the shooting roll, the weapon jams and he will need to spend an action point on his own turn to clear that jam. So he might be valiantly placed to cause the genestealers to pause in their advance but, on the first roll his weapon jams, and they’ll be all over him like a rash!

Space Hulk

Close Assault
As well as shooting storm bolters and stuff, marines come equipped with power swords and chainfists to use in melee fights with the genestealers. However, close assault is really where the xenos menace excels, so you probably don’t want to end up there!

Space Hulk

In close assault, genestealers get to roll three dice, while marines only roll one; whoever rolls the highest result on a single die wins the assault, and the other models is removed as a casualty. Space Marine Sergeants get to add +1 to their roll, which gives them a bit of an edge, while a marine with lightning claws rolls two dice in close assault. Additionally, marines can spend two action points to go on Guard, meaning they’re ready for the assault and can re-roll their die in combat. So they’re not entirely squishy!

Reinforcement Phase
After the Action Phase comes the Genestealer’s turn, starting with placing a number of ‘starting blips’ at the entry points on the space hulk as mentioned earlier. These blips are numbered from 1-3, and show how many models they will turn into – however, in keeping with the suspense of the game, the marines won’t know how many genestealers are out there until they’re converted into actual models.

Space Hulk

Before conversion, blips can move around the map like regular models, spending up to six action points per blip as described. If the blip hasn’t activated, the player can choose to convert it into a number of models shown on the token, placing one on the square the blip had been occupying and the remainder adjacent to it. If the space marines can ever draw a line of sight to the blip, then it is “involuntarily converted”, and the Space Marines player gets to place the genestealer models.

It’s worth noting that the number of genestealer models is limited to the number of them included in the game, though there are 22 models plus the Broodlord, so you probably won’t be needing a lot more than that!

Mission Status Phase
At the end of all of this, each player checks for his victory condition, before then removing all Overwatch/Guard counters from the game (and revealing that Command Points token to show the marines didn’t overspend!) and a new round begins.

The mission I’ve been using to demonstrate throughout this game day blog is Beachhead, which runs to 12 turns and allows the marines to win if they still have at least seven men standing, and have eradicated the genestealer threat. The Genestealer player wins if there are less than five space marines alive, however, so the game could potentially last fewer turns if the genestealers have been super aggressive!

Space Hulk

There are, of course, multiple other rules for things like objects that are specific to the mission, and there are two ‘special’ characters in the game, the Librarian and the Broodlord, who have abilities that can impact on the game in different ways. The Librarian is a psyker, and has three Psychic Powers he can use. Each costs a Psi point, and he starts out with 20 such points. There is a whole section of the Mission Status Display board devoted to tracking his use of these points. His psychic powers can be used to move the command point tracker back one, gaining additional command actions on a turn, as well as blocking access to squares with a powerful Force Barrier. Finally, his Psychic Storm power can empty a board section of genestealers or blips on a 4+ (or destroy individual targets on a 2+). However, the Broodlord is a powerful genestealer, and has the ability to increase his close assault rolls and requires two hits to kill in shooting attacks – and is immune to Psychic Storm!

Space Hulk

Back in the first edition of Space Hulk, there were a couple of expansions that increased the options of play: Genestealer, which brought in new rules for psychic combat as well as five Grey Knights terminators and genestealer hybrids, and Deathwing, which introduced both the elite Dark Angels terminators and options for solo play. Subsequent editions haven’t seen as much love, with the last two being limited, one-time releases only. However, there are some electronic rules for adding in Space Wolves, Ultramarines and Deathwing terminators to the current ruleset, and given the current mood at GW for producing board games like these once again, maybe we’ll see full-fledged expansions for the game once more – outside of the odd White Dwarf mission, and the like…

Space Hulk

Space Hulk is, of course, a classic of board games, and beloved by many since its initial release back in 1989. It’s currently in its 4th edition, which Games Workshop is trotting out for the second time now (though I picked it up the first time around in 2014). While I am struggling a little to make it out, I do believe this is an actual “return”, and not another limited-release thing where they have it on the shelves for a couple of weeks, then you’re having to sell organs to get a copy on ebay as the only viable alternative. So this – if it is indeed true – is yet another positive move on GW’s part in really becoming a workshop of games, and bringing back an absolute classic from the genre!

