Dark Imperium: Plague War

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It’s taken me almost a month to finish reading this book, but I feel like I need to point out that I haven’t been dragging my feet because the book is bad – far from it, it’s a really great 40k story in what I’m coming to think of as the “iconic” mode, as opposed to all of the throwaway stories that I’ve read in the past. But, as I’ve said already, I’ve been moving house, so time has been at a premium!

Plague War follows on from where Dark Imperium finished off, with the stage set for a Guilliman vs Mortarion showdown. In many ways, Plague War is a much better book, as it doesn’t really come with all of the baggage of the new edition that its predecessor had. Rather than reading the book to find out what would be in store for the new Primaris range, we can instead enjoy it on its own merits, and while I think I’ll most likely re-read them both when the inevitable third part comes along, I do think that the second act is definitely stronger.

The first couple of hundred pages feel like they are very deliberately setting the scene for the showdown on the planet Parmenio, presenting us with a number of small vignettes focused on several major characters to the story. We meet Frater Mathieu, who has settled much more into the role of Militant-Apostolic to Guilliman, and is continuing his schemes to make the Primarch a true believer in the divinity of the Emperor. We follow the Guard, as always, alongside some Sisters of Battle as they investigate the presence of a potential Imperial Saint in the city of Tyros, who first appears at the turning point in the battle against the forces of Nurgle. We meet several of Nurgle’s daemons, we catch up a little with Mortarion, and we also get to catch up with the Primaris marine Justinian Parris, who is seconded to the Novamarines following the events of the earlier novel. It’s all a little bit of a jumble – Guilliman himself doesn’t even appear until well over 100 pages, to take delivery of a curious strongbox.

While Mortarion is cooking up something particularly disgusting on Iax, which we got some clues about in book one, his feint on Parmenio is intended to bring Guilliman to his knees, and so the main portion of the book deals with the battle there. There’s only so much disease, filth and ichor that I can really take, but nevertheless, I felt it was somewhat toned down compared with previous Nurgle-centric novels. The Novamarines manage to destroy one of Mortarion’s clocks on the planet, which means that when the daemonic incursion takes place, the Neverborn are at a distinct disadvantage, due to the lack of any Warp power on Parmenio. They still put up a good show, of course, and Guilliman is almost destroyed by Mortarion’s scythe Silence, but at the crucial moment, the Battle Sisters bring the Saint onto the field of battle (defying Guilliman’s express orders) and her mere presence manages to send most of the daemon’s back to the Warp. Mortarion escapes to fight another day, calling out to his estranged brother to follow him to Iax and pretty much setting up the third novel, and the Imperium forces are left to gather their thoughts and their dead.

The fairly ambiguous end sees Roboute Guilliman open the strongbox, and begin to read possibly the only remaining copy of Lorgar’s Lectitio Divinitatus.


I said before, this is a much more enjoyable novel than Dark Imperium, and I suppose part of that has to do with how I approached reading the earlier novel. There is still an element of seeing these sorts of novels as miniatures catalogues, although there aren’t any new miniatures hinted at that I recall. The Astraeus super-heavy tank gets a mention, though, which I suppose was new at the time this book came out!

The novel did feel a lot like a short series of disjointed events for probably the first half, which didn’t really help me get into it too much. It became easy to pick up and put down after a single chapter, rather than wanting to read through for a good period of time. Nevertheless, once the story got underway, it was very enjoyable – though my personal disinterest in Titan warfare meant a particularly long chapter about 3/4 of the way into the book was just tedious to get through.

I thought it was really interesting how the Imperial Saint, Kaylia, was handled, though. She seems to have been just a regular girl who happened to have, to all intents, the Emperor act through her, bringing the cleansing light of His majesty to the disease-ridden battlefields of Parmenio. One of the daemons actually refers to her as “the anathema”, their word for the Emperor, though once this power has proven to be too much for a mere mortal to contain, and she expires as a result, Guilliman writes her off as an unsanctioned Psyker and berates Mathieu for planting the seed that enabled the Battle Sisters to take possession of her. The war between the Primarch and the Ministorum is clearly not over yet!

I do wish that more had been explored of that, but I suppose it’s possible that we’ll see more of it in the next book, which I hope will follow up on a lot of this stuff. Will Roboute Guilliman become a believer? I don’t know what to make of it – and I really don’t know what to make of him. Throughout this and the last book, we are led to believe that Guilliman, once he had come out of stasis thanks to the help of the Ynnari, had a chat with the Emperor on Terra. During the confrontation with Mortarion, however, it is implied that Guilliman did not, which makes me wonder what’s going on there. Is he trying to create some kind of cult of personality around himself, and maybe eventually declare the Emperor to be dead at last? I think he is now aware of the reasons for the Primarch project, and their eventual redundancy, so maybe his loyalty has shifted a little. I’m not trying to say that he is about to fall to Chaos, of course! I’m just wondering if we might be setting up for a further schism on the side of “good”, with the Ministorum heading up a pro-Emperor faction, and Guilliman at the head of his own? Like an Imperium Secundus, but for the modern age? Who knows!

I was a bit disappointed by the actual Guilliman/Mortarion confrontation however, and while inevitable, the fact that pretty much all of the Nurgle commanders escaped to fight another day was disappointing. I suppose it’s difficult to have such a confrontation where, presumably, the author isn’t allowed to kill off such a hugely important character (with a ÂŁ90 miniature that was only released a year and a half ago…) In addition, the battle involving Typhus was almost entirely a bit of a sideshow, and I can just imagine the Herald of Nurgle twirling his moustache with a snicker and a “until we meet again!”

“You haven’t seen the last of me, muchachos!”

Overall, it’s definitely worth the read, although as the second part of a trilogy it both benefits and suffers, by having a decent story to build out from, albeit with no real sense of closure quite yet.

