Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A couple quick book reviews

Ciaphas Cain does it again - The Emperor's Finest by Sandy Mitchell

This book is a prequel of sorts chronologically, jumping back to before his time with the Valhallan 597th, after the events of Perlia and taking off directly from the short story Shadows of the Tomb (as in the short story could well be the first chapter for this novel).

Whilst obstensibly dealing with Space Marines, they are more background characters, with only three ever being named and the book focusses more on Cain's dealings with them and their mannerisms.

The writing is some of Mitchell's best, and a great improvement over Cain's Last Stand, who's "lol Necrons show up and kill everyone (again)" ending was particulary weak. Emperor's Finest, however has a great ending, and some of the sharpest dialogue yet, with Cain meeting his match in Mira, a governor's daughter who proves his equal in many ways. I personally found their relationship arc very well developed though (highlight text to read spoilers):

I thought the very last scene was rushed. For Cain to be so easy going about what had been a rather long relationship ending seemed odd - not that he wanted out but I expected Cain to be a bit put out he was replaced so easily.
I also felt Mira moving on so quickly to be strange as she took a while to truely warm to Cain and it semed to be more than her hunger for status driving her relationship with him (and his with her - he does comment repeatedly about missing her etc).

Probably could have done with another page there, but nothing major.

Only criticism of the book is that the footnotes, one of the series' signatures, were fairly lacklustre and often, to be frank, pointless. Many were simply explaining Cain's military acronyms which are used only once. When the acronym is only used once, and there is no witticism from Amberly to acompany the footnote, having it abreviated and noted seems silly rather than just spelling it out in the first place.

But, a minor quibble - I still rate the book highly amongst the Cain series, and this one gets bonus points for a hilarious Casablanca reference.


Die For The Emperor - Dead Men Walking by Steve Lyons.

Again, while the book's focus is on the men of Krieg, they are only observed and never the focus for the narative's perspective. The perspective mostly comes from an attached, and somewhat jaded, Commisar; the planet's Governor and a pair of seperated lovers.

The book is flat out one of the best Black Library books I've read. It doesn't stuff around with nobody knowing what the Necrons are (well, the civilians don't, but the Guard do), there's no achingly long battle scenes that don't advance the plot (there are battles, but they provide character development), and the characters are all unique and have little overlap in function.
It is brutal and bloody, but not needlessly so as to feel cartoonish or ghoulish but successfully conveys the horror and confusion of the Necron attacks.

My only criticisms are that some of the dialogue between Arex and Tylar was rather odd - they were talking in a slightly crazed manner and totally different to everyone else. It wasn't bad, and worked in the circumstances, but it was never really explained.
The other would be the overuse of the word 'flensing'. No cutting, slicing, carving - it was all flensing, all the time.

Also, when I first read the name Arex all I could think of was Team America (probably because I've been watching 30 Rock recently and whenever the credits are on and Alec Baldwin pops up on I say 'Arec Barwdwin' to my girlfriend).

Now for a couple of spoilery points (highlight to read):

Arex's relationship with Tylar felt a bit forced to me, but I'm not quite sure how to put it into words. I think it might be because of the very last scene when Arex is hit by the bottle and Tylar scowls at the crowd. That just seemed like such an odd reaction, for him to react the way it was put. Their connection was based on going through the shared trauma of enslavement and Arex notes that where she was leaning on him before (and still holding out hope for Gunthar) they were later relying on each other for mutual support and she resigned herself that Gunthar was likely dead (I saw it as a mirroring of her hope that Tylar's strength was reflection of Gunthar's, and seeing Tylar's spirit broken made her lose hope that the more timid Gunthar could have survived).

When they were leaving it seemed to return to the position of Tylar being 'the strong one' in the relationship, protecting and scowling and all that, it felt like a quick recovery for him. It was also a very douchey thing for him to do, as previously he'd been very sympathetic and caring, and now he's scowling at people being left behind? The same guy willing to blow himself up with a grenade a few chapters ago?

That weird out of character moment probably made Gunthar's seeing them together more painful, along with his one man last attack at the end. I'd been hoping all book that he would have won out, or Arex would have at least learnt of his efforts (for instance she got to the Krieg HQ and heard of Trooper Sorensen going missing in the attack or somesuch). Personally I would have had Arex and Tylar learn of Gunthar's efforts, and maybe even see him at the spaceport but not have Arex and Tylar together - something like Gunthar manages to give Arex the ring in the crowd, but she's pulled away by the Krieg guardsmen onto the transport. More bittersweet than the somewhat depressing ending as is, but that's GRIMDARK for you.

All up though, a great read and one of my top 40k books.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

WiP - Wyches in Progress

The Wych squad is proceeding quite well - they are however much more time consuming than the Warriors with all the skin and such.

Pair of Hekatrii:

Both have a blast pistol and agoniser (I'm using the swords instead), but one has a phantasm launcher.

Group shot of the squad:

As opposed to the warriors I'm giving them yellow tabbards rather than black, mostly so they're visable at a distance rather than looking like a black smudge.

Hope to have them done in the next couple of days, then on to some Reavers.

Monday, November 29, 2010

1st Warrior Squad Complete

Here is the squad:

They have an extra Sybarite due to my fiddling around with the kits. First Sybarite:

I painted the skin under her fringe as if it had been badly scarred (and addd some scar lines on the right side of her face) - I'm imagining she wears her hair like that to hide her disfigurement, like Meg Ryan in Captain Planet.

Second Sybarite and Splinter Cannon dude:

This Sybarite is made from a Raider crewman body.


Warriors... come out to play!

Very happy with how the colour scheme turned out. I obviously went for black tabbards with yellow stripes - I tested the reverse and it was too overpowering for the purple. Next up I'll be doing a Wych squad and finishing off my Lelith counts-as.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Raaarg, Gotthammer smash GW! and why I don't like mixing paints

So I went into my local GW to buy some more small drybrushes and some more Tentical Pink, since mine is looking a bit gluggy.

Games Workshop no longer makes Tentacle pink! What the hell guys?

If I was female, a lawyer and a superhero I'd have done this and wrecked up the place.

The minion there informed me that they're cutting a few lines from the range, not just the pink I need as the final highlight for my entire Dark Eldar army. Probably some of the twenty shades of green they have.

I find this personally very annoying as, despite the minion helpfully telling me I could mix some purple and white, I hate mixing paints.

I really do - it ends up wasting a whole bunch and I can never get the colour quite right again, something important when it's a main colour for your army. I guess it is easier from GW's point of view that they have to make/carry less colours, and make more from selling multiples to mix, but the draw for me of citadel colours has always been the good range of shades available.

I'll probably stick with the pink I've got and thin it a bit (even though that makes my brushes taste weird), but later i guess I'll make a bottle of Liche Purple/White blend so everyone gets the same colour.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dark Eldar II

Captain Loressha is just about done - only need to do her back banner.

First time using line/edge highlighting, pretty happy with how it turned out. The coulours are Hormagaunt Purple drybrush over black, followd by a Liche Purple drybrush, then a 60/40 Liche / White mix edge highlight, purple wash, fine tentacle pink edge highlight and lastly a black wash.

Dassanta is coming along nicely now, though she was giving me serious headaches - the colours weren't working and no matter what I did the detail wasn't coming out well defined or crisp. It was getting to the point where I was thinking I'd have to strip her back to metal and start agian honestly.

