Sunday, 1 September 2013

Farsight Enclaves: Part 2 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Supplement Review)

Part 1 can be found here covering the book's rules

Even in comparison to 40K's many races, the Tau Empire is insanely easy to screw up. Yes, getting the Craftworld Eldar down without making them too human and keeping a degree of mystery is surprisingly difficult. As is writing space marines without allowing for favoritism to overwhelm writing direction and keeping each chapter equal and uniquely interesting. The same goes with the Imperial Guard, presenting them as a competent force who dies due to the sheer power of those they fight than Zapp Brannigan tactics. However the tau have the unique problem of having two very separate interpretations, both of which have to be balance without one overwhelming the other.

On the one side the tau have the idea that they are the last, best hope for a good galaxy much like the Emperor of Mankind's great crusade was. Uniting all races under a single banner without the need for the relentless conflict which has dominated the galaxy for millennia. However, going too far with this and bringing them up as having no dark side can easily alienate them from the universe or make them seem like a overwhelmingly perfect faction.
To balance this out later editions added hints of their society being an Orwellian dictatorship with mind control, eugenics and propaganda disguising its true nature. The problem is that this was always intended to be shown through hints and potential suggestions, as if the lore in the book was propaganda. In many recent books this latter point has been overwhelmingly prevalent, and turns the Tau Empire from an interesting mystery into a dull "lol 1984" force without depth. This problem continues here and strangles any and all mystery, interest or balance which had been so carefully built up surrounding the tau.

Let this be made absolutely clear: What is written here isn't made as opinion or misinterpretation of events. There are no obviously biased accounts, no flavoured text which contradicts the events of Codex: Tau Empire or even a suggestion Farsight himself might be being manipulated by his alien weapon. No, instead everything is rammed down the reader's throat as absolute unquestionable fact and leaves no room for interpretation. The Ethereals are evil manipulators who care nothing for their subjects, the Tau Empire is a complete dystopia thirsting for control over others, mind control is rife, free will and independence are completely opposed. There is no grey to them, only black to oppose Farsight's white morality.

Farsight Enclaves makes the point of turning many elements and ideas introduced from Tau Empire and promptly altering details to turn them into examples of how corrupt the Ethereals really are. Things like the Puretide Neurochips, which imbue his teachings onto commanders implanted with them, are made to kill their users if anyone tries to remove them. The Ethereals themselves are now stated to be stamping out all knowledge of the Warp, psychics or even any hint of truth about Chaos, not to mention heavily manipulating and sacrificing the lives of their citizens if need be.

Some new details make a weird kind of sense but only if you ignore half the established facts. For example, the new idea that the Ethereals intentionally provoked the Imperium into launching the Damocles Crusade quickly, so they wouldn't gather up a bigger force to kill them. This feels like the sort of decision the Ethereals would make to ensure the Empire's survival, but ignores half the facts behind them. Like the fact the Ethereals know little of the Imperium's actual size or power, that they had never met a full Imperial force to gauge their strength and that they made no obvious efforts to prepare for the conflict.

The same goes for the above examples of the Puretide Neurochips (Farsight tried to remove them as Puretide had never known about the existance psykers and his tactics wouldn't work) and the Ethereals' suppression of all knowledge of the Warp. The book completely and utterly ignores that the Empire has run into psykers multiple times and EVEN HAS WARP SENSITIVE RACES ALLIED TO THEM! 
The orks, who are all latently psychic and have ones they will use in offensive operations? Completely ignores them. The kroot who ate their flesh and gained their powers? Pretends they don't exist. The highly psychic nicassar who are not only a member race but serve as military auxiliaries? The book treats them like non-persons whenever these points are brought up. Even events like the war against Tark'ax are treated as if they never happened and completely ignore the presentation of Ethereals there.

The book ultimately took the Brian Bendis approach to writing: come up with an objective you want, then bulldoze your way to it via the most direct means. If something contradicts you or might cause you problems, either kill it off or pretend it never happened. That's really the issue here as it only keeps the bits the writers wanted, but any bits which were contradictory or were at odds with what was suggested were ditched entirely. They wanted the Tau Empire to be a horrible dystopia, for Farsight to be a heroic rebellion acting against them, and went about it without bothering to have it make any actual sense. Now, in fairness ignoring this practice you can see some talent behind Farsight's personal story and development. It's not too bad as things go and there is a logical progression behind his eventual rebellion against the Empire. The problem is that it came at not only the cost of the canon and the Tau Empire's ambiguity in its nature, but also Farsight's more interesting qualities.

