Monday, 8 December 2014

Horus Heresy Book Review: The Damnation of Pythos by David Annandale.

What makes a Horus Heresy novel if not the name? Damnation of Pythos is easily the most ‘filler’ book in the series so far and yet it is one that despite a few major flaws I really rather enjoyed and respected too. It is credit to David Annandale (in his first full length Heresy novel) that he has managed to address hidden depth and moralities in a series that has all too often become action orientated if not outright degenerating into Bolter Porn.

However, before we get to the real meat of the book let's have an overview of the narrative. Much as the last few books have greatly expanded upon Ultramar’s role in the Heresy we have had a large amount of focus poured into the shattered remains of the victims of the Istvaan Dropsite Massacres, no longer just a footnote in the annals of the 31st millennium, now the Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard have added influence in the greater narrative. Damnation of Pythos deals SOLEY with these three (traitor legions notwithstanding) as their ravaged forces look to make a meaningful impact on the Enemy in the wake of their catastrophic defeat. Coming across a mysterious beacon on a forgotten world they are beset by horrors both tangible and ethereal (much of the book is Marines VS dinosaurs) and as their human counterparts start to unravel before them they must make a meaningful stand against the Damnation Of Pythos.

Roles are by no means equal within the book Indeed the vast majority of page space is given to Ferrus Manus’ legion alone with only a few supporting cast members from the Raven Guard and Salamanders making an appearance. This however is a good thing as the vastly reduced Dramatis Personae (even within the ranks of the Iron Hands there are only half a dozen named characters) means that the author has time to explore some refreshingly complex ideas.

And of course being the Iron Hands these ideas largely revolve around the most established of Sci Fi tropes, Man Vs Machine. As the Iron Hands continue their quest of the abandonment of the Flesh do they grow more detached from what the Emperor planned for them to be? Even the fact that Manus was still largely flesh is addressed and this is easily the most in depth and detailed look at the nature of the … Legion, what they have gained and what they have lost. The token presence of the other two Legions only serves to put these elements in stark contrast as well as provide a Foil for the dispassionate and mechanical Captain Atticus. His approach to War is methodical and efficient and brutal, thinking nothing of civilian losses in his mmilitary pursuits. Despite all of this Atticus is quite admirable if not readily likable or even identifiable. Indeed The Salamander Kidhem is the link
between the excessively weak human elements of the Story and the totally inhuman Iron Hands.

So whilst we have the bionic Marines and their counterparts on the one side the book is balanced by a large human element with the non astartes serfs and another introduced factor that appears a bit later in the book (fear not these reviews are spoiler free) These parts of the cast give Annandale the opportunity to explore another of the books main concepts. Faith. With the horrors of Pythos proving too much for many of the humans to take the Leticus Divinitus takes hold and the worship of the Emperor provides their only means of solace. With the Emperors divinity being embraced by lesser mortals the Astartes are forced to question what they know time and time again as the Damnation of Pythos becomes more apparent.

And later events in the book are suitably epic and dramatic, beliefs are shaken, heroes die and this more than any other is a book that truly brings home the grimdark nature of its setting even if it has little to do with the heresy overall. In fact The Damnation of Pythos feels distinctly old school in scope and subject matter. This may also be the first Horus Heresy book to have NO primarchs in it, at all, indeed that may be what makes it feel so detached from its series counterparts. Apart from mentions of the recent massacre and the Astartes ignorance over the true nature of the warp this book could have been set at anytime in the last 10,000 years of the 40k timeline. Its is testament to Annandales skills that even without the #Primarchs he manages to create several multifaceted, memorable and strong characters

BUT, The Damnation of Pythos is not perfect, in fact in places the narrative stumbles quite badly. Split into three uneven parts the tone of the book alters drastically and at times seems almost schizophrenic. The pacing is also a little off and although I am pleased the author has restrained from resorting to Bolter Porn the action beats in the middle third are stilted and oddly placed. This is more than made up for in the last section of the book however. The other failing that I would have to lay on the book is that some of the writing as regards to the motives and actions of the protagonists is a little clumsy or at least out of place. Put bluntly it is hard to believe that the Emperors finest warriors can exercise such poor judgement as can be found in this book. Deaths are easily preventable and overall the Marines just come across as incredibly naive and done. None of the actions make sense, things are done and indeed not done against all reason. It’s a bit jarring when even the reader is second guessing Astartes judgement or foreseeing an obvious trap. It’s all the more out of place as supreme military brilliance is displayed earlier on in the book in some sublime space battling.

Another problem that Damnation of Pythos has is it really doesn’t need to exist. Although some worth is to be gained from the reading, overall it is more or less entirely pointless. A non event in the larger scale of the Horus Heresy that barely manages to justify its own presence a sidestep in the Heresy narrative Though it is laudable just what Annandale has achieved one cannot help that feel that such a throwaway narrative may have been best reserved for a Novella rather than taking up a full novel (few and far between as it is) release. Of course were that to be the case then there is a good chance that the aspects of the book that I am congratulating in the first place would not exist!

Not enough happens and it feels like often events happen only to justify events immediately before hand as if the author had an idea and then the narrative just ran away on him leading to some writing that is very hard to comprehend leading to the reader becoming more and more bemused, never a good sign. Overall the book gets a pass from me, it is far from the worst book in the series and although it has some problems justifying its own existence there is merit within and some refreshing character development and advancement of the moral scope and some of the more philosophical aspects of the universe. The book has some juicy morsels within but unfortunately the stew on a whole is rather bland and thin.


3 rampaging Suarians out of 5

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Horus Heresy Book Review: Vengeful Spirit, by Graham McNeil

It's weird having to wait for Horus Heresy books again, now while i wait for either the next limited edition novella to be mass released or the next entry in the series (Damnation of Pythos by David Annandale) i find myself even more looking forward to the continuation of the story even though i know 80% of what happens!
Still this means i get to get some other reading in, i am still wading through the molasses that is Malodrax and i have Thorpe's latest Dark Angels book to read, i also have the Tome of Fire omnibus sitting on my shelf so you could say there is plenty to keep me occupied but always my mind keeps coming back to the Heresy.

Much of this i put down to the high quality of the books of late, aside from a few noticeable exceptions the titles most recently released have been very good (Angel Exterminatus almost single handedly galvanized my interest in the series after it had been sapped by endless shorts and novellas. Of course that book was written by Graham McNeil, certainly one of the finest in the series it was the veteran author in top form and i loved every single second of it. Now McNeil returns, a scant 6 books later with Vengeful Spirit.

It has to be said that although there has been a cameo here or there, Horus has been somewhat absent from his own heresy. Of course this is understandable given that there are 18 legions to cover and even now some of them haven't really had their moment. Still it's nice to see the Warmaster take centre stage again even if he is not the only Primarch to be featured. Here it is Horuses attack on Molech that is under the spotlight as his legion return to the very world they bought to compliance so many years ago.

Now i will say that i don't really care for the reasoning behind the Warmaster's return to Molech, a hackneyed plot regarding seizing the power of the Emperor that He had for some reason left there. In general i feel far too much is being attempted with  the Emperor. I preferred the mystery, He is diminished and made to look like little more than an opportunistic trickster by events here. I can see on one hand why they are doing it this way i just don't think it is to the Heresy's benefit.