But, fortunately it didn't come to that and all is well. It was only around the Gryphonne Sepia wash of her skin that it started coming together.
I'm thinking of giving her tattoos down her arms and back, Yakuza style, but I'm not 100% sold on the idea. Well, I like the idea... I just don't know if it'll look any good.

Who got da butt? Brak got da butt!
I couldn't find a clip of that, so have some Sisqo linkage instead.

With this army I'm trying lots of new techniques - heavier shading, line edging and a 'rougher' style. This is partly inspired by Ron From The Warp's Deathwing and Space Hulk minis (who also inspired me before) in terms of not having 100% paint coverage - by which I mean they're wearing purple armour, but the model isn't fully based in it, leaving the shadows black.

I've also been more immediately spurred on by THIS POST (read it, it's awesome) by Dave_G over at Wargaming Tradecraft. I'll just be lazy and quote my comment there here:

"I sometimes have to remind myself as a painter to not get stuck doing the same things with my models and to try new things rather than just playing it 'safe'.
It doesn't always work but when it does it is certainly more rewarding seeing the job done than simply going the tried and true."

So I'm pushing the envelope, thinking outside the square, going fastermax, reaching over the top and mastering the ass. I'm also using Dave_G's posting of the 'alternative styles' of Sketching and Outlining for a bit of inspiration (I liked Borderlands art style, pity I didn't like the game itself) - I'm being rougher and more carefree with the shading and highlighting. That's not to say lazy or haphazard, but focusing more on the feel of the model than getting it 'perfect'.
This could also be to do with getting back into drawing again as I tend to be rather sketchy there, so it's probably bleeding over into my painting.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dark Eldar

As with everybody else it seems I have been constructing some Dark Eldar, though I'm using them as pirates / mercs rather than Commorites (more on that at the bottom). First up, some Wyches:

This lady was a fun one to make - I simply glued the two bent legs together (they fit fine without chopping) and turned her plait around 180 degrees. She's mounted on a paperclip secured on the underside with some greenstuff.

Mixed in some Hellion parts:

I know kung-fu

I'm using the power swords as Agonisers - everyone with a special CCW has an Agoniser, so they won't be mixed up. I just don't like the whips.

Raider and crew:

Hangin' tough.

Get some! Get some! Get some!

And now, young Jedi, you die... *scratches on invisible turntables*

I used the leftover Raider pilot body to make a Sybarite:

A warrior squad:

My Archon, Captain Loressha (Sliscus stand in):

Wych head, and Banshee Exarch arms as the twin poison swords.

Dassanta (Lelith/Succubus stand in):

Changed her left forearm to the chain weapon from the Wych kit - it's functionally the same as another knife.

Their colour scheme will be a mix of purple, black and yellow - similar to the Archon on pg66 of the codex.

The basic inspiration is the RT era Eldar Pirates and corsairs, namely these guys:

So they're technically Craftworld alligned and I won't be using any of the wierder stuff like Haemonculi, Mandrakes or other gribblies without some re-working/counts-as. Talos might get a Wraithlord standin depending on rules, and if the Scourges look as awesome as their artwork they'll be in.

The colour scheme will be purple as the main colour with yellow and black accents. The yellow will also get tiger striping. I won't be doing the whole helmets as the guys above though, but the shoulder pads and tabbards.

Basically they're a group of piratical raiders based out of a Haven Spire, using Eclipse class cruisers - mostly because they look the coolest. Another reason for the name is I was giving them an Imperial designation of The Eclipse Corsairs. A thought was to have that name come from their use of the cruiser, as well as their logo.

Rough idea:

The logo is based off the Sunblitz Brotherhood icon and one of the old forms of the Eye of Horus. It is a symbolic representation of an ecliped star on the horizon - something like this cut in half:

Loosly translated from the quenya (in Tengwar Annatar script, to make it a little eviler) the text reads :

"i hecil ciryamo halda firinva"

which loosly translates to "The outcast mariners hidden from the sun's rays". The idea is to have them coming from Luganath craftword, who's namemeans "Light of fallen suns".
As Lugganath is of the opinion of escaping into the Webway Dark Eldar style and has aided humanity in the past I was thinking my crew would be of the more millitant members of the Craftword - those who think giving up is a terrible idea, the Eldar should be trying to restore their glory and that humans/Tau/Ork/whoever else are insects etc etc... ie they wish they'd been born on Biel-Tan
In addition to this noble, if misguided, group there are assorted ne'erdowells, criminals, kinslayers and such who have sought sanctuary after exile.

They leave as Outcast corsairs, but raid colony worlds and are generally very aggresive in their manner (wiping out existing colonies rather than just preventing new ones). This doesn't sit too well with the Craftworld who cut them off, but they still need supplies so they trade with their Dark Kin and later copy their designs.
Lugganath's interest in the webway also gives a reason why they'd be as adept as the Dark Eldar in using it (ie why I can use portals and such), as well as the trading.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Review: Path of the Warrior

Non spoilery review:

Good, but the last third has next to nothing to do with the first two thirds so the whole thing feels incomplete and disjointed.

It does have some excellent insights into Eldar culture and society, but unfortunately many of these plot threads are left sparse in favour of overly repetitive battle scenes.

Major Spoilers Ahead!

Path of the Warrior tells the story of Korlandril, and his eventual stumbling onto the titular path, and his fall into Exarchdom (told you there were spoilers).

The book opens with Korlandril , on the path of the Artist, waiting with Thirianna, a poet and forme Aspecct Warrior, waiting for their mutual friend Aradryan – he is on the path of the Mariner and has been sailing the distant stars for some time. Korlandril is basically in love with Thirianna , but is trying to suss out if she feels the same. Korlandril is also very jealous of what he sees as Thirianna ’s attraction to Aradryan .

Each chapter is prefaced by a legend of Eldar myth relating to that chapter’s subject. For example when Korlandril is injured and healing, the story of Isha giving a lock of her hair to Eldanesh to heal him is told. They are done neatly and don’t intrude into the narrative, and certainly enhance the Eldar mythos.

The first section goes on to cover how paths work, how the Eldar change their psyche (and personalities to an extent) when they take on certain paths, and how everyday life on the Craftworld goes about its business. This is very well written and the characters, while relatable, still seem alien.
Korlandril is further put out by his friend’s return as Aradryan seems distant and distracted, and uninterested in Korlandril ’s upcoming unveiling (he’s a sculptor).

It all comes to a head when the sculpture is unveiled and Aradryan criticises Korlandril ’s work, calling it uninspired and derivative compared to the marvels of the cosmos. Korlandril flips out and storms off, and Aradryan leaves the craftworld (to become an Outcast/Exodite).
After unintentionally insulting Thirianna ’s military past Korlandril makes a pass at her, asking her to stay with him as artist and poet. She tells him it is inappropriate to concentrate on one path, as well as unhealthy. Korlandril flips out again and storms off, raging and brimming with rage.

Seeking to find a control for his feelings he seeks out his friends Arthuis and Maerthuin, brothers walking the Warrior path as Dark Reapers. He also meets Elissanadrin, a Striking Scorpion. Korlandril tells them of his feelings and his need to be rid of them, while the Aspect Warriors tell him he needs to find a release for his anger.