The thing which made Farsight so interesting was the lack of details behind just why he actually turned. The events on Arthas Moloch, the effect the death of all Ethereals in his expedition (not to mention the nature of their deaths), his abnormally long life, and most of all the origin and nature of the Dawn Blade. All of these were aspects we only knew fragmented hints of information behind and led to a multitude of fan theories, each working off of the scraps and details we were given. Theories surrounding the Blade ranged from it controlling Farsight, to it being one of the lost eldar blades of Vaul, being of daemonic origin or even a C'tan weapon. All of these were crushed in the single most disappointing way possible.

The origin of the Dawn Blade is that it comes from a random long dead race with some Warp knowledge. Their name is never mentioned but it's clear they have no connection to the necrons, eldar, daemons or even the most insane of theories. Their items are not corrupt, only that they knew of the Warp, and Farsight's encounter only does the bare minimum with the experience on the world. Its origins are never gone into, its people never explored, no tantalising hints are dropped, nothing is done with it beyond getting Farsight to know of daemons and giving his army items. They don't even bother to do something as basic as declare it the dead world of the Interax and latch onto the success of Horus Rising. Ten years of speculations, fan theories and attention built up from a lack of knowledge, and the writers make no effort to give it a good payoff.

Even the Dawn Blade itself and Farsight's longevity is explored and detailed in the most insultingly dull manner imaginable. The Dawn Blade is made of life draining metal, and has turned Farsight into a vampire. The codex delivers this with about as much mystery, information and immersion as that sentence. It makes no effort to try and have the reader buy into it, feel like a compelling character aspect or even try to have Farsight react to its effects claiming he knows nothing of its nature. Even by 40K's standards, its effects make no real sense as they are not explained and do not play off of long established supernatural means like the Warp. Worse still, this lack of explanation or reasoning spreads to the rest of the book.

One of the major pages within the supplement codex is devoted to exploring the worlds of the Farsight Enclaves and displaying their designs. Well, it seems that someone decided to go completely nuts with them and turn them into insane unreal designs on par with daemon worlds. Chief among these is a crystalline planet which was carved up into a gigantic D20 by the tau for no apparent reason and a giant droplet of water which is supposedly continually breaking up but never has this affect it.
They have clearly been created to give Farsight's forces some flavour, but have no semblance of logic behind them. Why do they exist? Just because. Why did the tau settle on these worlds rather than better suited ones? Just because. Why did they do half the things they did to them and not properly terraform them? Just because. Like so much here they only work and seem interesting when you are actively not thinking about what has been written down.

It was stated in the rules section of this review that it felt as if this supplement had been rushed. That the writers had been forced to churn this out in a couple of weeks to meet a deadline and as a result it felt uninspired. Going from this fluff, they were not only rushed but were lazy when it came to writing. There is no effort here which has been put into making sense or event taking advantage of the goldmine of opportunities present in this book. It feels as if it was farted out in mere minutes and written even as people were thinking up ideas. Combined the massive typos and recycled artwork, yes they did this again, it's not a hard thing to consider of the book.

Iyanden was a disaster, a trainwreck of a codex which openly shat upon everything within its pages. It was insultingly badly written, mocked all within and was the worst book made in the hobby's twenty years. The Farsight Enclaves feels boring, badly researched, rushed and is only just better than the prior supplement thanks to a lack of "invisible sky wizard" levels of insanity. A scant few of the rules work, but the majority do not and the fluff utterly fails in so many areas it might as well have removed itself from the canon.

The only area that the book can really be praised for is the profiles of its characters. Nearly all of the Eight have very interesting backgrounds ranging from a mad scientist tau commanding a Riptide to a full blown sentient AI operating with Farsight's forces. Each has interesting details to them as at the bare minimum are passable. The problem is that they're not very well integrated into the stories beyond their individual profiles, making this lone example of quality isolated within the book.

If you desperately want an all battlesuit army for the Tau Empire, you might want to pick this one up. Otherwise, give it a miss. You'll only save yourself a lot of money and a lot of pain.