Horus himself is also starting to grate ever so slightly, although he is still well written and rounded he actually comes across as more humane and gregarious than many of the loyalist primarchs. Now i know that Horus is meant to be charismatic and likable but i am having a few problems reconciling the Horus we are seeing now with the monster that will assault Terra and destroy his father. Still there is still time for this transition i suppose, at the moment im just wondering when the real Horus will stand up. One thing that is very well portrayed is how Horus feels towards his fellows. In this book more than perhaps any other i really got a strong sense of brotherhood that has not always been prevalent in this series.

There was only one other thing that really bothered me about this novel and that was the blatant plug for Imperial Knights. Now i guess we will never know whether Graham just wanted to write about the Knights because they are awesome or he was instructed or pressured to do so in some way. But the way in which they are shoehorned in is pretty shameful and superfluous. Now in fairness Graham does do a pretty good job of integrating them into the plot (even if it is something we have seen MANY times before) it just feels a little forced on the whole.

So what DO i like about Vengeful Spirit? Well there is some great Nurgle stuff in here although on the whole Mortarion takes backseat for much of the book. Fans will cast a knowing nod as one of Grandfather Nurgles favoured scions makes a reappearance on these pages. Also pleasing was the reintroduction of some characters that we had not seen (i have not indulged in a great many of the Audiodramas yet) since the early days of the Heresy although their role in the book seems largely designed purely to have them in a set place at a set time and makes very little sense overall.

In fact there is a pervading sense of a return to the opening books of the series, be it returning adversaries, the Mournival, or just echoes of events of Istvaan III it is pleasing to see in a series which has arguably become too engrossed in breaking new ground. Ironically it is Vengeful Spirit's insistence on trying to do too much of both though, which really proves its undoing. There are far too many different plots and sub plots going on for this to be a coherent narrative. I've not even mentioned the plot thread about yet ANOTHER perpetual. Overall it means that things get a bit jumbled and this is why the addition of the Knights feels even more superfluous than it might have.

Of course the action is very well written as you would expect and there is a fair bit more carnage in this entry than there has been in many of the recent books in the series. It is also probably worth mentioning that this is by some way the most substantial book released of late. Giving BL an excuse to raise the price by a couple of quid notwithstanding this is a mighty tome indeed. Weighing in at over 500 pages there is a lot of story for your money here its just a shame its not more coherent. It's almost the opposite of Unremembered Empire. That felt like half a book, this feels like 2 books crammed into the space of one large novel with the narrative suffering as a result.

So that is Vengeful Spirit, thanks to Graham McNeil's talents it is still a pretty good read though by no means his best work. It certainly pales in comparison to Angel Exterminatus. It suffers from a bad case of bloat and far too many disparate nonsensical plot threads all going on at once. It does have some superb battle scenes and yet again finds a way to cram Ultramarines into the narrative as their profile in the Heresy is raised still further. It has a pleasing tendency to refer back to earlier books in the series and if you have not read at least the opening trilogy of the Heresy i would certainly advise doing so before picking this up. For all its failings it is by no means a disaster but one is left to wonder just how much better a more focused and coherent story would have been. At the end of the day i finished this book in less nights than there are knights in the book itself so i guess it cant be all that bad.


3.5 Knights out of 5

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Kickstarter review: Battle Systems Sci Fi terrain

Kickstarters, we all know about them, many of us have even backed some. Crowdfunding is a big thing now and possibly nowhere more has the impact been felt than in the hobby we all love. Hundreds of small companies and even one man bands with a great idea can now launch those ideas without having to take out a potentially crippling loan to raise the required capital. Of course this has the double effect of saturating the market with lots of alternatives (no bad thing) whilst eating away at our hobby budgets all the more. From there being just three or four options we now have potentially hundreds of different games and systems to choose from. 

The picture that sold me on the Terrain

So what makes a good Kickstarter? Well, an original idea helps, well presented with decent stretch goals. Delivering it on time (or at least with minimal delay) is also a bonus, albeit one that fewer and fewer manage these days. Keeping the backers informed is also a massive thing, after all these people have put their cash into your idea, they are essentially investors. And of course you have to deliver a quality product at the end of it that matches what you promised in the first place. Some KS do very well at some of these things but I’m not sure I have seen one that delivers on all fronts until now. Step forward Battle Systems. Surely one of the best run KS campaigns I have seen to date and one that will take some beating. 

Plenty of Stretch Goals will always help a project along

The product was simple. A stunning looking terrain set made from cardboard that could be assembled in a variety of different ways and had the capacity for multi level builds. It was something that hadn’t been offered before (the closest would be the Terraclix stuff but that was largely Fantasy based) and presented in a very exciting way. Stretch goals in the forms of unlockable add ons and free extras combined with the great updates and obvious enthusiasm from creators Colin and Wayne ensured the project was funded in short order and ended up generating a great deal of interest. It raised £219,000 from a £21,000 goal so was  extremely successful. The fact that it was released (coincidentally or otherwise))) alongside Prodos games’ AVP probably helped no end. Certainly the two seem to go together perfectly and have already been featured together at several open days. 

Really fantastic looking stuff, this is exactly what we ended up with

Now as many people know once you have funded the project quite often it will go very dark with sporadic updates from time to time usually informing of a delay of some description. As I write this it has been well over a month since I had an update on three of the five KS I backed at the end of last year. This is nothing unusual, sometimes there is nothing to say, the production of the goods is underway and until they are actually shipped the companies involved are often far too busy to do much in the way of updating. However some would argue that these parties have a duty to keep their customers/investors informed, after all its our cash that they have and Kickstarter firmly removes itself from any responsibility meaning that that money is essentially lost should things go tits up (just ask the backers of the recently cancelled Altfest) 

Which made it all the more pleasant that Battle Systems embarked on a sterling campaign of updates and communication. Be it little previews of artwork or updates on the design process, we never felt neglected. Production updates followed along with assembly videos and tutorials on everything from care to storage to tips on improving the durability of your scenery. It was exceptional and added a personal touch that many Kickstarters lack. It was clear that they were just as excited about the project as we were and I am very pleased to say that the Conclave will have an interview with these most excellent chaps soon. Any problems (and to my memory there was only one, involving the clips) were revealed upfront with no subterfuge and a revised shipping date was revealed and met. They even provided the name of the ship transporting our goodies so it could be tracked every nautical mile of the way! Absolutely flawless and a benchmark for every other Kickstarter out there. 

So after a superlative campaign I finally have the scenery in my hands, and after pottering about with it for a few days (closer to a week) I’ve finally assembled most of it, got it all off the cardboard sheets and can tell you all about it. 

We all tracked it every inch of the way thanks to Colin and Waynes updates. 

Firstly it looks GREAT, the design work that has gone into it is truly excellent and I envisage a great many games being played over this stuff as it looks stunning with a lovely high quality finish. Now I will say it doesn’t work out particularly cheap, I paid around £150 to cover a 3x3 space which admittedly is pretty much standard these days. But when I see the amount of actual product that I got for my money I in no way feel short changed. Not only is the look of it fantastic, much thought has also gone into variation with many of the components designed double sided so you can have pristine or damaged looking items. It’s another nice touch that helps you mix things up a bit or change things up mid game (though ill discuss that a little later). Even the floor tiles are double sided. Its things like this and other little touches that add so much character to the set. Battlesystems have provided everything you could need to build a multilevel Sci Fi interior and designed it in a way that makes assembly reasonably easy if not necessarily quick. 

