Sunday, 17 June 2018

Codex: Imperial Knights - Household Traditions, Burdens, Qualities & Units (Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition Review)


Well, I said that there were going to be delays due to the ongoing work at home. Please put this one down to that, as no one could hear a single thing anyone was saying, or their own thoughts, thanks to the relentless fucking hammering going on due to DIY. That and the lack of any actual office.

So, here we are with the units and their formations. The trouble with forming an Imperial Knights force up until now was that there was little in terms of their overall range. Sure, the basic Knights had a good basis for various weapons and builds, but it was akin to completely building an army out of Rhino variants. You could technically cover everything, but it lacked variety and had a few obvious blind spots. Even with additional AA support, the army lacked versatility, and the new rules' emphasis on infantry over vehicles or massive monsters (which I fully endorse, don't get me wrong) left them at a disadvantage. So, we ended up with both bigger and smaller units to cover the gaps.


Make no mistake, the mechanics behind the book were fighting an even bigger uphill battle than those writing the lore. Not only was the core meta working against them, but there was also the issue of trying not to break from a core theme behind the army of gigantic mechs while offering tactical versatility. Something even looking back into the original Knights would not wholly resolve.

Now, before we actually get onto the units themselves, there is something we need to look into - The special rules which dictate how they fight. You see, you have the opportunity to tailor your knights capabilities, at least to a certain point a-la chapter tactics style additions. Something I'm very thankful for, as this can be applied both to Freeblades and entire houses.

Household Traditions



Questor Imperialis

House Terryn - Gallant Warriors: As the Ultramarines stand-in for the book - right down to their blue - you might think that this allows them to do more tactical drops or planned advances. Well, not quite. Instead, you gain the ability to roll two D6 when advancing or charging and pick the highest result. This might seem rather underwhelming at first glance, but nine times out of ten it's going to be very useful. Most of your units are things you are going to want in melee to take advantage of their chainblades or to emulate the classic pick-up-and-throw actions via thunderstrikes gauntlets. Even when you're not doing this, the chances are that you will wish to pull damaged knights out of the battle and into cover, so a few extra inches can be a real bonus. So, while it's not all that flashy, it's a surprisingly effective practical option.

House Griffith - Glory of the Charge: You sacrifice most of your units to have your leader gain daemonic powers.

...

Alright, look, I went through the entire lore section without making a single Berserk joke in it, at least let me have that one. In all seriousness, this adds +1 to the Attack value of a model upon charging or making a Heroic Intervention. There's also the added bonus of allowing models to do Interventions as if they were characters. It's a good way to initiate some serious damage to break an enemy army in an opening charge, but it's not the best option on here. An assault heavy choice where you mob a few single targets before picking off the remnants. It leaves you a bit tactically limited on the whole, even if it can be effective.

House Hawkshroud - Oathkeepers: This is easily the best option for one easy reason - It directly counters the knights' greatest shortcoming. When you're calculating stats degradation and damage, you count your knights as having twice as many wounds, allowing them to remain extremely combat effective even on the verge of death. This really means that you can have a knight left with little more than a metal skeleton, and they will be fighting far harder than their counterparts. Honestly, this alone means we will likely see a fair few Hawkshroud armies in the years to come.

House Cadmus - Hunters of the Foe: This tradition offers you the chance to re-roll all failed wounds in the Fight phase when you're going up against anything with less than 12 wounds. This means you're going to be curb-stomping a few marines into the ground - literally, as your stomp abilities are going to inflict some serious damage against mobs. It's a nice general purpose option, even if it does lack some character.

House Mortan - Close-Quarters Killers: As you might guess from the name, Mortan is the house you go for when you want to make enemies take a twelve-meter long chainsaw to the face. While this is universally true of almost all knights, in this case, you gain +1 to all hits during the fight phase, when your units charge, are charged, or initiate Heroic Interventions. It's an alright bonus to have, and there are detinite situations where it is very helpful, but it's definitely the weakest on here.

Questor Mechanicus

House Raven - Relentless Advance: With Raven being the big Martian name of this section, this one subverts what you might expect by being more generally skilful than just giving them a big tech boost. With this one your knights do not suffer from penalties upon firing after advancing, as it immediately makes all of your ranged heavy weapons count as assault weapons.

This is the ying to House Terryn's yang, with a benefit to shooty options over getting in close and personal. While it does leave you with fewer opportunities to ensure the survival of your knights, it does still allow you quite a few substantial benefits in regards to mobile engagements. Crusaders and Armiger Warglaives are the most obvious ones here which will definitely benefit from this, and it means you can both sweep forward while providing covering fire, and perform swift withdrawals. It's a pretty good one on the whole, and it wouldn't a surprise to see certain Knights lists written to favour it.

House Taranis - Omnissiah's Grace: Your models gain a 6+ Feel No Pain roll against all non-mortal wounds. It's alright really, but aside from possibly covering for the inability to allow ion shields to provide protection at close range, there's nothing too fantastic about this one.

House Krast - Cold Fury: This one is identical to the main benefit of House Mortan with one definite big bonus here - It also counts as continually in effect when you are fighting units with the Titanic special rule. This effectively means that you're fielding a house of giant killers, well suited to initiating charges against most mobs, but having a distinct edge when bringing down other big opponents. It's not too brilliant, and much more could be done with it, but more than a few players will definitely find uses for this one.