  1. First off Orks and Human psykers are very different

    two Ork weirdboyz are fairly rare and orks really don't like being around them so it is possible Tau have never fought one.

    three, they state why there's a planet that looks like a D20, its stated right on your picture, the Earth Caste made it like that because they wanted to test themselves. That's no unheard of either, NASA have found a planet size diamond, hey not every planet can be earth like you know. Yes its a little on the Ward level of silly but seeing he probably wrote it yeah oh well 40k was always kinda silly

    four, GW is lazy no shit

    five who care? No really who cares, the "mystery" got boarding years ago more so when GW left no clues

    I don't know why I'm posting you're just going to no post this because you're a whiny butthurt asshole

    1. Yes, human and ork psykers are different but that only reinforces my point. The kind who lob lightning and shoot mind bullets are rare but all of them are latent psykers, it's how some of their technology works. I also might be able to believe that they'd not run into one if they had only met the orks in minor conflicts but they had faced whole Waaaghs! Some which lasted years and they've been fighting the orks since the relatively early days of their Empire. The chances of them A) Not noticing how half their vehicles, guns and the like shouldn't physically work in any logical sense and B) Having never encountered a Wierdboy are extremely small. Even then, there's the problem of the kroot having gained some of their psychich abilities and innate knowledge to build Warspheres and the problem of other races also being very psychic. No effort is made to explain anything.

      Yes, they state why but it's a statement which makes absolutely no sense. The Earth Caste wanted to create a monument to show of, but to who? There's no one they can show off to if this is referring to other major races, and if it's to themselves, they've already achieved greater accomplishments in the past. If anything they've only made the planet more useless. They've forgone the actual task with effort to terraform it or make it suitable to life, and likely make it unstable as a result. They have created a D20 large enough for Tzeentch to finally play dice with the universe, but everything surrounding it makes less sense the more details are given.

      Except GW did. When the Tau Empire finally got an update at long last, Farsight's background was given new insights and new hints along with a foreboding message: "I've seen things you wouldn't believe - entire worlds in flames, chains of supernovas on the edge of nothingness, the great hole in space. I am changed, an outcast now..." Unfortunately for us, just as soon as some one paid proper attention to it again, a hack of a writer puts a bullet in its head. Resolving it in the most trite, laziest, incompetent and badly thought out manner they could. Yes, Games Workshop is known to be lazy, but that's no reason why it should be excused or overlooked. It's also not as if no one was interested, plenty of tau players were interested enough to be excited at its announcement so they could get answers.

      Charming. If you're one of the bronies still spamming this site, please note this: I try to make a point of only blocking the comments with no content to them or pointlessly spewing vitriol. If you were blocked before, it was either accidental while I was getting rid of hate mail en mass, which I apologise for if that was the case, or because there was no content to it. I'd hope it wasn't the latter.

    2. If I'm not mistaken the D20 is mostly populated by the Enclave's Air Caste meaning they live in orbit space cities so terraforming is pointless

      Its to prove the Tau's might to themselves, its really common, much like the seven wonders of the world.

      No I just found these and so far this blog isn't very good, its just you bitching about something and every time I tried to post any counter point it isn't posted

      Like your review of Craftworld Iyanden you claim Ward turned Iyanden into a Biel Tan clone, because we know craftworld can't have the same goals. But said you don't understand why he didn't use the Way of the Eldar books, in other words which is about Craftworld Alaitoc, in other words, Ward sucks for turning them into Biel Tan lite, he should have made them Alaitoc lite.

  2. ... Except that by terraforming it they would have another world everyone besides the tau would be able to inhabit. One of only a handful the Enclaves actually have under their sovereignty. Were this the Tau Empire the argument of it being to show off (despite, again, having no one to show off to) might make a degree of sense. However, this was done by a military expedition with very limited resources and outside the influence the the Tau Empire. They wouldn't be so much concerned about making art the size of worlds so much as weapons, farms, shelters, fortifications and things they could actually use. Not completely turn one already inhospitable rock into something they could never hope to use to their advantage.
    Plus, if anything, managing to terraform a completely crystalline world and turn it into a place habitable for tau or one of their allies would be an ever greater achievement. Showing how they could bend even the most inhospitable and rebellion world to their will and actually make more practical use of the damn thing.

    Which is, of course, why you've had all your posts appear thus far. Furthermore, i'm sorry to hear you regard thinking about what is written down and critiquing its quality to be "bitching".

    That criticism might hold merit, were it not for the fact it doesn't resemble what I said. I criticised Ward for turning Iyanden into a Beil-Tan clone yes, as vast amounts of its lore, structure and attitudes were identical to Beil-Tan's not just like it. Something only enforced further with the thousands of years long alliance with them, attitudes and their determination to reconquer all.
    No what I said was that he was directly contradicting the Paths of the Eldar series, most likely due to it ignoring his fluff about the SPESS TOMB KINGZ he turned the necrons into. He contradicted any of that craftworld's old elements my making Iyanden (and Beil-Tan) the ONLY craftworlds to be interested in defending exodites and ruins of their old empire. Logic, fluff and other writers be damned.