Pretty much everything comes off of the sheets nice and easily, with only a few of the gantries tearing and requiring a little repair at some point so I would advise using a knife on these. Assembly is also for the most part pretty easy and intuitive although there were a few bits that flummoxed me somewhat. Thankfully Battle Systems have a series of assembly videos that will have you covered, showing you not only how to put it together but also where you may need to make adjustments to make up for imperfections in the cutting tools.

Ah yes adjustments. You will be making a great deal of these to your set. Now to be fair Battle Systems have never shied away from this, being totally up front about the fact that you will need to take to the set with a knife from time to time as minute variations in cutting are inevitable. Their reasoning is that it was better to make the slots err on the thin side rather than be too large as you can always cut a little out. In practice this does mean that a SHARP knife and cutting mat is utterly essential in the assembling of this set. Failure to do so will result in you having to force parts and that is where you will damage things. In all honesty although the percentage of adjustments required was pretty low (maybe something like 20%) it was still far more than I had expected and greatly added to the time required to get this thing together and thus write this review!

Can't wait to get some games in on this!

Another unfortunate side effect of this is that extra strain is placed on the card and sometimes your adjustments (particularly to smaller parts will cause the cardboard to fray. Now again Wayne and Colin have been up front about this and did do a video advising that you can use liquid superglue applied with a brush to the edges which will essentially coat it with plastic making it much more durable. It’s wonderful advice but my experience is that this is in no way an option. It is MANDATORY, it’s not that the card quality is crap or ill designed it’s just something that is always going to happen with card scenery of this ambition and complexity. To be honest there are many parts that you will probably glue together anyway as you will be unlikely to take them apart again. 

At the moment none of this is glued but it will be, things like the turbine will never need to be taken apart. 

So that’s a knife and superglue that you will need to assemble all this stuff (and there is a lot of it!) Thankfully 80% of the stuff went together absolutely fine, the elements that caused a little hair tearing were the doors (the surrounds require adjustments EVERY time – make sure you watch the vids!) the struts for the docking bay (an add on so not many of you will have to worry about that but I nearly lost my shit) and the crates.

Oh the crates! One of the main issues with card scenery is anything bent in a U shape, basically as you make the bend the tension on the concave part of the card will cause it to try to come away and fray. Certainly I encountered this problem on more than one of the crates I assembled. No adjustment will prevent this you just have to be VERY careful when you bend the card. Grip it tightly and bend it slowly and hope for the best. Thankfully this will be on the inside of the crate where you’ll likely not see it but it is there nonetheless and could impact the durability of the item. Again, just glue it, you may as well and these are one of the few bits that are non-reversible. In face even with many of the parts that ARE reversible, I’ll likely be gluing them anyway. I don’t really see this a set where you will constantly be able to switch stuff around without damaging it anyway so likely much of it will remain semi assembled for me. 

Dynamic and multi leveled. Pretty easy to assemble too

Now if it sounds like I am being overly negative about the terrain please be assured that is NOT my intention. I love this stuff, I think it looks great, it is designed around the gamer and you can do a great deal with it. Zone Mortalis, AVP, Infinity, Sedition Wars, the list of games that this could be utilised for is massive and I can see it getting a great deal of use. It is a quality product which has been supported and delivered in an amazing way. With the Fantasy/Dungeon equivalent soon to be unleashed I can only see this getting bigger and bigger and it should put Battle Systems on the map in a way that they absolutely deserve. 

The set does require a little work from you then in order to get the most out of it. My recommendation would be to use the superglue edging (after you have penned any sections you want to) otherwise the set may well not bear up to the rigours of regular gaming and assembly. There are only a few bits here and there you will need to worry about though and due to the inventive design you can easily store much of the set at least semi assembled. Plastic tubs are my own method and should keep everything nice and safe. 

Storage is a piece of cake... much of it is still assembled. 

and plastic tubs for smaller parts. 


So I have rambled on long enough about this wonderful terrain set, im sure you will all agree. As a kickstarter its was beyond my wildest expectations. First to arrive out of all the ones I backed (and by some time by the looks of things) and a quality product to boot with great communication and post campaign content. From care to storage to even using pens to colour in the exposed edges Colin and Wayne have gone above and beyond the call of duty on this one and I greatly look forward to their future projects. 

As a retail product I am not so sure however, the product is certainly of a high enough quality for general distribution and there are no obvious flaws with it that I can discern but the amount of preparation work needed may dissuade some. I cannot honestly say that Battlesystems is ready to assemble out of the box. Certainly its not suitable for the young due to the amount of cutting that is flat out required. Whether or not Colin and Wayne can find a way round this for the eventual retail release or whether the issue is insurmountable time will tell I guess. Even in the event that this issue cannot be overcome I would still readily recommend the terrain set, just be prepared to put some time into it before you can use it. I also am unsure about the durability if it is constantly taken apart and reassembled but as i have said you can get round this by gluing some bits together and storing it semi assembled. 

Made for each other?

So that’s Battlesystems, it’s a great set and a shame that I have to wait for the other KS to turn up so I can get the full use out of it. With loads of potential and possibilities in set up it’s a set I can see being utilised a great deal and as much of it can be stored semi assembled it should be reasonably easy to assemble. Its a great product that has been produced with a lot of love and enthusiasm and i cant wait to get some games in on it. If you missed the KS experience (and I would recommend it) then the Dungeon version should be launching anytime now. …

Next up from Battle Systems......

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Warhammer 40k: Revenge of the Sixth or Seventh Heaven? Part Three

First of all, apologies to all concerned that this third part of the 7th edition review has taken so long to arrive, unfortunately I have been somewhat incapacitated in these last few months so have actually been unable to play any 7th at all! Mind you it was always the plan to make this a joint effort as the rules part of the hobby have never been as important to me as the background and models themselves and the rules are an undeniably huge part of the whole shebang. 

Therefore it is fortunate that my erstwhile co-author of this review Matt Clarke, has gone far and beyond what was required and submitted such a comprehensive overview of the new ruleset and changes within that there is really very little need for me to add anything further! Tempered by the fact that Matt actually has a few games under his belt it seems to make sense to give him the centre stage before I return at the end for a few missed bits and summary of the rules and the release as a whole. So without further ado I bid ye adieu and hand you over to Matt! See you in a bit. 

So, the seventh edition of Warhammer 40,000 has plonked out of the GW chute and a whole two years earlier than expected. Sly attempt to bump up sales figures before the end of the financial year, or just straight-up rules update to fix niggling issues?

I don't really care; the newer ruleset has a slew of updates, some fixes and a  new phase to expand psykers' shenanigans to a whole new level, and most welcome a fair few of the changes are too. The allies matrix has been made more restrictive, and the FOC has been pwnt wide open: the old 6th ed. primary detachments are now known as a Combined Arms Detachment, with no limit to the number of detachments a player can take. The standard core requirement of 1 HQ + 2 Troops choices are still there, but with the new template you can build a legal list of equal numbers of HQs to Troops, over a number of CADs if you wished. Sounds a bit off, spamming HQs with the minimum Troop requirement, right? The flipside is that focusing on HQs usually costs a fair few points, the minimum Troop units end up being minimum sized to compensate and thus more vulnerable to breaking when taking losses. Details for Lord Of War are also in with rules and FOC choices. Oh, and all CAD units are now scoring; not just Troops, all models, Swarms, vehicles, everything. 