I thought this part was superbly done – Korlandril wants nothing more than to be rid of his anger, he finds it ugly, wasteful and against everything that creates beauty. His mind is truely set as that of someone seeking nothing more than the creation of splendour, destruction is totally abhorrent to him. The Aspect Warriors, here at rest, tell him that they put on their ‘war mask’ to release their anger, but take it off outside of battle so they can release it and be free of it.
Korlandril ’s conversations with Thirianna reveal that as a former Aspect Warrior she finds that the experience has better helped her manage her anger outside of the Path.

I found this very interesting as, while Korlandril is certainly a self centred layabout (all his paths we know of are self indulgent), he reflects the Eldar’s natural distaste for violence. Other Eldar sit apart from the Aspect Warriors in communal places, and the Warriors seem only to associate with each other for the most part.
It also ties in with the prologue where an Exarch loses a member of his squad, and is not concerned as another always appears. It is basically saying that there will always be Eldar driven to the Warrior Path, as if the Paths simply create a proportional balance of the Eldar psyche across the whole society. So there will always be roughly the same number of Aspect Warriors at any given time, as there will be Bonesingers or Mariners. This appears later when Korlandril becomes an Exarch and a number of Eldar are drawn to him as soon as he takes the mantle.

Elissanadrin takes Korlandril to her temple, the Shrine of the Deadly Shadow, where he meets Exarch Kenainath who takes him in. He goes through an extensive Kung-fu training montage sequence, learning about his War Mask and how to control it. He does this in isolation lest he harm others, and is confined to the Shrine. After a time he is allowed to mix with the rest of the squad, Elissanadrin (there is brewing attraction between the pair), Arhulesh ( the joker), Bechareth ( the silent mysterious guy without a past) and Min (the older jolly guy).
The training continues and Korlandril eventually gets to put on his helmet, and thus his War Mask. It doesn’t go well, with him losing control and blacking out, but he eventually gets there and is allowed to leave the shrine.

The montage of training I found well written, as with the descriptions of the Kung-fuesque stances and moves. The training fights were short and sharp, and focussed mostly on Korlandril ’s thoughts about his skills and feelings. He also is growing as a character, and when on the outside he meets Aradryan again he apologises, revealing his mindset is now more serious, less emotional than before (again, the changing psyche). Basically he was a snotty, whiney brat who got a reality check and realised what a douche he was being for not accepting his friend had changed.

Aradryan reveals war is brewing on a distant world, and that he had seen Thirianna . Korlandril is unmoved by this, saying if they meet again he won’t be angry, but similarly won’t be sad if they don’t. Aradryan draws his friend out into revealing the attraction to Elissanadrin , but Korlandril gets embarrassed and says nothing is happening as it would be unprofessional.
Battle draws near and Korlandril receives a token of well wishing from Thirianna – a rune from her Aspect Armour, which makes him happy (Love triangle alert!). All through the book the Eldar’s psychic nature has been used very subtly and effectively in instances such as this. Communication is done through the Infinity Circuit, and people can look for each other by seeking out their imprints in it. Instead of doorbells people go to a doorway and send a psychic ‘request’ to enter, that sort of thing.

It is integrated smoothly and never feels like Gav is going ‘look at how psychic the Eldar are!’, as the Space Hulk novel often clumsily introduced Overwatch and such into the text.

As war draws near the Avatar wakes up and Korlandril is drawn back to his temple and to war. After they suit up the Warriors mill around, and see another Striking Scorpion group, the Fall of Dark Rain. Their Exarch Aranaraha , unlike Kenainath , is talkative and disturbingly friendly. His group is also much more sizable than Kenainath ’s. Elissanadrin explains that Aranaraha enjoys being an Exarch, while Kenainath hates it and that he is needed to train others to control their bloodlust. Kenainath is revealed to take a very personal interest in his pupils, wishing they didn’t need training, while Aranaraha teaches en masse and actively tries to recruit new members (I’m not sure how this works as Exarchs aren’t meant to leave their Shrines [excpt when they do]).

So basically Kenainath is Mr Miyagi and Aranaraha is Cobra Kai.

Things go badly for in the battle and Korlandril ends up nearly getting killed. We are then treated to a scene where we have Korlandril helped back to life, so to speak, by a healer. Korlandril has to face his fears and the terrible pain he feels to survive, rather than shying away from it. He eventually does, and awakes to discover that his psychological damage has been compartmentalised into his War Mask persona, and that he has to don it to repair the damage lurking inside. Initially reluctant to return, Korlandril ’s healing is interrupted by Aranaraha on a recruitment mission. Aranaraha attempts to lure Korlandril to his Shrine by blaming Kenainath’s teachings for the injury, and claiming the FDR training will make him strong.
This freaks Korlandril out, who vows to return to the Deadly Shadow. The healer is also furious at Aranaraha for coming into a place of healing with his bad vibes.

The healing section was interesting, but felt incomplete. The subject of Korlandril ’s fears being locked into his War Mask is never really mentioned again, and he is basically back to normal in a few pages. I would have liked to see more about the psychological/psychic healing personally, at least another couple of pages.

Korlandril rejoins his squad, meeting Min as he leaves the Shrine – he is finding it too hard to take off his War Mask, and cautions Korlandril against overconfidence in his ability to do so. Of course Korlandril laughs it off and goes on as normal.

We then get some good banter between the remaining squad, until time passes and Arhulesh is headhunted by Aranaraha . This provokes an honour duel between the two Shrines to prove who’s style is most worthy, and who keeps Arhulesh . Naturally Korlandril is set to fight him, being the newest Deadly Shadow as Arhulesh is the newest Dark Rain. It is doubly important as without Arhulesh the Shadows will be too few to operate as a squad and would be disbanded. A very interesting point, tying in to the whole Exarchs drawing people to them, as it shows there is some higher authority over them to do so (maybe simply tradition). The warriors do not know what would happen to Kenainath if he lost his squad though.

Of course Korlandril wins the duel, but a jibe from Arhulesh at the end causes Korlandril to lose control and almost kill him. The two make up and Korlandril is set to train by himself for some time, and upon his release makes the conscious decision to seek non warlike companionship, forsaking his squadmates initially to meet with Thirianna .

Thirianna is happy to see him, but reaveals that as a Seer she read his runes and they are confused and that he is treading down a dangerous path.
It goes badly, with Korlandril deriding Thirianna ’s concern for him and mocking her observation that he treats everything as a battle to be won. He then goes on to call her jealous of his feelings for Elissanadrin , and sees her crying as an attempt at attention (smooth move dude). Returning to the Shrine for some training he meets with Elissanadrin , and they have some sexually charged banter before another war breaks out.

Honestly, I was pretty annoyed with this battle scene. It went on for a bit too long (there are only so many descriptive ways to kill someone with a chainsword), and it interrupted a very interesting part of the story. I’ve often heard people say Eldar only have few children because sex is so intense emotionally and blah blah blah (though no idea on the source – anybody?). But here we have two Eldar basically saying

Korlandril : “I like you and am attracted to you, we should go out some time.”
Elissanadrin : “I’d rather just do you now, and then we can go out after that.”

Prettymuch flies in the face of the whole “no Eldar gettin’ jiggy with it” thing.