Hobby Progress, week 34

Hey everybody!
It’s been another pretty exciting week for hobby progress, which is something I haven’t said often enough lately!! Let’s start with the best:

Hobby Progress 34

That’s right, it’s more Deathwatch! After last week‘s armour business, I’ve now done a lot of the details over the week, starting with the silver arms, but then I’d decided I wanted to just focus on the chaplain out at the front there. I based all of the gold barding and details with Retributor Armour, which I’m not the biggest fan of where my Stormcast Eternals are concerned, but with the black here, I have to say, it looks incredible! The gold has then been shaded with Reikland Fleshshade, and a very light coat – almost an overbrush, if I’m honest – with Auric Armour Gold. I think it look amazing, anyway!

Like I said, I was intending to work on just the chaplain model, mainly because I found myself kinda intimidated by the level of detail on these guys, and I was finding it difficult to find a starting place. As it turned out, I’ve had some really bad trouble sleeping this week, so one night I painted all of the gold details on the other six models I’ve somehow chosen to work on (of the ten I currently have built), and have since done all of the silver arms and three guns. There are clearly a lot more details to work my way through, and I have missed a few gold details that will need to be done, but for now, I really love the look of these guys!

I’ve also done the leather pouches (and one of the Ultramarine guys has some pteruges hanging at his waist) with Rhinox Hide, Agrax Earthshade, and Doombull Brown. I’ve mainly been following the GW scheme for these guys, anyway, though I’m sure that, as I make my way through the rest of the details, I’ll be doing my own thing on some of them!

Returning to the chaplain, I’ve also painted his head with essentially a drybrush of Doombull Brown, focusing it around the face for a lighter colour, and I think the effect really looks great. It still needs some more work, but I like it – in painting the armour, I’d gotten some Eshin Grey on his face, which threw it into a really nice relief that eventually made me want to paint him as a black guy. Aside from the fact I feel there isn’t enough ethnic diversity among GW models, it’s also allowed me to work on my brush control as I drybrushed and overbrushed in a very confined space.

Indeed, these Deathwatch marines have been quite the exercise in improving my drybrushing techniques. I’d tried to edge highlight the armour and it didn’t work out on the first couple of miniatures, so I’d used drybrushing there to focus it on the angles, and have basically continued in this vein, trying to really focus my technique and whatnot. While it may or may not be evident from the photo above, I do feel that my technique has improved tremendously, as I’m not just all about trying to get colour onto models anymore, but really taking care over them. I think the fact that black armour will pretty much show any mistakes I make has a role to play here, also…!

So what else has made this an exciting week?

I’ve been building more models, first of all getting the rest of the Blood Angels Death Company models finished. In all honesty, if I’d planned it better I would have done these a few weeks ago, and essentially used them to practice painting black armour, but never mind. They look fantastic, and I’m looking forward to getting round to them. The kit is also replete with Blood Angels stuff, as well as some stuff I think I could use on other things, so stay tuned for some kit-bashing to come from this!

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I was going to enter Armies on Parade this year, and will be doing so with my Stormcast Eternals. Well, I thought I’ll do at least a few more miniatures for the board, so have finally built up the Knight Heraldor! In addition, I had a box of Liberators that I’d weirdly built one of and left the other four, so have gone for the sword-and-shield guys. I’ve already got one built like this, so thought I’d best make a full squad, but I’m not really relishing the idea of painting four more Sigmarite shields, as the raised boss is not my favourite thing to do! Still, they can look really great when they’re finished, so we’ll see. It’s about six weeks until Parade Day, so hopefully I can get these guys done – my Lions of Sigmar scheme is actually pretty straightforward, when it comes down to it, anyway.

Finally, I’ve stipped the paint from the three Electro Priests that I started at the beginning of the year. I’d primed three with Corax White, and it really didn’t turn out well for me, going on the models all powdery and stuff. I’d tried to paint them anyway, ignoring the cardinal rule of miniatures painting (making sure the model surface is good enough to paint on), and it was really horrible. After having stripped the Vanguard Veterans last week, I threw these three into dettol, along with one of the Necropolis Knight heads, those models also suffering from a bad undercoat, and this time left them overnight. They’ve turned out quite grey, as if the primer hasn’t quite come off, but the surface is smooth now so I’ve accomplished the objective, I feel!