Allied detachments are pretty much untouched from the previous book and slightly more funky detachments like Knights now get a mention as part of a legal force. A force with these standard detachments is now known as a Battle-forged army) which comes with a few bonuses which allow you to re-roll an unwanted Warlord trait and control objectives even when contested by a unit from an Unbound list. What's an Unbound list? Well, if you want to bin the FOC completely you now can and field whatever you like in whatever numbers, points allowing. The new allies matrix still applies to these armies and, more importantly, it's stated in black and white that an Unbound list has to be agreed upon before the game starts so Cheesemongers beware; turning up with an exotic combo cheesefest army will likely net you zero games, but if you agree to field a thematic force like an all-Dreadnought army then you now have the framework to do so. 

The number of Battle Brothers in the matrix has taken a hit, which slaps Taudar combos a tad, but Battle Brothers now have a few more benefits than before. Come The Apocalypse allies can now actually take "allies" but there's significant deployment and proximity restrictions that can make some tactics impossible. The turn sequence has also changed with the addition of the psychic phase. Scootched in betwixt the movement and shooting phases this is now where the glowing-eyed kill-you-with-my-mind/eyes stuff happens. 

Before deployment psychic powers are still generated as normal, with the new bonus of obtaining the Primaris power for free of any discipline that your psyker dedicates to completely. Nice for the poor ol' Tyranids who only get to roll their own discipline, so all gribbly psykers get Dominion for free, including the Broodlord (giving him synapse). Once the psychic phase begins the controlling player rolls a D6 and adds the total mastery level of their psykers to the result to give the total number of warp charges for that turn for both players. Each charge equals a dice to use when casting powers, a roll of 4+ is needed for each warp charge listed on the power's description. No more Ld check. Perils Of The Warp is still a real danger, any pair of sixes results in a roll on the Perils table, the LD-based results of which can range from the psyker and any attached unit taking a serious hit, to taking wounds with gammy side-effects to unexpectedly powering up your caster. Statistically it's best to roll three dice to get the best chance when casting a WC1 power with Ld having no impact on the process, so lower Ld psykers are slightly better off than they were, roll too many dice and your chance of hitting the Perils table grows along with your chance of casting, which is where the lower Ld psykers can really suffer. 

Personally I like this take this approach to drawing on the power of the warp to bend to your will, but drawing too much can be seriously detrimental. This also makes WC3 powers, not that there are many, appropriately a lot harder (and more risky) to cast than previously. Any successful cast can be countered with a Deny The Witch roll from the opponent using dice from their own charge pool, with the chance increasing if the target is an opponent's unit containing a psyker, and further bonuses for a higher level psyker and Adamantium Will. Psychic powers themselves have been overhauled in most cases; most Witchfire powers have a 20-33% increase in range, Puppet Master has been shown the door, one or two powers have changed discipine and a few like Endurance and Haemorrhage have gone up in cost. 

The addition of the two new Daemonology disciplines have upset the apple cart somewhat: while Santic powers offer some utility via Gate Of Infinity, Sanctuary & Banishment they do also offer several offensive powers, but it's mainly Malefic powers that have gobs flapping and sweet panicky tears falling. While some Malefic powers are offensive, or increase a daemon's save, the main concerns are the half of the discipline that tweaks the dangly parts of decency and make us 40k geeks weep. From dropping in a unit of lesser daemons to trading your psyker for a greater daemon, players are concerned that this discipline is prone to unbalancing a game by spawning several hundred to even over a thousand points of models into play. Both Daemonology halves are inherently more dangerous to cast given that they will imperil the caster on any doubles rather than just sixes, but two forces are more adept with Grey Knights blocked from Malefic and only getting a Perils on sixes, and daemons are the opposite. I've seen a few battle reports where grossly imbalanced daemon armies summon sufficient numbers of additional daemons to raise eyebrows, but when you can build a Tzeentch army where 80-90% are psykers then what do people expect? 

Charges used on summoning can't be spent on ranged attacks or empowering units so there's a bit of give there. Highly mobile opponents and those with plenty of barrages will be able to bypass LOS blocking terrain and hassle the summoners for two potential counters and it's a bit too early to tell if summoning will be a general issue or not. In my game vs daemons today we had two psykers per side and my opponent didn't manage a single successful summoning.

Shooting has a fairly significant change with firing now being done per weapon type in the firing unit. Instead of all hits being resolved at the same time now a unit with a missile launcher and bolters, for example, can now fire a frag missile to get the best effect against a bunched-up target, remove the models from those wounds and then fire with bolters after to hit the models around the sides of the blast. Wounds can no longer be passed along to models that are out of sight (unless using a blast or template) or out of range, with models at the back of a firing unit being unable to contribute if lacking the range. This can make some engagements slightly more complex with rapid-fire weapons but really it will just be the difference of a dice or two where the further firers just fire one shot if over half-range. 

Vehicles became more survivable; armour can now only be one-hit and explode via a roll of 7+ on the vehicle damage chart. A penetrating hit needs to be AP1, AP2 or hit an open-topped vehicle to destroy it from new with a single shot. Jink saw a bump up to a 4+ save, but now has to be taken between shots hitting and rolling for damage and forces the jinker to fire snap shots in the following turn. Passengers embarked on/in a transport can ignore shaken/stunned results via a Ld test (but the crew cannot). Chariots got fixed to within an inch of their lives so the rider can fire without penalty and they are still gits in assault. Flyers & FMCs can now start the game deployed on the table as hovering/gliding or can still deep strike from reserves as zooming/swooping. Ramming is no longer speed-based, just armour, type & dozer blades help. Medium to light vehicles are still best dealt with by glancing hull points off them, but these changes go some way to helping armour making it's way back into games. A whole bunch of USRs have also been updated, rejoice! Templates now do D6 hits against passengers on an open-topped transport. Marines no longer get their lil' bonus 3" move when regrouping. Defensive grenades still deny attacks from charging but now can be used as 8" blind grenades instead of conferring an 8" stealth bubble. Charging through cover is now a flat -2" from 2D6. Walkers now get Hammer Of Wrath. Poison now only re-rolls when the target's toughness is lower than the attacking strength, not equal. Excess wounds from a challenge now spill over into the loser's attached unit. Characters no longer have precision attacks. There's a load more but a fair few things have changed to make the game mechanics more logical. 

There's a bunch of new Maelstrom Of War missions added to the original Eternal War missions from the old book. They involve tactical objectives that are drawn from a deck, to a maximum of three cards per player. One can be replaced per turn to rid yourself of any undesirable or unobtainable tasks. These should serve to counter the static objective-taking of the original six missions, as units mobilise to move from parts of the battlefield to others with the aim of fulfilling the objectives on the cards. I've not yet played any of these missions so I can't comment beyond that but they look like fun as long as the objectives picked up are within a player's remit to achieve. In finishing, I'd say that most of the changes in this new edition are mostly positive. I thoroughly enjoyed my game today; the new psychic phase probably added a minute or two to each turn with my Tyrant & Zoanthropes vs my mate's Great Unclean One and Heralds. Shooting was fine, assault was pretty much unchanged. 