Na-na-na na-na na-na, Na-na-na na-na na-naaaaa, gettin' jiggy with it

The battle is doubly annoying as after he comes back Korlandril falls off the deep end with his growing insanity and becomes an Exarch. There are some scenes I found amusing where Korlandril will do something perfectly normal, everyone will freak out, and he’ll review it in his mind revealing he was acting all crazy. One example is that he walks out from a grove to ask for directions, but in reality he leapt out of the shadows in a combat stance. I thought it was well done, but unfortunately he doesn’t pull back from the brink at the last minute and the book goes down along with him.

From here on in, everything you have read is basically irrelevant.
Korlandril no longer exists, being replaced by the Exarch Morlaniath (he puts on the suit and the gestalt personality subsumes him); the Deadly Shadow squad don’t appear much, certainly no meaningful interaction; and the few characters (Thirianna , Kenainath ) who are around are talking to an essentially new main character – one with all the personality of a rock.
Morlaniath also gets a bunch of new recruits who are basically irrelevant. Eventually Thirianna comes to Korlandril (or rather Mor), asking for his help. She is a Farseer now and is having strange visions of doom that no-one else listens to.

Wait... she’s a Farseer now? lolwot? Didn’t she abhor the idea of getting caught on a path? If only there was a main character who had feelings and emotions to comment on this...
I’m inclined to think this might be an error, and they mean a scryer of some sort, rather than a full blown Farseer, but if it is it a terrible mix up for a 40k book to make – Mutilazorz level of bad IMO.

It’s fairly irrelevant in either case as Morlaniath doesn’t care in any way, shape or form about Thirianna , so he sends her away. Eventually he convinces himself to call in a favour one of his past incarnations with an Autarch, and it is revealed her visions were in fact true and the Imperium is about to invade Alaitoc!

Strap yourself in for a hugely tedious battle scene! Short version is: a bunch of Phoenix Lords show up, including Karandras. Kenainath gives Morlaniath the Deadly Shadow as his own squad is too inexperienced and Kenainath ’s mortal body is dying. We are treated to page upon page of epic battles – from the POV of Morlaniath waiting in the shadows mostly. See, the thing about stealthy close combat dudes is that they tend to wait and hide and spring ambushes. Not very exciting when they’re waiting around watching other guys do the fighting.

Eventually they team up with Karandras, Elissanadrin gets killed (maybe, she’s described as wounded later), Bechareth is also hurt (but must survive as he’s actually an Incubi and his reformation proves the worth of the path) so it ends up with Karandaras getting ‘killed’, and Korlandril /Morlaniath giving themselves to him so he gets up and goes back into the fight.

So basically Elissanadrin (probably) dies with no emotional reaction, despite being a love interest at one point – its literally a couple of lines - and the main character, who only peripherally exists at this point anyway, now totally ceases to exist. You see while Exarchs house the souls of their former ‘bodies’, Karandaras simply absorbs their energy but not their personality so they gain peace at last.

Now, why I hate all of this:

1) If you look at the inside cover of the book it is listed as ‘Path of the Eldar Series, Book One’. So there will be others. My guess is Path of the Seer (Thirianna ), Path of the Outcast (Aradryan ), and probably one about the Incubi guy.

2) This means that this entire book was essentially set-up for the others. The only real carry over is that Morlaniath convinced the Autarch to listen to Thirianna ’s vision. Aside from that Korlandril ’s story is largely irrelevant.

3) That it’s irrelevant wouldn’t be so bad if it was a complete story – Korlandril ’s relationship with Elissanadrin is never resolved, his own personal development just stops when he ceases to exist. I would have much preferred the final battle scene to be massively cut back, maybe just to be the part where they fight the Space Marines at the end with Karandaras.
This would have left room to have Korlandril step back from the brink, a bit more love triangleness between him, Thirianna and Elissanadrin , and then have Kenainath give his life to Karandaras at the end – it would be symbolic of Korlandril ’s mentor attaining peace at the same time as he does and have him leave the Path and resolve his personal issues (ie being a self centred ass [though to be fair he only seems to be around Thirianna ]).

Essentially it was like the first two thirds were a separate novel from the end, and the story never completes. For all it’s worth it could have been Kenainath instead of Morlaniath as the Exarch at the end, such is the character. It makes sense in terms of the universe to have the personality change, but it really ruined the narrative for me (and that last battle goes on far too long).

Overall it started great, but the sudden shift in the thirds section left me deeply disappointed.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Full Review: Imperial Armour 9: The Badab War – Part 1

Disclaimer – I’ll be discussing the plot in a fair bit of detail, so there will be spoilers. Also, I’ll be discussing rules and the new units / missions, but I won’t be scanning or giving points or the like. Feel free to ask about other stuff though.

The book itself

The book is the standard Imperial Armour fare: hard cover, full colour, typos and weird grammar galore. I also got a squashed bug in the pages of mine as an added bonus.
Compared to the previous IA books, vol9 seems much more lavish. I’m not sure why exactly. Perhaps it is the more extensive star maps and more ‘high tech’ feel of the data-boxes and such (and we know I love the more high tech stuff), but it feels shinier for some reason. Another great part is that it is filled with the aforementioned callouts. There are notations on planets, stellar phenomena, and events not directly effecting the main story. On top of all this there are a few page long stories detailing part of a combat action in the style of a Black Library novel. I only skimmed these in all honesty, as I wanted to get on with the main plot, but they provide a welcome break and different (more visceral) take on the conflict.

New Astral Claws scheme and the mysterious Tiger's Claws

The Plot

The storyline is styled as an Ordo Hereticus account of the true history of the Badab War and the events leading up to the conflict.

It starts a thousand years before the conflict, describing the Maelstrom area, its economic importance (due to great mineral wealth), its dangerous nature (warp storms, pirates) , and then the establishment of Imperial worlds (including Badab, amongst others) as footholds on this wealth. The story continues to describe how one of these worlds is lost to a cultist uprising, and the entire region is nearly destroyed because of the loss. This leads to the establishment of the Maelstrom Wardens, a group of marine Chapters (under the leadership of the Astral Claws) permanently based in the area to cull such activities.

This is a great section, detailing how the Imperial Tithe works and how the distribution of materials and communication is held together. There is a great deal of background information available here about warp jumps, navigation waypoints and the distribution and assignment of Marine Chapters.

Events eventually leads to the Astral Claws getting Huron as their Chapter Master, and taking control of Badab proper, then the whole Badab sector to ‘protect these worlds and those souls that dwell upon them’. Cleverly Huron (and Alan Bligh) reference the realm of Ultramar as precedence. Huron grows more and more successful, and petitions Terra for more Chapters to totally destroy the threats. He is refused without even being heard.
In response he withholds the Badab sectors tithe and blocks trade through it, claiming he needs the resources to continue his fight as he isn’t being supplied by the Administratum.

The story here is very clever, as it makes Huron seem reasonable and within his rights – in fact it is a trick part for the Imperium as, by the laws, he is as an Astartes. But it still puts a number of nearby systems (the Karthans), now without trade routes to the greater Imperium, against him.
These economic rivals petitioned the Adminstratum, who ruled in their favour, and a fleet is sent to Badab to claim the tithe, by force if needs be. Naturally it all goes to hell and the tithe fleet is destroyed. Each side claims the other fired first, however there a few tidbits that there may have been a third party involved...