War Zone Vigilus: Vigilus Defiant

Hey everybody!
Having already taken a look at the opening stages of the Vigilus campaign in last week’s blog, I thought I’d come back to you all today with some of my garbled thoughts on the first campaign book in what promises to be an exceptional series: Vigilus Defiant.

Imperium Nihilus: Vigilus Defiant

This is book one in a two-part series, Vigilus Defiant feels a whole lot like the classic sort of RPG sourcebook to use in a campaign, rather than some of the campaign books of yore. First of all, let’s have a look at how the book breaks down: 115 pages of background and fluff for the Vigilus campaign, bringing things up to date from the two battle-box releases to the point where the Space Marine coalition is poised to go up against the Black Legion, Genestealer Cults and Ork Speedwaaagh; 50 pages of narrative play rules, featuring twelve new missions to play and the rules for linking them to form a campaign (six Crucible of War and six Echoes of War missions) and rules for battlegrounds, including specific battlezones that replicate locations on the planet; and finally, 35 pages of new rules, including the rules for the new models released alongside the new book, as well as 22 “specialist detachments”, which is where I want to go first.

These specialist detachments have been likened to the various detachments we had during 7th edition, such as the infamous Necron Decurion detachment. In case you’re unfamiliar, 7th edition Codexes featured a number of detachments alongside the datasheets, which kinda functioned as suggested armies. There were usually a couple of smaller scale detachments, then there would also be one army-scale one that was quite often made up of the entire range (or as much of it as was sensible, in the case of armies like Space Marines). You gained wonderful bonuses to your army if you included every single unit specified – but that detachment literally was your army. For example, a fully kitted-out Dark Eldar list that followed the Kabalite Raiding Party detachment cost 2055 points, giving you no room to manoeuvre if you wanted to include anything else. Furthermore, it would force you to take units you might not want to take, but the worst part of such detachments was that you invariably saw the same army being played by all. Especially, the Necron Decurion!

Specialist Detachments are nothing like this. You start off with your army as you’ve been building it for a game regardless. You then look at how that army has been structured, in terms of the variety of detachments you may have included in it (battalions, outriders, etc). You can then pick one of those detachments to become the Specialist Detachment, paying 1 command point for the privilege. This action actually does nothing by itself, it just adds a further keyword to each datasheet for the models in that detachment.

I’ve been working on a Space Marines list for the past few days, so I think it might be easiest if I use that to show you what I mean!

I’ve built a 1000-point list, basically to showcase the new Marneus Calgar model among an all-Primaris force from among the models I have currently. It isn’t incredibly points-efficient, mainly because I’m forcing in some models simply because I have them, and I haven’t got enough troops (at least, I don’t think so) to create a battalion yet. Anyway! The list is as follows:

Primaris Space Marines list

This is one Patrol detachment, and one Vanguard detachment. So I get 4 command points, which isn’t particularly fabulous, but I’m working within the limits of what I have. I can use one of those command points to give all of the units within one detachment the Indomitus Crusaders keyword, which is fine, but doesn’t do anything else. However, I’ve unlocked a new warlord trait for the army, Grey Shield, which can give a unit from the same detachment as my warlord an additional Chapter Tactic until the start of my next turn. That feels a bit wrong to me, so I don’t want to go along with that one. But I also gain access to two new Relics: Reliquary of Gathalamor (which affects enemy Psykers within range of the bearer) and Standard of the Ultima Founding, which I can use on the Primaris Ancient to give a once-per-battle effect of allowing infantry within 6″ to re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1. That’s a useful one, as my plan for the army is a sort of gunline thing that makes use of as many aura abilities as I can generate. The Ancient’s new ability is in effect until the bearer next makes a move, so I assume it will stay in effect so long as I don’t move him.

There are, additionally, five unique stratagems that I can use on these chaps now that they have the Indomitus Crusaders keyword. Three of them are dependent on a fourth having been used – for 1 command point, I can upgrade one Intercessor squad from the detachment to be Veteran Intercessors. If I don’t use this one at all in the battle, then I actually only get one unique stratagem.

Hopefully, then, you’re seeing the point that these Specialist Detachments are not likely to be particularly game-breaking for the time being. They are really quite command point heavy, and most armies that are built to maximise command points are, I imagine, built with a number of stratagems already in mind. If you’re now faced with yet more choice for your points, are you likely to forego spending on those pre-determined stratagems to sink a few of them into one of these detachments? You’re pretty much committing to at least 2-3 command points for this – you have to pay 1 to unlock the keyword, which you would only do if you wanted to use at least one other stratagem that the detachment would give you access to.

I feel like these things are primarily going to be used by players who like a more fluffy or wide-ranging kind of game. The more competitive players will most likely stick to their codex, with perhaps one or two who are keen to exploit the warlord traits or relics that also come with the detachment. Importantly, you also have the option (for another command point) to give a non-warlord the warlord trait from the detachment, once you’ve made the initial investment. Interesting.

At any rate, the much more exciting part of this new book, for me, is the wealth of narrative content it contains. I’ve already rhapsodised quite a lot about similar content we have just seen in Chapter Approved, and to get more of it so soon is quite magnificent, I have to say! It’s enough to keep games really fresh for a long time to come, I’m sure.

I’m deeply impressed with the lore contained within these pages – not only do we get the whole story of Vigilus and the factions thereon, but we get a really in-depth look, which is what gives it the feel of an RPG sourcebook. There are pages of details on each of the hive-sprawls across the world, as well as rules for you to create games that take place in each one. It’s an incredibly detailed book, the like of which I don’t think we’ve seen before for 40k (or at least, not for a long time). While I’m hesitant to say I want more of this, as I don’t want any future campaign books to feel like they’re carbon copies of this, I do like what they’ve done here, so I would like to see a similar approach in the future!!