While the 7th edition of 40k is an overall improvement, it isn't perfect. Rule for specific buildings have been removed and are now found in Stronghold Assault or some of the fortifications boxes. While models can charge into assault from building disembarkation points models still can't charge into assault from a stationary transport. Blasts are still worked out from the firer instead of the centre of the blast as an explosion should be. Also, some of the codices need a bit of FAQing, even some of the more recent releases: the Tyranid's Shadow In The Warp which traditionally disrupts casting no longer disrupts casting. Beasts Of Nurgle have defensive grenades but no BS characteristic to throw them with. The Dark Angels' Nephilim flyer has Missile Lock in the codex which now actually works with non-blast missiles but the Dark Angels FAQ still has that rule removed. Just stuff like that which is bound to creep in when any complex core system is changed. We've seen some FAQs already, we just need a few more. All in all, I think that Games Workshop have done good work with this new edition but I could do without shelling out for a new rulebook every two years.

Wow, that pretty much says it all. Cheers Matt!

Ill echo the could do without an update every two years sentiment. BUT I feel that there is just enough here changes wise to warrant a new edition. After all this essentially is the reintroduction of the Psychic Phase after a 4 edition absence and lets not forget that when that last happened the Dark Millennium was a whole new expansion! Overall this is not a seismic shift for the game although it is a shake up of sorts. Unfortunately I see this as a stop gap to still further updates as GW continue to experiment with the meta. As Matt said vehicles are back in and psykers will be a big part of the game from now on but I wonder if we will ever see anything like an orthodox army again? 

I remember the days of yore when an army would be reasonably formulaic and it would be the wargear and weapons that would dictate the tactics. Thus spam lists were not often seen and it was evil combinations of wargear and special characters that would win the day. That and strategy cards and the like. Chance would either deal you a kindness or knee you in the balls when you least expected (and needed) it. This is something that I feel has been lost with each successive iteration of Warhammer 40,000 and it has been in danger or becoming a case of victory will go to he (or she) whom can afford the best toys. Thankfully with 7th I feel we have taken a step in the right direction. For sure this is the most like 2E the game has ever been. Certainly it has given myself and Lee pause for thought in our ongoing Second Editition Revival Project. 

The variable objective cards are definitely an interesting idea to mix up the tactics a little. Flexible and fluid objectives should mean the static nature of take and hold is nullified a little, already partly achieved due to variable objective points in sixth. The major rejigging of the FOC is another point of contention that many have thrown up in yet another ‘the sky is falling’ proclamation. The way I see it, TFG has always existed, the win at all costs player that some will identify with and others will abhor. By introducing unbound lists GW has given this type of player free reign. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. Now they are labelled as such. Should you agree (and as Matt said you do need permission to field Unbound lists) then you will fully understand and expect the levels of cheese that may be levelled at your force. Likewise, if two like minded players wish to go at it with the most outrageous and broken combos they can devise in an effort to out powergame each other then they now have that capability. What the Unbound DOES deliver however is a way for all those players who desire to use their fluffy bespoke forces but have previously not had the framework to do to play their games too. Games workshop have delivered us great power with 7th Edition, but remember with great power comes great responsibility. 

And that just about wraps it up for the rules. After the disappointment that the other two books have been it is pleasing to see that the heart of the game at least has received some attention. With just enough content to justify a new edition it still feels like a stop gap to another version of the game, almost like a beta or something similar. Will we see 40k progress to living rulebook status or will GW push their luck and unleash 8th in 2016? One feels that they weren’t ready or were unwilling to redo Fantasy this year and went with a guaranteed money spinner instead. We will probably never know if 7th edition was rushed out of the gates to this end. Overall although the three book format is a welcome move and the quality of the product is high, as a set it doesn’t really warrant a purchase. Even to a newcomer it fails to provide as much of an insight to the hobby as it should and all the material of worth can be gleaned from just the rules section. Certainly as a verteran hobbyist I feel quite aggrieved by the £50 set and overall I’d say just wait for the mini rulebook which should be arriving in the updated Dark Vengeance any week now. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

X-wing the Miniatures Game: Tantive IV Expansion Review

The Force is strong in this one. Since its release a few years back X-wing the Miniatures Game has been something of a runaway success, selling in such numbers that Fantasy Flight Games can seemingly not keep up with demand with lengthy delays in waiting for stock as the manufacturers struggle to meet orders. Stock issues aside however (the core game was unavailable for an age) the game goes from strength to strength. Wave V (The Empire Strikes Back – Seriously check out that Decimator!) was recently announced and they are already mining the Expanded Universe (recently made non canon by overlord Disney) to come up with new ship ideas, surely by now FFG are running out of ideas they can use? Well one would think so but with Wave IV (A New Hope) they made the jump to lightspeed with Epic Play. And Epic Play means epic ships. We already have small vessels and large vessels which fit in with the current rule set but with the introduction of Huge vessels things needed to be changed about a bit. Therefore the Expansion packs for the Rebel Transport and Tantive IV Corellian Corvette Blockade Runner are the most ambitious yet released for X-wing in both size and complexity.

That's no moon, it's an expansion!

And with massive size comes a somewhat substantial price tag. The Rebel Transport is £50 but comes with an X wing with a few unique pilot cards offsetting the price a little, but the Tantive IV weighs in at an eye watering £75 making it one hell of an expensive prepaint. Now X-wing is by no means the cheapest game to play, especially if you want to play larger scale games but with this kind of price point it has gone to another level entirely. Certainly im not sure I would have ever picked one up at its normal pricetag. Thankfully then, it was Wayland Games Deal of the Day recently and with a whopping 40% discount it only cost me £44.99. Much more easily justifiable as part of my hobby budget. So, now I finally have my mitts on one (and it is a 2 hander!) I can finally give my opinions on this mould breaking (in more ways than one) addition to the Star Wars space combat behemoth. 

First thing I noticed is the thing is smegging huge. When I ordered it I was a little disgruntled that it was exempt from the free shipping promotion that Wayland Games are currently offering (only deliverable by courier) but having now seen it I totally understand. Thankfully Wayland is somewhat local to me so it wasn’t a major problem. So it’s a huge box and all, but what about is inside? Well, first I turned my attention to the cards and rules (very unlike me – I normally dive straight into the model itself)_ to get an idea of how the Blockade Runner will work in the game and familiarize myself with the rules. BUT before I discuss the rules (which I have digested at length along with the various upgrades available) I will actually discuss the model.

It's a nice looking model for a mass production prepaint. 

So after negotiating a couple of Ties (twist ties that is) I freed the CR90 Corellian Corvette Blockade Runner from its clear plastic shell, and the first thing that strikes you is it looks GREAT. Now I must stress that this is by no means a high end replica. What you are purchasing is an accurate (Fox/Lucasfilm insisted all ships are true to source material) and detailed model with the kind of quality that you would expect from Fantasy Flight. The paint on the model is also of a reasonable quality, again, very much in line with the existing ships. Im sure that those that repaint their ships will be able to produce some truly epic results however. Its nicely weighty without being overly heavy for play and comes with an extra large footprint template and flying stands (yes it needs TWO). All of which is necessary given the special rules it adopts.

The model measures up at just under 14 inches, making it a few inches longer than the Rebel transport it was released alongside. It is of an imposing size in comparison to anything released thus far and looks truly  gigantic when compared to the fighters. It would also follow that it requires a little more size to manoeuvre and you may need to expand the size of the playing area to accommodate it. Indeed it comes with its very own ingenious movement template. It seems to be a fairly sturdy build but I imagine a fall would do serious damage to the turrets so caution is urged, though it will stand up to the normal rigours of a game just fine. Overall though it is stable enough once attatched to its base. As an aside make sure you get the stems the right way round or the ship will not sit on the flight stands!