All of the recent builds have been primed this afternoon, so they’re ready for some paint now – again, as mentioned last week, I prime models in my hallway and I think leaving them in the area allows all of the particles in the air to settle on the wet primer, not helping the situation at all. I also mentioned it to the manager at my local GW store, and he suggested holding the can closer to the miniature – I’d been holding it almost two feet away, as I’d heard holding it too close can obscure details etc. So I’ve tried both a closer priming, and moving the models to dry, and I do believe that has done the job for me! Everything I’ve primed now looks pretty great, so that’s going to be really useful in the coming weeks and months as I move on to painting this stuff!

Finally, I’ve spent the afternoon building up more Necron Immortals, while listening to the Tabletop Minions live show that Adam does every other Sunday, and that was really great. If you guys don’t already, I highly recommend checking out that channel and subscribing, as he has a lot of awesome, top-notch content! In fact, in these week’s live show, I even get mentioned! Check it out!

In the coming week, I’m looking to get at least some of these Deathwatch chaps finished, with the chapter insignia and other remaining bits finished, and perhaps get the Stormcast Eternals base-coated, if nothing else. Since I worked out how to use those flat brushes from GW, I’ve been feeling much happier about painting guys in general. I mean, there can be something quite intimidating about having a lot of guys that you need to paint with one colour but the brushes you have aren’t exactly huge. So that’s cool. I’m going to try to focus like this more in the weeks to come, and see if it helps with getting stuff actually finished. I did have success when I was only working on the small numbers of Alpha Legion marines, but have a lot more stuff built up and primed, so we’re really getting into intimidating-territory now!

Hobby Progress, week 33

Here we are again, folks! Week 33 of my hobby progress blog, well and truly on the slide down to Christmas! I’m actually really surprised I’ve managed to keep this up all year – not that I really expected to abandon it, of course, but more because I hadn’t thought I would actually be doing something hobby-related for all 33 weeks of the year so far! But anyway.

I managed to get two days off work this week, and the weather was correspondingly awful, so I have quite a lot to talk about!

First up, Deathwatch. It’s on everybody’s mind, no doubt, due to the ongoing releases coming out of GW. I’ve got ten of these guys on the go right now, five from Overkill and the five Veterans from Death Masque. Having primed them Chaos Black, I’ve been intending to follow Duncan’s tutorial and so painted the armour Abaddon Black, then highlighted with Eshin Grey and Fenrisian Grey. First of all, painting black on top of black has always made me scoff – I’ve never had to do it, but I’ve never really seen the point. Having now done this, I am a total convert to this idea! In many of the videos from Warhammer TV, they say how Abaddon Black has a different finish to Chaos Black, but they don’t tell you that Abbadon Black has a much nicer finish, which is what I find. It felt a bit foolish at first, but I could definitely see an improvement after doing just one marine, so eagerly did the others!

Eshin Grey has proven to be an extremely subtle highlight, while Fenrisian Grey has gone over it far too brightly, so I’m really not happy with the look of these. I think I might need to start over, but I might try a much darker grey, maybe Dawnstone, rather than the Fenrisian they tell you to use.

That said, I’ve tried edge highlighting in these as an attempt to begin to level up my painting, and my first attempts have not been a success! A lot of these marines have therefore been carefully, lightly drybrushed to highlight them, trying to only hit the edges and not the whole armour. At any rate, I don’t think they look all that great, so it might be back to the drawing board. We’ll see.

Hobby Progress 33

Next up, the Vanguard Veterans I mentioned last week! Having rescued them with dettol, I’ve re-primed and sprayed them Macragge Blue, then drybrushed with Chronus Blue and washed them with Drakenhof Nightshade, as is my standard Ultramarine scheme. It could be my imagination, but the second paint job here doesn’t seem to have taken quite as I’d expected – the marines appeared to be shiny even after the primer, and I’m not entirely sure why.