House Vulker - Firestorm Protocols: This final one is another close-range option, which this time benefits shooting, at least with the nearest unit. When targeting the nearest model, you gain a re-roll to any 1s. This means that, when you are firing off a weapon which relies on a single lucky attack, you have a bit more of a safety net and it also helps for players to more freely use the overcharged Plasma Decimator on the Castellan. We'll explain that in a minute but basically 1 = boom! in that case.

On the whole, it's not bad. The big problem here is that it does lack ambition and has been written with an effort to try and cover every base in terms of general tactics or desirable bonuses. I can personally see why given how big of a shift this has been, but there was more that could have been done with some of these to make them stand out more. In particular, Vulker, Taranis, and Mortan at least could have benefited from designers re-thinking a few things. So, it's alright, but a bit flawed certainly.

Normally that would be it for most armies, but with Freeblades having such prominence here, there's an entire second list to go through. While this might seem gratuitous or as if it's padding, this actually makes a lot of sense in many regards. More than a few people fielded Knights as a bonus unit to their big armies, so by having a dedicated house focused list followed by rules more suited to individuals, you end up with the best of both worlds. People who want singularly strong knights can work with one, and those wishing to field full armies can utilise the other.

Freeblades



Qualities

These are the big bonuses of the section, each a benefit which buffs the Knight, only to be offset by the second list below.


Indomitable: You add a single Wound and one extra point to Leadership. Leadership can help when facing certain targets and a bonus wound isn't bad, but it's not exactly a great one.



Last of Their Line: Re-roll 1s to hit when facing units of 10 or more models.

This deactivates when the unit you face drops below ten models and only works in melee. Same comment as above, but it is more helpful when culling Tyranid swarms or the like.

Legendary Hero: One free re-roll for your hits, wounds, damage, charge or save per round.
Probably one of the best here, as you can apply the re-roll to any multitude of situations or desperate moments where one is needed, and it can further stack atop of other buffs. Definitely consider this one.

Mysterious Guardian: The Freeblade can now make Heroic Intervention as if it were a Character and has a distance of 6".

Peerless Warrior: Roll a D6. On a 1 to 3, you add add 2" to the model's overall movement. On a 4-5, add a single point to WS. On a 6, do the same but to BS.
While irksome given its random nature, most of these do have some benefit to them and helps to give the Freeblade a bit more of an edge in most battles. Not bad, but it feels as if the first result should have covered only 1s and 2s.

Sworn to a Quest: Re-roll 1s when trying to hit the enemy Warlord, and it allows the Freeblade to provide standard Objective Secured actions on targets, but you still only count as one(!) model while doing so. Not bad, but very skippable.

Burdens

Driven to Slaughter: The Knight's BS is reduced to 6+ and can no longer use Fall Back. This is useful on the more close combat built knights, but for the most part this is likely one you will want to avoid.

Exiled in Shame: You cannot use any strategems on a Freeblade. This covers all strategems across the board, both within the Knights code and others apparently, and as such it might cause a few problems with certain army builds. Overall, it's not too penalizing in the majority of cases.

Haunted by Failure: Any hits at range or in melee with the result of a 6 must re-roll their dice. This is mixed really, as on the one hand is can be very easily ignored, but on the other there are a multitude of attacks or results reliant on getting a 6 as a result. Situational to be sure, but it's a more desirable weakness than most.

Impetuous Nature: The Freeblade channels his inner Black Templars and begins moving towards the nearest enemy unit with each action, and must declare charges against any enemy unit within 12", unless it's already locked in melee. This makes it a good bullet magnet, but it does mean that you end up with a dead Freeblade nine times out of ten thanks to the inability to withdraw or hide them behind something.

Obsessed with Vengeance: This doubles up with Impetuous Nature but with an emphasis on dakka rather than running. It forces you to both target the nearest visible enemy unit in the shooting phase, and then declare charges only against this during the Charge phase. It's not too bad as it doesn't hamper you all that much, but it does mean that you might have to position your knight in a place where they will be facing off against a desirable unit to blow their way through.

Weary Machine Spirit: You count only half of your remaining wounds when judging via the Damage Chart, meaning that your Freeblade's stats degrade at twice its normal speed. It's probably the worst of the bunch, but this can be offset in a number of general ways such as with the Mechanicus Knights via Machine Spirit Resurgent.

So, with that over and done with, let's delve into these units and see how they hold up in this new edition.

Sir Hekhtur “The Chainbreaker” and Canis Rex


Now this one was a surprise. After several editions of treating each knight effectively as something to be retooled with each army, to have one specifically highlighted as a named character was quite a shock. While there had been one or two in the past, these were typically dedicated to specific campaigns, this was the first to truly be highlighted in their own codex. Aside from some questionable lore behind his actions, he's actually quite an interesting take on the Knights and a good central piece for an army thanks to his rules.

Any Imperial units which flee within 6" of his model get the opportunity to roll a dice, and on the result of a 6 they do not flee. This means that you can have him positioned in a place to easily block fleeing cannon fodder and give your units a chance to get back into the fight before your line breaks. With the smaller Knights this makes him useful for obvious reasons, but the fact it can cover Guardsmen as well makes him a very desirable choice.