The expansion comes with a sizeable amount of stuff, most of it new due to Huge ships. 

So having established that the ship itself is rather snazzy, how about the other stuff? Well as mentioned the much of the card stock is also bespoke. Along with the special footprint and movement template you get the usual assortment of tokens and counters and the stock is of the high quality you expect from FFG, a far cry from Whizz Kids Star Trek Attack Wing efforts. There are some new entries here and there with Energy tokens (we’ll get to these in a bit) and scope tokens amongst the various elements included. There is also a new (kind of) range ruler for the increased range of the CR90s primary weapons. Really it is actually just two normal sized rulers joined together (with the 3 overlapping to give a range of 1-5) but it looks mighty impressive nonetheless. So that’s the model and the tokens and so far so good. Let’s look at the cards!

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the CR90 has TWO ship cards one for each half of the ship, fore and aft. These are also double sided with one side representing the part of the ship crippled. To destroy the CR90 you have to cripple both parts of the ship. Crippled sections of the ship suffer a severe penalty to stats and upgrade capacity. In a rather cool move the cards actually line up with each other on both sides. (see pictures) You might notice also that despite a hefty hull and shield rating the CR90 has no evasive capability at all, so hitting it will be a piece of cake. Now I’m discussing the rules separately in a bit but you will also see that the CR90 has a few special actions which are different for each half of the ship. The CR90 has no pilot cards per se so the only other large card is the Hyperdrive card which is mission specific and ill again discuss a little later. 

I am particularly fond of the way the ship cards go together and flip when damaged. 

So, upgrade cards! No, actually the damage cards quickly. These are also unique to the CR90 and again there is a deck for each half. Other than that they are the same to be honest though it is another nice touch. Right, UPGRADE CARDS! Each section has potential for a LOT of upgrades, crew members (named characters) teams, weapons systems and energy systems. (I promise to cover Energy soon as it is one of the major rules changes) There are also three Title cards so you can make your ship the actual Tantive IV (which can take even MORE crew) or one of two other vessels. The characters include as you would expect, R2 D2, Leia Organa, C3PO, Captain Antilles and oddly enough Han Solo (must be something I missed there), oh and a targeting co-ordinator. In all honesty these cards are all pretty underpowered with Leias ability for friendly ships to ignore penalty for a red manoeuvre being the only one that stands out. Unfortunately it is a use and discard ability so not all that great even then. The teams fare better, the sensor team increasing lock on range, and the engineering team boosting Energy production (we are getting there I promise!) on straight manoeuvres. This leaves the ship system cards which are a mixed bag but work in various buffs and fleet support roles and usually require the expense of Energy. 

C3PO: authentically useless

Many of the CR90's abilities are designed for support
Raymus Antilles: More useful than C3PO

Right, let’s discuss Energy. Basically many of the CR90’s systems require energy to work. Energy is a whole new sub-phase of the game, although it only applies to huge ships. After revealing moves but before declaring actions the CR90 receives, allocates and uses Energy to power systems, recover shields and the like. The mechanic by which you earn energy is actually rather interesting. On top of everything else, the movement dial for the CR90 is also unique. For one thing, there are no red or green manoeuvres (the CR90 is immune to Stress tokens) secondly, the manoeuvre that you choose will determine the amount of Energy you receive, with smaller movements resulting in more gain. This sets up a very interesting dynamic. Do you try to manoeuvre yourself out of trouble or reduce speed and hope you can use the Energy gained to save yourself?

Even then Energy represents even more of a tactical mix up to the game. Do you allocate the Energy to shields or weapons or one of the upgrade card? Each card has an Energy limit so stockpiling is not really an option either. Add to this that Energy is only generated by the aft section and if that is crippled you are in all sorts of trouble. It’s nice that FFG went to this much effort to distinguish the Huge ships and in my opinion this mechanic has the potential to add a whole new level to the game. 

Energy is an interesting mechanic. 

Cr90 also has a few other bespoke rules. For one thing it can declare two actions rather than one. (one for each section) and cannot take free actions, secondly it is immune to the effects of all tokens, (ion affecting Energy production instead.) In addition it also activates AFTER all smaller ships (though combat is normal) giving it a small edge when choosing actions. Talking about actions, the fore can choose between lock on and Co-ordinate (which gives a friendly ship within 2 range a free action). The aft can either recover or reinforce. Recover uses unallocated energy to restore shields and Reinforce gives the CR90 a free evade for one section against attacks which applies to ALL attacks that round. Pretty handy If you ask me. 

Another thing worth mentioning is the rules for collision, if you fly a small or large ship into a huge one then the results are much the same as if you collided with an asteroid. HOWEVER if you manage to fly the huge ship into any smaller vessel it is INSTANTLY DESTROYED. Yup, destroyed, no damage, no evading. Take it off. Not only does this mean you can really ruin an opponent’s day by ramming stuff with the Cr90 it also means you need to keep your own fighters at a safe distance! Of course the CR90 is neither the fastest or most agile of ships so it’s not going to be a frequent occurrence but still, very much worth bearing in mind. 

As with the Large ships you can buy titles for your vessel

The CR90 weighs in at 90pts Basic. Now as mentioned there are no different pilots so this IS the base cost but it does mean that with upgrade cards you can easily have 120pts of ship sitting there. Obviously this raises the issue of game size and balance and you will need a TIE swarm just to match the CR90 in points. A CR90 with The Falcon and a couple of fighters will easily run you 200 points which is a sizable game. Thankfully FFG have anticipated this and full epic play rules are available on their site. I do feel we have reached the limit on what can be fielded in X wing though, it is hard to imagine anything bigger, perhaps a small frigate of some kind. For one thing the Tantive IV expansion is prohibitively costly, costing nearly 3 times the cost of the core game, for another not many will have large enough fleets to field it ( I needed to get more imperials to balance it as it was!

An alternative to fielding it in Epic play is what FFG are calling Cinematic play, scenario driven gameplay which allows you to fit the CR90 in games which although are still balanced will not require you to field 20 ships a side. Many of these types of missions are included in the campaign which accompanies the expansion, 6 missions in all in a tree campaign where the mission you play next depends on who won the last battle. One thing to note for the campaigns though is that some of the missions (in fact most of them) will require you field specific units so to play through all the campaign you will require many of the wave one and wave 2 expansions. (clever marketing move there FFG, impressive. Most impressive) The branching nature of the campaign should add replay value though and a cursory glance through the missions shows a pleasing amount of variety and invention. One sees you trying to protect sensor buoys as you intercept an alliance transmission (we intercepted no transmissions, this is a diplomatic mission!) do you use your Energy to shield the buoys or rely on your fighters? Another mission sees you trying to spool up the hyperdrive by allocating energy to the engines to escape a burgeoning Imperial attack force. 

So, summary time! Well basically the Tantive IV expansion for X wing is one hell of an addition. Elevating the game to a whole new level, it has so many components that are new and brings a lot to the table. The model itself is nice but not amazing, essentially being a scaled up prepaint of a similar quality to its smaller counterparts. It maybe be the one that I actually take a paintbrush to as with a little attention I’m sure It could look much better. The detail on it is rather good though and it certainly looks impressive when put alongside the smaller ships. It’s a lot of plastic for your money and even ship aside there is a lot of added depth with the cards and tokens that you can utilise in other games. 