That said, I’ve had the worst luck with sprays recently. The weather, as I mentioned, has not been great – it wasn’t too bad when I was doing all my spraying on Thursday, however, but the primer and the spray base colour both came out really powdery and rough on every marine I painted this way. So I’ve taken a toothbrush to them and tried to brush it all off. For the most part, this has worked, but it left a lot of guys – particularly the blue ones – quite shiny, too. Maybe I’ve made a mistake here? I don’t know. I certainly made sure the can was warmed up, and shook it for at least two to three minutes each time. I do wonder, though, if priming them indoors might not be the best of ideas. There was a lot of particulate matter in the air after doing that, and they were in that environment to dry, so maybe I should move them away to dry…

Anyway, onwards!

Hobby Progress 33

The four Alpha Legion guys have been base coated, washed and drybrushed with my usual scheme as well, so they’re coming along nicely. I’ve been thinking quite a bit how I’ve found these chaps really quite painless to paint, but for my Ultramarines, I seem to take a lot longer and agonise over the details – but they’re essentially very similar! Hopefully I can speed up with my Ultras, therefore, as I have rather a lot of them on the go in various stages, and would really like to have them finished soon!

I’ve been building a lot of models this week, as well – Necrons, Terminators, Librarians, and more marines in general. As I said last week, it’s the time of year where I start to plan for the winter and, if I can get stuff primed when the weather is consistently good (well…), I will do! So let’s take a look at some new stuff!

Hobby Progress 33

First of all, more marines – this time, Terminators! I love the Terminator kit, and even though it’s a fairly old sculpt now, I still think it holds up. There’s something of a classic look here that I really enjoy, anyway. They’ve had the same treatment as the Vanguard Veterans, so they’re ready for details to start being added in.

Hobby Progress 33

Last week’s nostalgia prompted me to build up five Lychguard, who also turned out powdery and awful, but I think I’ve managed to save them with copious amounts of Nuln Oil! I think I’ve talked about this before, but as the Lychguard were the first Necrons I’d put together, all of my subsequent builds have seen me try to match that first paint job, and so I’ve never really had the chance to progress. These chaps, however, I’m hoping to see myself do something not necessarily wildly different, but I’m going to really try to make a good accounting of them. I still have five more with warscythes hanging about from earlier in the year that are also unfinished, and five with sword/shield from last year that need some work, so I’m going to be working on those side by side and see how they all turn out. I think I could do with going through a lot of my Necrons and trying to improve them – the Triarch Praetorians, in particular, never ended up exactly as I’d have liked.

Time for stuff that I’ve built and not yet primed/painted! Let’s start with the Librarian from Dark Vengeance. I’d bought this box back before last Christmas, built the five Deathwing Terminators, and sold the rest. I had thought about keeping the librarian, but didn’t bother in the end, and have periodically regretted it since. So I did a search on ebay for him recently, just out of curiosity, and found I could get one for £3! (I also saw the five Deathwing guys for £8, which bummed me out). Turmiel arrived on Thursday while I was priming guys, so I built him up and primed him, as well. Seeing as how his backpack was completely separate, I decided to make him more Dark Angels-y than he is, and gave him an ornate one from the DA Veterans kit that I’d bought specifically for the censer bits. While I now have a backpack with a librarius skull on it, I feel I may have a use for it further down the line…

Going through the DA Veterans bits had inspired me, however, to start building more Deathwing Terminators! The chap on the left has a storm bolter that has the Deathwing sword strapped underneath it as well as a shoulder pad from the Veterans box, while the sergeant on the right has the power sword, as well as a censer hanging from his belt. The Standard Bearer has a little shield thing with feathers also from the Veterans kit, but is otherwise pretty standard-fare.

My original five Deathwing Terminators I built and painted earlier in the year are a mix of regular guys and Command Squad guys, and reading the DA codex, I think I need to make all five from the Command Squad in order to field it, so I’m trying to build marines that will allow me to bulk those five out into two separate squads. So the plan, ultimately, will be to have three squads of the terminators, one squad of the Knights, Belial, the Venerable Dreadnought, and a Drop Pod and Land Raider. Though I’m seriously thinking about making at least one more dreadnought. I’m not going for the whole Dark Angels force, as I only want the Deathwing because the colour scheme is one of those 40k schemes that genuinely excites me. But anyway!

