Star Wars: Shatterpoint

Somehow, it seems to have passed me by that there is a miniatures game coming out, set in the GFFA – I can only assume that it’s because I have assumed any references I have seen were to do with the novel of the same name, but anyway.

Shatterpoint seems like it could be good. Small-ish scale, squad based miniatures game that reminds me strongly of the old Star Wars Miniatures game from WotC, it really seems to just speak to me. I’m also feeling a bit down with GW games at the minute, possibly due to the imminent release of 10th edition making it a weird time, plus all the negativity that surrounds pretty much any new release of theirs right now.

James and I are looking to get the core set between us, I’m most likely going to cancel my Leviathan pre-pre-order so as to afford this. From what I can see, though, the game is just based on having two squads as your force, so it isn’t a particularly heavy investment as you pick up a box as you see fit. It looks fun, even though the clone war era isn’t probably my absolute favourite! I think I read somewhere that it evokes those feelings of being a 10-year-old on a Saturday morning and, while it’s been a long time since I was that young, I really like that idea…

Lots more to be said on this, for sure, but for now… I’m excited!!

Rebel Dawn

The final book in the Han Solo trilogy begins with one of those seminal events that we all knew would be coming in this series. Much like Han had to rescue Chewbacca from slavery, he also had to win the Millennium Falcon from his friend Lando Calrissian. So we open the third book with the sabacc tournament at Cloud City, where the large tournament gradually sees just Han and Lando left, and despite a pretty good bluff, Han is able to win the game with a Pure Sabacc and claims the Falcon as his prize when Lando is forced to use a marker after running out of credits. He immediately begins to work on it, and he and his casual girlfriend Salla Zend engage in races to see who can deliver their cargo the fastest. Unfortunately, Salla comes into trouble and Han is forced to rescue her, after which her attitude towards him changes, and she starts to plan their wedding, despite the fact Han isn’t interested in settling down.

To escape, Han travels to the Corporate Sector, and is absent for a good chunk of the book while Brian Daley’s Han Solo novels take place. Instead, we catch up with Bria Tharen, who was actually present at the Cloud City tournament, using the gambling as a cover to meet with other Rebel groups to try to forge an alliance between them. En route to Nal Hutta for an audience with Jiliac and Jabba, she is nearly captured by Boba Fett, who is following a priority bounty on her head placed there by the Besadii Hutt crime family. However, Lando is able to rescue her with the help of the pirate queen Drea Renthal, who had unexpectedly pulled from hyperspace the cruise ship they were travelling on, intent on robbing the passengers.

Durga’s attempts to discover who had poisoned his parent Aruk the Hutt eventually lead him into bed with Black Sun, manoeuvred there by the Falleen Prince Xizor, who has wanted to gain a hold in Hutt Space and agrees to help Durga in exchange for a cut of the profits from Ylesia. Despite at first trying to remain independent, Durga eventually gains the proof to place a bounty on Teroenza and challenge Jiliac to single combat, during which he is eventually able to kill the Desilijic leader. Jabba, after killing Jiliac’s newborn child, is thereafter the leader of Desilijic, and agrees to bankroll Bria Tharen’s proposed offensive to destroy the spice factories on Ylesia.

Bria, after a discussion with Lando, finally reunites with Han in an effort to recruit smugglers to help with the assault, and at first Han wants nothing to do with her. However, he eventually comes round, and the two rekindle their romance from ten years before. Bria is privately convinced that Han will follow her into the resistance, while Han believes Bria will leave the rebellion and maybe they can re-locate to the Corporate Sector.

The Ylesian offensive goes off as expected, and even the arrival of Boba Fett doesn’t stop Bria and Han from clearing out Teroenza’s treasure, as the bounty hunter is only there for the high priest’s horn. Bria has received orders the rebels need every credit they can get, so she basically double-crosses the smugglers, and they take all of the spice, as well as rescuing all of the slaves. Han is left with a box of Teroenza’s treasure, and the rest of his friends having the impression that Han was in on the double-cross all along. 

When Han resumes his smuggling activities for Jabba, he is almost boarded by an Imperial customs patrol, and is forced to jettison the spice he was carrying. Evading the patrol made him fly dangerously close to the Maw black hole clusters, and the way space-time was warped effectively meant he shortened his distance, making the run in just under 12 parsecs. However, Jabba is not pleased, and demands either his spice or the value in credits. When Han approaches Lando for a loan, the gambler punches him in the face and tells him to stay away after double-crossing him. Desperate, Han and Chewie take on a charter to fly two people and two droids from Mos Eisley to Alderaan…

The final book definitely packs a lot of action into its almost-400 pages. Well, the whole trilogy actually has a lot going on, but it seems my synopsis of this one is so much longer than I had done for either of the others! I talked about this before, of course, but the story of Han’s earlier life had been doled out piecemeal for a number of years, through a variety of media, and the trilogy was always, to some extent, going to have that element of ticking off the boxes of things we know had to happen. Han had to win the Falcon from Lando, and it’s nice that we get to have a bit of the rules of sabacc explained along the way. I think it was this trilogy and the Jedi Academy trilogy that gave us our basic rules, with the West End Games supplement Crisis on Cloud City actually coming with a sabacc mini-game (complete with cards!) – I should probably talk about that book at some point, because it’s really pretty good!

We also have to explain why Han is so frosty towards both Leia and the Rebels, so we get Bria Tharen and her double-cross. Bria actually dies towards the end of the book, as her Red Hand Squadron beam the plans to the Death Star from an Imperial comms station to a blockade runner waiting in orbit, which of course was reworked for the movie Rogue One. But it’s nice to see the end of her story, as well. Yes, of course, she is a huge Mary Sue character, with sometimes awfully cliché descriptions (“exquisite bone structure” and “lovely mouth” always make me chuckle). But when you take it at face value, and try not to analyse the story too much, it’s actually a neat little parcel that Crispin delivers here.

Furthermore, we also get to learn what Chewie meant when Han was forced to stop over at Cloud City for repairs. The double-cross was perhaps not strong enough, in my view, as the way Lando had been written up to this point, being best buddies with Han and all, I think he would have actually listened to Han’s side of the story. I feel like something more should have happened to Lando. Han should have left him high and dry or something, it doesn’t feel like it was enough, somehow. And finally, of course, how did the Millennium Falcon make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs, when a parsec is a unit of measurement, and not a unit of time? Well, it might not be the best explanation, but it’ll do!

The ending did feel a tiny bit rushed, somehow. It’s where that Run takes place, and I think there was perhaps a need to wrap everything up neatly that overrode things here. The way Han talks about it, it sounds like it should be a famous feat in the Outer Rim, but he made that Run at most a couple of days before he starts to boast, which doesn’t seem right really, but I suppose I’m just nitpicking on that point.

The problem, I suppose, is that the ending is a little bit too neat, for a trilogy that has, overall, been a little too neat as well. On reflection, Han’s life up until the time he sits down in that cantina booth has been pretty smooth sailing, and fairly uncomplicated. Whether that’s a stylistic choice or just bad writing, who knows. However, there is a part of me that thinks he had it a bit too easy, just walking into a life with the smugglers on Nar Shaddaa and becoming one of the gang, and more, very easily and very quickly. There’s very little in the way of working his way up to any kind of notoriety, which I think would perhaps have worked if he’s made that Kessel Run in the middle book.

Rebel Dawn is perhaps most notable for the fact that Han disappears from his own trilogy for about a third of the story, due to the fact Crispin had to incorporate the earlier Brian Daley novels. These novels came out in 1979/80 and are very much just throwaway adventures that were written just to give Star Wars fans more of their favourite stuff, similar to the (dreadful) Lando Calrissian Adventures. With Luke, Leia, Vader and co all off-limits, Han and (especially) Lando were easy fodder for more stories set before the movies, so we have these weird and wonderful sci-fi stories about their escapades. In order to try to pull as many threads from across the old EU as possible, Crispin therefore had to plot her story so that Han disappears, but isn’t entirely absent. There are some Interludes which almost act as a postlude to each book in the Daley trilogy, and this decision is pretty divisive among fans. Some folks hate the book for it, but others like me actually appreciate the fact that it all works out pretty smoothly. The reason for Han’s departure is sound, after all, and I think it works better than ending the Hutt Gambit with a sort of “I’m off to do Corporate Sector stuff!” scene, then beginning Rebel Dawn with his glorious return. It also helps to tie in with the Salla Zend that we know from Dark Empire.

The book also gives us more Hutt action than perhaps any other expanded universe story, and I love it for that. We get to follow the machinations of Jabba, Jiliac and Durga, and we learn a lot about Hutt society and business as a result. These parts of the story are almost more interesting than the rest, I have to say! I love the Fringe in Star Wars, so I suppose it was inevitably going to be among my favourite parts of the story.