What’s Next?
We’re due to get a second book at some point, as stated in the introduction to this volume, and my guess would be that it will come around March to tie-in with the whole 80-day countdown we’re on for Vigilus to fall to Chaos. The new Black Legion character Haarken Worldclaimer has already planted his spear in the world, and decreed that Vigilus will be in the hands of the Warmaster within 80 days and nights. If that isn’t a huge telegraphing of the fact Abaddon is going to feature very soon, then I don’t know what is! Of course, it’s unclear as to whether we’ll be getting a new model for the Warmaster: he definitely needs it, for sure, and I think it would be a nice parallel with Calgar here for us to have Abaddon come out alongside book two, perhaps with a new Space Marines model, either a new hero or a re-imagined hero of yore.

Haarken Worldclaimer is a very nice model, for sure, but I don’t think we can have a situation where we’ve got the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines leading the forces of “good”, but just the Herald of the Apocalypse on the opposing side of the field. I believe March will be seeing the release of those Chaos models from Blackstone Fortress as a separate range, but I’d also hate it if the new Chaos bad guy were to be Obsidius Mallex. We need Abaddon, for the Emperor’s Sake!

I think the only thing that’s putting me off thinking we’re guaranteed the new model next is that he really should have showed up during the Fall of Cadia storyline, but we didn’t get anything. If we’re having a new Black Legion release in March, then I think the time would be even more perfect to bring out a re-imagined Abaddon. It’s got to happen!

The future
But that’s all just for Vigilus #2. What about the future of the 40k line once we’ve got the final codex out there? I keep reading that Genestealer Cults will be coming at the end of January, at which point we’ll have seen all of the existing 7th edition Codexes be updated for 8th edition. There are still model lines such as the Inquisition that don’t have a book, though they are in a peculiar place and I don’t think they’ll have anything specifically for them without a new model release. I feel reasonably sure that we’ll get an Inquisitor expansion for Kill Team, after which we can presumably see the models released for regular 40k with a new book. But that could be months if not years away.

The way forward, though, is going to be through Campaign books like this, rather than Codexes. Sure, if there’s an army out there who needs rules, then they’ll get a book. If the Primaris Marines ever get an expansion to the range – and I don’t see why they wouldn’t – then I can see there being a specific Codex for them, separating out the old marines line for ease of reference. As an aside, the idea of old-style marines being phased out of use is actually addressed in-universe in Vigilus Defiant, where the procedure to transform Marneus Calgar into a Primaris Marine is described. I’m still in two minds about whether they will actually completely do-away with the older line of models, but part of me can definitely see it happening in a few years more…

GW have already stated that there are only rules for armies in this book if it makes sense for the army to be there. So we have no Necrons, no Tau, and no Tyranids, and also no Chaos Daemons or Dark Eldar (even though the latter are mentioned as being on-world, conducting raids). While there are Space Marines present, there are no Blood Angels, Grey Knights or Deathwatch rules. However, future campaigns that do feature these armies will feature rules specific for them, so I think that’s a very sensible way to go about things. It also confirms future campaigns are in the works, of course!

I really enjoyed reading through the campaign books of 7th edition such as Shield of Baal and the Tau stuff. Important to note, of course, the War on Fenris campaign gave us the rules for Magnus and the new Thousand Sons range in the last months of 7th edition, so it isn’t entirely unprecedented for a new army to get their rules in this manner – maybe that’s how we’ll get the smaller stuff like Inquisition rules.

At any rate, I think the future of the game being in Campaign books could well be magnificent, and I am really looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for Warhammer 40k!

Ultramarines are great!

Hey everybody!
I recently delved into the first two parts of the War-Zone Vigilus storyline (in a blog you can read here), where the Ultramarines have a prominent part in defending the world against an Eldar retaliatory stroke, and it got me thinking about the amount of hate levelled at the chapter by, what feels like, the entire 40k fanbase. So I thought I’d see if I could disentangle the grief surrounding them, and see if they have anything going for them!

The boys in blue can be found on the front of every box of generic Space Marines kits sold by Games Workshop, and have been there since the dawn of time, really. I suppose this is the first point, then, on our graph of hatred – being the poster boys of the Space Marines product line. Making a few assumptions here, Space Marines are perhaps the “most generic” of the 40k armies, and a lot of people come to them to start. If people are starting out in the hobby with Space Marines, they may well be painting them up to match the box art, creating a vast amount of Space Marines who are blue and Ultramarines.

I’ve certainly come across this myself with some things, where people always try to dissuade me from following the GW-standard scheme for something. “Paint them a different colour!” is a comment I’ve had for a few things now, but what’s wrong with following along with the box art? Many people, myself included, are attracted to a model or a model range because of something we have seen, and want to re-create. Whether it’s Bloodletters or Ultramarines, if you want to re-create a model that has inspired you, you should just go for it! There’s nothing wrong with painting a miniature to match those on the box front.

As it happens, I haven’t really seen a great deal of Ultramarines armies on the whole, though there is a guy at my local GW with a really awesome collection painted really well. I’m very much a fan of seeing the army, and I can’t honestly say that anybody in the local community has said anything negative about them being “Ultrasmurfs” or the like. There’s an appreciation for a nicely-painted force, and that’s that!

The Primarch of the Ultramarines is, of course, Roboute Guilliman, a renowned tactical genius among the Primarchs of the original Space Marine Legions. There is a fascinating scene in Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear that shows Guilliman absorbing dozens of battle reports at the same time, then making up a plan to deal with it all within moments, while all those around him look on dumbfounded. All of the Primarchs had different strengths, and that was his. While it is true that there feels like an element of the deus ex machina about his appearance in the current 8th edition storyline, I don’t think people are really understanding the existing lore behind it. Bobby G is showing up at the exact right time most often because he has been able to plan for that eventuality.