What else have I been building? Oh yeah!

Having built up three Devastator marines back in the spring, I’ve finally built the remaining two – and the armorium cherub! I don’t know why I seem to build things in threes, though painting the Maximus marines has shown smaller numbers tend to focus me somewhat. Anyway, I’ve finally got the five done, and I have to say, the Devastator kit is absolutely incredible for the number of spare bits you have in there! I put a photo on instagram (if you don’t follow me there, why not?!) that shows the sprues as they are once all five marines are built, and it’s incredible! So many weapons options for the sergeant alone! But so many spare heads, hands, it’s all just amazing! I reckon all you’d need is some legs and backs from a bits seller and you could make at least three more marines out of this kit! Totally awesome!

I have no idea if the Ultramarines use cherubs in the fluff – they always seem to be a Blood Angels thing in the artwork we see – but built one simply because I could. I also want to challenge myself to paint more flesh, so it’ll be a good thing for that.

But speaking of Blood Angels…

I’ve finally started to build stuff from the Shield of Baal box! (Well, I suppose the Genesis Chapter terminators I’d done over the winter were the sprues from here too, but anyway). There’s a lot of convoluted reasoning going on here, so allow me to begin…

Blood Angels have rarely interested me, as a colour scheme. I don’t think I’m very good at painting red, and I find that the colour is far too strong sometimes for its own good. The lore of Blood Angels is somewhat interesting, but I don’t find myself drawn to it in the same way I am to the Ultramarines, which might sound odd to anyone familiar with the lore, but anyway! Reading the Shield of Baal novellas almost two years ago was a lot of fun, though, and given that box came out very soon into my hobby career, so to speak, I do find myself quite nostalgic for Blood Angels because of that.

I’ve also recently found myself thinking about trying a different marine force, just to keep my motivation going. In that respect, the Deathwatch have come along at a good time, as I had been looking at the Start Collecting box for the Blood Angels. Much like the Space Wolves, I like the idea that the kits they have are full of chapter-specific sculpts, rather than the more generic stuff that you can buy upgrades for. It’s really only those two chapters who have this as well, as the Dark Angels, for all the fact they have their own Codex and the like, the marine kits are generally the standard line. Anyway, I’m kinda rambling here. The main thing is, I liked the idea of having a really customised-looking force.

This is kinda what got me looking at the Shield of Baal box, and the Death Company sprue inside. Those marines are basically a Space Marine Assault Squad kit, but totally made for not just the Blood Angels, but very specifically for the Death Company of the Blood Angels. I thought that was incredible at first, and looking over the sculpts, I was blown away at the level of detail on those guys. So I decided to build some up, especially seeing as how I’m already painting black marines for the Deathwatch, and see how they turn out! I think it could be a fun little side project, and might even field them alongside my Ultramarines when the time comes for me to finally get some games in! I’ve got two built so far, so hope to get the rest done soon, and then I’ll probably work on them over the winter…

So that’s been my week! Pretty huge, I have to say, but enjoyable, as well. The primer issues I’ve had have caused me to lose some faith in my painting in general, but I’m powering through those currently. I really want to just keep painting, and try to get to the continuous improvement stage where I can try new things and, as I mentioned, really level up my painting skills.

Next weekend is the Bank Holiday weekend, and I’m hoping for more fun and frolics with painting miniatures there, as well. Then for September, I have a sort of mini-project planned, which I hope will be very exciting indeed! So stay tuned for that!

Shield of Baal

The deadly worlds of the Cryptus System, always beset by the gravitational and radioactive forces of their twin stars, have come under a new threat – the xenos might of the tyranids. A tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan has reached the Cryptus shieldworlds. The Imperium musters its strength, for the aliens must be stopped here, as next in the hive fleet’s path is the home world of the Blood Angels Space Marines, Baal itself.

Shield of Baal

That’s right, folks – time for a review of the Shield of Baal series of novellas and e-books from Black Library! These stories support the recent Shield of Baal campaign from Games Workshop that has helped to publicize the recent releases of Tyranid and Blood Angel models, which culminated in the Deathstorm box set. I don’t play Warhammer 40k, of course, but I do enjoy the setting, and part of that enjoyment has come from this series!