New Termie armour from Forge World coming up?

The situation worsens, and this eventually leads to Huron and his allies – the Lamenters and Mantis Warriors – to secede. The secession is only in regards to their tithes, as it is their right as Astartes to not have to pay. This coincides with a mysterious rise in pirate attacks on shipping, particularly on the Karthans. The Karthans call in the Fire Hawks to ‘protect shipping’, but it is known they bear a grudge against the Astral Claws and are volatile. Eventually the Fire Hawks come to battle with the Mantis Warriors, and wage a one chapter war against the others (it goes badly). The Marines Errant show up to help, and they do something useful by protecting shipping until the psychopathic Executioners appear to honour a blood debt to Huron.

This part gives a great insight into the different marine psyches and fighting styles, as well as various degrees of honour they give each other. For example the Marines Errant and Lamenters were giving quarter and merely chasing each other off, rather than engaging in full conflict, due to old ties of kinship. The Executioners only come along because they have an oath to do so and, while they enjoy the fighting, they only fight as is strictly necessary – withdrawing once a defence station is out of action rather than staying to finish the defenders off totally.

It is not totally ‘good guy, bad guy’ here either – the Fire Hawks effectively exterminatus a (medieval level) Mantis Warrior planet just to be jerks and as last act of spite as they withdraw. Similarly the Minotaurs kill 20% of the civillain population in a sector through collateral damage in a few months. It’s good (kinda) to see even the ‘good’ marines portrayed as merciless and indiscriminate in their tactics.

The events lead to a large number of ‘loyalist’ Chapters drawn in to arrest Huron for trial, though things again go wrong when an attempt at parley between the Red Scorpions master Ortys and Huron and the Mantis Warrior’s master Sartaq is interrupted by a number of Chaos vessels (two Iconoclast and one unknown), who proceed to blow up the asteroid. Ortys and Sartaq are both killed, though Huron obviously escapes. Red Scorpions Librarian Loth retrieves the body of his fallen boss through massive amounts of badassery.
Huron has been steadily going more and more mad as we go along, and is full on paranoid rant mode at this time. However all is not necessarily as it seems, as Sartaq had been growing uncomfortable with the standoff and considering laying down his guns. But with his apparent murder by the loyalists his Chapter was out for blood...

The war proper starts, with more marine chapters arriving and those considered too honourable to fight to the death with their brothers re-deployed elsewhere. The Salamanders resisted the orders though, and stayed in the fight. I found this a very well written part as it shows the Imperium is well aware of the different natures and temperaments of the chapters, and uses them to their advantage.

For how the war goes, you’ll have to buy the book for that. Suffice to say the Marines use camouflage, clever tactics and lots of brutality. There are also some surprises about why exactly Huron was withholding his Geneseed tithe, and what his long term plans really were.

Chapters of the Badab War

This section details half the Chapters involved in the fighting. Namely:

The Astral Claws,
The Fire Haws,
The Marines Errant,
Red Scorpions,
The Fire Angels,
The Raptors,
The Lamenters,
The Novamarines,
and the
Howling Griffons

(Book 2 will cover: Mantis Warriors, Executioners, Salamanders, Minotaurs, Sons of Medusa, Exorcists, Carcharodons [Space Sharks] and Star Phantoms).

Each chapter gets an eight page write up, which details their nature and personality, organisation and any variences/strengths/weaknesses, notable battle honours and the disposition of their forces in the war. It is good to see these relatively undeveloped chapters getting some love, though due to most of the loyalists at this point being ‘by the book’ types (who would be first to stand up against Huron’s bucking of Imperial Law) they do get a bit samey.

Also it is worth mentioning the mostly black Howling Griffins scheme (see Terminator below) is a camouflage pattern, not a wholesale change in livery. In keeping with the original Badab article the book features several alternate schemes for the marines.

Not emo, just cammo.

Campaign and Special Missions

The Badab Campaign system is designed to mimic the ‘historical’ events of the war, with five themed phases. There is no rigid battle system, but certain stages award more Campaign Points to certain styles of game.
For example Phase 1, mimicking the early skirmishes in space lanes, awards 3CPs for victories in Boarding Action missions, 2Cps for Battlefleet Gothic victories, and 1CP for any other type of game.
There are no hard rules for how long each phase lasts – the book suggests either each phase is the same number of games or a real world time limit passes. This prevents people dragging out phases to pull back a win, as winning a phase grants a bonus for the campaign – winning Phase 1 gives the Loyalists +1 to reserve rolls, and the Secessionists the option to re-roll Deep Strikes.

There are five special missions, each themed to one of the Campaign Phases, and one is The Angstrom Incident. So after twenty years the exact details are revealed of this, erm, incident and you can play it out even. It has a cool plot hook to boot.

Boarding Action Rules

This section is a mini-expansion in the vein of Cities of Death or Planetstrike – not a simple add-on to normal games like Battle Missions.
There is a modified FOC, with only one HQ and one other unit mandatory. There are unit restrictions as well, with the only vehicles being artillery or walkers on 60mm or smaller bases. The designers do note that they may still not fit everywhere, so caveat emptor!

There are a few special rules:
Hazardous Ground – vehicles and bikes treat difficult terrain as dangerous, as do jump infantry in certain circumstances.
The Cold Void – Weapons of more than Str4 get rending, rending gets better, and blasts are improved.
Catastrophic Damage – there is a table to represent the ship being boarded slowly falling apart. Doors may open or close on their own, the ground may become unstable, explosions may break out or parts of the ship (board) may vent into space!

There is a lengthy discussion about the different types of environments that can be fought over, including decks, holds and the outer hull which has a special rule, The Hungry Stars, to represent guys getting blasted out into space.

To play these rules there are three mission types, and even an optional stratagems section that blows my mind because it brings back the Graviton Gun! Other fun looking options include super Tarantulas (twin-linked Plasma Cannon!), drones, crew gangs, las-cutters and more.

I think this section is superbly done, and very flavourful – combining it with the Kill Team cohesion rules from Battle Missions or some modified system (such as Killzone) would make moving around easier in the confines of the ship though.

You also get a poster!

Lords of Destruction – Special Characters

There are a total of TWELVE special characters in this book:

Chaplain Dreadnought Titus (Howling Griffons)
Lugft Huron (Astral Claws)
Capt Corien Sumatris (Astral Claws)
Armenneus Valthex (Astral Claws)
Lt Commander Anton Narvaez (Marines Errant)
Magister Sevrin Loth (Red Scorpions)
Lord High Commander Carab Culln (Red Scorpions)
Captain Tarnus Vale (Fire Angels)
Chapter Master Lias Issodon (Raptors)
Master Malakim Phoros (Lamenters)
Captain Mordaci Blaylock (Novamarines)
Knight-Captain Elam Courbray (Fire Hawks)

So every chapter in the book gets one. It is worth noting that aside from Huron the other Astral Claws characters do not appear, so may just be a bonus or may make an appearance later. Additionally the book specifically mentions it is extremely unlikely they’ll make minis for most of these guys.

Most of them get a single page – half background, half rules – though Culln and Huron get two ‘cause they’re awesome like that. They all have special rules, such as making Terminators scoring, better saves, and other unique powers.
All save the Lamenters character are for use with Codex: Space Marines (even Huron), with the Lamenters for C:Blood Angels. This does make the somewhat unique situation that you can’t take Culln with the Red Scorpions list from Vraks BUT he duplicates the list with his Chapter Tactics, so it’s a moot point (and possibly better as you can get Apothecaries in any marine unit with this Culln).