Guilliman is the Man with a Plan, and a Backup Plan, and a Backup Plan for the Backup Plan. And probably a couple more Backups, just in case. And he came up with all of them at the same time.

A lot of criticism of the Ultramarines is that they’re boring, and I think some of that might stem from the fact that they have a very straightforward, efficient way of waging war. They don’t have the unnecessary bloodthirst of the Space Wolves, or the flair and bravado of the White Scars, but they just get in there and get the job done. And then re-establish the community behind them. I find this in particular to be a fascinating aspect of the lore of the Ultramarines, and I really appreciate how it has led, in more recent years, to GW giving us Ultramarines upgrades to give them more of a Roman feel – Rome, the ultimate empire builders.

The crested helms and leather pteruges are always a nice touch on models, and really help to form a certain aesthetic that, of course, can be used for any other Chapter of marines, but is quite iconic on several models when used specifically for the Ultramarines.

Still talking lore, it seems a lot of people don’t like their insistence on the whole codex-adherence thing. Guilliman wrote the Codex Astartes, of course, and insisted on splitting up the Legions following the Horus Heresy. Furthermore, Guilliman ruled as Regent of Terra in the centuries following, until his run-in with Fulgrim saw him interred in the Temple of Correction for centuries more. It’s not difficult to lay the accusation of arrogance at the door of the Ultramarines because of this, of course, though of course it can just as easily be explained by the fact they are consummate empire-builders, and these actions are in keeping with the statesmen aspect of the lore.

I think it’s an interesting aspect of the Ultramarines history, that they go from being fairly well thought of and interesting fighters during the Heresy era, to being much more set-in-their-ways and boring during the 40k timeline. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the wider Imperium, which has also ground to a halt at this time, and is a far cry from the Imperium of the Great Crusade. We can see the uncompromising nature of the Ultramarines chapter in Graham McNeill’s novels, particularly Dead Sky, Black Sun, whereby the valiant captain of the fourth company, Uriel Ventris, is dismissed from the chapter because he disobeyed the teachings of the Codex. Anyone who has read Graham McNeill’s books can’t think that the Ultramarines are dull and boring, surely?!

So people think they’re boring and they’re everywhere, and their Primarch is the most dull out of them all. They’re the poster-boys for the Space Marines, and as a result they’re just generic and boring.

Is that it?

Of course, we can’t talk about the Ultramarines without talking about the impact of Matt Ward and 5th edition. Codex: Ultramarines showed the army as being held up as an example to all others, with other chapters secretly wishing they could be Ultramarines. People like to hate Matt Ward generally, but for his work with the Ultramarines, there seems to be a very specific kind of hate directed towards him – and that has lasted all the way down the years (5th edition was 2008).

Alongside this, I feel like there’s something of a badge of honour for players who like to complain about the army. As if, by some kind of borrowed hate from this period, they can show they’re real fans or something. I wasn’t around for 5th edition, as I came to the tabletop game itself not long after 7th edition had landed. A lot of this kinda passed me by, and my first contact with the Ultramarines was quite a positive one, looking through the pages of the Sons of Ultramar painting guide and being impressed by the massed ranks of Space Marines painted so well.

To me, there’s nothing to hate about them – they’re prevalent, for sure, but they’re such a classic element of the 40k universe that it seems disappointing that people want to just hate on them because that’s what everybody else did ten years ago.

I think the fact that they’re seen as poster-boys for GW is a very weak argument to hate on them. GW needs a strong brand, and so they have chosen the Space Marines to be the seminal focus for that brand in what is – especially now – a very crowded marketplace. If they used a different chapter for each unit they sold, Space Marines as a brand would be somewhat diluted. If you bought Tactical Marines that were Ultramarines, but Bikers that were White Scars, Vanguard Veterans that were Raven Guard and Devastators that were Imperial Fists, it might feel like you had four different armies there. All of the Dark Eldar kits have Kabal of the Black Heart on their box fronts, Tau kits are now all Vior’la Sept, etc.

It’s a slightly different situation, of course, because 8th edition is the first time we’ve seen sub-faction rules for each army, but I can’t imagine people hate Kabal of the Black Heart because they’re the poster boys for the Dark Eldar. (It’s more likely to be due to Agents of Vect, after all).

The biggest issue, then, seems to be with the lore, and the fact that Ultramarines have been built up over the years to be The Best. People do like their fluff – hell, I love the fluff! – and being told ten years ago that the official lore standpoint was that Ultramarines are the best Space Marines doubtless did rankle. But GW have taken steps to improve their image in more recent years, and I can’t see why anybody would nowadays hate the Ultramarines for their rules.

Personally, I like the colour scheme, and I like the little call backs to Ancient Rome that the army has. I love the idea of them being professional soldiers, with the skills and drive to create something out of the warzones they fight in. People like to complain about the fact they’re the “good guys” of the setting, but really I think they’re just trying to do the right thing as they see it, establishing a strong foundation for the future of humanity. I feel like there is something noble about the Ultramarines, though the system they work within is of course deeply flawed. I don’t really see any reason why people should still hate on the army after all this time.

I don’t really have a Space Marines army right now, but I’ve been trying to build something for a long time now along the lines of the Novamarines, one of the initial successor chapters to the Ultramarines, but since the advent of 8th edition I’ve been thinking more about a mix of different Ultramarines successors. Now that Marneus Calgar has been reimagined in glorious Primaris form, I’m planning to incorporate the primogenitors themselves in a small detachment. But that’s probably a ways off yet…

War Zone Vigilus: Setting the Stage

Vigilus 0

I’ve been reading up on the current campaign in Warhammer 40k-land, which has been quite an interesting way to spend the run-up to the festive season, so thought it a great time to share some of my thoughts with you all as we see the 40k storyline gearing up for something quite spectacular!

