Saturday, 30 November 2013

Fans Create Interactive 3D Warhammer 40,000 Galaxy Map

In something different from the usual fan creations made to celebrate a fictional universe, Russian Warhammer 40,000 fans have set out to create an interactive 3D map of the Imperium. The map has already begun to feature a number of iconic locations and world, including Armageddon, Terra and even the Eye of Terror.

Made from the Spacescape tools, the map allows users to focus upon a number of specific worlds, click on them, and zoom in from anywhere from a galactic view to having the world encompass the entire screen. Bringing up certain worlds can permit other features to appear. These can range from orbiting satellites, ships and nearby planets to non-interactive elements such as dying stars. Furthermore, the background may change when focusing upon certain planets such as those residing within the Eye of Terror.

In addition to visuals, the map features basic and detailed information about a number of worlds from their classes (gas giants, hive worlds etc) to mass, rotation, atmosphere and population. Further history of the worlds and their importance can be seen by bringing up a small text screen, which outlines a few hundred words and gives a more in-depth description surrounding the planet.

Thus far the map is still under heavy construction with only a small handful of important locations and systems implanted. The project's creators are currently looking to continue, and are open to both donations and additional help in their work. More information, and the map itself, can be found here.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Clan Raukaan: Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Supplement Review)

So here we are yet again. Another month, another codex supplement.

This is the second Space Marine supplement, third if you count Codex: Black Legion, and surprise, surprise it's pretty sodding bad. If you've read any of the previous reviews, expect more of the same criticisms. The team behind these just keep making the same errors over and over again and this isn't a change for the better. In some respects it's also a change for the worst but we'll get to that in a minute. This review is also going to be a bit different from the last ones as we'll be looking at the lore first. Why? Because it's really the make or break point of these books. 

The basic rules you can use in vanilla Warhammer 40,000 only make up a small fraction of the overall book with lore being its major selling point. Pages upon pages of lore consist of most of the content and it's usually what people seem to be after. Chances are if you're going to be trying to buy this, you're a fan of the army with an investment in its unique style, history and nature more than tabletop rules. This isn't true for everyone, some wanted Codex: Farsight Enclaves so they could have Battlesuit armies, but it's mostly what i've seen in comments here and elsewhere.

If you're not a fan of this set-up please speak up and let your mind be known, if not this is how future reviews of will normally be. That done, let's begin.

A few here might be overjoyed to hear some details from the preview were wrong. An effort was made to look beyond just the titular Clan Company and actually examine both the chapter's history and its structure overall. Furthermore, despite having no mention of any kind during any part of the preview, the chapter's connections among the Mechanicus are still present and explored.

Unfortunately, none of this is news for celebration given the poor execution of this book.

Let's start at the very beginning. Right after the introduction, any reader is slapped across the face with the near total destruction of what made the Iron Hands unique.

Their unique Clan Company system, with each one acting as a semi-autonomous mini-chapter? 

Gone. Now they're completely Codex adherent in their structure, with the usual mixture you'd expect with 10th company consisting of Scouts, 7th of Assault Marines and all the rest. The titles and Clan names in of themselves are purely traditional titles of no real meaning.

The rarity of Terminator suits and the traditions they had, giving many to figures of prominence such as veteran sergeants than a normal full company? 

Gone. Now they are given only to members of the first company and no such structure as previously outlined exists.

The individual mobile fortress monasteries belonging to each of the separate Clan Companies? 

Completely unmentioned and ignored. Facts are also added which utterly contradict the previous idea of the Clan Companies individually recruiting for themselves. Namely with this being given over to the 10th Company and all recruits being tested before a giant monolith of stone during the time of the Iron Moon. A ritual which seems to be present only to destroy any possibility of autonomy.

The Iron Fathers, who combine the role of Techmarine and Chaplain in serving as a spiritual head and leaders of the chapter, and Clan Commanders? They're no longer an actual rank. Instead, the rank of Iron Chaplain has been added with "Iron Father" being reduced to an honorific rank anyone can get. Seriously, read it for yourself:
"by the dawning of M41 it had come to be an honorific, an additional title awarded to the esteemed individuals who were voted into the ranks of the Iron Council. Any battle-brother of rank within the Iron Hands can become an Iron Father, from mighty Iron Captains, Iron Chaplains and Librarians, to Apothecaries and Veteran Sergeants."