So…

Shield of Baal

Shield of Baal began back in November, with the publication of the campaign supplement Leviathan. Selling out within the first hour of being available for pre-order, it was either this or the Khaine supplement for Warhammer Fantasy’s End Times series that appears to have prompted GW into re-releasing these things in paperback. Anyhow, Leviathan was the first of two hardback supplements, the other being Exterminatus, both of which framed the box set release itself.

Shield of Baal

These books have some absolutely gorgeous art – for more on that, check out my tumblr posts here and here! The slipcase for each features two books, of course – the fluff and the crunch. The latter provides all of the rules for the models, including those for the new Tyranid releases that began in October/November. Anyhow!

Shield of Baal

These three novellas form what I suppose is the overarching storyline of the campaign, and function very much like the End Times novels we’ve been seeing in Fantasy. The fluff books in the campaign supplement releases can be seen as the history books of the time, so we see virtually everything that occurred, while the novels/novellas dramatise the story much like a historical film might present the events.

here be spoilers!

So we start with Tempestus. This story features the Adepta Sororitas fighting a heresy on the world of Lysios, before the arrival of an Imperial Inquisitor and his Tempestus Scions, on the trail of a new xenos threat. It’s a really nicely-crafted story, particularly interesting (to me) for featuring the Sisters of Battle so prominently – the fan community seems to bang on about these girls like they’re the most short-changed of all the factions, so it was interesting to see what they’re all about. The leader of them, Canoness Magda Grace, is a particularly compelling character, though unfortunately the story largely hinges around Inquisitor Ulrich, who annoyed me very early on for his attitude of career-advancement-at-all-costs. The story ends with Ulrich abandoning the Sisters and the Scions on the planet, just as the Tyranids begin their invasion, though whether he actually gets away is another question entirely…

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#Deathstorm #Warhammer – the next novella!

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The next short story is a bit longer, and coincides with the box set itself. Deathstorm begins as the Tyranid invasion is getting under way, and introduces the Blood Angels First Company, under the command of Captain Karlaen – the Shield of Baal himself. Karlaen is tasked with retrieving the Governor of Phodia, whose bloodline might hold the key to curing the Blood Angel’s Red Thirst. The story follows Karlaen and his men as they follow the trail of the governor, who holed himself up in a private bunker shortly after the Tyranids arrived. I enjoyed this one immensely! I was particularly impressed by the way Reynolds writes the Brood Lord as a point-of-view character, given the fact my previous encounters with 40k novels have had the xenos just as the antagonists. The twist at the end is also amazing, and actually really well-written (I think!) The other thing I really liked was the way all of the major players in the meat of the story (excepting the governor) are models from the Deathstorm box set – for me, this just goes to show the power of thematic, scenario play, where you can take a collection of models and spin an entertaining story out of them!

Shield of Baal

From there, we then have a couple of e-books, starting with Wraithflight. This brings the Eldar into the storyline, though quite gratuitously, in my opinion. Nothing seems to be added to the overall tale, it’s very much a sideline to the main event. If you’re an Eldar fan, it might be worth downloading – it also follows on from a previous novel, so you might like to read it if you’ve read Valedor, also. But to me, it didn’t really contribute anything.

The Word of the Silent King was a big thing for me, however! It was released for download a couple of days after the Exterminatus previews went online, where we finally had confirmation that the Necrons would be coming into the campaign, so it was an insta-download for me! While I was naturally predisposed to be favourable to it, nevertheless I thought it was a nice story, considering the e-books feel almost like filler than the main thing. It details the alliance between the Necrons and Blood Angels against the Tyranid threat, and is told from both sides, through one of the space marines and one of the Praetorian Guard. It feels quite important, as the story features both Commander Dante and Szerakh themselves, and the general sense from the story is that this is setting up the endgame for the campaign. Which brings us to…

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Shield of Baal concludes! #Warhammer

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The third and final novella (it seems), Devourer was released with Exterminatus, and was just far too exciting for my Necron-love, as it has Anrakyr the Traveller on the cover! Oh yes, this one promised to be excellent! Unfortunately, that promise didn’t quite hold true, in the end. Anrakyr is trying to awaken a tomb world amid the Tyranid invasion, without realising the world is already awakening. We follow the reactivation through the eyes of a Cryptek and her Lychguard, as she discovers the Flayer virus has crippled the Lords and Overlords – and the Phaeron herself! Unfortunately, the Tyranids prove to be too much, and Anrakyr is forced to flee the world, no great loss when he realises the extent of the virus.