Some background
Vigilus has been looming large in the lore since the dawn of the Great Rift that split the galaxy in two at the onset of 8th edition. For the uninitiated, as 7th edition drew to a close, we saw the three Gathering Storm books at the start of 2017, each focusing on some fairly cataclysmic events in the lore such as the Fall of Cadia, and the rebirth of Roboute Guilliman. At the fall of Cadia, a massive warp rift opened across the entire galaxy – the Cicatrix Maledictum – engulfing many systems entirely, and splitting the Imperium in two. To the galactic north lies the Imperium Nihilus, where the Blood Angels are almost cut off from the rest of the galaxy, left to hold back the darkness while beset by Hive Fleet Leviathan.

Crossing the great rift are a small number of small corridors, the most stable of which is the Nachmund Gauntlet. At the key point along this corridor is the world of Vigilus, a world that has been beset by internecine squabbling between the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Adeptus Ministorum, the governing bodies of the planet who cannot agree who is more important. When the great rift opened, both sought aid from the Imperium, and the Ministorum’s insistence on any military aid being deployed to the cathedrum districts has further deepened this division.

From out of the warp rift has emerged the ramshackle fleet of an Ork Speedwaaagh, which crash landed on the planet and has since claimed the desert spaces between the hive cities of the Imperium presence on the world. Water is scarce on the planet, and with nothing else for them to fight out in the desert wastes, the Orks have taken to high-speed racing out there – you know, as you would.

Control of the scant water reservoirs on the planet has been taken by the Genestealer Cultists of the Pauper Princes, who have emerged earlier than planned in response to the Ork presence on-world. When the Space Wolves arrived thanks to being thrown off-course by the warp storms, they sought to eradicate the xenos taint from the world and began attacking the Cultists with vigour.

Tooth and Claw is the first official product to be released for the Vigilus storyline, pitting Space Wolves against Genestealer Cultists and seeing the release of a Space Wolves-specific Lieutenant, alongside the long-awaited Aberrant multi-part plastic kit, and the new Abominant HQ to lead them. The box was a really excellent release, saving a great deal for collectors of either army – it even had the full Redemptor Dreadnought kit!

The booklet included in the box was also top-notch, including a lot of the background on Vigilus that read, for the most part, like the sourcebook for a Role-Playing Game. While we can usually expect to see some element of background for the armies in these sorts of releases, we also get a really in-depth look at the logistical structure of Vigilus – primarily because the militarised reservoirs are a major plot-point for the Genestealer Cultists in the box.

The booklet also included all of the datasheets (including points values) for the models, and some missions that allow you to play along with the narrative included in there, and in true 8th edition style, there are unique stratagems included that help along the way. It all adds up to a really great bundle, and a worthy first step on the road to war-zone Vigilus!

The next box to be released came pretty much out of nowhere – I certainly wasn’t expecting to see something like it released so soon after the first, at any rate! Pitting Ultramarines against Eldar, I have to say that this one felt a little more like a cash-grab, following the same formula but including only a new Eldar Spiritseer and yet another Primaris Lieutenant, alongside a bundle of existing miniatures that didn’t really feel like anything special. Wake the Dead did not, therefore, bode well.

That Spiritseer is a lovely model, though!

The lore for Wake the Dead, however, was another matter!

The Eldar have long had their eye on Vigilus, as their Seers have discerned the skeins of fate converging around the planet, beset as it is by Chaos warp-storms and raiding parties of Dark Eldar. When they see the Chaos Cult demagogue Vannadan the Firebrand inciting the populace to turn to the Dark Gods, the Craftworld of Saim-Hann sent a delegation to eradicate this threat. While they are successful in their objective, the 47th Antrell Lions squad of Tempestus Scions proceeded to slaughter almost the entire Eldar force, mistaking them for their Dark kin.

Meanwhile, Chief Librarian Tigurius has seen the world of Vigilus at the start of a swathe of bloodshed that will reach Terra itself, and so an Ultramarines task force is dispatched to the beleaguered world, headed up by none other than Marneus Calgar himself. Calgar dissolves the ruling council of Vigilus, and installs his own Senate to rule the world during this time of crisis, with himself at its head.

One of the survivors of the Scions’ purge was Spiritseer Qelnaris, who promptly returned with a strike force to avenge his fallen warriors on the blinkered Imperium. Qelnaris’ attack is answered by Calgar and the Ultramarines, who at first attempt a diplomatic resolution to the conflict following the Space Wolves identification of the Saim-Hann warhost as fomer allies. The overtures are rebuffed by the Spiritseer, however, who has sworn a blood vendetta against the fools of the Imperium.

The box set may have been underwhelming in comparison to its predecessor, but the lore is incredible and really helps to paint the picture of a fiercely-contested battleground that is rightly at the forefront of the current campaign storyline. The storyline is rich without being convoluted, helped in part by the decision to only include those factions that feel most relevant. Tau and Necrons are notably absent, and I think this is fine (despite these being two armies I collect). Previous campaigns from 7th edition have really benefited from being on something of a smaller scale – Shield of Baal only involving Blood Angels and the various Imperium factions, Tyranids and Necrons felt fine because it wasn’t too cluttered, for example. Of course, the Imperium side of things can lead to all manner of bits and pieces going on, and on Vigilus we already have several Chapters of Space Marines making a name for themselves alongside the Ministorum and Mechanicus, with a very definite presence from the Scions. The Imperium side of any conflict is always going to feel a bit full, due to the nature of the beast.

