Sunday, January 16, 2011

Full Review: Imperial Armour 10, the Badab War part2

IA10, the Badab War part 2: The Badabening, is obviously the sequel to IA9 (review here) but as you may or may not be aware, it was originally not to be. The plan was to have a single book but writer Alan Bligh got a bit carried away and wrote too much. This is a mixed blessing honestly as extra information is never a bad thing, but this volume feels somewhat anti-climactic after such a good start.
The best way to explain this is by examining the background section.

We open with “The Wrath of the Imperium”, giving a brief recap of events as well as delving into the brutal subjugation of a planet by the Sons of Medusa. It also details the arrival of the mysterious, ancient and malevolent Carcharodons. These mysterious warriors are the most vicious loyalist marines we’ve ever seen. The only description of the interior of their ship features a massive pit where they discard the broken wargear, banners and corpses of defeated enemies in heaps. Their first action is to set about subduing the dug in Mantis Warriors in what is known as the Tranquillity Campaign.

You will build us

Here the terrible nature of the war is shown to full effect. While the Mantis Warriors, weary of the war and doubting its goals, strive to protect their ancient homeworlds the Carcharodons butcher, burn and destroy everything until the Secessionists could simply fight no more. The brutality doesn’t go unchallenged, and Fire Angels depart the war due to being unable to work alongside such brutal allies.

We get off to a good start here, but now the Astral Claws are effectively alone as the Executioners prove unreliable – attacking only who they deem worth a good fight, regardless of strategic benefit. We move on to a raid by the Salamanders and Minotaurs that uncovers more evidence of Huron’s corruption, and leads to the Executioners and Salamanders exit from the war.
These set pieces are well done and, as with the last book, different to the normal marine battle fare. We next get a bigger invasion attempting to get a foothold into Huron’s inner defences, and this is where it started getting a bit wobbly for me. There was a huge space battle, but I found myself often having to flick back to identify which ship was a Loyalist and which a Secessionist.

Eventually Badab is reached and the Tyrant overthrown (of course), and I won’t spoil the details. Suffice to say the Carcharodons prove to be utterly ruthless (again) and the Tyrant gets a melta to the face. This section suffers from padding out in my opinion. It has to be dramatic and sensational of course, it’s the climax after all. However I feel that splitting into two books was perhaps too much.

I didn’t notice it in IA9 as it was loaded with the political manoeuvring and manipulations, so there was plenty to chew on. Here there is only battles, and they blur together as it’s the same few guys fighting over and over again. It also suffers from being compressed – what would have been half a book in Vraks, or a whole book in Anphellion’s case, ends up being a couple of pages here. Not enough for a deep analysis and story, but more than a quick overview.
This is not to say the book is bad, I enjoyed it more than IA8 and it certainly completes IA9 without feeling disjointed. The problem is not much happens for the wait between books to feel worthwhile. While the Vraks series brought on the ever growing influence of Chaos with each instalment, Badab just adds the last couple of battles with some new guys. It's like a long adbreak near the end of the movie, rather than a sequal.

This cammo doesn't get an update :(

This book also suffers from having little of IA9’s big personalities. Huron and Culln featured large in 9, but are hardly present in this book. It is mostly the actions of armies that define this book, not the characters. While a natural progression as the war drew on and plans became more focussed. If it was one story it wouldn’t have been as noticeable, but I found the change jarring due to the wait.
Again, not a big issue, but it ties in with the two book thing.

What would I have done? With my perfect hindsight, I’d have released a two book set at once – one book the background (history) and the other with rules, army lists and scenarios (technical manual). That way I, as a reader, wouldn’t have been waiting to get the end of the story (which felt shorter, perhaps due to being basically just battles) and let’s face it – pretty much everyone who bought 9 is going to buy 10. Forge World is bundling them together now anyway, so it would have been better in my eyes to just do that from the start.

You know you'd buy it.
And by you I mean me.

Another thing I noticed in this book was what felt like heavy product placement. The Caestus Ram and Land Raider Achilles get a few notable mentions and are totally awesome. It could just be my being used to the other wargear mentioned so these stood out more, but I noticed it regardless.

Of course this book completes the write-ups of the participating Chapters, in:

Chapters of the Badab War, part 2

They are the Mantis Warriors, Salamanders, Executioners, Sons of Medusa, Minotaurs, Carcharodons, Exorcists and Star Phantoms.

The Mantis Warriors are individualistic hit and run/infiltration specialists whose territorial and loyal nature got the better of them, bringing ruin on them and their people.

The Salamanders are just as they always are, so no new revelations here.