The Tyrant’s Legion – Army List

The book’s army list represents the Tyrant’s PDF forces augmented by his Marines. As such it is a blend of the Imperial Guard and Marine Codexes, being able to take a Guard Command squad or a Marine officer. However there are more restrictions, as the Marine HQ is weaker than a captain and the Guard can’t take advisors. The amount of Marine equipment is restricted as well, so you can’t just take a Marine army with some Leman Russ’ and Hellhounds.
The list isn’t just a mish-mash of existing units, however. There is a creepy anti-apothecary called the Corpse Taker (he steals other chapter’s Geneseed), mercenary fighters, and several other unique pieces. There is also a special rule that the Marines can gain bonuses to their cover saves due to fire passing through friendly guard units, but the guard take casualties as a result.

All in all the list characterful and has a surprising variety for a hybrid, but it still feels like a hybrid. It could even be used by Alpha Legion players to represent a more organised group, though it lacks any psychic powers or Daemon stand-ins. Just a thought for you guys with LatD armies!


Two formations for Marines and one for Guard. The Marines have one made up of three to five Land Raiders that makes them even harder to kill. The other includes ‘one to three Thunderhawk Gunships’ filled to capacity with at least 20 models each and a different HQ choice each (ie Chaplain, Librarian etc). This entire setup (up to sixty guys and three T-Hawks) is an assassination force and all their bonus rules are geared to killing a single target.
The guard’s is four to eight Russ’ command by a Baneblade who gain some situational bonuses to damaging their targets and BS boosts.


Well, you can see that this volume of Imperial Armour is absolutely jammed packed with stuff. And there is a second helping on the way.

Story gets an 9.5/10 due to some typos and misuse of decimate. There was one particularly incomprehensible sentence, though I can’t find it again. Nit-picking aside, this is the primary reason to buy the book.

The Chapter section is 7/10, lower due to the previously mentioned repetition and similarity. The content however is very good, just ‘samey’.

Campaign scores 8/10: thematic, easy to use and flexible – everything you want in a system really.

Boarding Action rules are 9/10, the point lost due to the lack of new movement rules (though I do understand that introducing those would have made things much more complex) and the need for lots more terrain to use them effectively.

Lords of Destruction, 9/10 – each is sufficiently different to the others and lends themselves to different playstyles.

The Tyrants Legion earn a 7/10. The lower score is that while it has some uniqueness, it is essentially a modified mash-up of Imperial units.

Apocalypse – 7/ 10. Feels somewhat tacked on at the end, but the Land Raider and Russ one are pretty good for their cost. The T-Hawk one is very silly, and if I owned three Thunderhawks I’d use it, but these are really just bonuses to the rest of the book.

OVERALL – 9/10
If you’re not a Marinehead it’s probably not worth it (6/10 maybe? Less if you don’t like Imperials), try to borrow a copy first if you really like the sound of the Boarding Action rules or the Campaign.

Part Two has a lot to live up to.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Imperial Armour 9: Badab War pt1 - Quick Review

My copy of IA9 arrived today and I've given it a once over:

"I'm Commander Culln, and this is my favourite book in the series."


Best IA book yet. The first half is setting the scene, describing how the events of the war came to be and imparting lots of info about the Imperial Tithe, 'normal' marine activities (not crusading) and the interaction between the Administratum and Astartes.

When the war starts the actions are describe concisely, but still manage to be action packed. One of my favourites involved a team of Raptors wearing customised armor for stealth to infiltrate and shut down (with extreme prejudice) an orbital defence station. There are many more examples of marines doing more than drop-podding or rhino-rushing, so it's good to see them getting some character there.

The chapter backstory sections are good, though they get a bit samey with the loyalists mostly being 'super hardline and noble' types. However this fits with who would respond first to a renegade Chapter. Another good part is that they have the 'nobler' chapters being re-deployed mid-war, obstensibly to refit and rebuild, but with the implication that it is to bring in more psycho chapters who will have the stomach to wipe out their brothers.
Like the Minotaurs - who are total lunatics, announcing their appearance in the war by annihilating a renegade world, and then reducing a sector's civilian population by 20% through collateral damage in four months. Apparently the Spaaaace Shaaarks are worse, but they don't appear yet.

The art is wonderful, with a starchart updating as the story progresses as to who controls where. Also there are lots of little callout boxes with tidbits and asides about minor factors, such as navigators, what the deal is with the Tigers Claws, what the Mechanicus is doing and so on.


The boarding action rules look fun - they're an add on like Cities of Death, where you play with strategems and special terrain setups. There are rules for vacuum fighting (Str4+ get rending, blasts are pinning), and even on outer hulls (you can get blasted into space!).
To add into it there are even rules for the 'shipquakes', as the defending vessel starts to fall apart. The writers suggest playing with planetstrike for a super deadly and anarchic game.

There is a campaign system, which has several special missions for it (though they are optional, but you can play 'The Angstrom Incident'). I haven't given it too much of a look over, but it seems ok.

'Lords of Destruction' covers 12 special characters, and the 'Tyrant's Legion' army list. The army list is prettymuch the standard FW marine list: Marines + human auxillary, though obstensibly loyalist this time around.


There are the usual FW formatting issues. I found a few places that could have done with commas, and one totally incomprehensible sentance. Decimate was used a couple of time when the implication seemed to be more like annihilate.
Also a bug seems to have got squished in the binding machine... I was noticing these weird glossy lines on the edges of the pages, and then I found a small blood smear and what seemed to be the crushed remains of a fly or the like. Brutal. Like the old KISS comic that proclaimed the band mixed their blood with the ink for printing. Or FW are very slowly falling to Khorne worship.


Probably one of the best books they've done, but I am a lifelong Marine player so I am biased. If you have no interest in Marines it is basically useless to buy, but worth borrowing for a read. Marine players will probably love it, and I'm giving it a 9.5/10 so far.
Full review to come soon.

Additionally the catalogue update, featuring the new models, can be downloaded here.

Also there is indication there will be new Terminators on the war from FW - there is a pic of a termie with a Mk5 style helmet, studded shoulders and kinda hooked lightning claws (with a chainblade in the palm). I know someone posted a pic or mentioned seeing it at Games Day, but I can't find where. It doesn't seem to be a special character either.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Studio McVey's Lisbeth Complete

As the title says, Lisbeth (by Studio McVey) is all done now:

(click for larger)

Close up of Lisbeth herself:

Here you can see the re-sculpted right hand, the modifed right arm and the earphones.

Rear shots:

I just went with a few hibiscus on the board, and an Etnies logo since it's kind of like an arrow. Good view of the mods to the pistol holster, grenade and the added singlet. I also gave her proper briefs, rather than a thong, though I decided against trying to write 'bonds' on the waistband (I considered it though).

Roxy logo on the back of the helmet - sorry 'bout the glare - and there's a Dead Kennedy's logo on the left. The rightmost one is based of some public transport system logo (I was trawling google for logos).