All in all, the trilogy is enjoyable. It fits in with the fact that Star Wars is a space fantasy / fairy tale, and the life of Han Solo being as convenient as it is, it still makes for a fun read. Sure, there’s a part of me that wished some things could have been tweaked to make it seem a touch more believable, but I suppose that’s not the point. We want to see Han Solo the dashing rogue, the space pirate who makes the right call and so on. We need tales of derring-do and so on, and this – like most of the other Bantam novels – hits the mark. 

Ylesia makes a return appearance later on in the New Jedi Order, in a short story to do with the Peace Brigade that I’ve never actually read, so I’m looking forward to my eventual re-read of that series so I can actually see what goes on there. In the meantime, I’m planning to sprinkle a few more of these Bantam classics into my reading schedule, I think I’m going to move on to Shadows of the Empire next…


Well folks, I’m more than a little bit late to the party with this one, given that the first season on Andor wrapped up months ago! As it’s Star Wars Day, though, I thought it only proper that I try to mark the occasion, and Andor has been on my mind a lot lately. I think I just found it very heavy-going, somehow, though. After the slow-burn of the first three episodes building to an explosive climax, I did find myself almost having to force myself to make time to watch it, and once I had caught up at the time, with episode six, I kinda left it again, and it’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’ve wanted to return. It is a very slow burn, though, as a number of reviews have said, and I think that’s what was putting me off at the time – I was probably not all that focused on Star Wars after the summer reading I had done, so was keen for something different.

The first half of the twelve episode season breaks down quite easily into the recruitment of Cassian Andor into the growing resistance movement being co-ordinated by Luthen Rael. The first three episodes show a number of flashbacks to Cassian’s past, which go some way to explaining his current position as a bit of a down-and-out on the planet Ferrix, where he lives with his adopted mother. Luthen convinces Cassian to join an operation on the planet Aldhani, to steal the payroll of the Imperial sector garrison. Cassian joins a band of established rebels in the wilderness, and the next three episodes show the preparations for, and the execution of the heist.

Along the way a supporting cast of thousands begins to unfold, with significant time being given to both Mon Mothma as she attempts to gain control of her family finances to aid the rebellion, and the Imperial Security Bureau and their investigation into stolen Imperial tech, which leads them to Ferrix and Andor. With the Aldhani heist making galactic news, the stakes are ramped up and Cassian basically takes his cut and runs, however he is apprehended on a completely unrelated charge, and essentially jailed for six years for the crime of walking along a beach. 

Forced to labour on unspecified machinery, Cassian eventually hears the rumours that the prison basically recycles its inmates, and nobody is actually released. Together with the shift supervisor Kino, Cassian instigates a revolt among the prisoners and they are able to escape. Upon regaining his freedom, however, Cassian learns of the death of his adopted mother. The ISB intend to use the occasion of her funeral on Ferrix to flush out Cassian, however a riot breaks out when the Imperials overplay their hand, and Ferrix becomes something of a spark for the nascent Rebel Alliance.

I don’t think any synopsis of this twelve-part series would do the storyline justice, as it is incredibly intricate and very far-reaching, all told. On top of that, however, the atmosphere is so on-point, it’s really quite remarkable. In the original trilogy, we get the sense that the Empire is not a nice organisation, to put it mildly, but things are told from the optimistic point of view of the rebels. We know that there’s danger, of course, but it’s somehow distant, and our plucky heroes are still untouchable even while their friends die around them. It all fits in with what I’ve mentioned quite a bit here on the blog lately, the idea that the original trilogy (A New Hope, especially) is full to the brim with optimism and heroism in the mould of the golden age. 

Here, however, the Star Wars universe is dangerous. Andor takes a much more brutal and realistic look of what life would be like under a dictatorship. The rebellion scenes with Cassian himself are all pretty horrible, as you see some of the things that these guys have to go through in the name of fighting for freedom. Life on the frontier really is just awful, and the fact that the story moves at a much more slower pace allows you to get that on a really visceral level. I know there was a lot of criticism at first about the fact that basically not much happened in between the escape from Ferrix in the third episode, and then the heist on Aldhani in the sixth episode, but the series was taking the time to explore its characters and layer in so much more than we have, up to now, seen in the Star Wars universe.

By contrast to the rebels, we have Mon Mothma in her own deadly game on Coruscant, meeting with bankers in an effort to gain control of her finances without attracting the attention of the Empire. This is really where Luthen comes into the story, as a bridge between the two worlds. As an antiquities dealer, Luthen’s shop provides a perfect meeting place for him and Mon Mothma, who is buying stuff to get funds to the rebels. He’s not really a fence, but his character is so perfect, as he travels the galaxy without suspicion because of his front business. He’s able to meet with Saw Gerrera and his partisans, which was also a nice callback to Rogue One.

Something of a highlight, for me, were the scenes with the Imperial Security Bureau, where we see the men and women who are playing their own power games within the Imperial administrative machine. I thought it was fascinating to see how these people genuinely feel as though they are doing good, by preventing unrest and, as Palpatine himself said, enabling that “safe and secure society”. When Cassian Andor is suspected of criminal damage and the like, of course they’re going to hunt him down, especially when he is suspected of stealing from the government. I think it was pretty genius to not only include the ISB, but also to have them portrayed in this manner. They aren’t sadistic, per se, but they’re doing what needs to be done with almost dispassion, to get the job done. It’s an aspect of the Empire that we haven’t really seen in Star Wars, but its inclusion here really blurs those lines between good and evil quite well. Of course, they’re the baddies of the piece, because we’re meant to root for Cassian et al, but when you actually think about it, the ISB isn’t Darth Vader and the Navy, pursuing the rebel scum without mercy. They’re just performing a function within the government. If they were doing it with cackles of glee in shadowy chambers, then you’d perhaps think twice, but their conference room is bright white, as it their uniform, and they have due process they need to go through before they can progress an investigation. It does give you pause, especially when Andor and the others aren’t the squeaky-clean Luke Skywalker and co of the original movies. 

I think, when you can watch all twelve episodes of this series in one hit (or, at least, on your own terms), then the show is tremendous. Having to wait weeks between each episode did kinda put me off for a while back in October/November, and it has taken me quite some time to get back into it. But I’m so glad I did, because it really is a tour de force of showing the galaxy under the thumb of the Emperor. I suppose it helps writing this when I’m also still reading the Han Solo trilogy, which is set in a similar timeframe. There aren’t many similarities, of course, but it’s interesting when we see in the novels how people are increasingly disillusioned by the Empire’s vice-like grip, and the over-reaching of power, which is forcing so many people to take up the offer of life as a pilgrim on Ylesia. In some ways, Bria Tharen’s Red Hand Squadron is a similar group to the one Luthen is setting up, they’re the ones who do the dirty work, who get their hands red in the blood of their enemies. Leave the photo-ops for the Lukes and the Leias, these guys are the ones who are doing, as Cassian himself says in Rogue One, “whatever it takes” to bring freedom back to the galaxy.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what season two brings – not least because it promises to be shorter, but I’m excited to see what happens next, as we gear up for a full-on lead-in to Rogue One. I might even re-watch this first season beforehand, although I’ll try to get it done in chunks again!

May the Fourth be with you

The Hutt Gambit

Following on from the first book in the Han Solo trilogy, we meet up with Han a few years after the events of the last book, where he has been drummed out of Imperial service for his rescue of the Wookiee Chewbacca. Down on his luck, and morose thanks to the fact Chewie is now following him around due to the Life Debt the Wookiee has sworn, Han begins to fall into the life of a smuggler. He reluctantly agrees to having Chewie as a co-pilot and gunner, and the two make for Hutt Space, and the smugglers’ moon of Nar Shaddaa. There, Han meets up with a former Academy colleague Mako Spince, and he gets to meet all of the key players in the smuggler’s life.

Han eventually starts working for the Desilijic kajidic, and its bosses, Jiliac and Jabba. However, Teroenza has not forgotten the grievous blow Han had dealt him when he and Bria escaped Ylesia, and has placed a bounty on the young smuggler’s head. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to claim it, in steps Boba Fett, who almost succeeds until Lando Calrissian is able to intervene, as he wants Han to teach him to pilot his new ship, the Millennium Falcon. Aruk, the Hutt overlord of the Besadii kajidic and Teroenza’s boss, cancels the live bounty on Han, prompting Teroenza to enter into an agreement with Jiliac to help them poison Aruk and weaken Besadii.