    Please, try to actually read what is written carefully before you make a criticism of what is on here.

    1. Taut don't really need soil to farm. its called hydroponics also it described as one big rock so it couldn't have been lived on anyway.

      What old elements? No one his ever expanded on iyandens fluff beyond they were once the largest until the nids nom them.

      So the path of the eldar also has a phinox lord get stepped on by a dreadnought and one space marine company can take out a major craftworld even ward made sure its takes a whole chapter to only damaged one beyond repair and they still take 80% losses

      And no he said they're the only two large enough to have the resources to rebuild the empire after the fall craftworld ulthwe can also help but due to there closeness to the eye they can't and most exodites worlds are in their locations also exodite worlds rarely need protection

      also also craftworlds were always independent for each other
      Also this isn't the first time that happend remember how isha was demand not nurgles waifu? Or how there are chapters that use traitor gene seed? or primarch twins?

      Yeah because the oldcron none fluff and ripped offs of other gods were so much better.

  3. Fine, but consider all the other ones. Mines, shipyards, training grounds, vehicle construction yards, cities, barracks, control centers; a thousand and one things they could have used that world for. Now none of which will ever be built and the planet has been rendered useless because they wanted to waste time and very limited resources showing off.
    I note now that you don't even bother trying to refute half the answers to your original points emphasising how badly thought out the ideas behind the book were. Either stick to your arguments, admit you were wrong or walk away, don't try to pretend you never made such points by focusing on something else.

    Except they did. They were never chiefly focused upon or explored, a definite mistake, but minor expansions and additions were made periodically in books and lore. The fate of Farseer Kelmon, the tyranid assault, their encounter with the Dark Eldar, minor expansions and adaptations handled by writers who were not hacks and understand how to write decent fluff.
    Let's even ignore that then, let's pretend none of that happened and just look instead at something else: Ward's openly ignored half the fluff just behind the eldar in writing the book and contradicted half the established truths about them. The way the craftworlds work, the way the place is organised, the way the infinity circuit operates, all of which was contradicted and turned into a non-nonsensical mess. Even other basic details such as how exterminatus strikes affect targets were swept under the rug in a wave of stupidity.

    No, what it took was an Imperial crusade fleet to assault Iyanden. Even then they only managed to make pushes into the craftworld before leaving again with heavy casualties, their objective incomplete. Entire Imparial Guard regiments, multiple units of space marines, armour companies and battleships were lost in the attack. Even then the craftworld wasn't "taken out" as you put it but only damaged. Should it have been treated with greater severity and the Imparials taken greater casualties? Definitely. But at least there it was a much bigger combined force making the attack rather than one chapter making the assault completely unaided. Please actually read about what you're arguing against before you try to make any argument.

    No, they were the only two who, for some reason, actually wanted to do it. Some deemed that their resources were needed to focus on their own survival above all others, while many of the larger ones ignored it out of a desire to focus on their own goals. He then wrote them as being the only ones concerned with dealing with the exodites, eldar ruins and any elements of their old empire left standing after the birth of She Who Thirsts. Exodite worlds can usually handle most threats, but when something too powerful for them to deal with shows up they tend to have other craftworlds to help them. In this case, that was completely ignored so Ward could make his pet project more SPECIALZ!!!!!

    Not according to Ward's Iyanden/Beil-Tan alliance.
    No. This is one of many times where this halfwit of an author has shown complete disrespect for all he is writing about and opted to ignore anything which doesn't fit with his version of the universe. When details such as Alpharius/Omegon, the Blood Ravens and Isha's fate were written they did not contradict core elements of the setting. Often they rarely contradicted anything major at all, or went the extra mile of making the truth behind them uncertain such as the traitor gene-seed and Isha examples.

    It was better as there was actual effort being put into it. There were ideas there, good concepts, an interesting villain and mystery despite a flawed initial implementation. It was also being written by authors, not a joke of a writer who considers "They can never be Ultramarines" to be a defining failing of all other chapters besides the one he likes.

  4. Personally I think LordDirk on deviantart did a far better job with the farsight enclaves.

  5. Found it thanks for the link direction! And you do certainly raise some interesting points about the lore. However! There are a few things I feel should be taken into consideration or brushed aside as an excuse for poor writing, take your pick.