With Marneus Calgar on the world, we’re now poised on the brink of the new campaign book, Vigilus Defiant, which is the first in a two-part series that will chart the war-zone as the Imperium clashes with the Orks, the Genestealer Cults and the Craftworlds. While there are Dark Eldar raiding parties mentioned multiple times in the lore so far, we’ve not got anything further on that yet, and I’m really pleased that Vigilus hasn’t turned into a Tomb World for Anrakyr or someone to come along and re-claim, or the Tau to attempt to expand into this particular area of space.

There’s plenty of time for the other armies to be catered to, after all!

Make sure to check back later in the week, when I’ll be looking through the new campaign book, and seeing what it has to offer us!

The Vigilus Weekender!

Oh my goodness, this thing is just phenomenal. I’m trying to look at this with a lot more objectivity than my usual fanboy garglings, but let’s be honest, the reveals that we’ve seen so far coming from Nottingham are really blowing the world wide open as regards what’s next for 40k!

So first of all, Marneus Calgar is getting a new model, Primaris-style, and he looks quite sensational. I’ve been really quite up-and-down with the Primaris marines taking over the regular chaps, given that I’ve invested so much already into that line, and while my initial thought was that this does indeed signal the end for the classic space marines, as Calgar is “the first to be reborn as a Primaris Space Marine”. Hm.

But, you know what? I’m pretty fine with this now. The Primaris range feels quite bland, given the fact that we can’t customize a squad as we could with the classic Tactical Marine Squad, but they really do look good, so I’m fine with peppering my army with some more of these guys. I’ve been wanting to paint up my marines as various successor chapters to the Ultramarines, and now I think I have the perfect character model around which to do so!

Bring on the Primaris!

So not only do we have Ultramarines, but we’re also getting Black Legion, in the form of “the sinister herald”, Haarken Worldclaimer. Weird name, but whatever. I like the fact that we’re getting a character model for these guys as well, and the fact that Vigilus has been declared to fall to the Warmaster in 80 days could possibly mean that we will indeed be getting a new Abaddon model, when he turns up to claim the world!

I think Calgar coming in Primaris form does mean we’ll be getting more characters, rather than merely generic Lieutenant #48, so I’m hopeful that GW will see their game and their world does benefit from having more named characters that we as gamers and general lore enthusiasts can get behind. So it’ll be exciting to see what comes next!

The main feature, for me, is the new campaign book, Vigilus Defiant, which is going to include the rules for these new minis (and more, apparently…) This is what I’ve been waiting for now that the Codexes are almost done, and this is what has got me most excited for the world of 40k to come!

Towards the end of 7th edition, we saw a number of these things come out, starting with Shield of Baal, and taking in the Tau expansions and the War of the Fang. These books featured campaigns with lore, missions and new rules, so I would totally love to see them return to this model to further expand the game.

And look! Marneus Calgar comes with his Honour Guard once more! This is all just excellent stuff!

But it’s cool, because it means we won’t be getting second editions of Codexes in order to update them with a new unit or two. And we won’t have to wait for Chapter Approved once a year to get new stuff. Campaign books really do open up so many design opportunities that I cannot wait to see where this model takes us in 2019!!

Looks like we’re also getting a boxed campaign next year around city fighting, which I’m not all that fussed about, but the teaser video looks like there may be some new terrain involved, which might be nice to have… Urgh, I am a sucker for the shiny new toys!

Finally, let’s talk some Genestealer Cults. I don’t think anybody could have seen Cultist bikers coming out, which is just spectacular if you ask me! Not only are we getting these chaps, but some of the photos making their way online from people at these events show a quad-bike will be coming, too! Part of me wonders if they’ll be usable in Speed Freeks, though not having that game, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if they weren’t. It is, however, an excellent way to capitalise on an existing game etc, while also expanding the galaxy in general.

I love this new GW!

These models are just tremendous, and I think the dirt-bike look really fits in with the mining aesthetic so it looks like a natural extension. So good!

But the bikes aren’t all that’s coming, as we’re also getting another new character model, the Nexos!

I love the idea of having a sort of spymaster, co-ordinator-type chap as an army HQ (assuming he is, of course!) It really nicely plays to the dual-aspect of the Genestealer Cults, having him wearing the regular mining gear, yet looking so much like the army commander (planning to infiltrate Warhammer World, no less!) – it’s definitely a model that I’m looking forward to adding to my collection, whatever his rules! We also know that the gunslinger Primus was on show at the event, so I’m hopeful we’ll get all of these new things in the Codex. Whenever that shows up!

Ah yes, Noise Marines might be back! The Christmas exclusive model is no less a re-imagining of a classic, and while I don’t know if this is supposed to herald a new Emperor’s Children release (Sly Marbo was never the start of anything last year…) it’s exciting to think we might just be getting the third Legion coming out soon in plastic!

We’ve also got some wonderful new Slaanesh models (and Khorne, as well) from the Wrath & Rapture box, including a new Herald playing the harp. Because who doesn’t want some lilting melodies in the middle of battle?

I’m really trying hard not to get suckered into starting a Slaanesh army again, but these models definitely hold an allure for me, I might just have to get that Harpist on ebay to paint. So wonderfully sinister!


So, along with yet another Knight, that was the Vigilus Open Day! What do you think? I’m impressed overall, if the campaign book structure becomes the new delivery method for models to make it into the game – especially for re-worked models like Marneus Calgar and Abaddon (when he eventually arrives), then I think this is the start of something tremendous, and should really help to free up some creative spirit for the designers over there in Nottingham. The Genestealer stuff was just wonderful, and really excited me, as it took me back to those heady days when they had their initial release for 7th edition, and I was excited to start a Cultist army of my own! So I’m really looking forward to those models coming out – given the fact that the campaign book and the models for Marneus and Haarkon are set to come out in December, I’m guessing that we’ll have to wait until January at least for the Genestealer Cults Codex, but I have so much to get built and painted, it’s hardly like I have an army waiting to be played! Might add some more Cultists to the painting roster then, methinks!