Oh, and Clan Commander has been replaced entirely with "Iron Captain" as a leadership role among the forces. Why? No apparent reason, probably just to make them sound more Codexey and because the authors love saying "Iron" every couple of sentences.

This isn't some change for the better or authorial choice. This was a systematic stripping down of a huge part of what had made the chapter what they were. The authors went through and specifically removed elements which made the chapter unique or altered them to the point where they were barely noteworthy. Elements which had defined the chapter since the days of Index Astartes and were a huge part of their character, giving them a theme and traditions to make them stand out. This isn't some effort to make the chapter evolve and build upon the ideas present, the authors actively tore the heart out of the Iron Hands and defecated upon the remains! 

You know what the real shame of this is through? These were some of the less damaging changes. Far worse was done to the things which they retained.

Some aspects of the chapter were kept, such as the Great Clan Council and, despite what the promotional material displayed, their links with the Mechanicus.

The former aspect, now called the Iron Council (Because naturally everything must be called Iron!) are a guiding force of the chapter. Unlike Codex adherent chapters, the Iron Hands are not led by a single Chapter Master but a group of figures consisting of Iron Fathers, Commanders and Dreadnoughts which serve as a command group. It ultimately decides upon the chapter's future and their direction during their countless centuries of war. The reason I'm explaining this is that one of the big criticisms of the Fifth Edition Codex: Space Marines, beyond their kind being almost completely ignored, was that the Iron Hands were presented as having a Chapter Master by name of Kardan Stronos. This suggestion they had a Chapter Master, and by extension were Codex adherent, was strongly criticised and corrected in the next edition. 

Where am I going with this? Because it's the most prominent part of their structure to actually survive when everything else changed, meaning someone was listening to the criticism, just not the arguments involved. Or perhaps they were and wanted to spite people, because the Iron Council is only ever presented as a weakness and failing.

Despite the reasoning behind its creation given, the Council is near relentlessly used as a means to show the chapter as being weak or suffering from utterly lore breaking problems. Chief among these is the fact that the Adeptus Mechanicus have a place on the Council. A seat, called the Voice of Mars, on the Iron Council made up of senior Tech Priests which has a say in how the chapter operates. This effectively gives the Mechanicus their own specially linked chapter to carry out their own private ambitions and goals. 
If this sounds familiar, it's because this happened before. A now unfortunately little-known chapter known as the Steel Confessors was originally created by the Mechanicus in secret to give them their own private force. Being an act of heresy, they were forced to relinquish all direct control and ties over the astartes' actions and the chapter pledge an oath of loyalty to the High Lords of Terra.

So yes, we've yet again run into authors recycling ideas from other works, retconning the originals, and trying to pass it off as their own creations; all without the slightest bit of competence or understand of why it actually worked in the first place. Take for example the reasoning for the Iron Hands showing such loyalty to the Mechanicus and making such an allegiance. While it does have some points which link to their similar ideologies involving steel over flesh it's mostly due to this: 

"The Priesthood of Mars and their Titan Legions had long fought beside the Iron Hands during the days of the Great Crusade and the Heresy alike, forging ever stronger bonds as they did so. [...] In the devotees of the Omnissiah, the Iron Hands saw a mirror of their own doctrine of steel over flesh, a reliable ally who would not fall prey to hubris and pride as had the preening braggarts of the Emperor’s Children."

The former point is contradicted entirely by the fact the Iron Hands were nowhere near Mars and specifies they were not any kind of significant force during the Heresy, and the latter is entirely false. Both in novels and codicies the Mechanicum has displayed thoughts of pride, hubris, self-indulgence and general attitudes of snobbery despite their cybernetic enhancements. Even if this was the reason to begin with and they lacked such traits in the early years, this is supposed to be an alliance which lasted ten thousand years, with several points based on falsehoods. This isn't even something they eventually break off either, with the Mechanicum changing over time, and is supposedly still going strong right up to the end of M41. 