Just when Han is beginning to adjust into his new life as a smuggler, the sector Moff, Sarn Shild, proclaims the Empire intends to crack down on smuggling out of Hutt Space, and he specifically targets Nar Shaddaa for “base delta zero”, leaving nothing alive on the moon. Han and his cohorts determine to do all they can to fight back, backed to an extent by the Hutts themselves, who wish to preserve their criminal enterprises, so Han is sent to parlay with Shild. When he meets with the Moff, however, he discovers that Bria Tharen there, seemingly as Shild’s mistress. In truth, Bria has been able to kick her addiction to the t’landa Til ‘exhultation’ and has joined the Rebellion, mainly in an effort to free slaves. Her current assignment couldn’t have landed at a worse time. 

The smugglers aren’t able to buy off Sarn Shild, but they do buy the Imperial battle plan from Admiral Greelanx, who is leading the attack. Greelanx is about to retire anyway, so takes the Hutt bribe, only to receive mysterious orders from the highest levels of Intelligence to suffer a defeat anyway. The battle goes well for the smugglers, and the Empire is driven off, not before Greelanx is visited by Darth Vader himself for retribution.

Much like the first book, I really enjoyed this one! Back when I was a teenager reading these things, I think books two and three of this trilogy, taken together, were in my top five all-time favourite Star Wars books. They are a tiny bit dated now, of course, and the plotline is perhaps somewhere more in the realms of junior/YA fiction than anything else – I mean, a lot of things go very right for Han, and sometimes I’m left thinking, where is the conflict? Seems like the life of a smuggler, out on the lawless Rim, is highly romanticised and just one long yarn. Of course, I talked last time about Star Wars on the whole not being all about the grim and gritty ultra-hard sci-fi that it has on occasion tried to become since, but even so. A lot of the plot of this book is very convenient, once again.

But I think this is perhaps down to the fact that Crispin is trying to weave her story around a lot of accepted facts about the Han Solo backstory, as they were understood back in 1997. Dark Empire and The Crystal Star had already been published, so any storyline about Han has got to reference the fact that he lived on Nar Shaddaa, he dated Salla Zend, he dated Xaverri, he hung out with Roa, and so on. The fact that the story is able to tick off all of these points, and still be pretty interesting and cohesive, is actually really nice, I think. When the EU became Legends, a lot was made of the fact that stories didn’t necessarily line up, but that was principally a problem for things set in the immediate are of the original trilogy. Books like The Hutt Gambit show how much care was taken years before the Story Group was established, to ensure the timeline remained sensible and coherent.

One of the things that I do dislike about the now-Legends stuff in general, though, is just how much is made of the fact that Boba Fett and Han have some kind of major enmity between them, which seems to have spouted from the fact that Vader told Fett not to kill Han in episode five. We have a ton of stuff that eventually seemed quite embarrassing, because for all that Fett was made out to be a feared bounty hunter, the fact that the overarching story dictated he could never capture Han, despite all this history between them, made him into a bit of a joke really. Here, an effort is made to explain that Han and Lando basically embarrassed Fett by drugging him and sending him far away from Nar Shaddaa, and then Jabba basically pays Fett to not hunt Solo because he’s too good for business. It’s not the greatest of explanations, but I suppose it’ll do…

But that is really a criticism of the larger EU at this point, I suppose!

All in all, the book is a lot of fun. We have tie-ins to all the other smuggler stuff like The New Rebellion and Dark Empire, we get to follow Han as he begins to make a name for himself in the underworld, and we get a look into the Hutt cartels and how they all work together. Much like the last one – indeed, much like a lot of the Bantam-era novels – it’s at its most enjoyable when you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Paradise Snare

Hey everybody,
Last year, I re-read a lot of the Star Wars prequel era stories, and it was a lot of fun (even if some of those things aren’t as good as I remembered!) After a bit of thought, I’ve decided this year I would like to get back to some of the other great (or not!) Star Wars books from my youth, and so have started with aplomb, with the Han Solo trilogy by AC Crispin.

First published back in 1997, the trilogy begins with The Paradise Snare, which sees a young (19, I think) Han escape his life as a pickpocket and thief with the criminal Garris Shrike, and make for the planet Ylesia, on the edge of Hutt space, to begin a new life as a pilot. Ylesia, a popular pilgrim retreat, turns out to be a spice processing operation run by the Hutts of clan Besadii, with the t’landa Til “priests” employed to give faux religious services, thanks to a biological quirk that allows them to project feel-good vibes. 

Han meets one of the pilgrims, Bria Tharen, and slowly a romance blossoms, culminating with the two escaping the planet after stealing some of the “high priest” Teroenza’s treasures to finance their new life. However, their bad luck starts almost as soon as Han tries to fence the stolen goods and ship, and only sours further when they meet up with Bria’s family. Han, who has dreamt of becoming an Imperial officer for as long as he knows, decides to go to Coruscant, but their bad luck gets worse, and in desperation Bria calls in a favour from her father to give Han the credits he needs, but then leaves him as she is fighting the urge to return to Ylesia for those feel-good vibes.

Embittered, Han follows through and joins the Imperial Academy, and after a final showdown with Garris Shrike on Coruscant, he is ready to begin his new life with the Empire – Solo.

I have to say, I do like this trilogy. I know that it has, at best, a mixed reception from the fans, and I think the accusations of “bad fan-fiction” and the like are sometimes quite justified. However, I do like it all the same! Bria Tharen is hands-down the biggest Mary Sue in the expanded universe – if you ever see a photo of the late Ann C Crispin, you’ll basically be looking at Bria Tharen. The romance between Han and Bria reads somewhat tawdry at times, as well – even trying to remember that this is a prequel, and so we can’t expect to read Han as he is in the original trilogy, it’s still a bit sappy at times.

The criminal stuff is a bit slap-dash, and reading it this time around I found myself smiling at the efforts to make Ylesia seem dangerous, and the like. We get the Oliver Twist knock-off that describes Han’s upbringing, complete with theft training droid called F8GN. Han also gets a Chewie surrogate in the shape of his Togorian minder, Mrrrov. It’s all a bit convenient, but who cares? Just sit back and enjoy the adventure. It’s not trying to be something that it’s not, but despite the convenient plot line, it’s still quite nicely written, regardless.

Of course, in the past I’ve talked about this sort of book far more critically. I suppose there is an element of nostalgia coming through for me here, as I did enjoy these books back in the day. Which makes me curious because I also had a soft spot for the Jedi Academy trilogy, but wasn’t impressed when I read it again a few years back. I’m thinking that this series is perhaps a little more grown-up than the others, maybe? Jedi Academy can be quite childish (blob races?) whereas the Han trilogy doesn’t quite go there. It does actually deal with some pretty strong stuff, the slavery and addiction storylines being at the fore there. It doesn’t take a long or hard look, of course, but it’s in there – and the way it’s handled makes for a very good storyline. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s solid.

But then, I’m strongly reminded that Star Wars isn’t actually meant to be a grim and gritty sci-fi story. I think that’s something that a lot of people seem to forget, really, but it came across real strongly when I was watching the award-winning Empire of Dreams documentary over Easter, as well as the Disney+ documentary on ILM. Star Wars is meant to be a story that gives people optimism, it’s meant to be a heroic space fantasy, buckling those swashes and all the rest of it! It’s the film that was such a success because it cheered up America after the Vietnam War, and went against almost the whole of Hollywood by being bright and optimistic in the face of the dark and gritty movies of the 70s. In this respect, I think a lot of the Bantam-era novels hit the mark really well. They aren’t the grim and gritty sci-fi of the New Jedi Order, or Shatterpoint, or anything else – they’re that Golden Age feel of stories of heroism and derring-do.

The Paradise Snare is a pretty fun story, as we see a young and fairly naïve Han Solo begin on the path that leads him to the cantina in Mos Eisley (quite literally – the third book ends as Han walks towards the table with Obi-Wan and Luke). It’s not a great book, but I did like it all the same!!

Cracken’s Threat Dossier

I love the West End Games stuff for the Star Wars RPG. It was definitely a simpler time, but it’s one that never, ever fails to fill me with nostalgia for the franchise. The 90s were just wonderful, weren’t they? Okay, so I may be more than a little rose-tinted, but some of my favourite Star Wars memories are from this time, and the WEG books always manage to transport me back to that time. Hell, they even have the same smell that they did all those years ago.

Cracken’s Threat Dossier

Dating from 1997, Cracken’s Threat Dossier is one of those delightful in-universe sourcebooks that presents a wealth of information for the game, covering some of the Bantam-era novels and giving us profiles for the planets, species and characters that we encounter along the way. I don’t want to say too much about these novels here, because I haven’t actually covered them properly on my blog yet, plus it’s been years and years since I actually read them, but let’s give a quick run-down as we move through this book.