Executioners are the descendants of Dorn, and see themselves as trusted to seek out and execute the Emperor’s enemies rather than to defend and protect. While appearing outwardly barbarous, they are cunning and wise in the ways of war, as well as honourable to a fault (which would both be Huron’s gain and downfall).
Each battle-brother must prove himself worthy of being remembered by the Chapter’s ‘Death Speakers’ (chaplains). One terminator is noted as being ‘chronicled for his remorseless slaughter’, so they sound like real fun guys to be around.
The section also detail exactly why they joined with Huron, and what happens to them afterwards.

The Sons of Medusa are an offshoot of the Iron Hands after an Adeptus Mechanicus related religious schism in regards to the future of the Cult Mechanicus and Ecclesiarchy. Probably one of the most original ideas for a founding, they also bear the Iron Hand’s unusual Clan structure so fans of the sons of Mannus have some interesting reading for them.

The Minotaurs are presented as maybe being the same chapter as from the 21st founding, but maybe not. It details the crazy, unpredictable 21st founding chapter and its unreliable nature, and the chapter’s vanishing from Imperial records for a long period.
When they re-appear they appear it is as a no less furious force, but a controlled one seeming to act as the will of the High Lords of Terra. Mysteriously well equipped (loads of Mk8 armour) and politically protected (people who ask too many questions tend to disappear), it is implied that the High Lords shield them and in return the Chapter destroys whoever they are told, be they enemy of man or one-time protector.

I'm just here to take up space.

Named for the Great White Shark and/or Megaladon, the Carcharadons (from the Greek karcharos and odous meaning sharp or jagged tooth) are dark killers. They seem to exist in isolation, possibly even in the blackness below the galactic plane, rising to the surface only to feed before vanishing back into the blackness. They are Space Marines without the pretence of honour and glory, killers in the Emperors name who exist solely to bring death and destruction.

Contrasting them Sharks are the Exorcists – studious, honourable, and thoughtful. Each battle brother is inducted into the mysteries of arcane lore and daemonology far more than any Chapter save the Grey Knights. They are a sort of Grey Knights lite, being able to withstand more than your average marine, but without the high standards of the Knights there are more of them so they can fight larger wars. Their description alludes to the possibility of warp exposure/possession for initiates, but does not confirm it.

Lastly are the Star Phantoms, another mysterious chapter shrouded in mystery. Though proven pure without doubt on numerous occasions, they have repeatedly come into conflict with other Chapters, including almost wiping out the Marines Malevolent. Additionally they were noted by Lord Marcharius as “unsuitable for tactical close support of other Imperial units” due to their somewhat relaxed approach to collateral damage.
A grim chapter, they see themselves as misjudged and outcast, and are eager to kick Huron’s teeth in, performing the final assault on his fortress-palace.

While volume 9 had an abundance of pious, Emperor-fearing chapters, IA10 is weighed down by enigmas wrapped in riddles wrapped in power armour. Again, this is due to the splitting of the story separating the ‘good’ initial battles from the ‘crazy’ later ones. Had they all been together it likely wouldn’t have been noticed (or I’d be commenting that they’re either pious or mysterious).

Engines of Destruction

A new section when compared to 9, this bit details the war machines of the Astartes.
First up is the Caestus Assault Ram, followed by a nicely detailed section on Dreadnoughts, then the infamous Land Raider Achilles. Apparently we can blame the Imperial Fists for it. The Land Raider section contains an allusion to a new vehicle type emerging from Magos Land’s research – a teaser for an upcoming kit or just some fluff? You be the judge.

The section continues through the Land Speeder, Thunderhawk and Rhino variants, and has some callout boxes about the religious rites performed by techmarines. Nothing groundbreaking here – it’s almost IA2 lite. It is nice to have it here if you don’t have that book though.
Lastly is a two page spread of Power Armour, marks 3 to 8 (with Apothecary variant). Interestingly MkIV is said to be the pinnacle of design, but is too hard to produce and maintain in the ‘modern’ age.

Lords of Destruction, pt 2

In the second batch of special characters we get:

Salamander Captain Pellas Mir’san – a master swordsman who has a Calgar like morale effect on his squad.

Salamander Venerable Ancient Bray’arth Ashmantle – a close combat dreadnought with flame/melta weapons who can ignore lance and melta, as well as being able to wreath himself in flames during assault.

Mantis Warrior Librarian Ahazra Redth – gives Infiltration as a chapter tactic, as well as effecting attempts to seize the initiative and reserve rolls. He also has a unique psychic power similar to GK’s shrouding.

Executioner High Chaplain Thulsa Doom,

Purging is at last at hand. Day of Doom is here. All that is evil, all their allies; your parents, your leaders, those who would call themselves your judges; those who have lied and corrupted the Earth, they shall all be cleansed.