His modified Knight Preceptor is armed with a gigantic microscope a Las-Impulsor, a multilaser, and a uniquely powerful version of the thunderstrike pimp hand which hits at 2D6 damage, making him a very fun unit to throw against tanks. Or throw tanks at people. This would be decent enough for a general model, but most impressively is that his stats do not degrade past a certain point when damaged. Both WS and BS starts at 2+ and will not drop below 4+, meaning he will remain fairly effective even when he's metaphorically on his knees. Oh, and when he does topple over, guess what? He gets out personally and starts shooting at things with a pimped out Strength 5 AP 2 pistol, while still retaining all his rules. This does mean he's not as effective as before, but he can still hurt a few things.

Knight Crusader:


The dakka mecha of the army, the Crusader is armed with both an Avenger gattling cannon and either a thermal cannon or repeating battle cannon. It's an option best used as a way of culling troops and crowd control - especially as mobs tend to be one of the big threats to Knight in many key battles - as one weapon can quickly pop open transports while the other cuts them all down. Even without this, it's still a good general purpose response unit at range, as it will cause the likes of Predators some serious damage if positioned correctly. It's one best kept to cull the Orks and Tyranids when you end up facing them.

Knight Errant:



This one is much more of a dedicated tank hunter, and a good way of quickly countering most heavy armour lists, especially those of the Imperial Guard. The thermal cannon is short ranged, but will melt through the front armour of just about any major offensive tank it is pointed at. Simultaneously, as the ion shield offers a good general defense at range, you have no reason not to get in close and hack your foe to bits with the reaper chainsword. Combined with its generally cheap price and the option to add in the famed pimp hand of doom, it's a solid overall choice.

Knight Gallant:



Besides the +2 WS this Knight has over its contemporaries, having five attacks standard and two sets of close combat weapons means that this is a frontline fighter. Your main tactics will typically involve getting in as close as possible to an enemy, with as little damage, before punching them in the face. While it can be fitted with the standard carapace weapons, in most battles these will be completely wasted on this vehicle, while the optional heavy stubber just takes up a slot that will never be of real use to you.

These guys are almost certain to draw the most firepower from any enemy force, as they're the ones typically at the head of any attack. Get them in close and they will reap a heavy toll on enemy troops before going down, while their two main weapons are among the best options for quickly dispatching monsters. With some extreme luck and even a few buffs (such as House Terryn's benefits), you can end up making a turn one charge on some smaller boards. Just keep in mind that you might want to keep them back for a short while or using them to deny enemy advances, before throwing them away in a one-man attack.


Knight Paladin:



This is the standard knight you see in most artwork, outfitted both with the blade weapon and battle cannon. It's not quite the jack of all trades some drum it up as, but in the recent edition, the combination of 84" firing range and strong melee makes it viable for most situations. It's likely that in most games you will end up using it in one of two roles - Either getting in close and personal very early on, or hanging back and initiating supporting fire before ripping the foe a new rear end. For the most part they serve as a good method of denying enemy movement, as they can lay down considerable supporting firepower, while the chainsword is nasty enough to make enemies refuse to approach it. In addition to this, they serve as good AA platforms for their autocannon turrets, as they're fast enough to quickly reposition themselves, but will have plenty of opportunities to remain in static positions. Oh, and there's the bonus that it's cheaper than the Crusader as well.

Knight Ward
en:


This is an option that's even more of an all-rounder than the Paladin, with a gatling cannon in place of the battle cannon. While it has a greater divide between the roles of its weapons, the raw damage output of each makes it good for countering one type of foe at a time, either multiple gun fodder at a range or a brick shit house in melee. It's probably the best option to be given a fist as well, thanks to its substantially cheaper price. This means that you can more easily field a counter to heavy armour units such as Land Raiders, while also having enough room to field more knights. Given the already limited tactical flexibility of these armies, this makes the Warden a definite must for most lists.

Knight Preceptor:



Taking up the only big change to the standard build of Knights, the Preceptor is another weapons swap design which outfits the unit with a las impulsor and a chainsword. Common stuff, but the bonus here stems from its specialist Mentor rule, which allows nearby Armigers to re-roll 1s to hit. This is an interesting one, in that it both reflects something seen in the Imperial Knights novels and also gives a few new building options for certain lists. For the most part, however, you will typically find yourself only fielding this and two or three Armigers due to the costs involved. It's a good way of getting some extra firepower, but I can see the novelty of it becoming something of a trap for those who don't fully account for all facets of this Edition's rules.

Armiger Knight Warglaive:



The smaller scale Armigers are more or less what you would expect here, as they both are more numerous and less durable on the whole. With 12 Wounds plus a 3+ standard and 5+ invulnerable save, but the Toughness 7 stat means that it will be able to avoid being truly hurt by the likes of heavy bolters with ease.

The Warglaive version is outfitted with both a Thermal Cannon and a reaper chainsword downsized, a Thermal Spear (30" S8 AP-4 Assault) and Chain-Cleaver respectively. While this might seem like an odd choice given their squisher status than the normal Knights, these guys can still take a fair amount of punishment and also have a 14" movement to overcome this small detail. They have four attacks standard which makes their general strikes in melee quite effective, but it's all the more so when you account for how their weapons can be used. The cleaver can be activated in one of two ways, either to Strike (which doubles the Knight's Strength 6 standard blows along with AP-3) and also Sweep (which hits at AP-2, standard Strength and doubles the number of hit rolls you can make). This allows them to both severely hamper units engaging them in melee while mobbing attacks on light vehicles or opposing walkers. They lack the versatility or adaptability of the likes of Dreadnoughts, but they also have enough power and speed to cause most foes serious problems.