We start with The Courtship of Princess Leia, which sees Han win the planet Dathomir in a game of sabacc. When Leia is about to marry Prince Isolder of the Hapes Consortium, Han whisks her away to his new planet, where they find native Force-wielding Nightsisters riding rancor monsters. Isolder and Luke attempt to rescue Leia, although it all works out in the end, with Han and Leia getting married, and Isolder marrying a Nightsister. The novel has one of my favourite scenes from this era of publishing, where Luke single-handedly pilots the Falcon and shows just how impressive a pilot he actually is. The book is also really quite important for later storylines, particularly the New Jedi Order.

The Dossier gives us an in-universe presentation of what happens in the book, and covers profiles for Dathomiri witches and spellcasting, including the always exciting Battle Meditation! There are profiles for pretty much everyone and everything that appears, even Warlord Zsinj who (if memory serves) barely makes an appearance at the end.

Cracken’s Threat Dossier

Moving on, we cover the Black Fleet Crisis next, which is a trilogy of novels that I remember enjoying a lot, although I know it comes under fire from a fair few quarters. Luke learns of the possibility that his mother is still alive, so goes on a quest with the Fallanassi, while Leia attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the Yevethan crisis, during which Han is kidnapped. Meanwhile, Lando and Lobot are off on their own adventure with some sort of sentient ship. The plotlines diverge in the middle book, and everything comes together at the end. I seem to remember this one feeling a bit more grown-up, somehow, but the Leia/Han storyline in particular was very good.

The Dossier here gives us a run-down of Fallanassi Force-powers, as well as an overview of how the New Republic government works, which is quite something! While there are profiles for several new characters, such as Nil Spaar and General A’baht, the majority of the information here is around the array of new ships in the trilogy, including an updated profile for the Millennium Falcon if players wanted to use it at this point in the timeline.

The third segment of the book deals with the Corellian Incident, another trilogy which I don’t remember a great deal about, except for an exciting escape sequence in the middle book featuring Leia and Mara Jade. The storyline is something to do with Han’s cousin, Thracken Sal-Solo, declaring the independence of the Corellian system. Things are smoothed over by the end, and along the way I think there are a couple of things that resonate for the future, including Lando getting married? I’m almost certain I’ve only read these books once, more than 20 years ago, so memories are definitely hazy!

We have profiles for all the major players once again, including Mara Jade, and a rundown of the whole Corellian system.

Cracken’s Threat Dossier

This is a great book for game masters and players who want to use the characters, ships, locations or what have you in their games, and really goes to show how well the WEG line sat alongside the Bantam novels back in the day. You could read one of these books, get fired up for adventure, and WEG would have you covered with all the stats you’d need to play in this universe. I think it’s tremendous, and something that happened less and less as the RPG lines diverged further from the books as time went on. Certainly by the time of Saga edition, there was less material for this sort of thing, and more of a focus on the new movies and cartoons, almost like it was trying to entice people in to play the game. I’m not about to launch into some sort of rant, of course, but I think sometimes I preferred Star Wars when it knew who its fanbase was, and catered accordingly. The balance has shifted too far towards getting new people in, and so nothing is interconnected anymore, the bar to entry is at its lowest point.

Mind you, I’m not even sure if there is a Star Wars RPG anymore, which is a whole other sad story in and of itself.

At any rate, I hope you’ve enjoyed looking back over another of the WEG books for the glory days of Star Wars role playing! I’ll try to look at some more of these things in the future, as I have the whole library up in my loft. And who knows, I might even get to re-read some of these classic Bantam-era novels before the year is out – wouldn’t that be awesome!!

Star Wars: The Card Game – a game of Jedi and Sith

Hey everybody,
I want to write a bit of a different style of blog today, a gaming session report with one of my favourite card games: the Star Wars LCG. I know, I’ve talked about this a lot last spring, but was ultimately unsuccessful in bringing the game to the table more than a couple of times. However, it remains one of my all-time favourite games, and so I have decided to just play both sides of the table myself. I happen to be one of those people who thinks the game is beautifully designed, and I’m such a huge fan of both this game and also the Star Wars universe that I was treating this much more like an opportunity to just immerse myself in the GFFA, and not thinking about trying to win as one side or another. The artwork is also out of this world, and consistently amazing, so that helps, too! As such, it worked out fairly well, making the best plays that I could with each round.

After playing against my wife with Rebel and Imperial decks, I thought instead I would go for some Jedi and Sith decks for this little venture, and see where they get me. So let’s take a look at what is on the table!

Star Wars LCG

The Jedi Deck

The Jedi are playing a fairly standard deck built from cards from the core set only, but which includes some really big names overall. The ten objective sets are:

A Hero’s Journey (2)
Forgotten Heroes (2)
In You Must Go (2)
Jedi Training (2)
The Secret of Yavin 4
Hit and Run

So we have two copies each of Luke, Ben and Yoda, with a whole bunch of Jedi in Hiding, and the like, which should give some utility during the game. Yoda in particular requires a few enhancement cards to give him some more power, although there aren’t as many within the deck to buff him too much. Could be an oversight, I guess we’ll see! But there is a part of me that thinks the main thrust of this deck is going to come from the number of bodies that can be fielded overall. I think this deck is going to see a lot of small-scale things that will add up over time, rather than having big flashy stuff going on all the time. Though I do like the fact there are four copies of Jedi Mind Trick here, which can help to drown the opponent in focus tokens as the game goes on!

The Sith Deck

This deck is a little more wide-ranging than the Jedi deck, as it includes cards from the deluxe expansion and the Hoth cycle. The ten objective sets are as follows:

Fall of the Jedi (2)
The Emperor’s Web (2)
Counsel of the Sith (2)
The Ghosts of the Dark Side (2)
Serve the Emperor
Shadows of Dathomir

There are some heavy-hitters in here, with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine heading things up. Vader in particular is a great unit, albeit costing a hefty 5 resources. Every time the Dark Side player plays an event card, he deals one damage to a unit, and there are enough event cards in the deck that this should be getting quite a bit of value over the game. Palpatine in addition can return event cards from the discard pile to the hand, so even with a few events being played, it’s good to keep recycling things. I quite like the fact that there are four Force Choke events in here, which also deals one damage to a character or creature – so you can play the event for one damage, Vader deals one damage, when an objective is destroyed the Emperor can bring that event back into the hand, and we just do it all over again! There are also two copies of Heat of Battle, the fate card that deals one damage to a participating unit.

Star Wars LCG

Turn One

The game begins with the Dark Side playing a Sith Library for the additional resource, but options are limited this round so out comes a Force Wraith and it is committed to the Force.

Star Wars LCG

The Light Side player plays Jedi in Hiding and Believer in the Old Ways, and focuses both to strike at the Counsel of the Sith objective. No defenders are declared, so two damage plus a bonus unopposed damage are dealt.

The Force is with the DS player, however.

Star Wars LCG

Turn Two

DS player brings out Darth Vader and strikes, winning the edge battle and placing two damage on Hit and Run, plus a bonus damage for unopposed. Vader is then committed to the Force, as he has Elite so removes two tokens during the refresh phase regardless.

LS player brings out another Believer in the Old Ways, and a Guardian of Peace. The Jedi in Hiding is enhanced with Shi-Cho Training, which is reduced to 0 cost thanks to the effect on In You Must Go. Both the Believers are focused to strike, and the Force Wraith is declared as a defender. LS player wins the edge battle with two copies of Heat of Battle, destroying the Force Wraith. The LS player destroys Counsel of the Sith, winning their first objective card!

Turn Three

DS player comes back swinging. Plays a Force Shockwave to deal 1 damage to each enemy unit not currently committed to the Force, which is all of them; this destroys the Jedi in Hiding and each other unit is down to one hit point. Because he played a Sith event, Vader allows for an additional damage to be dealt to an enemy unit, destroying the Guardian of Peace. He then enhances the remaining Believers with Dark Memories, meaning they will die the next time they are focused.

Vader is then focused to strike, and destroys the Hit and Run objective. The DS dial moves up to 6.

Star Wars LCG

LS player refreshes and plays Luke Skywalker, who is immediately focused to strike at The Ghosts of the Dark Side. With no defenders, the attack goes through unopposed, but the DS player did play Heat of Battle in the edge stack, so Luke suffers one point of damage.

Star Wars LCG

Turn Four

The DS player remains in a very strong position, with another Sith Library allowing for six resources per phase. A Nightsister is brought out, and Vader is enhanced with his Lightsaber. He then plays a Force Choke to deal damage to Luke, dealing an additional damage thanks to Vader’s ability, which the LS player deflects to one of the Believers with Lightsaber Deflection. The Nightsister and Vader are then focused to strike at the Forgotten Heroes objective, dealing four damage thanks to the unopposed bonus. The Nightsister is committed to the Force to deal the final point of damage to the objective, claiming it for the DS.

Things aren’t looking that great for the LS!