The narrative campaign is a nice touch and really adds something to the expansion, it has also inspired me to come up with my own scenarios. I envisage a situation where an imperial fleet and Rebel force are fighting over a damaged CR90 with control of the vessel changing hand between he sides during the game. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and the Energy system adds a whole new dynamic to play about with. Many of the upgrade cards seem to be a little underpowered but I have always believed that X wing is a game about Synergy and I’m sure there are some particularly effective combinations to be discovered with the CR90 acting effectively in a support role as much as direct buffs. 

Imperial reinforcements are on the way....

You will need to change the size of your games (and potentially your board) to accommodate huge ships. If you only have a couple of ships either side you will not be able to field the CR90 in a balanced game and it is also worth bearing in mind that you will need to have a sizable variation of ship to even play though the campaign with the majority of the first few waves utilised. Therefore I would recommend holding off on this particular expansion until you have amassed a moderate collection of models. That said if you really want to pick one up you can always flip the footprint template over and use it as an obstacle!

So is the Tantive IV Expansion worth its hefty price tag? Well, £75 is certainly a sizeable outlay for any system and when you consider the Tantive IV is three times the price of the Millennium Falcon some might balk a little. But in my opinion the Tantive IS worth its price. Model alone it is more than ten times the size of the small fighters and I’d rather have seen it at this price than cheaper and with compromises made to it. After all, this was the very first vessel to ever be seen in Star Wars! You are not just buying the ship you are also getting the campaign a whole new sub rule set and a great deal of bespoke components. The rules behind it seem to have been carefully thought out and it is not just a bolted on addition, it is clear some care has been put into its development. More than any other release for X-wing this actually FEELS like an expansion rather than just another ship. I’m not sure I’d ever have purchased it at its full price but I’m very glad I took advantage of Wayland’s deal of the Day. 

So remember to your ships! And may the Force be with you, always.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Warhammer 40,000: Carnage Mobile Game review.

Among the myriad of digital content that GW are throwing at us right now, electronic entertainment is still somewhat thin on the ground. Since THQs dissolution a couple of years back the few GW based game franchises we did have were cruelly snuffed out and fans pleas for Dawn of War 3 or Space Marine 2, or even a remake of Final Liberation have gone unheeded. Of course there is the Eternal Crusade MMO and Space Hulk on Steam (also coming to next gen consoles soon) but that aside it’s been desolate indeed.

Step unto the breach mobile gaming. Easy and quick to develop and get out there they fit very much in with the GW bite size DLC policy, plus lets face it, GW can just farm out the license and reap the rewards. The problem with this approach is more or less the same problem Nintendo encountered with the Wii a few years back. Shovelware. By not being closely involved in the development process they have little control over the final quality of the product. This means you can get some utter crud turned out. Such was the case with the last GW Mobile title Storm of Vengeance. Ostensibly a Plants Vs Zombies style tower defense game but without any of the charm or playability it was horrible, I only played 5 minutes of it on Lees phone but that was enough to convince me I wanted no more.

Thankfully Storm of Vengeance is not the only mobile phone game to grace our handsets and we have a few other options. One of these is Warhammer 40,000: Carnage from Roadhouse Interactive, a sidescrolling action shooter game. As some might know I’ve been off work recently after an traffic accident and in a moment of weakness I downloaded it. Now I have been plugging away at it for a little while and feel qualified to tell you all about it, is it another mess like Storm of Vengeance or is it actually a rather playable bit of action fun? Read on….

The game map, the little marine in the left hand corner is actually animated which is a nice touch. 

First of all lets look at the cost. Warhammer 40,000: Carnage is £4.99. Now this prices it towards the higher end of the Mobile game market but at the same time reassures you that its not a free to play but pay to win effort. Still, it might be a bit offputting to some and will deter some from the impulse buy that these games are clearly looking towards. It is also worth noting that the game will not run on all devices. My phone would run it but my Tablet (which is newer) would not. Worth checking before you buy….

Jumping into the game, one is greeted right from the off by a nice crunchy heavy metal soundtrack, not overly heavy and really just a few guitar riffs looped, think something along the lines of Dooms soundtrack at a higher bitrate and you are about there. Presentation on the game is minimal, a couple of pictures tell the bare bones plot (planet in trouble, sends for help, marines come) and away you go. You start off with a fully kitted and tooled up Ultramarines Captain and will settle into the basic concept very quickly. Buttons are forward, back (rarely used) melee, shoot, Block, jump and a couple of powerups. For the most part the controls are fairly responsive and you’ll be hacking and blasting Orks apart like there is no tomorrow. Jumping in the air with a jumppack and then hitting melee results in a hammer of Wrath attack which is loads of fun. Overall it is instant punchy simple action, run shoot, jump every now and again and generally enjoy killing stuff. Of course this is just the tutorial level and at the end the captain goes missing. Then the game starts proper with a basic marine, it feels like a bit of a fall to earth to suddenly lose all the prowess you had but as customization and leveling is a large part of the game it makes perfect sense.

Hammer of Wrath!

So demoted to battle brother you start all over again, in early levels you will encounter mostly Grots, these will offer no resistance and will fall before your warrior like wheat before the scythe. Fear not, as you progress you will encounter more stern opposition although in all honesty anything that attacks you in combat will cause you no problems, the Astartes far outclassing his greenskin foes. Boyz with shootas are definitely something that caused me issues though and careful use of the block button (a limited use shield of sorts) will be required, snapping off shots in between. There are also little items to collect here, codex entries and power ups and the like and some of these will not be reachable on your first playthrough adding to the replay value.

The ability for customization is one of the best things about the game. 

The game, by its very nature is fairly derivative though boss battles and the odd level where you are running away from a Megadread add a little variation. The levels themselves are fairly similar with only placement and type of enemy and maybe the jumps varying. Of course as more dangerous foes are introduced and you will need to start improving your marine. This is where the upgrade system comes in. At the end of each fight you will be rated up to 3 stars and earn loot. You are then taken to a screen where you can buy, upgrade and equip wargear. This includes weapons armour and accessories like purity seals or when you unlock it the jumppack. A few more slots would be handy to add to the customibility potential but overall you can tinker about to a reasonable degree. Some options also change the look of your marine too which is a nice touch though you are limited in chapter choice to ultramarine at least at first (You can unlock a Blood Angel later). Then after you have increased the lethality of your warrior its back into the fray.

There is a fair amount of content in the game, I have not finished it yet but have already played through around 30 levels maybe more. Of course as I have said it can get a bit repetitive and in all honesty this is a game designed to be played in short bursts with the occasional replaying of levels to try to maximize your stars. Earning 3 stars on each level seems to unlock firefight mode for that level which appears to be some kind of co-op mode though I have not tried it so cannot pass comment. Stars also unlock rewards so as you get 30, 50 stars you will get loot or some other reward. Further adding replayability are the difficulty levels. One you have completed a sector on normally difficulty 2 additional levels will be unlocked, each of these has modifiers attached to make the level harder so the enemies might have increased health or do more damage or even regenerating health. It helps mix things up a little bit and definitely adds more challenge to the levels. You will need greatly upgraded equipment and skills to tackle the highest difficulty.

For the Emperor!! Die Xeno filth!! etc etc....