Er, sorry Thulsa Kane

I shall contemplate this on the tree of woe.
And by me I mean you.

Chapter tactics are Stubborn, gives his squad super Fearless and Liturgies of Battle, and is hard to kill. Nothing said about whether initiates have to push a big wheel around and around.

Minotaurs Chaplain Ivanus Enkomi – one of the simpler characters, he has only one unique rule, giving more attacks on the charge than normal.

Minotaurs Lord Asterion Moloc – gives chapter tactics of Preferred Enemy: Space Marines (any loyalist book, not chaos or renegades). He also is in Terminator armour and he and his squad count as having assault grenades. He’s also very hard to kill (think Lysander type toughness), but expensive.

Carcharodon Tyberos the Red Wake – chapter tactics of Furious Charge, and Rage after killing a unit in assault. As seen on his model he comes armed with lightning claws and chainfists, as well as being able to take Lightning Claw termies as troops. Regular marines can exchange bolters for close combat weapons for free.

Exorcist Captain Silas Alberec – a lean mean daemon killing machine. He has a special Thunder Hammer that auto wounds daemons and any model with psychic powers. Any marines on his side can re-roll failed pinning checks (not a chapter tactic).

Star Phantom Captain Zhrukhal Androcles – he is a ‘Master of Destruction’, and captain of the 9th. As such he can take devastators as elites as well as heavies.

Sons of Medusa Iron Thane Vaylund Cal – chapter tactics gives Fearless, and any devastator squad ‘appropriately modelled’ to show cybernetics gains Feel No Pain (but they can’t run or sweep). He himself is nigh indestructible, and has all the Master of the Forge rules.

These guys all look fun, and their special rules are very well written, with a definate slant on morale boosting effects. Many of them have a special notation that taking them prevents the taking of any other Chapter Master, named or otherwise, so you are locked into their Chapter Tactics if you take them.

Space Marine Siege Assault Vanguard Army List

Designed to represent the direct assault of a heavily fortified position this list eschews many of the toys of the standard Codex, focussing on in your face destruction. However keeping with the theme there are no drop pods, no scouts and no speeders or bikes.
On the flip side you can get squads of Predators, Vindicators and Whirlwinds. Dreadnoughts can be bought as multiples for one troops slot, thought they don’t form a squadron. Tactical squads on foot can get mantlets to protect them from shooting, and there are foot assault squads that count as troops (think Blood Angel assault squads for options).
There is also a special HQ choice (Siege Master), though he’s not that amazing. Unsurprisingly, all the Land Raider options are available here also.

The list has a load of flavour to it, and the restrictions definitely force the focus on the theme.

After the list are the rules for the Caestus and Achilles. The Achilles has gone up in points, and does not gain any extra defence against StrD weaponry.

It's powered by nerdrage

Finishing off the book are a scenario for the Siege breaker list, a section for BFG, and the ubiquitous Apoc Datasheets. Here is a bit more of the product placement I was talking about, with one being a three Caestus unit, the other a 4-6 Land Raider one (where half must be Achilles) and a six Dreadnought unit (which Chaplain, Siege or Ironclads are perfect for). They are actually pretty good sheets to be fair.


So, was it worth the money? Yes.
This time however I found myself liking the extra bits such as the descriptions of equipment and the Chapters and characters more than the story.

Story gets a 7/10 this time around, for reasons already espoused upon. Overall the series' story gets an 8/10.

The Chapters are a 8/10 here. While there was some similarity (they are all marines after all) it was not as noticeable as last time.

Engines of Destruction is an 8/10. I'd give it less though if you already own IA2.

Lords of Destruction get a 9/10 again, with a 10/10 for both books. While that may seem odd it is because they’ve done some really thematic rules without making it feel like they’re just going for power. Each one feels like they embody their Chapter’s style.

The Siege Vanguard List gets a 7/10. While I like it personally (it suits my play style very well in fact) it’s not a radical departure and certainly not going to be for everybody. Aside from the two new vehicles and some options there’s nothing really new.

BFG - ??? I’m not familiar enough with the system to rate this, sorry.

Apocalypse 8/10. Giving it a higher score as it’s some crazy and different stuff. Also as someone who owns large numbers of Land Raiders and Dreadnoughts I can’t help but approve.

IA10 Overall 8/10

This is a good book but while the story’s length necessitated the splitting into two volumes it didn’t showed that it wasn’t designed that way. However the story is still good and this book is a must for any die-hard Space Marine fan.

Badab War Series overall:


A few minor mis-steps and oddities here and there don’t hide that this is my personal favourite Imperial Armour series.

And the Imperials won!

He can hear fruit.
Apples scream the loudest.

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