Star Wars LCG

The turn begins with a Dagobah training grounds, finally giving some much needed resources. Yoda comes out for the LS as well, and as a final shot, he plays a Jedi Mind Trick on Vader to add an additional focus token to the Dark Lord. Luke is focused to strike and does so unopposed, destroying the Ghosts of the Dark Side objective for the second card. Yoda and the remaining Believer are committed to the Force to bring the balance of the Force to the light side.

Turn Five

The DS player draws Palpatine, and actually has the resources to play him, but decides instead to bring out another Force Wraith and a Dark Side Apprentice, to apply further pressure. The DS Apprentice and Force Wraith are focused to strike, and two damage is dealt to the Jedi Training objective, plus a bonus one for unopposed. The DS player then plays another Force Choke to deal 1 damage to Yoda, and kills him off with Vader’s ability.

The Force Wraith is then committed to the Force and, thanks to clearing away Yoda, and the fact the Wraith counts his icons in the Force struggle even when exhausted, the balance of the Force swings back to the DS.

It all comes down to this!

The LS player plays another Believer, and another Guardian of Peace, and uses Our Most Desperate Hour to place a shield token on Luke. Luke and the Believer are then focused to strike, with the Nightsister coming in to defend. The LS wins the edge battle, and with Target of Opportunity deals one damage to the objective, Serve the Emperor, and Heat of Battle destroys the Nightsister. Luke and the Believer then deal three damage to the objective between them, and a fourth point comes from being unopposed, meaning the third objective is destroyed and the LS win! 


I really enjoyed that, aside perhaps from the fact I was running back and forth between both sides of the table! As I said at the start, though, I had hoped merely to immerse myself in the game, and to enjoy it unfolding without really trying to outsmart myself, if that makes sense? I suppose it’s a bit like how I watch battle reports on youtube (when I have the time to do so, of course!) I wouldn’t necessarily root for one side or the other, I’m watching to see the cinematic moments of a game as it unfolds before me. As such, I think it worked quite well, anyway.

Something that I really enjoyed was seeing how things came together on both sides of the table. The Sith deck clearly had some idea of playing Vader then playing event cards to deal additional damage, and that worked out so well with Vader being able to clear off Yoda, and almost clearing off Luke. Indeed, the moment that Lightsaber Deflection was played to save Luke really was inspired! Some mistakes were definitely made – for example, why on earth did I feel the need to commit Vader to the Force? Even if he has Elite to remove both focus tokens he gets when striking, he doesn’t remove them until the start of the next round, when the Balance phase has already been and gone, so those Force icons have no meaning! Bah.

I really wasn’t expecting a Jedi win, though. I think I had worked it out in my head that the Force would stay with the Dark Side, and they’d just tick the Death Star dial up until the game ended. Being able to tip the balance back with Yoda was both entirely appropriate and a huge benefit, as it meant there was one turn when the dial only ticked up once. Being able to do this meant that the Jedi were somewhat able to stabilise and so the final round really did matter. That fate card dealing one point of damage to the objective was such an innocuous thing at the start of the fight though, because up until I realised I was unopposed and could place the fifth point of damage, I hadn’t actually realised the Jedi were able to win! So victory came entirely out of the blue and was a real surprise! 

Interestingly, the game actually took an hour to play like this, as well. I know I still had to look up some of the interactions and stuff, and try to remember all of the rules, but it didn’t seem to add on too laboriously by playing both sides of the table. That said, though, games of Star Wars LCG notoriously go quickly, in part because of the Death Star Dial timer that is baked in to the game. I almost wish there was a way to make things go slower, because there are so often aspects of the game that never seem to come up because it’s over so aggressively, like units defending (and actually surviving). All too often, it feels like the game comes down to a rush of “who can deal the most damage first” rather than any sense of building a plan and executing it.

That said, the game remains so unique, and the Star Wars flavour is really there. I think the fact that the Dark Side player can basically sit back and see what happens, picking his fights but otherwise just waiting for that dial to tick up, is quite interesting, really. The Light Side has got such an uphill struggle from the off, and simply must play aggressively, that it leads to a very interesting dynamic that is extremely evocative of the source material.

Just goes to show, I guess, that playing this way can still be a lot of fun! I hope that I can play it “properly” in the future, of course, but at least I know, even if I end up only ever playing against myself like this, it’s going to make for some interesting times.  

The Jedi deck seemed to be a little bit underpowered in comparison to the Sith deck, so I think it might be time to do some tinkering with it. Deckbuilding within Star Wars LCG is always a fascinating concept, of course, because of the objective set structure of the game.

Looking through the cards in the deck, I think there are possibly two sets that I could cut quite easily. The first one I looked at was The Secret of Yavin 4. The only card I actually want to keep out of this set is Lightsaber Deflection, which came in so useful during the game to keep Luke alive. However, with only one card out of the deck being “wanted”, I think it’s quite a straightforward thing to cut. I’ve replaced it with Self Preservation, which comes from the Hoth cycle (I’m still building decks up to this point, for the time being!) The objective itself grants units +1 Force icon for the Force struggle, which is very useful. The set has two units, who get better when the Force is with the Light side, but it’s really the other cards that I want from this set. Soresu Training is an enhancement that gives the target unit shielding and +1 damage capacity. Unwavering Resolve is an event that allows you to count a unit’s Force icons for the Force struggle without committing that unit to the Force, and even if the unit is exhausted. Finally, there’s another copy of Heat of Battle. So that should be a really impactful set.

Next, Hit and Run was pretty much only useful because of the Target of Opportunity fate card, but nothing else in the set really came into play. I’m therefore going to replace it with A Journey to Dagobah, which also has a copy of that fate card in there, but also has the Double Strike event which allows you to strike with a unit, then remove a focus token from it. That should allow for all types of shenanigans through the game. It also has Red Five, which has three blast damage icons on the card, so can deal a significant amount of damage to objectives when it comes out, especially as they’re not edge-dependent.

Now. My next dilemma is that I have four other objective sets in this deck, all in duplicate. The Luke objective set contains all sorts of useful cards, so I don’t want to get rid of that one any time soon. Jedi Training has got a lot of useful things as well, and the objective itself contributes one icon to the Force struggle, so I don’t really want to get rid of one of those either. That leaves the Yoda and the Obi-Wan sets. Yoda has some good bits, but the Obi-Wan set is mainly there for Heat of Battle and Jedi Mind Trick, which I’ve got from elsewhere in the deck as well, so I’m going to cut one of those sets for another copy of Self Preservation for the time being. It’s quite a difficult call of course, because I was very tempted by another copy of A Journey to Dagobah, but I also want to try Last Minute Rescue because there seems to be a lot of useful healing-type cards in that set, and I think they could have come in very useful during the game played today! However, I don’t want to go changing too much in this deck all at once.

The Sith deck seemed to function quite well, by comparison, so I don’t think it needs to have much in the way of tinkering just yet. Maybe in the fullness of time I’ll be swapping some bits and pieces in and out of there as well, but for now it can stay as it is.

So there we go, possibly my first “batrep” style of blog! I’m not sure if any of this was interesting, and certainly as the game has been dead for years, whether people still want to read this kind of thing! I think I might try it again soon with something like Marvel Champions, because that is a huge favourite for me at the moment!

A Quiet Week

Hey everybody,
It’s been a bit of a quiet week for me this last week, despite having had such high hopes for playing lots of games! I was under the weather for most of the week too (I lost my voice entirely on Thursday), but fortunately that seems to be receding into the background now. I had three evenings to myself this week, and so had planned for some serious gaming, but in the end I only managed to play a couple of things at the start of the week! Of course, it’s always exciting when you can play a big game like Arkham Horror, but still, I had hoped for more!

A Quiet Week

My love of Marvel Champions has continued unabated recently, as I picked up some more packs from the most recent X-Men wave. I have no idea who this Mojo is, but I’ve been reading some good things about the scenario pack, so decided almost on a whim to pick it up. I’d wanted Phoenix for a while as well, so finally added her to the collection too. I’ve now got Phoenix and Colossus sleeved up, as well as Quicksilver, so I have quite a few more mutant heroes to try out in due course. I’m very tempted to pick up Wolverine next time I’m at the games shop as well, although I really should be a bit more circumspect as there is just so much of this game that I still haven’t played yet!

A Quiet Week

I think in my last post, I mentioned playing Lord of the Rings LCG once again, and have started on the Ringmaker cycle. The first pack in that cycle, The Dunland Trap, is where the wheels really came off for me when I was buying and playing this game way back in 2014, and I was so disenchanted by the game at that point that I stopped playing it anywhere near so regularly (although of course I continued to buy it all). Consequently, this cycle feels really new to me. Well, I did actually play The Dunland Trap again yesterday, and my goodness me, it was dull. I can see where it is just brutal, and demoralising, but playing two-handed I was able to deal with most of the encounter deck well enough, until we got to the final stage. The Dunlending chief came out and engaged me, and I was able to throw enough spare allies under that bus that my heroes were safe. (In the final stage, if a hero leaves play, we lose). However, the chief cannot leave play, but the quest has no quest points – you’re basically forced to wait out a 10-turn timer to see if you win. In the meantime, my heroes had killed the chief at least four times over, and I just grew bored with it and decided to abandon the game. The first time I’ve ever done this, and I can’t say I feel that great about it! But whereas the game had, up to that point, been quite exciting, the tension was just wiped away entirely by the boredom of this mechanical situation I was in. Such a disappointment.