However…

They promised us that “something big” was coming. Do you think any of this could count as that? The campaign thing is big, for sure, and while I’m excited for the models, I would have thought, if they were treating the Genestealer Cults announcements as the “something big”, it would have been the full Codex release, and not just some new model teases. The new Knight is, of course, enormous, and mocks the concept of a miniatures game, but I don’t know…

It’s got to be the re-imagining of Marneus Calgar, but I feel like they have somehow missed the mark, and it could have been more. Or bigger. Or both. Or maybe I’m just expecting too much these days! I love the Genestealer Cultist models, and I love the campaign system – I just thought we’d have something different, I guess.

What do you guys think?

Black Library catch-up

Hey everybody!
It’s day four of my posting-every-day in celebration of 800 posts here on my blog, and today I thought I’d talk about some books along the Warhammer theme – got to keep it all neat and current, after all!

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First of all, I can’t believe I didn’t write up a blog for this one! After the second book in the series, I wasn’t sure if I would still enjoy Gaunt’s Ghosts, as I thought it was a little less than wonderful, but thankfully I was proven wrong with Necropolis!

Set on the planet Verghast, the story involves the clash of two huge hive cities on the world, Vervunhive (still loyal to the Emperor) and Ferrozoica (since fallen to the Dark Gods). Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only arrive to bolster the local militia of Vervunhive, amidst a gruelling siege from the forces of Chaos.

The book is actually really good, with some tremendous set-piece battles taking place. While planetary politics aren’t always the most exciting, it was an interesting change of pace for me to see a battle taking place amid the industrial politics of Vervunhive, and the city leaders jostling for power and money amid the war going on around them. Dan Abnett is obviously a firm favourite for many, myself included, and it felt very much like this book was a lot more firmly on track than the collection of short stories that comprised the second book.

The book, like pretty much all of Abnett’s writing that I’ve encountered thus far, features much that is both grim and dark, and that helps to give Warhammer 40k its distinctive gothic feel. Notable for me is the hive leader, Salvador Sondar, who is perpetually encased in a neurocasket and conducts his dealings with others through servitor-puppets that are decomposing on their wires.

In some ways, the plot reminded me a little of Warriors of Ultramar, although the storylines do diverge quite dramatically. There is something of the feel of impending doom as we wait for the besieging enemy to attack, and it helps somewhat that the story is never told from the point of view from the Ferrozoicans – much like with Graham McNeill and his Tyranids. Even the turning point of both stories involves infiltrating a massive control structure of the enemy…

Anyway! It’s a wonderful book, quite creepy in parts, but incredibly visceral as Abnett usually is with his war stories. Definitely one to seek out and enjoy if you can!

More recently, I read the fourth story in the Space Marine Conquests series, Of Honour and Iron. As with all novels in this series, it deals with the arrival and integration of the Primaris Marines into the regular infantry of the various (currently First-Founding) Chapters of Space Marines. I’d have thought the Ultramarines would have been more receptive to them, given that they were created on Guilliman’s order, but even here, there is mistrust from the regular Marines.

We get Genesis Chapter in this story as well, the first of the Ultramarines’ successor Chapters, and the guys that I had decided to paint up my own Primaris Marines as following the release of Dark Imperium last year!

The story involves Ultramarines and Genesis Chapter fending off an attack by an Iron Warriors warband – at the time, I’d just finished Dead Sky, Black Sun, so felt like I was continuing to read the same story! Clearly there is a lot of bad blood between the sons of Perturabo and those of Guilliman… The Iron Warriors are searching for something among the hive cities of Quradim, a world garrisoned by the Genesis Chapter, and the same world where the Ultramarines, led by Chaplain Helios, arrive on a special mission for Guilliman. Turns out, years ago there was a cache of virus bombs deposited there, and Guilliman wants to use them to kill off worlds to deny them to the Ruinous Powers in a bit to drive back the Cicatrix Maledictum. Or something like that. The Iron Warriors obviously want them to cause havoc, and something of a race across the planet takes place.

I felt like this was very much a story-by-numbers, for the most part, with the Iron Warriors coming across more like stock-villains than anything else. It was cool to see the Genesis Chapter having such a large role, for sure, and I do like seeing the larger 40k storyline advancing, though I similarly feel that it was a little bit pointless, and these books exist more to show the Primaris integrating into the regular Marines Chapters than anything else. (It doesn’t hurt GW to be able to point to these and say, “look! The Ultramarines/Dark Angels/Space Wolves/Blood Angels have now accepted the Primaris Marines into their ranks! Now buy these battle force boxes!”)


So what’s next from Black Library?

Coming up in February is the story of a female Commissar, Honourbound, which looks like it might be quite good. Notably, it’s a female Commissar who doesn’t feel the need to strut about topless or less. At the minute, I’m enjoying anything that involves a Chaos Cult, so it definitely ticks some boxes for me!

Uncompromising and fierce, Commissar Severina Raine has always served the Imperium with the utmost distinction. Attached to the Eleventh Antari Rifles, she instills order and courage in the face of utter horror. The Chaos cult, the Sighted, have swept throughout the Bale Stars and a shadow has fallen across its benighted worlds. A great campaign led by the vaunted hero Lord-General Militant Alar Serek is underway to free the system from tyranny and enslavement but the price of victory must be paid in blood. But what secrets do the Sighted harbour, secrets that might cast a light onto Raine’s own troubled past? Only by embracing her duty and staying true to her belief in the Imperium and the commissar’s creed can she hope to survive this crucible, but even then will that be enough?