Bottom of the board:

Decided to not go totally grommity and cover the thing. I figured a mix of surfie and skatie logos would work best, as she's dressed skate, but is (obviously) surfing. The nosemost is the Independent logo (maybe they make hover dealies rather than board trucks in the future), and the one on the tail is the Sharka Surf co's.
The middle three are ones I just made up - Black Wave sounds cool, WNG is meant to sound like 'wing', and I figured I should put something relating to flying on there. I was originally thinking a wave with a wing coming off of it, but I'd already put a few waves on her already. The green one is meant to be mountains, but it's a bit vague.

The graffiti:

The pink thing and the green girl are based on some street art I found on google, but the thinking stick man and the WCSFC (an in-joke from work) are my own. The background colours were stippled on with a small Citadel drybrush to give it the sprayed on look. After they were done I washed them black and gave them a light grey dusting to weather them.

A very nice model to paint, though the angle I've put her at makes it a pain to photograph her nicely. It's like very shot either has a bucket of glare or the camera auto-focus decides to pick the wrong bit (it's fond of her right knee and the back of her board).

But still, very happy with how she turned out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Redesigning 40k for the 21st Century, pt3

Part 1
Part 2

So I’m going to start with a summary of my position, handily provided by Justicar on the Millenium Gate:

“I, for one, like the GRIMDARK as it was originally implemented. Gothic is/was a fun change from the usual Star Trek, everything will be better in the future spiel. People just talking their problems out, every violent situation is based on misunderstanding, yada yada, etc. 40K was somewhat unique in that everyone fights everyone else. A very handy thing to have when you are marketing a wargame.

“That said, you are right that GW has gone too far with the pervasiveness of the GRIMDARK aspect of the setting. I think one issue is that GW has gone overboard with this and developed some tunnel vision with the GRIMDARK aspect. Part of the problem is that GW is treating it as the same as the Warhammer setting where the Old World is essentially doomed, it is just a matter of when, rather than if. This of course has been institutionalized most recently in the countdown to doomsday stuff they stuck in the fluff section of 5th edition which I think limits the large scale appeal of the setting.

“That outcome may be "certain" as to the Old World but that is 1 planet in a much larger universe. 40K has always had the GRIMDARK thing going on but in the past there was some balance with things like Rogue Trader fleets expanding the borders of the Imperium and Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleets pushing past the boundries of known space. There were tangible examples of recovered technology being implemented to improve the advance of technology in a number of the Imperial codices. We don't see much if any of that anymore. GRIMDARK is a large part of what makes 40K memorable and unique but like all good things, a complete excess of it is not desirable.”

So, I’m not against grim darkness, never ending war, a galaxy of horrors, and never ending danger. I just want to have a reason to fight against it, and have a slim hope of being heroic and saving the day against all odds (until the next horror comes along).
I think it is necessary for the games longevity to continue to strip away some of the GRIMDARK that has infested it. Why? Well look at it this way – you’re playing a game, be it on PC, Xbox, or whatever. Now it is no ordinary game, but one where your controlled force is your own. You lead them to victory time and time again. But each time you win, a message pops up saying ‘you won, but achieved nothing as the universe is still doomed no matter what you do’.


Why would you keep playing with that shoved in your face all the time? That’s what GRIMDARK overdose means to me.
Waaaaay back in the Rogue Trader days humanity had a future – not just in that it wasn’t monumentally screwed, but the Emperor had a plan. What was that plan? Well he knew that over time, humanity would become more and more psychically aware, much like the Eldar before them. He guided and nurtured humanity over the centuries, working to the goal of preserving his species.
Eventually his body gave out (later, Horus beat him up) and he retired to the throne. But the Imperium was set up to cull out the weak psykers and eventually, should the guard and marines prevail against the odds, humanity would emerge out the other side victorious against the galaxy.

It was still a very slim chance it’d work, but there was a nebulous, far off goal Humanity was working towards more than mere survival. What does this have to do with a-bombs, iPods and Eldrad’s toilet?

Depth of the background

Many decry the newer editions as ‘dumbed down’, ‘made for ten year olds’, ‘aimed at kids’ etc. We’ve all heard it, maybe even said it when our Codex has had its story section reduced to tales of the Ultramarines being awesome.
I started 40k when I was seven or so, back with Rogue Trader. My brother was a bit older than me, but we both started with Marines (RTB01 FTW!) and mostly messed around like kids did. There were no GWs in Australia yet, we mostly went to Tin Soldier in the city or Games World out at Hornsby. They had a club, NaSGuL (Northern Shore Gamers League), and this is where I discovered Space Hulk, Blood Bowl and the wide variety of games out there.
However, I was more interested in the models and stories than playing (as you may have guessed from my blog), and devoured every book and expansion I could get my hands on. I didn’t get most of it at the time, but I pretty much memorised the RT rulebook, the Compendium and Compilation. I can still find things almost instantly in them.

Many years later, I was going back over the Random Mission tables in the back of RT, specifically the pudding one, and I went “ahhh, it’s parodying the second coming of Jesus!”. It’s terribly obvious now, but it took a good decade for me to see it. Similarly, I didn’t immediately get that the Sisters of Battle being based on a planet called Ophelia was a Hamlet reference.

Add to that the sheer volume of background contained in those early books. It’s staggering how much was developed in such a small space really. Does the current background have the same staying power? I don’t think so, unfortunately. When I need to reference something about the Administratum or the Astra Telepathica I don’t turn to 5th ed, I pull out the ancient, dog-eared Rogue Trader book. Maybe 2nd ed if I want another view, but it’s almost always RT first.
I don’t think that the background needs to be dumbed down to be accessible to.
The kids who like 40k for ‘rarrrgh explosions’ would just skip the boring bits not about dismembering, and the weird quiet ones will absorb everything anyway (I used to be able to recite, from memory, the weapon loadout of every 3050 mech [including all the Clan varients]). Those who initially skim the background might grow into it, or they may just enjoy toy spacemen – that’s what the game is to some people after all, just a game. But not having it is a disservice to those who enjoy it in my eyes.

Another salient example, linking with the background disconnect, is the manner in which 40k is sold to people (of all ages). There are no FLGS’s near me, the closest is around an hour away and it is often lacking in F. There is a FLGW about twenty minutes away and next to where my girlfriend works, so I go there when I go gaming. As a result I’ve seen a lot of GW’s pitch technique. It seems to be less aggravating, more laid back here in Australia than in other countries from the stories I’ve heard, so take that on board.

When someone comes in, expressed interest in 40k, the demo game is Marines vs Orks from the AoBR set. The standard setup is to have the staff play Orks, the new guy play Marines. Now the Marines are portrayed as heroic, mighty, fighting for humanity etc etc. I’ve noticed they never add on “but it’s pointless as the galaxy is doomed no matter what.” They talk about the brutality, never ending war, explosions, skulls, chopping people up and next to no chance of survival (unless you are mighty enough!). But they stop short of serving the full GRIMDARK sandwich.


Because it’s depressing. Nobody’s going to play a game where the tagline is “you will never win – it’s in the rulebook (for reals!)”. They will play “you’ll never win, mwahahahaha- what? You’re totally awesome and still triumphed? Noooooooooo!”
It means your victory on the tabletop with your little men counted for something. It’s like playing call of Cthuhlu – you’ll ultimately never win, but you know that going in. However the big difference is that CoC is a horror RPG, not a sci-fi wargame.