I’ve read that the next pack, The Three Trials, is as difficult, then the quests become easier, so I am interested to see how that all plays out!

Anyway. What else has been going on?


I’ve started to watch Andor again, picking up from where I left off last October or November. I had watched up to episode 6 at the time, but life just overtook me, and I was just not in the mood, really, to pick it up again. Well, I watched episode 7 and was pleasantly on the hook once more, so I’m looking forward to getting through this season soon! I have lots more to say about this, for sure, but I think what appeals to me the most here is how much like Star Wars it feels, from back in the 90s almost. Indeed, I think there’s almost the tone of a West End Games supplement to part of the adventure, and I really love it!

A Quiet Week

While watching, I finally started to build up the terrain from Into the Dark. I’ve actually come to really like this stuff, too. It doesn’t always go together smoothly, but then I don’t really think I’ve bought it to play Kill Team with, after all. I haven’t glued everything together, of course, but I have found it really enjoyable to put together various “structures” that will serve to make a board, if that makes sense? I’m keeping it modular, though, so I can change things up if need be. I had initially decided to buy the box because of the Boarding Actions thing for regular 40k, planning to get another one and then I should theoretically have enough terrain for that. However, both the subsequent boxes have sold out well before I was in a position to buy them, so I have soured a little on this idea now. Of course, there’s still the fourth box on the horizon, so I might yet pick that up in the fullness of time. It’s a shame, though, as I did like the look of the Arbites box!

I’ll hopefully have a blog on Boarding Actions coming up soon, because I’ve been looking into that side of things lately and it has definitely appealed to me!

A Quiet Week

In terms of checking-in on my goals for the month, I have actually been hard at work on the Promethium Forge terrain kit, trying to get a good start there. I hadn’t expected to finish this in February, of course, but I am nevertheless pleased with how it’s been going so far! I have had a lot of back-and-forth with myself on how to actually have it set up: the “official” kit is the tank and chimney piece with a central surround, very similar to the “official” Galvanic Magnavent, however I went for the “alternate” build from the back of the box, which shows the piece as being much wider, as I thought it would be more imposing that way. However, when built in this way, the legs are positioned differently to allow for the skull crane to sit on one end of the gantry; when I built it, I put the legs on the ends thinking it would provide more support. Bah! So I’ve been working on a solution but I’m not very happy with it at the moment. Never mind – I just need to progress with the painting now, and hope for the best!

I’ve also been through my terrain box and have sorted all of the panels out for the kit, so I have the right number of ladders, panels and hanging bits for it. In doing so, I realised that I’d not actually painted any of them for the Ferratonic Incinerator back in the day, so I now have those to get through as well! Ah well, at least when this is all finished, I’ll have three good-looking terrain pieces to play games over!

December 2022 Retrospective

And just like that, 2022 is over. Well, I suppose there are a few more hours to go, but you know what I mean. It’s been quite the month, as well, with quite a decent spread of stuff going on!!

To start with, I was quite impressed with myself for not only building four investigator decks and planning to play the full Dream-Eaters campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, but then making good on the whole thing and just steaming through it in pretty short order! I think my recent track record with Arkham campaigns taking me months to complete didn’t really make me all that positive! But there we have it. I haven’t yet picked up The Scarlet Keys, and I have played most of the Innsmouth campaign, so I’m in the curious place now where I don’t really have any new Arkham content to play…

I really enjoyed playing this one, which I think was important because I hadn’t particularly enjoyed Innsmouth (because of my investigator choice, I think) or Edge of the Earth (because of the story, I think), so it was good to get the love back! I’ve talked a bit recently about going back and playing some of the earlier stuff again, as I definitely preferred those campaigns, so I can see myself making another run at Dunwich in the new year! I do want to retry my luck with Innsmouth, as well, so I think it will possibly be a while before I do actually get round to buying The Scarlet Keys, but equally I am looking forward to seeing how that one works. There’s a lot to be excited about right now!!

I’ve recently had quite a huge splurge on Marvel Champions stuff though, getting a hefty injection of content for my collection between my birthday and Christmas, so I should probably look at playing more of that in the future as well! It’s mad, when I think about it objectively, how I’ve gone from zero to almost a full collection of this stuff in the space of not very long. I’ve definitely been enjoying the game, though, and have spent a couple of evenings sleeving up the new arrivals, so I have the Red Skull and X-Men boxes ready to go now. I can’t quite decide which one to go for first, though!! I’m not really interested in playing them as a campaign, having tried the Thanos campaign but being really underwhelmed with it. I think I’ll probably go towards Red Skull for starters, though, as I have a lot of Avengers heroes that I want to try out still. It doesn’t feel right yet to move on to the mutants…

Marvel does seem to have been on the radar a lot more of late, though, as I’ve finally started to chronicle my thoughts on the Phase 4 stuff we were watching back in the autumn. I think of myself very much as a casual Marvel fan – I’m more likely to froth at the mouth where Star Wars is concerned, than any inconsistencies in the MCU. Yet another reason why my sudden all-out acquisition of the Marvel Champions stuff is a bit mad. But it’s fun, and doesn’t take a lot of concentration to watch this stuff, so I can have it on while building or painting miniatures, or whatever. I’ve got some more catching up to do, though, before I can get to the end of this Phase, so there’s more to come in the new year, hopefully before Phase 5 kicks off in February with the next Ant Man film.

I mentioned Star Wars just now, and I did spend a decent chunk of the month reading the recently published Shadow of the Sith, which was very good! The sequel trilogy has been maligned, much like the prequel trilogy was back in the early 2000s, so I’m personally looking forward to 2035 (or so) when I expect the fans to start enjoying it in favour of whatever other new thing is currently causing the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. For me, the sequels aren’t great, but it’s what we have so I’m trying to find the positives. Books like this one help to tie in the new landscape that Disney has blasted into being, so I’m glad that some effort is being made to actually give a backstory to the films. It’s a difficult position to take, but I’ve come to peace with the fact the movies exist, no matter how disappointed I am with the decision to sweep away the old EU.

On an unrelated note, I need to get my act together and finish watching Andor! I’ve watched the first six episodes, but it just dropped off my radar and I’ve not had the inclination to get back to it! Shameful.

At any rate, I’m currently reading The Wraithbone Phoenix, the latest book in the Warhammer Crime series. I started it on Christmas Eve, as an early Christmas present, but I have to say, it’s been a bit of a slog up to now. I think I’m around halfway through, so it shouldn’t be too long before I come back here with some more thoughts. It’s a bit of a shame, though, as I really loved the first book in the imprint.

Speaking of shame, let’s talk about my hobby projects from the month! I’ve really put this whole thing on the back burner, it seems, which is a bit sad really as I had high hopes for another hobby-ful festive period! I have completed the five sword-and-board Lychguard that I had begun to work on back when I moved house, more than three years ago. Considering Lychguard are my favourite Necron models, I’ve actually had some real trouble with these guys, and the warscythe group too, but I’ve finally put those to rest now.

Drukhari have been sneaking into the painting queue for quite a few months now, and I’m so glad to get these three finished as the models were just horrible to paint. Part of that is probably down to my prep of them, but a big part is just the poor finecast material. Again, I’ve had these hanging around for years (at least two of them were built before I moved), so it’s been good to reach into that backlog and just get stuff done. I had planned to get five Wracks finished, then get to work on some more Wych Cult stuff before the year end – Hellions, and another Venom. Well, suffice it to say that the Wracks are close, but not yet finished, so… yeah…

Interestingly, I haven’t done any work on the Grey Knights this year. I often think of them as “my Christmas army” and definitely enjoyed playing games with them this time last year, but they’ve kinda passed me by this year. However, I think there have been a couple of things going on that have perhaps been at work here. First off, I have definitely been playing more other games this year, and have been enjoying a far wider selection of things than I have in years gone by, which has potentially taken time away that would otherwise have been put into painting miniatures. I’ve also just felt like the days have gone by too quickly to really accomplish much of anything!! But also, both of my regular gaming buddies have moved slightly away from 40k, JP towards Middle Earth and James into Age of Sigmar. So my 40k outlets have diminished a bit, though neither of them refuses to play of course (I think both have had significant 40k projects from Santa, too, so they’re not going anywhere!) But it’s been five months since my last game of 40k, and I think it’s beginning to show on me…

I’m sure when I come to think of my 2023 hobby goals, however, I’ll be fired up to get stuff done once again!!