Armiger Knight Helverin:



With one melee version, you can probably guess that this is the dakka version here. Rather than having a set of weapons, it's outfitted with two autocannons with a few upgrades to them. With an astounding 60" range, they have 4D3 shots at Strength 7 each. The range here is especially important, as combined with their speed it allows them to serve as a quick response and sniper unit, either ripping through heavy infantry such as Terminators or whittling away against stronger targets. They also serve as a good anti-air option, as their sheer volume of shots immediately offsets the -1 result to hit while the strength will keep causing problems.

Their range is likely to assist the obvious disadvantages faced in melee, as they can be much more easily overwhelmed by a solid unit of anti-vehicle infantry units or even opposing walkers. While the extended range might make them seem like a hard hitting option, they do go down surprisingly easily to thunder hammers, or a dedicated melee walker such as a wraith-blade equipped Wraithlord or Furioso Dreadnought. As such, you're more likely to keep them back as snipers or ambush predators rather than using them as a source of firepower. They make for good harassment options and distractions, but their tough but brittle build means that they can easily fall apart under unfavourable circumstances.


Dominus Knight Castellan:



The Dominus are the biggest of the new Knights, and are more akin to a down scaled Warlord Titan than a true Knight. Well, okay, they're not quite at that point and they at least avoided going so far as Forge World did, but the sheer number of guns and boost in size helped this thing to stand out from its opponents. The Dominus' baseline stats are what you would expect from something of its build. The Knight is much slower and with Toughness 8 and 28 wounds it's not likely to die any time soon. However, they have not been built with close combat in mind, as their WS 4+ leaves them at a notable disadvantage, and they should be treated more as mobile gun platforms than something to spearhead assaults on targets.

The Castellan is the long range version of the two here, as its guns are intended to cover as broad a series of distances across the board as possible. The two Plasma Decimators have a range of 48" and count as Heavy 2D6 Strength 7 AP-3 D2 and can even be overloaded for some extra damage (just with the plasma gun style backfiring risk working against them if they do this). However, on top of this you also have a downsized volcano cannon by the name of the Volcano Lance which hits at Heavy D6 Strength 14 AP-5 D 3D3 when striking at 80". Oh, and then atop of that you also have a set of twin-linked melta turrets, and three hard points for turrets which can be fitted with either range 48" Heavy 2D3 Strength 7 AP-1 Damage 3 Siegebreaker Cannons or Shieldbreaker Missiles which ignore invulnerable saves. The latter option can only be fired off one at a time, and can only be used once per game, but their Heavy 1 Strength 10 AP-4 D D6 at 48" range means that they will inflict some serious damage if they hit.


When these things were announced, people thought that they were getting this:



Actually, it seems they were getting this:


Most of this might seem as if it is heavily weighted in the machine's favour, but they do have several notable weaknesses. The first and most obvious among these is that they tend to fold quickly in close combat, especially against opposing super heavy walkers. Infantry aren't too much of a problem in most situations, but a suicide attack by penal battalion units armed with melta bombs or even a mass teleportation of Terminators could easily ruin your day.

The other issue worth mentioning is that it's definitely trying to keep too many plates spinning at once. It can cover a lot of bases, that's for certain, and its weapons will seriously hurt anything they end up pointed toward. However, with that being said, it will likely need some help finishing off anything which isn't a Titanic target, as most of its weapons are intended to cover a different role within the army. For example, the Siegebreaker Cannons and the Plasma Decimator look like potent weapons on paper both to deal with swarms and high toughness targets such as marines. Yet, it isn't quite capable of killing enough of them compared to the more dedicated Knight Crusader or the other cheaper options. As such, it should be treated as a way to counter massive singular targets such as opposing super heavies, but it needs to be held back for higher point games. Ones where you have enough units which can mop up its targets and cover its flanks. 

As weaknesses go, it's actually a good one, as it means you can't have a single big unit and a few throw-away options and expect to win a game. As such, it serves as a powerful weapon, but not a win-everything cudgel to smash away whole armies.

Dominus Knight Valiant:


While the Castellan proved to be a dependable artillery piece, the Valiant exchanges ranged firepower for point blank annihilation. The vast bulk of its weapons are extremely short ranged, but make up for that with sheer damage output. Just to cite the two big ones, the Conflagration Cannon hits with a Flamer style 18" Heavy 3D6 Strength 7 AP-2 Damage 2 attack, while the brilliantly named Thundercoil Harpoon offers up 12" Heavy 1 Strength 16 AP-6 Damage 10. Yes, you did read that correctly. This thing has Strength 16, and doesn't so much shoot vehicles as hit them so hard that the shockwave alone flays armour plating from their superstructures. Not only does the latter option re-roll hits against monsters and vehicles, but it adds on an extra D3 Mortal Wounds to those targets if a hit successfully gets through.

This would normally be the point where I start ranting about how damn broken this machine is, but it has one very obvious weakness: Its range. This thing is tough enough that it will likely survive to reach your lines if you maintain a static position, but a mobile army like the T'au Empire or various Eldar factions will likely keep dancing out of reach of its guns. Furthermore, even those which are more likely to stand their ground have a few ways of dragging it down, either with massed lascannon bombardments, Razorback spamming or the odd Strength 10 weapon. That's also without assuming there's nothing kept in reserve to deliver a killing blow, such as teleporting Terminators or the like.