The deal itself also proves to be utterly contradictory to the way the Iron Hands are presented. Their whole attitude towards humanity, warfare, even their most basic outlook on life can be summed up on one quote: 

"The Iron Hands are not saviours, nor should we be. A man who cannot save himself is weak, and the weak do not deserve to be saved. For such a man, only death is fitting. This, we can provide." - Iron Chaplain Furnous, Clan Company Raukaan

This detail is repeatedly bashed over the readers' heads, yet time and time again they move to serve in the defence of the Mechanicus and Martian interests. The exact terms outlined for the alliance between the Mechanicus and Iron Hands was for the chapter to act as their muscle in return for the goodies the Tech Priests could provide. The book specifically says "In exchange for the Iron Hands’ alliance and protection, the Martian Priesthood would grant them unprecedented access to the sacred mysteries of the Omnissiah, augmenting their Techmarines’ knowledge far beyond that possessed by their counterparts in the other Legions of the Adeptus Astartes." However, the chapter's whole attitude towards everyone else is entirely different. They will merrily fly out, fight somewhere the Mechanicus' usual forces cannot hold and serve in their interests, but when it comes to Imperial Guard or other space marine chapters they instantly screw them over. It just ends up making the chapter look like hypocrites, ones with a xenophobic streak to anyone without a USB port sticking out of their head. A move which, given what happens later on, is entirely intentional.

Take for example these two instances: 

In M34 the Mechanicum calls upon the Iron Hands' aid to deal with an influx of orks, eldar pirates and forces fleeing from an unknown phenomena known as the Pale Wasting. The Iron Hands dutifully hold a cordon of a quarantine to their exact orders, even up to the point where they fire upon an ally who moved to their position thanks to a communication error. Not a single figure speaks of why the Mechanicum could not deploy their own vast military forces to achieve their own protection here, instead relying heavily upon the astartes for defence.

When massed Iron Hands forces arrive in the Aebrasyn system which has come under attack by Alaitoc, they do nothing to assist in defending the Emperor's realm. Despite a sizable Imperial population and an Imperial Guard battlegroup fighting the eldar, the Iron Hands completely ignore all requests for help. They do nothing to communicate with them, nothing to even keep track of their progress or do so much as pass on basic recon information. Instead, they let them all die so that the astartes might follow their agenda. Well, theirs and the Mechanicus' agenda anyway. The only reason they are on the world is thanks to necron xenotech having been uncovered which they promptly arrive, steal and then flee once the eldar return for revenge. Leaving everyone on the world to die and a planet of the Imperium to be crushed under alien assault. If this sounds more like a marauding band of tech-priests than a space marine chapter then congratulations, you know more about this universe than the people writing this book.

The Iron Hands share the cold logic of the Mechanicum, but they are still astartes and view events with a military perspective. They would recognise that ignoring this world's fate would only encourage future assaults and losing it would be to diminish the Emperor's realm. They might sacrifice many of the inhabitants to bring down their enemy, perhaps drawing them into certain Imperial Guard positions then bombard them from orbit, but utterly ignoring them without reason? It's wildly out of character and is written with another force in mind. 

Also, yes, the Iron Hands took the necron technology for themselves, but they're so closely tied to the Mechanicus that they would probably hand it over upon request. Hell, the Mechanicus would probably be fine with it on Medusa as it's a stronghold which is effectively under their control. Still, all this is ignoring the fact that the Iron Hands, if these were actually written as Iron Hands, would more likely destroy such heresy than loot it for themselves. Something which would both quickly deny the enemy a point of interest and prevent potential corruption which could come with guarding it. What's worse though is the message left to the invaders which tries to evoke their ideals. One which portrays the Iron Hands as hypocrites as they are fleeing the battle to escape fighting powerful forces:

"If you are strong you will survive. If you are weak you will not. Fight hard, General, and prove your worth."

The story just presents the Iron Hands as little more than the Mechanicum's lackeys, serving as their muscle to protect their personal investments when they cannot protect them themselves. Combined with this treatment of everyone else, it really does drive home the idea that the Iron Hands are utter hypocrites who betray their own ideals when their Archmagos masters yank their chain. Of course, this is a problem which stems from a far greater failing in the writing department.

One aspect which has been commented upon in the past has been how the Iron Hands were ruthless fighters. Figures who could be counted upon to make hard choices and would sacrifice other troops in an effort to gain an upper hand, the sort of people you wanted so close to the Eye of Terror and traitor legions. While this has been a major factor in their forces for a long time, authors seem to keep screwing it up. 

