Sunday, 21 July 2013
Farsight Enclaves - Early Thoughts (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Supplement)
So here we are again, another codex supplement for an army. Another opportunity to expand upon a minor, often ignored, faction of an army and giving them the chance to retain individuality. New rules, new fluff and unit variations all the while utilising the army's main codex as a backbone for the book to work off of.
The last time one of these was released, we ended up with an abysmal wreck of a book which was the antithesis of basic logic and good writing. It contained barely any rules, continued the failings of 40K's current direction with characters, and seemed purely build around a single type of unit. The flashiest ones which could be shown off for the army. The fluff was unfortunately even worse, to the point where the book might as well have come with the warning "This writer did not bother with any research."
Unfortunately for us all, the new supplement focusing upon the military of everyone's favourite sword wielding rogue xenos general is more of the same. Sharing many of the problematic traits of the last book and looking like something squirted out in under two months to make a quick buck.
At this moment in time I unfortunately don't have the time to spend eight thousand words analysing the rules, fluff and characters. In all likelihood I won't have any time to do anything like that until mid August, and will be reserving a lot of the material for analytical evisceration until then. For the moment however, consider this to be an insight into some of the core problems with the codex.
The most crippling problem within the book early on is the quality of its editing. While Games Workshop, or more specifically Black Library, has been critised continually for shoddy editing and grammatical flaws. Common issues being "chaos" being misspelled as "Chaos" when a scene involves a disorderly disaster not Bloodthirsters, and vice versa. Some flaws are acceptable, especially when they're hidden within paragraph after paragraph of fluff. Basics outlining what your army can and cannot, not so much.
The internet has already picked up on a few of these, most notably this gem:
What it's supposed to do is prevent you from taking Aun'Va or Shadowsun as they represent loyalists within the Tau Empire. Due to being a double negative however, it in fact says that they must be included within the rebel army which has broken off from their Empire. Oh dear.
Others which have been pointed out involve the wording of certain units and the inclusion of models, especially with Farsight's chosen elite the Commander Team. Trust me, there are dumber names in this book. Effectively what it does it replaces traditional Crisis Battlesuit bodyguards with a selection of special characters of varying points costs with their own abilities and options. Here's how it's outlined within the book:
See if you can guess the game-breaking problems with the specific descriptions here.
Have you spotted it? It says that Farsight may join a unit of these characters and to select any one of the eight below. The eight below include Farsight himself. You can potentially have two Farsights in the same unit. Each one is stated to be Unique, but it counts Farsight as being both within the unit and joining it meaning the wording can easily suggest there being two of him. This is to say nothing of the misprints with some of the characters. Thanks to screw ups and errors with Commander Bravestorm, winner of this year's worst named character award, means Farsight can enter the battle with multiple Riptides serving as his bodyguards. Somehow the Commander's XV8 Battlesuit was replaced by the fifty foot tall attack mecha in his profile.
To say all of this has barely been touched by editors let alone looked at more than once is an understatement. Lots of little details seem to contradict themselves or are left open to Plasma Syphon levels of abuse, far more than you'd ever expect to see in any officially printed codex. While the book might dodge the problems with the last supplement by actually including more rules, it's far too rife for abuse via wording. Codex: Rogue Trader was better proof read than this, and that was fan-made! Unfortunately the fluff is just as bad with a huge number of contradictions in tone and direction to Codex: Tau Empire.
While a definite step up from the disgraceful lack of respect for the source material which crippled Codex: Iyanden, the book fails to do any of Tau Empire's ideas justice. The payoff for the decade long mystery as to why Farsight broke away from the Empire, the Etherals' understanding of the universe, all of it is continually botched at every turn. Either delivered with an insulting lack of gravitas or build up, or written in a way which is at best amateurish and at worst phoning it in. I want to save as much of this as possible for an actual review, so here's a quick rundown of some of the bigger problems:
Farsight's encounter on Arthas Moloch has about all the emotive drive and narrative strength of the average Wikipedia article. In blunders headlong into events with little to no build-up and the actual events have nothing of interest to them. It also retains no secrets, leeway for interpretation or even alternative views. Nothing is left for people to consider or even to become invested in and every answer given is a disappointment. Either making little sense or just generally doing little to make use of the concepts it has available.
The Dawn Blade itself is more a non-answer than anything else as it turns out every single last theory behind it was wrong, but its origins fail to have anything of significance. It just originates from an unknown, unseen alien race from somewhere which will never be expanded upon, but without any in-universe documents or opinions it fails to build up any atmosphere about the race. For all the flack the Necrons get for their codex (the actual Necrons not SPESS TOMB KINGZ!!!) they at least had writers determined to create mystery and interesting concepts behind them. Here we just have what appears to be the unenthusiastic product of a sixty second brainstorming session.
Things like the descriptions of the Etherals are where the big contradictions and problems begin to arise, especially as they are delivered as straight faced fact. Not, as before, with certain hints and motivations which allowed for personal interpretation in their actions. Here, the codex outright says that the Etherals are keeping the true nature of the Warp hidden from everyone inside the Empire. Yes, they know about daemons, they supposedly know of the gods and the entities which reside within the Warp; they just suppress any information about them. Keeping their followers in a state of "obedient ignorance" for reasons unknown. It's as if people didn't think the comparisons between the Crusade era Imperium and the Empire weren't clear enough, and felt they needed to throw in a ham fisted approach to the Warp identical to the Emperor's failed gambit. Not only does this attitude fail to add up with the previous book's direction, but it dumbs down the Tau as a whole.
This is an angle which might have worked easily had there been more of an effort to make it clear these are Farsight's thoughts. A personal account, written text from his perspective, something just to make it clear this is open to interpretation. This new fluff on the Ethereals is built from his deductions, but none of it is written in any way to make it clear they're opinionated views. Instead it's written as straight faced fact, with no hint what's on paper being wrong or the result of one faction's perspective.
Still, this is nothing compared to some of the unquestioningly insane moments such as the Tau carving a world to bits until it resembled a polygon in order to show off. Why? To Who? Your guess is as good as mine.
The only real compliments which can be given is that there are at least more rules here this time and less art pillaged from THQ's cooling corpse, though plenty is still recycled. Furthermore it tries to account for Farsight's access to units before and after succeeding from the Empire. Beyond that though, this is more of the same from what we saw from Iyanden. Same stupidity, same heavy focus upon one group of flashy units (battlesuits), same problem with ignoring the army in favour of HQ choices.
As stated previously, these are early thoughts with only looking through the book in brief, but it's clear there are many failings here. If this trend keeps up, supplement codicies are soon going to become a byword for "GW cash-grab."
Warhammer 40,000 and all related characters and media are owned by Games Workshop.