The Valiant is at its most effective in environments where there is little room to manoeuvre and an immense amount of cover. City battles with broad streets tend to favour this environment, as do boards littered with ruins. Yet, those can also work against it, as they provide environments for armies to split up and hide, and for other groups to chip away at its wounds with attacks from different angles. The best use of this one is to keep it moving forward and use its threat to define where the enemy army moves, while also using the other Knights to flush out targets or prevent them from withdrawing. As such, it's an effective tool, but one which takes luck, skill and some general planning to actually make decent use out of, and even then you might still have it die without earning back its points.

Sacristan Forgeshrine:


This was something of a surprise, as the Forgeshrines were mentioned in passing and had appeared in prior material, but they had largely been ignored up to now. These are the installations which are used to repair and re-arm Knights, and serve as a means to buff their capabilities. Among other things, this means that they can offer a Knight an extra 6" of movement when advancing beyond its nearby range, offer more shots to non-relic cannons, and re-arm any previously fired Shieldbreaker missiles. It's an interesting option, but it is largely immobile and is extremely costly as well. Furthermore, while it can repair damaged Knights, they need to sacrifice a turn of shooting in order to accomplish this.

In siege situations or defensive positions, this one has a definite place in the game, but for the most part it's something you'll likely ignore in favour of most direct damage options.



So, that's the units over and done with. For the most part, it's a pretty reasonable selection. The majority of the Knights translated to this new version of the game with few changes, while the new selections have obvious strengths, but enough shortcomings to avoid the super heavy emphasis that the previous metagame fell into with nothing to effectively counter them. On the whole, it's not as good as one might hope, but infinitely better than what many feared we'd end up seeing.

So, next time we'll be finishing this up with the remaining parts. I can only hope it's sooner, and that I can actually get a few minutes to hear myself think.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Index Astartes Blackshields: The Stormwrought


I'm willing to bet you didn't expect to see one of these again any time soon.

Yes, this is another Index Astartes style article, and this one has been produced due to a different circumstance than usual. You see, the previous ones were made in response to criticisms I have made, and also to counter the inevitable "Well, let's see you do better!" arguments thrown my way. However, since most lore related reviews have been fairly positive to middling of late, there has been no reason to make another of these. Instead, a friend decided to offer a challenge, to see if I was up to the task.

His idea was simple: Within a two-hour time limit, I was to plan out, write and detail a full army from the Heresy era. It had to be one of the Blackshields warbands of the time, and was limited to a few specifications:

  • The history had to purely cover their founding while offering a good impression of them within a thousand words, and all other sections were limited to three paragraphs.
  • The warband had to consist of marines from three legions, and at least two of those had to be of loyalist origins.
  • The warband could at no point have any listed characters, figures or leaders, and had to stand out purely thanks to its general ideas.
  • They could not be noted in the history section to fight or engage other marines in any way.
  • They could not directly learn of the Horus Heresy, or just who was on what side.
  • They had to have some form of internal culture, but no direct hierarchy beyond squad leaders.
So, this is the result. It's more of an experiment than anything else, but I hope you enjoy it.

History: 


As with all their kind, the founding of the Stormwrought was one without ceremony or glory. A mongrel company forged in desperation, those who fought under its banner acted out of necessity over true kinship and were bound by pragmatism above all else. Even their very name was selected out of simple necessity, with few holding true to it or taking pride in the label. Like so many astartes of the Blackshields, the Stormwrought were neither crusaders or legionaries, but simply scavengers.

The company's inauspicious founding took place on the world of Brackarin, a dismal rock veiled in perpetual night. Notable only for its potential as a hub for Warp travel, the unenviable duty of garrisoning its population of primitive tribes was given over to the warriors of the Legio IV. A mere forty Iron Warriors were tasked with governing more than twenty thousand humans, and fortifying the world until a more substantial force of Ultramarines could be mustered to relive them. Denied even a Warp capable ship to fully support this venture, the sons of Perurabo approached this with their typical bleak pride in this thankless duty, and waited until they might return to the head of the Great Crusade. As weeks turned into months and word from the greater Imperium dwindled into silence, those there became convinced that humanity's empire had forgotten them. Unbeknownst to the Iron Warriors, it was a symptom of a far greater trouble than mere loss of contact.


The first signs of true discord came from the garrison's sole astropath, who died attempting to pluck his absent eyes from their sockets while screaming of impossible things. No sooner had he been buried, than the heavens were twisted inside-out, filling the skies with impossible shapes and colours no human eye could fully comprehend. Patrols soon found themselves beset by the same creatures they had so freely hunted days before, their bodies remolded into misshapen horrors by some unknown force. 


Inexplicable phenomena came to dominate the fortress, as soldiers began to heard echoes with no discernable origin, and repeating vox messages uttered by no human voice. The Iron Warriors held to their posts, ready to repel whatever alien force it heralded, hungry to face a substantial enemy. Yet, nothing came. Time gradually lost its meaning, and what seemed to be days to some became years for others. When the lights of Imperial ships were finally spotted in the night sky, some believed that over a decade had passed since their deployment. 