In the inevitable event of your death you can either restart the level or respawn from where you are at the cost of gold. Now gold can also be used in lieu of loot to buy items so be careful how you spend it. Of course you can always buy more gold (this is Carnage's only concession to the microtransaction model) from the store if you want to. Personally after dropping a fiver on the base game I don’t feel like forking out extra so I am being frugal with my respawns! Overall I am having rather a lot of fun with the game, the levels being rather short means that restarting or replaying them rarely feels like a chore and only the Megadread level presented a major stumbling bock. It also feels nice and authentic with everything looking as it should although it is definitely thin on the ground from a narrative sense.

In summary Warhammer 40,000: Carnage is a brash shallow bit of action fun. Don’t expect any kind of plot or strategy, this is straight up arcade action. There is a pleasing sense of authenticity to proceedings and it is evident that a degree of care has been employed in its design and construction. Everything functions more or less as you would expect although there are a couple of jarring inconsistencies that the Die hard fan might pick up. Now admittedly the game does come in at a premium price but there is rather a lot of content for your buck with the multiple sectors and difficulty levels and enhanced kit to get. Also replaying the mission to get the codex entries and improve your score will eat up a fair few hours im sure. So far I am quite happy with the value for money I have received from the game. Roadhouse are to be applauded for creating something immediate and loud and heavy, celebrating 40ks rock/metal roots and serving up bite size bouts of mindless violent platforming fun. Were it 2.99 I would be able to recommend it without reserve but as it is I would certainly urge you to pick it up if you are just hankering for a bit of blasting and hacking Greenskins to pieces along to a loud soundtrack.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Warhammer 40k: Revenge of the Sixth or Seventh Heaven? Part Two.

Book 2: Dark Millennium

Welcome back to the ongoing review of the new 40k 7th edition. In this part we are going to look at the Background, or 'fluff' book, Dark Millennium. After the disappointment of A Galaxy of War can the 41st Millennium's impressive background level the playing field?

Well unfortunately there are certainly a few issues here as well. One problem is that 90% of the text in this book is a direct copy and paste from 6th edition with a few minor layout edits and a  font change. Now i suppose you might say 'if it's not broken don't fix it' but It doesn't really help against the preconception of many that this is a desperate cash grab by GW. They had been doing the same thing with their codexes too for the most part however so i guess it shouldn't really come as any great surprise that so much here is replicated. It does make this comparison review slightly problematic however in that there is little to compare.  






So, lets talk about the few things that HAVE been altered. Well first thing you might notice is that GWs new copyright friendly names are all present in the new edition, but only in the title. So the title of a section may read Astra Militarium but everywhere they are still referred to as the Imperial Guard. Now i hate the Astra Militarium term, (they will always be Guard to me) but it is just another indicator of GWs laziness when it comes to this book and further reinforces the impression this is a phoned in and rushed update. Knights also have their own section now which may have well been ripped straight out of the Imperial Knight Codex, i cant be sure. 

Astra Militarium, in title only. 

Aside from these minor edits there are a couple of other changes. The timeline section has been altered with a few bits being omitted all together in favour of pieces which reinforce the recent pieces of fluff in the Codexes. A few of the more esoteric entries have lost out, the ones that added a little more atmosphere to the universe such as 'The Emperors Tears.' Instead every entry is now about a battle of some kind. Now i know in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future there is only War, but i really liked the slightly more whimsical elements that the old timeline incorporated. It made the 41st Millennium seem a much more realised and palpable place. Now it is just army vs army ad infinatum. Still there are a few cool new entries within that make for good reading, i just feel its lost something in the process. 

Even the map of the Imperium is more boring now....

One of the other major syntax changes is a bit of an odd one really, The piece of text describing Waaagh Grax has been replaced by all new text detailing Waagh Gruuk. Could this actually be the first bit of content from the new Ork Codex? (The Ork Codex front cover is in here as well) i guess we will find out in a week or so. The section on the Armageddon War is also missing, presumably because Apocalypse Warzone Armageddon is now available.

which i guess makes it a little odd that the entire of the fluff section from Warzone Pandorax has been lifted from that book and placed here. Its a large section of the book and it feels a little misplaced, i would have much preferred a series of smaller sections which covered more of the Warzones but i guess that would have demanded that they actually write something new for this book and that's just not on the cards.

The fluff from Pandorax appears in its entirety, shoehorned in the middle of the book. 

There are a few other little bits that have been lost between editions, these are mainly the little extra bits of text in boxes that the design team clearly could not cram into the book anywhere else.  Again, these just added a little bit of extra depth that is sorely missed from this book. Thankfully one of the best bits of the 6th edition book HAS survived intact and that is the Appendices. Dark Millennium. GW don't bother renaming it so its title is the same as the entire books title, (which is a little odd) but i would have been really miffed if it had not made it across to 7th Ed.

Well that more or less covers the text so lets have a look at the artwork. Also available as a premium picture only version of Dark Millennium with extra art, a lot of the artwork is also recycled, though not as much as the text. some of it is cropped slightly different and on the whole a lot of it is harder to see than that in 6th due to a distress filter they seem to have overlaid on a lot of the pictures for Emperor only knows why. 

New: with totally not required filter
Overall the Artwork is fairly good, there are no awful pieces like i found with the Space Marine codex and it is comfortably described as a mixed bag. Some pieces are fantastic and some are not, thankfully we don't have anything that is as bad as the CCG art that has infested previous books although some pieces are a little more cartoony than i would like. Some of the pieces that have previously been included as greyscale also suffer from the translation to full colour as has previously been my experience with the full colour codexes. Unfortunately this can lead to some illustrations looking rushed or unfinished and the less said about the little page break designs that litter the pages the better. there is definitely a noticeable reduction in the amount of Blanche and a nearly all of Raymond Swanlons codex covers make an appearance. 

One of the highlights Art wise

a lot of the smaller pieces of art have been removed for a more unified and clean look to the book. Again these are sorely missed and overall i feel the book lacks character. The overall layout of the book is very crisp and clinical with a lot more white space same as A Galaxy of war. It is clear that the new books have been designed to tie in with the design lay out of the Codexes and i feel that they are diminished in the extreme in the process. It makes the book come across as slightly boring and large sections of pages are simply text on white background. There are also sections of the book that (like the Space Marine codex) copy the arrangement of text and pictures from 6th edition completely. This is likely to make it easier to produce as a digital product. 

These delightfully characterful illustrations didnt make the cut in the new edition unfortunately. 

Your new Ork Codex cover ladies and gentlemen. 

So overall Dark Millennium is again a disappointment. Firstly, it is 90% the same text that you have already read previously. Very little has actually changed and the minor edits that have occurred in my opinion diminish the character of the book. However it is more slick and professional looking than its predecessor and your own preference will vary. Dark Millennium certainly functions better as a background book than A Galaxy of War worked as an introduction to the hobby, it gives the reader a decent overview of the universe and some of the illustrations are wonderfully evocative though overall the amount of pictures used is reduced. The book also lacks the fold out pages of 6th Edition which added to the epic and sweeping nature of some of the works within. The little pictures that feature here and there and are also the design for the Psychic Cards are also abysmal, they look like they have been knocked up in 5 minutes. Its almost like the design team realised there was a little TOO much white space and ordered some last minute designs that didn't have time to be finished. 

WTF is this?!

As a separate background book Dark Millennium works just fine, it is STILL inferior in many ways to what has come before however and in its replication of the 6th edition background section adds further credence to this update being entirely unnecessary.

Still, 40k is at the end of the day a game, and what would a game be without rules? Keep an eye out for the 3rd part of our review series where i take an in depth look at Book 3: The Rules with a special guest....