Definitely one to keep an eye on, anyway!

Also coming in February is the final novel in the Horus Heresy series, The Buried Dagger, which will draw the series to a close with both sides poised on the brink of Terra. At least, I think that’s where they’re poised. We’ll get to see Mortarion damn his Legion to perpetual infestation, while an insurrection on Terra erupts in advance of Horus’ forces. It sounds like it’s going to be quite explosive, I have to say, and definitely one of those novels that should stick in the mind.

I’d been expecting to see more in the way of Space Marines Conquests books on the horizon, but there’s nothing on the Upcoming page just yet. We do have the Corax novel in the Primarchs series coming out – that’s a series that I haven’t found myself being quite so invested with for the time being, as none of the stories have sounded like they’d really wow me, so I’ve only picked up three of the volumes for the time being – Perturabo, Lorgar and Jaghatai Khan, as they’re all Primarchs that I’m interested in. If they ever do a Horus novel, I’ll likely pick that one up, and I’ll also likely be interested in an Alpharius book, but I suppose we’ll see!

As it is, I still have rather a lot of Black Library novels waiting for me on the shelf, not just Horus Heresy entries but a lot of the books that were released sort of to advance the storyline. I think I’d like to get to some of those, and also continue along with Gaunt’s Ghosts while I’m on this Chaos Cults kick!

For the time being, I’m reading the short story Skitarius, which is inspiring me to continue with painting my Adeptus Mechanicus miniatures – make sure to come back tomorrow for a painting progress update blog!

Dead Sky, Black Sun

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The third volume in the Ultramarines series by Graham McNeill, this one forms a direct sequel to both the previous installment, Warriors of Ultramar, as well as McNeill’s earlier novel, Storm of Iron.

While Uriel Ventris may have played a successful part in repelling the tyranids on the world of Tarsis Ultra, his unorthodox methods were not approved of by the larger Ultramarines Chapter, and so he and his sergeant Pasanius are exiled from the Chapter on a Blood Oath to destroy some daemonic engines that Chief Librarian Tigurius has seen in a vision. All of this is dealt with by the short story Consequences that precedes the main story proper, anyway.

Dead Sky, Black Sun sees Ventris and Pasanius on their way to discover just what this vision could have meant, when their ship is attacked in the Warp by the Omphalos Daemonium, a daemon engine we saw briefly in The Enemy of My Enemy, the short story I’d read following Storm of Iron. The daemon takes the Ultramarines to Medrengard, the homeworld of the Iron Warriors deep within the Eye of Terror, and tells them that the daemon engines they seek are to be found within the stronghold of Khalan-Ghol, but its purpose is hardly altruistic, as it tasks Ventris with retrieving the Heart of Blood from within the fortress – “you will know it when you see it”.

While Ventris of course has no intention of keeping a bargain with the daemon, he nevertheless uses all opportunities presented to him to help fulfill his Blood Oath. And so he and Pasanius begin their journey. Along the way, they meet up with Ardaric Vaanes and his Renegades, and attempt to infiltrate the fortress only to be caught by its lord, none other than the half-breed Honsou!

The Space Marines are given over to the Savage Morticians deep within the bowels of Honsou’s fortress, creatures I’d have expected to be more at home in Commorragh than here, but whatever. Ventris himself, for defying Honsou, is stitched inside the Daemonculaba, a horrific Warp-spawned engine/womb hybrid where the Iron Warriors seek to make more of their kind. Somehow, Ventris manages to escape his grisly fate, and along with significantly less renegades, escapes the Savage Morticians only to find themselves in the land of the Unfleshed – the failures of the Daemonculaba process. These horrific brutes at first fight the Space Marines, though their leader smells the Daemonculaba on Ventris and takes them in as kindred. Eurgh.

Together with the Unfleshed, the Marines storm the citadel once more, and all hell breaks loose when they release the daemon bound to its centre, the Heart of Blood. At this point, the Omphalos Daemonium shows up and there ensues a titanic battle between the two, with the Heart of Blood victorious. However, the Omphalos Daemonium’s daemonic engine is left behind, and Ventris, Pasanius and the remaining Unfleshed use it to flee from Khalan-Ghol. Honsou, barely surviving the attack on his fortress, teams up with Vaanes and a grisly by-product of Ventris’ time within the Daemonculaba – what appears to be a Chaos clone of the Ultramarine…


This is one hell of a grisly book!

I know it’s set within the Eye of Terror, so anything goes, but still! There is a lot of swimming through blood and body parts, and various mutant hybrids, and it’s all just really quite grim!

Maybe because of that, I found myself enduring this one rather than enjoying it, as I did with the previous two. I suppose the pared-down nature of the story, with just the two Marines rather than the whole company, didn’t really help there, though. I enjoyed the earlier Ultramarines novels because they showed how the Space Marines fit into the Imperium, and whatnot. There was a really quite nice sense of world-building in that regard there. Here, however, the story felt a little more small-scale, and while I suppose it offers a fascinating look into the worlds of Chaos and what the Iron Warriors get up to on their home turf, I just wasn’t feeling as into it as I had previously.

The way that the novel brings together the Iron Warriors and Ultramarines novel-universes, though, was really very good, and I’m glad I took the time to read Storm of Iron before getting back into this series.

Having briefly looked over the remaining three novels in this series, I find myself a bit dismayed to discover that the next two seem to be dealing with Ventris’ attempts to rejoin the Chapter, as I’d hoped for more general Ultramarines action. It’s not to say Ventris isn’t an interesting character, or that his arc is not worth reading – I think I just prefer to see Space Marines fighting on the larger scale.

But I guess we’ll just have to see!