To the Iron Warriors' surprise, they were greeted not by the ships of the Ultramarines, but by a fleet of ghost vessels. Explorator vessels, Rogue Trader ships, and even a single frigate of the White Scars legion hung in orbit, their hulls ruptured and decaying from within. The survivors of each carried with them the same tale of how their ships had been overwhelmed by the unusually turbulent tides of the Immaterium, which had threatened to tear their ship asunder with every jump. Brackarin had not been a harbor of choice, but merely the only Imperial outpost they had been able to reach before their Gellar fields had failed entirely. Some even spoke of xenos creatures which had materialized within the vessel, screaming praises to an unknown god in a language no creature should have been able to voice. 


With no way to escape the system, the astartes regrouped and continue to fortify the planet. Using their new reinforcements to further cement their hold on the world, and forcibly conscripting local tribes to serve as serf soldiers, they continued to wait for news of the wider galaxy. Yet as more ships continued to arrive, they were not helmed by mortal crews. Decaying from within and captained by pustule ridden beings clad in the flesh of corpses, these ploughed into the world and disgorged their payloads of shambling creatures. With every falling derelict their numbers swelled, until the humans left no the planet faced a relentless siege against the undead. Bolters were fired until they were spent, blades hammered into their enemies until they were rendered blunt, and the constant combat stripped away heraldry and colours until only tarnished ceramite remained.

When a single Ultramarines cruiser entered orbit, broadcasting its allegiance on all frequencies, it was seen as a signal to withdraw. Abandoning Brackarin to its fate, the survivors raced for the orbiting vessel, and were greeted by a charnel house. Corpses littered the decks, astartes and human alike, and every part of the ship bore signs of intense fighting. Skulking horned creatures stalked its decks, decapitating the fallen and claiming their heads. These were swiftly purged as the vessel was taken, revealing only a scattered handful of Ultramarines who had endured the battle. Each bore the red mark of censorship and had been attempting to join the legion at Calth. Much like the others, they had sought safe harbor from the Warp, but they also brought with them news of a galaxy gone mad. Legion fought legion, the Warp ripped ships apart as if driven by malice, and worlds burned for no reason more than lust for destruction. Scattered astropathic cries spoke of a storm spreading across the Segmentum, and of legions forsaking their oaths to Terra. Some even spoke of warriors who fought alongside the xenos creatures who had assaulted them.


Exhausted from the constant fighting and with bitterness in their hearts, those left soon chose to serve only themselves. For all they knew Terra itself was gone, that their own primarchs had turned against the Emperor and that perhaps the Imperium itself had been lost. With nothing left to them, they would pick clean the bones of battlefields and rebuild their strength, culling those who stood in their way or associated themselves with foul creatures. Alligience no longer held any value to them, merely survival and retribution.

Combat Doctrine: 

The essential doctrines of the Stormwrought were simple - Conserve resources, claim materiĆ©l and rebuild their strength. Lacking the essential strength and vast armories of a true legion, they placed an emphasis on skirmishing attacks and infantry operations. Often their operations consisted of little more than outright piracy, targeting an essential resource and then claiming it through deception or rapid assaults. This typically focused on the use of anything they had to spare, but a favoured method was landing assault team through the use of powered-down gunships while the cruiser drew the attention of hostile forces.

The Stormwrought favoured engagements where the enemy was distracted or would not be in a position to effectively respond to attacks. It was not uncommon for them to wait until a battle was joined before arriving, claiming their target, and then withdrawing before either side could effectively answer their threat. To accomplish this means, the Blackshields placed an uncommon emphasis on avoiding risk-taking or recklessness. Most actions were closely calculated efforts, each the result of days of observations and preparation after gathering all possible knowledge of their target. Such plans were flexible guidelines, listing multiple objectives tailored to the skills of key figures, but allowing for independent action if squad leaders saw an opportunity to be exploited.

Individual squads typically consist of a multitude of specialists or weapon types. Armed with enough raw firepower and weaponry to counter most direct threats, these units place a far greater emphasis on individual tactical flexibility rather than massed formations. These squads are expected to acquire and maintain their own armories, which has only encouraged battlefield scavenging. The only exception to this rule is the Stormwrought's own Vanguard units - Twin squads of assault veterans armed with boarding shields and power halberds, who serve as a rapid response force to sudden threats or overwhelming defenses.

Beliefs and Traditions: 

As is to be expected with most groups founded in the bleak period of the Horus Heresy, the Stormwrought have no true traditions or internal culture. Even their very name was chosen merely as a way to disassociate themselves from their legions, and based upon an ill-humored joke by an unnamed White Scar. They are more noteworthy for their rejection of most past traditions, and governed by an extreme cynicism. While noteworthy for their contempt for the beings later confirmed as daemons, the warband treated every other astartes as a possible traitor, and every declaration of loyalty to the Emperor with suspicion. This earned them few allies, and left the warband isolated during much of the war.

The limited hierarchy of the Stormwrought meant that there was no single leader to govern through force of personality. This was permitted both through the relatively small contingent which made up their number, and the substantial number of specialists within their group. While there were never more than eighty astartes in the warband at any one time, more than twenty of them consisted of Techmarines, Apothecaries, and Warsmiths. This allowed them to rely on a substantial core of experts even when their number was divided during operations, or separated to fulfill their own agendas. The astartes were united both by sense of purpose and desperation, while discipline was instilled through the threat of punishment. If unnecessary losses were taken due to risk-taking or independent action, the leader would be unceremoniously executed by the other squad commanders.