I really wanted to like this story, given how the Necrons are centre-stage for it, but it sadly fell a bit flat for me. I really don’t mean to sound sexist when I say this, but I was surprised at how many female Necrons there are – I’d always just thought they were beyond such things as gender-recognition post-transformation, and all. The fact that we get inside Necron heads also seemed to destroy the mystique a little too much for me – ironic, given the fact that I’ve wanted to read a story with them for so long! However, my main issue is the fact that the story just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and has such an inconclusive ending. Not to be too harsh, but the actual storyline is one I think that should be more suited to an e-book – Anrakyr tries to wake a tomb world, and finds them all infected with the Flayer virus, so flees the surface for the next one. The novella would be better-served with more of a conclusive ending, when he finds a tomb world and it’s all set and ready to smash the Tyranids!

There’s a side-story of Blood Angels guarding the dead planet Perdita, but following a Tyranid sortie they crash on the surface and have to fight their way through the caverns, latterly with the assistance of the Necrons. I feel that the story in Devourer is setting up something else, though as it’s (ostensibly) the last in the series, it appears to go nowhere… However, it’s not all bad – what we do get is a nice look into the reactivation of a tomb world, some excellent scenes that sent a little shiver of goodness over me as I read descriptions of my favourite army, including the Tomb Sentinel of all things! And there are some pretty awesome set-piece battle sequences to enjoy!

There is a third e-book worth downloading, called Shadow of the Leviathan, which features the Ultramarines in a different sector of space. The story centres around the Chief Librarian Tigurius and his struggles with a new psyker Tyranid monstrosity – never identified by name in-story, it’s not difficult to see it as the new Maleceptor model that was part of the wave of releases in November. It’s actually a nice little story, and definitely worth checking out if you’ve enjoyed any of the other tales in the Shield of Baal series!

Shield of Baal

Final Thoughts

These stories are lots of fun, for a variety of reasons, with Deathstorm by far being the best of the lot. There are some excellent battle descriptions, possibly my absolute favourite being Tigurius’ aristeia in Shadow of the Leviathan. And, of course, it’s always fun to have stories where you can imagine the goings-on through models on the tabletop!

Being a campaign supplement for the wargame, I suppose there is necessarily an open-ended feel, as people will be playing through these scenarios, and the Tyranids might win there. However, part of me wishes that a canon-ending could have been adopted, much like in the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games, where you could play it where you end up a Sith Lord, but the actual story is supposed to see the Jedi triumph. Perhaps GW don’t want to see the Tyranids defeated, of course, but throughout the series I feel we’re led to believe that the Space Marines will triumph.

The Necron thing is still a disappointment, of course. A large part of me still hopes we’ll see a fourth novella in the new year, once we have the new Zarathusa the Ineffable miniature available. Indeed, there is an oblique reference to this chap in Devourer, and I did feel a little cheated when nothing came of it! Time will tell on that, I suppose. There is also the fluff from both campaign supplements that can be read through – as this is intended as a review of the novellas only, I haven’t yet made my way through the bigger books; once I do, I’ll come back and add a post-script or something.

Before I close, I can’t help but mention the pricing. Tempestus and Devourer are £12, with Deathstorm £15. These are short books – less than 130pp for the first and third, and 175pp for the middle one. For £20, Black Library have published full novels of 400+pp, so it does feel like a terrible money-grab. It might be more worthwhile downloading them as e-books for £5, but I’m one of these people who prefers a proper book in my hand to anything else. It’s obviously my choice to have the tangible hardback, but it seems a little excessive markup there…

I don’t want to end on a low point, though – this campaign is really enjoyable, and worthwhile reading through for anyone who is interested in the setting. The three novellas take various facets of the 40k universe and showcase them to good effect – Blood Angels, Adepta Sororitas, Necrons, Tempestus Scions, etc.

Shield of Baal