But, back to depth of background and the point... having a deep background means you constantly have more to discover (duh), and more to keep players (customers) interested. The paucity of background available in the rulebooks is tragic in my eyes. Sure, there’s the BL novels, Fantasy Flight’s RPG supplements and erm... that’s it actually. And those are all pretty pricey if you want everything. Even still they lack certain crucial bits of data.
For instance: Navigators only being able to pass on the Navigator gene if both parents are Navigators. Pretty sure it’s not in 5th ed. It’s certainly not in any Codex. It might be in a Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader RPG book, but I don’t own those. It is in Rogue Trader though, some twenty years out of print.

I will never be OOP, because I rock!

Have some fun at a GW – say you want to do female Space Marines. Someone will say it’s impossible due to blah blah blah. Ask what book the article is in. Ding! There is no book available in a Games Workshop that contains the infamous ‘only males can be Space Marines’ line.
This is more than trolling for anti-FSM hate, but illustrating that knowledge is being lost from the books. The depth of the 40k verse is getting shallower. I am obviously a fan of story based games, and not having this depth hurts that, as very, very few of the younger gamers come up with overly complicated back stories for their armies any more (or any story at all). 40k is becoming ‘40k the novels’ and ‘40k the game’, with little cross over between the two.

The previously discussed logic holes hurt the background as it is ‘interactive’, so to speak. While a TV series like Star Trek or a linear game like Half Life could have gaping holes in it, the POV is restricted and controlled so you only see what the director wants you to. By the time the hole appears you’re past it (hopefully). In an open game universe such as 40k (or any RPG setting), the cracks are much more evident as you’re essentially asking people to rummage around and see what they find. When there are so many solid wargaming/RPG settings out there, the holes, missing bits and disconnections make 40k look rather rough around the edges some times.
This isn’t really a good way to keep people interested. If every time they want to make an army or explore an idea they run into a contradiction, something that makes no sense in-universe or can’t find an answer, it’s discouraging. We’ve all likely had it happen with something – you’re interested, but finding what you want to know is too much of a pain so you get frustrated and give up (potentially going to a competitor).
Note: not saying that you have to make a background, but that the situation is limiting the option, and that’s bad for those of us who want to.

What to do about it?

So, if you’re like me and think too much, you’ll wonder odd things. Like thus:
Eldar choose to go on a path.
That Path is a very focused speciality, be it art, music, war.
They only do one sort of thing on the Path, no others (except in times of war).
So who chooses to go on the path of the Janitor?
If such a path does not exist, who cleans the toilets?
Do the Warp Spiders (the tiny ones, not the aspect warriors) do it?
Do they have some sort of autonomous construct?
If they do, why not use said constructs for war?
And so on...

I think it is a valid question. We know the answer for the Imperials: you do. Grab a shovel (Marines go to the excretatorium and have servitors). But we know precious little about everyday life for the Eldar, or even much about Craftworlds themselves. I can think of only half a dozen pictures in the last twenty three years that show the inside of a Craftworld. There are a couple of descriptions in a couple of novels, but nothing really detailed like Imperial cities have gotten.

Me, I’d read a book all about the ins and outs of a Craftworld or inside of a Tyranid ship. A sort of Incredible Cross-sections series for 40k, and not just the tanks.
Developing the alien races will remove them from their fantasy backgrounds – which I think is a good thing. There is a certain stigma attached to 40k that it is just ‘fantasy in space’, and while that certainly used to be true, the races have moved into their own niches, but they need to be explored more.

Make a background book for each race and have it NOT TOLD FROM THE IMPERIAL PERSPECTIVE! Have it neutral and factual, much like the Horus Heresy art books. Facts. Like what the Eldar use as currency (do they have one? Is it barter, socialist collective, no economy at all or what)? Who runs every day stuff (Farseers? Surely they have better things to worry about than whether L’Shin needs to mow his lawn more often or Jathen speeding on his jetbike through a school zone)? Come to think of it, what are Eldar kids like? How fast to they age? What’s the deal yo?!

I am reminded of a conversation on the Giant in the Playground boards, talking about the Princess Bride novel. Someone mentioned the funny edits mad by the ‘editor’ of the ‘original story’. Someone else commented about the court scene, and how the editor cut out the long descriptions of courtly fashion as nobody would be interested in that level of detail. The poster then lamented that they were interested, and would have loved to have read it.
If you weren’t interested, you’d either skip it or forget the details. They need to bring that sort of detail to the other races in 40k.


It is very, very constraining, and the ‘woooo mysterious’ stuff gets annoying after a while. If I’m playing a race/character, I’d like to know that they’re not actually the bad guys and are just hiding it if I initially liked them as good guys (even if they have a terrible secret). The whole Dark Angel traitor mystery thing hurt my love of them when it got really silly during 3rd, and as much as I liked Necrons the vagueness and ‘unknownness’ of their story wasn’t enough for me to sink my teeth into.
Not to say a little mystery is a bad thing, far from it, but knowing what side your faction on is a pretty big one.
Losing the Imperial view for a neutral one would give much more freedom to explore things previously unknown to us – just add on ‘but the Imperium is yet to discover this terrible secret’. It gives the developers something to work towards and the audience something to speculate about and look forward to.
A good example of this is the Void Dragon. You know it, I know it, Dalia knows it, The Emperor knows it, the Necrons know it, but the Imperium is in for a very rude surprise some day...


It seems this is coming true, with Black Library announcing at Games Day that they will be doing a monthly magazine filled with stories and such. Huzzah! Now fingers crossed they’re not all from the human POV...


I liked it when it was just ‘here is the galaxy. It will kill you’. Now it’s all Star Gods this and Old Ones that and grand interweaving conspiracies about everything. Making everything interdependent makes it harder to advance any one part on its own, and makes each part less unique.

In regards to the evolving society and the background (tech, politics etc), many people got the impression I was for some drastic overhaul to make 40k more shiny and happy and such. Not quite the case. I was for ditching the GRIMDARK, scaling it back to grim, relentless war, and accentuating the sci-fi aspects that are already there, but seldom/never used. Also I’m in favour of highlighting the religious tensions that exist between Marines and the Ecclesiarchy and the Mechanicus, highlighting the growing numbers of Psykers (if they still do that), and having the Imperium doing something – anything!
Of the three global campaigns, the Imperium has been defending for three of them. In most Forge World books the Imperium loses or has a pyrrhic victory. It’s rather disheartening to have your faction always on the back foot, defending (losing) and never seeming to win, unless you’re the Ultramarines that is.


Use it as a tie-in to release xenos terrain, xenos world / background sourcebooks and such. Hell, do a bunch of civilian figures for all races if you want to go crazy. Adding more detail never hurt, except for the ‘lol Old ones made everyone’ crap, so yeah.

This is the end of my thoughts now, and I hope you have found it as interesting reading as I have pondering it. I Could certainly go on, about the impending end of the galaxy, the stuck timeline (not necessarily a bad thing) and so on, but that’s it for a while.
I do realise much of this may come across as bashing on 40k or the designers, but that is not my intention. I know that no major change is going to happen overnight, and that it does look like GW is moving in the right direction in terms of increasing the love for the background nutters, and expanding their viewpoints. The ranting and complaining is because I love.

Or they could just bring back Rogue Trader, consarn it *shakes fist*