Yet, most curiously of all was the warband's willingness to make use of unenhanced figures to augment their numbers. Many of its founding figures consisted of Mechanicus and Imperial naval personnel, with each being treated as an equal in accordance to their rank. This has typically allowed them to both utilise infiltration through an agent, and call upon the knowledge of other Imperial organisations when striking targets. While they place no more value on human lives than they do enemy astartes, the warband does not look down on others purely for not having undergone gene-seed implantation. They are judged purely by their knowledge, and value to the Stormwrought as a whole.

Resources: 

The resources the Stormwrought can call upon are diverse and rarely uniformed, with their armory having been pillaged from countless battlefields. At the time of their founding, their weaponry had been struck blunt and ammunition almost totally spent. This left many seeking to replace their bolters with any intact weapon with a reserve of ammunition. While some still carry bolters, others wield everything from hellguns and Skitarii heavy rifles to xenos cannons in battle. Their armour is equally mismatched, having been patched over time and time again, or refitted for more effective use in long ceaseless campaigns. Furthermore, as high ranking legionaries are targeted during salvaging efforts, most squads carry a remarkably high number of power blades and specialist weapons despite their small numbers.

As they lack the capacity to effectively rearm and refuel tracked armoured vehicles, gunships are a favoured form of fire support and transportation. The Stormwrought have access to six Storm Eagle gunships along with another two Fire Raptors and a small squadron of Lightning interceptors. Keeping these squadrons maintained and combat ready is a constant trial for the warband's various engineers, but they have consistently allowed them to perform astonishing victories in the face of superior odds. A number of other pillaged aircraft litter their hangers, refitted either as large cargo haulers to assist with the theft of equipment, or serve as fireships against prominent targets.

Yet, perhaps the most valuble resource the Stormwrought can call upon is the Eclipse Class Light Cruiser Talsarran. Originally commanded by the Ultramarines legion, it now serves as both a base of operations and the primary fleet unit for the Stormwrought. With their own home having been abandoned, it is essential to the warband's continued existence both due to its transportation capacity and manufacturing facilities. Having undergone extensive modifications, a number of major components have both been added and refitted to the ship. Chief among these is the reinforced Gellar fields, layered with additional power and generators salvaged from other cruisers. Furthermore, it carries the IFF codes of several loyalist and traitor ships alike, permitting them some capacity to evade direct confrontations when required.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Star Wars' Toxic Fandom - Lies, Crusades and Misinformation


Well, that didn't take long. A few days ago I offered a plea for sanity and attempted to analyze the problem within the Star Wars fanbase. You can find that here if you wish, in all its detail, but the cliff notes version is simple - 

Advancements in technology, online echo-chambers and a mishandled effort to quash trolling has led to a small but extremely vocal number of misogynists. These have been getting bolder over the years, and Star Wars is the fandom which has suffered the most from them. While this sort of thing has happened many times in the past, Kelly Marie Tran (the actress playing Rose Tico) was driven off of Instagram by verbal abuse from such individuals. This has finally drawn a major spotlight to the situation and a determination to fix it. However, I am worried that both an inability to discern between those who vocally dislike Disney's ongoing decisions and actual sons of bitches who harass people online will backfire. Many are using Tran's treatment as an act of online martyrdom as a sign to effectively start a crusade to wipe out the problematic elements of the fandom, and this sort of thing only ever ends badly.

I did plan to wait a week to see how this all panned out, listening, watching and keeping an eye on things to test the waters. This didn't even take that long to see how badly things were going to be, and I actually gave this an extra 24 hours just to see if things would be fixed. Sadly, they were not.

You see, someone decided to claim the supposed glory of verbally insulting someone until they are driven offline, and openly boasted about it on social media. It was from a small group, the "Down with Disney's Treatment of Fanboys and Franchises" page on social media. The total number of its members have yet even to reach triple digits, and even a glance is enough to see that these are obviously a mob of self-deluded fanatics, nothing more. In fact, while it would not be surprising to learn that their members participated in it, it's highly doubtful that they were the ones who truly had an impact. Unfortunately, their habit of trying to latch onto other groups voicing their displeasure in far saner manners has led to something nasty. Here's the Down with Disney's comment via social media. Read it if you desire, but please pay attention to the tags at the bottom -



It's the #GiveUsLegends part which is of note here, as it suddenly became the source of attention for the wrong kind of people. Give Us Legends itself was a protest group, largely focusing on a continued effort to have the Expanded Universe continued in one form or another. They were not asking for the current timeline to end, the films to be re-written to focus on the new setting, and opposed harassment of the creative figures behind it. While they would speak out against what they saw as stupid decisions, said words were often on the decisions and mentality over the qualities of the people who made them. This movement eventually spun off into a new organistion, the Twin Suns Foundation - A non-profit group which pushed its message through constructive means, book donations and promoting reading among children.

I'll freely admit that, outside of covering their initial effort to garner support and offering money to the Twin Suns' opening fundraiser, I had little knowledge of them. For all I knew they might have changed since that time, hence some research was needed. All it took was a few minutes to realise that these were not the sort of people who would ever agree with such an action, let alone align themselves with those who would participate in online bullying. This was hardly hard-hitting dirt digging required, and it was the sort of thing any person with a decent head on their shoulders could have pulled off. Unfortunately, we live in an era where journalistic integrity is at an all-time low, and any fool can potentially gain a large audience without professional oversight or a requirement to properly fact-check their information.