When it was first introduced, the Index Astartes defined exactly where they drew the line with their efforts to progress personal strength. However, of late this coldly logical streak has been used less for showing them making hard decisions to win the day, and instead to try and justify them acting like utter bastards whether it made any sense or not. Wrath of Iron was one such example, with the Iron Hands refusing to communicate with a Legio Titanicus Princeps and Lord Commander even when they were sacrificing their forces to speed up their operation. Rather than doing the logical thing and explaining "We need to get to the middle of the city to stop a ritual or we are all doomed" to two figures who would be accepting of losses with reason, they seemed to snub them purely due to their humanity. That's unfortunately taken even further here and used for situations which make even less sense.

One already infamous example of this is the events on Colmnus, a forge world of the Mechanicum under attack by orks. Despite dozens of Imperial Guard regiments, sizable numbers of Skitarii and over thirty Titans assisting in the planet's defence, the Iron Hands rush to assist in the world's defence rather than saying "prove yourselves strong" and watching the fight play out.

However, they're not the only forces present, with the Raven Guard having already been on the world for months leading a fighting retreat against the orks. Despite being a chapter who the Iron Hands know are capable of holding their own, and have advanced reconnaissance knowledge of the orks, they all but openly mock their allies. Their commander sees them a force which cannot be relied upon, with his reasoning boiling down to "it is in all we do as Iron Hands to avoid the fate suffered by our Primarch." He then refuses to even exchange information let alone actively cooperate, claiming their simulations more than adequately account for anything the Raven Guard have seen with their own eyes.

Now, bear in mind the major excuse for the Iron Hands' increasingly psychotic streak has been put down to logic. They will ultimately yield to cold logic and total pragmatism at nearly every turn, and while they do place heavy blame on the Raven Guard for the loss of their primarch, this is stupid beyond words. They are opting to not only to completely ignore the advice of a renowned chapter, perhaps the single best guerrilla fighting and stealth force in the entire Adeptus Astartes, but every single moment they have proven themselves from the opening blows of the Horus Heresy onward. Like everything else in this book, the Iron Hands grudge with the chapter has been ramped up to the point of being petty and contradictory. They are shown to more or less hate Ferrus for allowing himself to be led into a fight he could not hope to win. Yet at the exact same time they blame the Raven Guard for failing to win that very same battle; then proceed to use it to snub them ten thousand years on, as if their later victories have meant nothing.

It's almost as if the people writing this don't like the Iron Hands or something.

The actual scene itself and the Iron Hands' reasoning seems to be present little more than to show the book's obscenely overblown emphasis upon how Ferrus' death impacted upon them. Not his teachings, not his thoughts, gene seed or even most basic concepts, just his death and Isstvan itself. The Iron Hands are utterly obsessed with his murder more than anything else, even more so than any chapter to have their primarch die fighting the Great Enemy. Just as was the case with their bionics and attachments to the Mechanicus, this element has been exaggerated and expanded upon until there is no nuances or elements to the chapter beyond a very crude watered down version of the original idea. Unfortunately, this isn't even the worst moment of it for Ferrus, the Iron Hands or even the Raven Guard.

Holding their position within a fortress factory where they can fight the orks, the Iron Hands combat the Waaagh! as they slam into the planet and send Imperial regiments reeling. Holding their position they ignore the outside war as everything from Titans to regiments are destroyed beyond the fortress' protective shields. With the orks outnumbering them many times to one, the Raven Guard sally forth. Their aim is to try and slow the advance of several forces to stop them engaging millions of orks at once while rescuing as many valuable elements as they can. Naturally, the Iron Hands effectively sneer at this. They utterly ignore the fact their Clan Companies are only alive thanks to the fortress' void shields, with this lovely statement highlighting their thoughts: "No effort wasted in attempting to rescue those too weak to save themselves."