That’s December, so how has 2022 been, overall? I’m a word: odd. My WordPress stats tell me I’ve made 181 posts this year, which is quite good (I posted every day in May, which probably helped!) and my views are up 30% on last year. How wonderful! I know it’s easy to say, but I really do this for the hell of it, and not for the views – if you do read my drivel, I thank you! It’s not like this blog is any kind of revenue stream though, so the views don’t really come into play, I just post stuff regardless! (If you’re interested, my most-viewed post of all time is about Tau support systems, which dates back to 2018. Even all these years later, it keeps getting looked at!)

I touched on this earlier, but I seem to have had a bit of a balance-shift away from the hobby treadmill and instead I’ve moved back to more regular board and card games. Of all the games that I’ve played this year, the living card games have come out on top once again, probably because co-op, solo play is the easiest to effect, and I don’t need to arrange anything in advance.

In all fairness, it has been quite a productive year for me. I think I have benefited from the fact that the kids are just a little bit older now, and even though at 3 and 18 months they can be demanding, we’re in that sort of routine with them both where we can actually get stuff done. I’ve been able to play a lot of games, get a lot of painting done, and I’ve read quite a few books over the course of the year, so I’m quite pleased with that!

According to the stats on boardgamegeek, I’ve played 106 games this year, which doesn’t really seem a lot, I know. Almost nine a month? Hm. There are some very interesting titles among those games, of course, such as getting in a game of Warhammer Underworlds, trying out the Ghostbusters game, I even got to play Rune Age and Runebound once again! 2022 has definitely been a year or rediscovery for me, of breaking the run of games going unplayed. Looking ahead, I’m planning to initiate a bit of a plan to get more games played, but not something that relies on me playing three or four campaigns of Arkham Horror LCG to bump the numbers up!! It does irk me a little when I look at my games, and how much a lot of them have cost, but how many of them are going unplayed. I’m therefore not trying to set out some kind of stringent plan that must be adhered to, but instead I want to come up with something, a bit like the hobby goals blog that you’re all doubtless looking forward to reading tomorrow, that will focus the mind so that I can just make sure I do get to enjoy all of these games that I’ve bought!

My major project for 2022 was the Summer of Star Wars, where I re-read the prequel era stuff. There were a couple of things that I had never read before, but by and large I was reading stuff that I was fairly-to-very familiar with. I think it was a little over 5 months, in total, to read from Darth Plagueis all the way through to Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, and while it was a lot of fun to read some of these things that I hadn’t read for ages I think I went a bit overboard at times, and was reading a lot of stuff for the sake of it, etc. Normally, when I would re-read the prequel stuff, I had formed “my version” of the continuity, leaving out the boring stuff, and just sticking with the good stuff (like Cloak of Deception – yes, it’s an amazing book!)

I’d started the year with the new Thrawn: Ascendancy trilogy, which was a pretty good series if truth be told. I think reading it back-to-back like that was a good benefit, as otherwise I suppose it might have lost something. I had been surprised at how un-Star Wars the trilogy felt, and yet it remained great! I’ve also pretty much finished the year with Star Wars as well, reading Shadow of the Sith and being pretty impressed, I have to say! The sequel era is still like some kind of weird wasteland though, and I definitely want to have more of the timeline filled out there – more info on what is going on between the trilogies, especially. Mystery is good and all, but when it isn’t paid off, there’s just no point!!

In addition to all the Star Wars stuff, I’ve made a return to the Horus Heresy, and have made a start with reading The Witcher books with my fellow bloggers Jenn, Dave and Milou. We’re poised to start on book four in the new year, so it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes as I have no prior knowledge for what to expect, having never really been into the gaming side of it all.

This year has been pretty spectacular in many respects. In addition to the usual stuff, 40k and Lord of the Rings, Arkham Horror LCG etc, which have made regular appearances for the last few years, I’ve really rediscovered loads of games, bringing a lot of old favourites back to the table such as Runebound, A Touch of Evil, Eldritch Horror and even the Star Wars LCG!

The game that has stood out for me by far is Marvel Champions, which was a fairly late discovery as I only started to play with it in August. It has proven to be really easy and really enjoyable to play though, and I’m surprised I hadn’t looked into it sooner. Over the latter half of the year, especially Christmas time, I’ve picked up almost the whole line for the game, with just a few odd packs still on the shopping list. By virtue of it being a quick game that is fairly self-contained, it is up there as one of the games that I have played the most this year.

Vying for the top spot of Most Played Game of 2022 is Arkham Horror LCG, which has seen a lot of table time by virtue of having played through three whole campaigns, plus part of a fourth, as well as giving some of the stand-alone scenarios a try. I talked about this recently, but I would like to play some of the early campaigns again, so have started to think about who I would like to take with me through Dunwich or Carcosa again – I have played Dunwich twice already, so I think I might try Carcosa again. And given the fact that I really like it when Arkham Horror takes place in Arkham, I think I might go for The Circle Undone once more as well. I’m planning to pick up The Silver Keys in due course as well, though, so I’m sure that will appear on the radar. 

I am planning to try to get much more regular gaming in throughout 2023 though – getting to play with some of those big-box classics has really made me want to play more, if for no other reason than to try and get my money’s worth from them! I have a lot of games, and they aren’t exactly cheap either, so it would be great if I could actually play more with them. I’m not really into discovering new games these days, as I know a lot of tabletop gamers can be, so I’ll have a blog about my plans for the coming year coming up early on in January!

Ah yes, the dreaded Hobby Progress 2022 update! Let’s remind ourselves, shall we, of the goals that I’d set at the start of the year…

  1. Paint more terrain
  2. Adepta Sororitas – paint more models
  3. Build & paint the Ossiarch Bonereapers units I have
  4. Continue to paint Genestealer Cults
  5. Paint up those Tyranids that have been primed
  6. Try to sort out the other armies!
  7. Start painting a new Tau army

Well, in going over those points, I was struck by how much I actually have done towards these goals. It’s not like I’m going to get some kind of bar chart out, but I think I have done a fair bit within every point to say that it has been a success, this year!

To start with, I have painted more terrain. I spent almost two-thirds of the year painting up the Galvanic Magnavent, but it’s finally finished, so that’s the second big piece of terrain that I can firmly tick off the list. To add to this, I’ve also finished off the Thermic Plasma Conduits, and the first Haemotrope Reactor. In addition, I’ve also painted up the entire box of Ash Wastes terrain for Necromunda! So I’m quite pleased with the first point there, getting a number of kits finished.

The Adepta Sororitas were something of a bete-noir for me for a long time, as I had gone through so many different ideas for colour schemes for them. After setting myself the goal this year of painting them once more, I floundered for a long time, and I think around Easter I did consider just off-loading the whole lot, as it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen for me. But then, during the Wimbledon final, I stripped the paint off those models that I had tried a few schemes on and, in very short order I was able to get the squad of ten finished. Since then, it’s kinda snowballed for me, and I’ve been able to get a good chunk of models painted up! I’m very pleased with this one, and would go as far as to say it’s been my biggest success of the year! 

As far as the Bonereapers are concerned, however, I have built up five cavalry models, and primed them. And that’s where it ends… Genestealer Cults have had the Nexos painted, which I know is just one model, but still! I do have quite a few models left to paint here, and I would like to try to get back to these guys at some point. Tyranids were a bit of a surprise, as they’re an army that’s always in the back of my mind, but I never seem to make any effort with them. However, this year I did get two carnifexes finished, which was a real delight – horrible models to assemble, but they look great when they’re finished!

In terms of my other armies, I have done some work to thin the ranks, getting the Blood Angels sold off. I still have my Deathwatch and Tempestus Scions, which I’ve just not been able to part with as I love the models so much, but we’ll have to see on that front. I have a good amount of AdMech to keep as a single army, so I might get round to finishing off painting some of those models at some point. I have actually spent a good chunk of the year painting up Drukhari, getting my Wych Cult models off to a better start, as well as that Raider, then the Grotesques and Wracks most recently. In terms of my Necrons, I have finished off the Lychguard and Tomb Blades, which have been projects in varying stages of half-completion for years, and I have done some more work on the Immortals to make their weapons look nicer. Chaos Marines have had some love too, with the Sorcerer and my first ten-man squad being completed. To top it all off, I’ve been able to paint two of the Kill Teams from the big boxes, as well. So within the catch-all heading of “other stuff”, it’s been pretty good!