    First off GW "rarely" puts a chronological date on any of its lore aside from the calender so it is usually down to the fan base to get a feel of said order meaning some lore that is written will inevitably be before or after such events case in point as you stated the tau indeed have allies with a few psychic races and are known to possibly have one or two of said races in their alliance. Now due to the fact that these minor events such as "Dear journal We met a weird boy today.. it was well weird" Imperial calender xxxx" It is entirely feasible that the psychics they had come across before Farsights split had been written off as either evolutionary traits or mechanical wonders that the tau couldn't fathom and of course if the tau really do follow the brain washing scheme then as a line infantry soldier or even a field commander its way below your pay grade to even worry about so why bother telling your little mind anything at all?

    Or perhaps as is more commonly stated in the Tau codex they are ignorant of what the warp itself exactly is and could draw no link between psykers and the warp itself, In fact the Whole Medusa campaign for the tau was them researching the approaching warp storm, and there are many moments when they seize warp reactors from Imperial ships and just scratch their heads wondering what purpose were these giant engines for ? So it could be assumed from that,that the psykers were there but were not considered psykers, The bigger question is this though! With all the rogue traders that trade with the tau, and small warp capable craft available in the 41st millennium why has not one of them thought "Shit..Could make a lot of money selling them one."

    1. Yeah the problem is two things, the first being that the Nicassar exist and that no previous depictions ever support any part of this idea. Along with being the first race to join and remain a part of the Empire, these are beings who are so psychic they have entire ships propelled by telekinesis. The Empire is aware of the Imperium's intolerance of psykers enough to hide them, which in To Unite The Stars suggested some understanding of the potential perils giving reason for the Imperium's stance. It also seems extremely unlikely that they would have an active race of psykers as a part of their federation for over a thousand years without witnessing a single Warp related event or accident.

      It this isn't enough Kill-Team by Gav Thrope, which explored the tau in considerable depth upon release, made full use of the Empire's many races. One of these was by having trained psykers from alien races acting as telepaths to scan new arrivals for potential threats upon landing on a major Sept world. Again, to do this they would need to have some understanding of the Warp and protect these individual's minds against daemonic possessions or invasions.

      Even accepting the idea that the tau had not witnessed the likes of the orks using psychic power, which would likely still be found out by examining their technology, there is still a great deal here which just contradicts what has been put down. Furthermore, while the Tau might not understand the Warp itself, they do understand its danger. Fire Warrior by Simon Spurrier had a major tau army witnessing a Chaos incursion on a world. Along with the ethereal present doing nothing to try and cover up this encounter, they seemed to realise it was bleeding through and warping reality around them. This and in other engagements against Chaos prior to now have all suggested that, while they may not know of the gods, they do understand the dangers of the Warp itself. None of them were ever so surprised or ever suggested to have had the ethereals censoring all information surrounding this subject.

      This just seems to have been the result of extremely lazy writing without having researched the works of other authors.

  6. Thank you very much for this review of what appears to be a very disappointing expansion to the Tau.

    I love how the opening comments from critics were all trying to defend the book based off the bloody d20 planet (I agree that it's absolutely possible for the world to exist, buuuut that it's also completely stupid that the Tau would do that).

    What drives me nuts in this is the demonisation of the Empire, changing it from a philosophy of 'For the Greater good, small evil must be done' to out right corrupt and evil dictatorship. It was bad enough in the last codex with the Vespid mind control devises because at least that was up for debate, but from the other sources I've read the Tau are now confirmed to be yet another evil in the galaxy. It's 'Grim Dark', I get it, but its more tragic to have a brief bright candle snuffed out by its naivety (as seemed the likely development of the tau, eventually collapsing under the growing differences and strains it was under), then just making them a Sci-fi feudal Asia themed bunch of big brother clones.

    But the biggest kick in the teeth? The let-down of the Dawn blade and Farsight's change of heart. A random chaos tainted world, with a random dead race, with a random Vampire energy sword........

    Wow GW, all the stuff you could have done and you decided to run with the most generic and unsatisfying option. It wasn't Eldar manipulation with his Etherials being assassinated to leave him open to influence. It wasn't the remains of a Necron tomb world and confirmation of the theory that the Tau are the work of the Deciever. It wasn't even direct influence from chaos, trying to corrupt and manipulate a powerful figure of a new (and previously warp immune) race. No, it was just a chance encounter with a Khorne shrine. It wasn't actually anything to do with anything else in the 40K setting, it was just a quick wrap up to say that they did it.