Even when the Raven Guard return, having successfully managed to retrieve several tank squadrons and Reaver Titans to help in the defence, they do nothing to assist them beyond basic supporting fire. The space marines believe that they must save themselves and not require the Iron Hands help; ignoring the very fact they are on this world is to protect it because it cannot save itself. This results in several tanks being lost, Raven Guard Rhinos among them, and both Titans. Even when the Raven Guard get inside, desperately trying to communicate with the Iron Hands to warn them of an impending threat, the scions of Ferrus completely refuse all communications with them. As such, when the Weirdboy with a psychic power level apparently on par with Magnus the bloody Red comes screaming towards them, they do nothing. Well, actually no, the Raven Guard go to fight them and the Iron Hands use it as an excuse to kill the other space marines and the Weirdboy at the same time.

Oddly enough it's not actually the sacrifice of the Raven Guard which is so bothersome here. Sacrificing a rook to take out the king is in character for Iron Hands, even if doing it to another chapter is pushing things a bit. The problem is the execution and what it means for the book.
Now, they're effectively committing heresy here by killing off a first founding loyalist faction, which could lead to major repercussions against them.
Do they make it look as if this was a last resort with no alternative? No, it's made quite clear the Iron Hands are extraordinarily slow to respond. 
So, do they engineer events to make sure the Raven Guard die in a heroic sacrifice, something which could easily be brought about and absolve the Iron Hands of all possible guilt? Nope, they make sure they are the ones with their fingers firmly on the trigger when it comes to making sure they all get killed. 
Do they order the Raven Guard back and let one of many other much more expendable units take their place? They don't even try.

What they do is they wait until the Raven Guard are all slaughtered en mass by the orks. They make sure the Shadow Captain and his forces see them standing, calmly watching them die as if to spite them, refuses them even an honourable death and then unleashes Land Raider Redeemers. Burning all the orks they were fighting at once, killing the Weirdboy leading the Waaagh! and likely destroying any Raven Guard gene-seed left there. This entire sequence is written to make it as clear as humanly possible to the reader and everyone involved that they're killing the other company. They park their units right next to the battle and do not fire, even with their commanders "watching impassively" while doing nothing. Actually, no, they do worse than nothing. They even block Raven Guard communications with one another so they cannot call in help from their Strike Cruiser; even when the only thing it could do by that point would be to bombard their position and allow the company to take a few orks with them.

The entire battle is written to make the Iron Hands look needlessly vindictive, bitter and quite frankly petty in both its wording and displays. They're supposed to be smart enough to consider thousands of minute calculations on the battlefield around them and single-handledly hold the fortress factories, yet they cannot think of a simple way to take out the ork leadership while sacrificing a loyalist element yet drawing no attention to themselves in this act. The image to the side? That's this done right, where someone pulls of killing an ally while leaving no ties to themselves. The incident outlined above? A sham of a manipulated cover up, thought up by a halfwit, only done to try and make the Iron Hands look as monstrous and hypocritical as possible.

While the book at least cites this incident as being a major cause for concern by the Iron Council, believing Iron Father Kristos may well have let emotions cloud his thought, it never properly addresses it. There's never a moment where they truly decide this was a mistake and it's mainly used as a kind of inciting incident in the book's plot. Yes, like Sentinels of Terra the authors are trying to tell a story yet again rather than tell the reader about the army. Quite frankly though, that's the absolute least of this codex's problems. Perhaps the worst of them is what it does to Ferrus Manus. 

Apparently it wasn't enough that he was one of two primarchs to be brutally murdered, have his legion sidelined for the entire Heresy, then write the chapter as utterly betraying any of his wishes with their very act of bionic enhancements. No, they go the extra mile of turning any surviving element of him into a daemon.

Formed out of Ferrus' rage, frustrations and raw emotions at the exact moment of his death was a being known as the Sapphire King. Despite being a daemon of Slaanesh, your guess is as good as mine as to how any of those emotions led to a daemon of corrupted ecstasy being created, it proved to be extremely good at manipulating others. Obsessed with the Iron Hands it proceeded to initiate a massive long term plan to corrupt the entire chapter, constantly poking them in the right direction so they would perform acts which served Chaos and embraced traditions which made them easier to corrupt. 