Finally, my Tau army. It all started so well, but I think maybe I had been too blinkered in just painting Tau for the first few months of the year, and so I grew a bit listless and stuff. It’s a very exciting project for me, though, and I have recently begun to think once again about getting the brushes out for these guys. I think it’s a better idea to take more of a measured approach this time, though, and not just go all-in but try to keep things mixed-up for variety. Maybe a couple of Tau things, a couple of Sisters, some Drukhari or Necrons, maybe even some Genestealers, and see where we get to. But I have painted up a fairly decent amount of stuff over those first few months, so I think it’ll be nice to add to that once again.

All in all, then, I’m quite pleased with my progress during 2022. I’ve been totting up the bought vs painted figures, and in terms of boxes painted, the painted far outweighs the bought (14 bought and 37 painted), but in terms of the models, if we assume the distribution for some stuff like Kill Team boxes, I’ve actually bought 178 models, and painted 179! So that’s very interesting indeed!

This is all getting very wordy now, though, so I think I will stop rambling now. Have a wonderful new year, everybody, and stay tuned for more rambles in 2023! You know you love it!

Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith (a review)

Hey everybody,
Last week, I finished reading Shadow of the Sith, a new novel in the sequel-era of Star Wars that seems to pull together a lot of the story whisps that we’ve been getting pretty much since 2015 and The Force Awakens.

The book begins with a young couple, Miramir and Dathan, escaping from some nebulous threat with their young daughter Rey. Pirates attack, but they are saved by the New Republic. However, the New Republic squadron that helped them is unable to provide further shelter, so they are sent on their way to a former Alliance collaborator. Meanwhile, we meet Ochi of Bestoon, the Jedi hunter from Episode IX, who is trying to find the lost Sith planet of Exegol to heal himself. His chance comes when some Sith cultists arrive, telling him to bring them “the girl”, and giving him a Sith dagger that seems to be somewhat sentient.

While Ochi is recruiting muscle, he is overheard by Lando Calrissian, who decides he must help the family as he has been unable to rescue his own missing daughter, Kadara. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker travels with Lor San Tekka to Yoturba to investigate a possible Jedi Temple site, and discovers some fragments of kyber crystal along with a damaged Sith holocron. Luke has been plagued for weeks with visions of a dark wasteland planet, so travels to Tython where he has the strongest vision yet – indeed, it is only through his father’s spiritual intervention that he is able to return to reality. Lando arrives and recruits Luke’s help in tracking down the family, so they head to the New Republic base where they find out the family was given directions to the former collaborator. 

However, Ochi almost beats them to it, but fortunately Miramir is able to hijack a ship and flee. Luke is attacked by a mysterious figure in a mask wielding a scimitar-shaped lightsaber, the blade of Darth Noctyss, who is clearly after the fragments of kyber crystal he has recovered. With the family gone, Luke and Lando travel to an acquaintance of the Jedi Master, a former Acolyte of the Beyond who is able to track ships through hyperspace. Komat is able to track the family to a refuelling station, but Ochi, with the help of the Corporate Sector Authority troopers, also gets to them. Turns out, Dathan has come up with a plan to deal with the pursuit once and for all – stealing Ochi’s own ship being part one. Thanks to Lando and Komat’s help, they are able to get away. Luke has left to track down his attacker, Kiza, and finds her in a ruined Trade Federation core ship. The mask she wears is possessed by an ancient Sith lord, and imbues her with power as the Sith aims to be reborn. During their fight, Luke believes both Kiza and the mask to have been destroyed and so returns to Lando in time to help the family to flee.

Miramir and Dathan return to Jakku, where they strike a deal with Unkar Plutt to look after Rey while they attempt to deal with their pursuers once and for all. Luke, Lando and Komat are confronted by the spectre of the ancient Sith lord using Kiza’s corpse to attempt to find a way to Exegol to be reborn, but Luke is able to destroy the mask and defeat it once and for all. Lando learns that the family have possibly travelled to Jakku, so follows them. However, Ochi has got there first, and already killed both the parents in orbit. Believing them to have hidden Rey on Pasaana, thanks to some beads Miramir dies holding, Ochi travels to the desert planet but, filled with the power of the Sith dagger, his judgment is clouded and he is swallowed by the quicksand there.

Luke and Lando bury Miramir and Dathan on a former smuggler’s hideout world, then travel to Pasaana where they find Ochi’s ship but the trail has seemingly gone cold. Lando decides to stay on-world to continue his search both for Rey and his own daughter, while Luke continues to build his Jedi Temple on Ossus.

There is a hell of a lot going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. It does have a fairly narrow focus, with just Luke and Lando chasing after Rey’s parents, with some hijinks from Ochi along the way, but otherwise it’s not exactly a galaxy spanning epic in the vein of some of the Bantam books from years ago. But the story is dense, and there are so many call-backs (and call-forwards, if such a thing is, well, a thing) that I can’t help but love it.

First off, it does feel a bit like Rey’s parents are a bit of a mcguffin for the whole thing, and there’s no real character behind them. They’re obviously fleeing from something nefarious, but we don’t really get to know what. It is inferred that the Sith cultists from Exegol want him back, possibly because he is a loose end in Palpatine’s return, maybe because he could potentially lead people to Exegol, but it is never explicit, and after a while it begins to wear thin. I feel like I would have wanted more meat on those bones, but never mind. We do get the flashback scenes, where Rey is saying goodbye to her parents, and then reaching for the sky and their departing ship, which nicely serves to link into the sequel films in that way.

I think the main tie-in comes with Ochi from Episode IX, and of course, the droid D-O. The final chapters feel like everything is being tied into a neat little bow so that Ochi’s ship is waiting to be discovered, Lando is now living on Pasaana, etc. There isn’t really a timeline specific point for the book, much like all of the new novels, but we do know this book takes place before Bloodline. Given that the Rey flashback scenes take place here, and we’re told that she’s six years old, this places it thirteen years before The Force Awakens, or seventeen years after Return of the Jedi. So we can fix it in 21ABY, if we’re using the old calendar. In case you find it easier (like me!) to refer back to what happened during the Legends timeline, this book takes place after the Hand of Thrawn duology, but before Survivor’s Quest.


A lot of this book made me want to re-watch The Rise of Skywalker, I have to admit. The way it deftly sets things up so that a lot of the plot threads are woven into something more like a cohesive narrative is really quite nice. I really liked the addition of the Corporate Sector Authority, and the fact their soldiers are still called Espos made me smile. I like the fact that Lor San Tekka is given a little bit more of a role to play, although we still need something that deals with the Church of the Force, I feel! I would love there to be something that would pull together these sorts of spiritual elements, like the Guardians of the Whills and whatnot. But even while we get more blanks filled in with books like this, the post-Original Trilogy era still feels wide open and a mystery, which is more than a little annoying. I want more of the full galactic picture, you know? It feels like the focus is too narrow these days, and nobody wants to give us novels like the old Legends stuff that gave us an idea of what the galaxy was like. But I could go on about this all day.

I do also like the callbacks to those interludes from the Aftermath trilogy. While the books didn’t really inspire me, I think I most enjoyed seeing those interludes, as we did get more of that galactic scale from them. It’s where we first got to see the Acolytes of the Beyond (the acknowledgements actually refers to Kiza being Chuck Wendig’s character, I’d clearly forgotten the specifics there!) so I did like the fact that was drawn on. We get more on the role that Yupe Tashu played in the earlier trilogy, as well, which further helps to join things together. Star Wars has always striven to be one long narrative, and it’s something that really irritates me recently about the new canon stuff being all over the place, and almost existing in a vacuum. I think we had a tiny bit in Resistance Reborn, and now we’ve got this as well, so slowly things are beginning to cross-reference and give us that feel of it all being one big story.

Of course, there are still so many problems with the sequel trilogy, the book cannot remedy that. In fact, I was quite dismayed by the way Disney is handling the source material here, when Luke is fighting Kiza and says something along the lines of nobody is ever too far gone over to the Dark Side of the Force. I mean, what does Yoda say? “Forever will it dominate your destiny”? Is this the House of Mouse telling us that it’s all sunshine and rainbows after all? It’s just one line, sure, and I can kinda see Luke would maybe think that after redeeming his father, but as we’ve discussed already, he did that seventeen years prior to this novel. It’s not like he’s all that optimistic still, surely?

Definitely have to deduct a star for that slip up. 

But otherwise, this book is pretty much the sort of thing I want from Star Wars. We’re getting a good space adventure with Luke and Lando, we’ve got the Sith working in the shadows to their own ends, and we’ve got some serious effort to draw elements from earlier books together and join up those dots. As a bonus, we even get some Ben Solo being undervalued action – I’m not saying I can totally see why he’d turn out a wrong ‘un, but it does make it easy to see how Luke’s treatment of Ben would leave the padawan susceptible to Snoke’s manipulations. 

Possibly the best new Star Wars novel since Bloodline. I liked it a lot!