Enter makingstarwars.net.

The website opted to produce an article with this lovely opening line to it, and it allowed things to go progressively downhill from there:



Without commenting on the fact that this came from a completely different group from Give Us Legends, or offering the most basic of facts, the article opened up with tabloid hyperbole. Writing off Give Us Legends as a "hate group and Star Wars fandom terrorist organisation" it began writing them off as the worst kind of fans. Without even bothering to offer the group's correct name nor some history on them, it began lumping the actions of one lunatic over a single hashtag. The story was rushed without bothering to contact the Twin Suns Foundation for comment, nor did it even pause to confirm the names of those involved.

If you want a readable version of the article itself, here's an advert free text-only version. In effect, it spends a great deal of time discussing how heinous Give Us Legends is, attempting to depict anyone involved as monsters. Then the majority of the article is spent encouraging people to start actively policing the fandom, requiring those reading to drive out the "haters" and verbally put those who might align with this group to the sword. It specifically cites that there is no community manager, and thus they must patrol the fans themselves. All of a sudden, my fears of some fool starting a crusade have become very evident.

Much of this could be attributed to a well-meaning but tone-deaf fan trying to do the right thing. It's typically best to attribute such actions to incompetence rather than malice when possible, even when they are trying to seemingly do the right thing. At least until they start actively ignoring things and refusing to update the article with new information. Not long after this was published the President of the Twin Suns Foundation, Brian Borg, approached them with the following tweet:



This was promptly followed by a press release confirming that the Twin Suns Foundation does not support the actions of such individuals, nor does it associate themselves with them. This was openly forwarded to makingstarwars.net and the owner of the website, Jason Ward. There, done, problem resolved. The person in question is not asking for its removal, nor even for the words to be altered, just with an update and their own words to be included so they might defend themselves. Something most courses on journalism tend to teach as a basic requirement when covering the news about anyone. The odd thing is that, after submitting this, Borg was promptly blocked from the Making Star Wars Twitter page:




The article then went without mention of this, nor updates of any kind. All it would have taken was a five-minute edit and a link to the top of the article, confirming this as new information. It would have even granted the writers to re-post this and gain a fresh wave of clicks. Instead, the decision was made to try and shut out this new information, and have a large audience of 180,000 make their decisions based on faulty news.

As such, a cursory look at Twitter brought up a multitude of rants, insults and actions decrying what had been brought up, and comparing those who wish the EU to continue with the alt-right, MRAs and the usual bunch:













Each and every one typically spouted the same exact thing - That this was a hate mob and little else, responsible for everything wrong with the fandom, attacking people and (as ever) were the only ones who hated Aftermath thanks to homophobia. What is concerning is that so much of this spun off of this single article, and as a result, a great deal of this outrage was built on misconceptions that members desiring the return of the EU actively tried to correct, such as this example here. Most had to be told that the movement wasn't seeking to erase the Disney universe, they just wanted the one they had been following for years to be brought back and continued in some form. Yes, the article was so bare bones that it didn't even get that point across.

Matters only became worse when other websites began jumping onto this, with TheForce, Resonate and Screen Rant all parroting this information. Quite literally in the case of TheForce, and while Screen Rant at least bothered to cite Borg's response, these are the top three results for "Give Us Legends". Each building their stories largely on lies and presenting a minor group of fewer than fifty members no one knew nor cared about before last week, and which was universally decried by everyone who saw them.

Yet, what was staggering was makingstarwars.net's response when they were openly called out on this. Rather than correcting the information, Jason Ward attempted to refer to the group as a Give Us Legends group, as if it were a subsidiary. All while completely ignoring the words of Borg, or even his own followers when they called him out on this error.



While I am not nearly enough of a conspiracy theorist to refer to this as a "false flag operation" as others have, this only further highlights just how poisonous the entire fandom has become. You have the trolls, morons and racists who should be decried, the larger fandom who pushes back against them, and those who attempt to manipulate the situation for their own ends like this to trigger a purge of anyone vaguely resembling their target. The end result is simply people relentlessly screaming at one another, and trying to claim the fandom as "theirs" while ridding those they don't feel deserve to be part of it. Rather than actually fixing the problem, efforts such as this will just keep making the community ever more toxic and more disdainful to outsiders. Even those who try to write articles like this, just in the attempt to give some much-needed sanity to the situation, have become a lightning rod for such conflicts.

Personally, I'm about ready to just sit back and hope the worst of the worst end up wiping one another out. There's no good ending to this situation, not if events continue on this path, and not if there is no compromise or to sit down and talk with those who are actually reasonable. Yet, if you wish to take away anything from this article, let it be this - Listen to both sides, but treat every source as unreliable. Do your own research and come to your own conclusion, and don't allow yourself to be caught up in a web of misinformation. Oh, and don't put your faith in fandom crusades. People just end up hurt, and things only become worse as a result of them.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Sega Genesis Classics (Video Game Review)


Sega Genesis Classics should have been an easy thing to release. All it needed was to repackage its 16-bit success stories, put them on a single disc and release them into the world. By all accounts, it was an easy task, but Sega screwed things up so badly that you would be forgiven for thinking the company hates money. Or, at least, its dedicated fans.