It's eventually beaten at the very end, when the codex's "protagonist" orders the Iron Hands to vent their rage and display emotion. Because (despite coming from a realm where gods are created by pure emotion and daemons are drawn to the raw primal feelings of creatures) apparently it was the lack of any of that which made them weak, and an excess of it which defeated the beast. No, this makes no more sense on paper than it does here. This eventually leads to the character declaring that the Iron Hands attitudes to caging and controlling their emotions entirely to be completely wrong and spew tripe about them having to move away from what they have been for ten thousand years. While it doesn't go so far as to completely reject their traditions entirely or with some platitude about "bionics is morally wrong" it's still a betrayal of the worst kind. Turning what little remains of their fallen primarch into a being serving their worst enemies, the only one of a loyalist chapter to turn traitor in any form.
Actually, no, let's make this clear: The very first primarch to refuse to turn traitor is effectively reborn as a willing tool of Chaos.

Even ignoring the fact that this is yet again looting ideas from the Soul Drinkers series with Daenyathos' plan, the authors do everything but outright bring back Ferrus as a daemon prince. This codex strips out all their long-standing traditions, turns them into hired thugs of the Mechanicus, openly has them displaying hypocrisy towards allies and one another, pointlessly simplifies many founding ideas to the point of insulting the reader's intelligence, and directly contradicts the Horus Heresy novels. This isn't a codex. It's a poorly constructed essay of seething hatred directed towards any person who might ever cared about this chapter.

This review couldn't even begin to cover a third of what's wrong with the book. I don't even know where to start with other subjects, such as the retconning of two Iron Hands successors into oblivion, the fact they are depicted as performing repeated cover-ups from the Inquisition and even acts of outright heresy. A later point has them using what are strongly suggested to be Chaos-corrupted machine spirits against necrons, with a part describing their early beginnings having them cover up various factions going rogue. Any good element here is utterly mired beneath sheer spite, poorly thought out efforts to jam a storyline into a book which doesn't need one, and complete disrespect to the lore. The fact the book doesn't show them as utterly incompetent in battle is rendered moot by their longtime manipulation and spend as much time needlessly getting loyalist killed as the enemy. I can't even praise the genuinely great art because almost every single piece gets the bloody initiation bionic on the wrong arm! This book is the tabletop gaming version of a hate crime; destroying, defiling or mocking anything this army's fans once held dear.

If you're interested in the Iron Hands, if you care about the chapter or Warhammer in any way, do not buy this book. It is a travesty, a monument to how far Games Workshop's assurances of quality have fallen and the total disrespect by authors for any source material. They are now churning out these books with a clear emphasis upon quantity over any shred of quality, to the point where this sort of betrayal is not even a surprise anymore.

If you want to read about the Iron Hands, find Wrath of Iron, Angel Exterminatus, John Green's Iron Hands novel or other stories. None of them are perfect, some even don't even do that great a job of portraying the marines, but at least they're by authors who aren't determined to openly shit on the chapter.

Still, we're not done yet. There's the rules to do but you just know what they're like in these books. Their analysis can be found here along with a recommendation for a vastly better alternative to this book.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Night Watch (Book Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

One of the many Discworld novels focusing upon the Anhk-Morpork police force, Night Watch is an interesting tale taking Sam Vimes even further out of his element than usual. 

Pursuing a wanted criminal across the rooftops of the Unseen University, Vimes is caught in a magical storm and thrown into a frighteningly familiar world: His past. It’s a time of total corruption, repression and with the downtrodden on the verge of revolution. Worse still, these are not his Watch anymore; they’re as big a joke as ever and rotten to the core. As an utter non-person in the city, Vimes must try to survive and consider whether to use his knowledge to change things. Unfortunately, things are rarely so simple as that.

WASTELAND 2 Beta Will be Ready “Within 2.5 Weeks”

Read the article in full on this is simply a preview.

Supporters of the successful Kickstarter to Fallout’s spiritual predecessor will be happy to know Christmas is coming early for them. Released over Twitter, Brian Fargo, the founder of Interplay and designer behind The Bard’s Tale series announced that the Kickstarter title’s Beta would likely be ready sometime next month. In his post on his account, he stated that he was feeling “Very confident that Wasteland 2 beta will be ready within 2.5 weeks” and also that they were “knocking down the list of annoying things very fast.”


Read the article in full on this is simply a preview.

It’s hard to know what exactly to make of The Legend of Adam Caine. While hardly bad, it seems to almost work in spite of itself. Beginning in mid-2006, a group of travellers on-board a tube service are flung out of their time by an inhuman stranger lurking in their midst. The reason for their abduction lurks in the ambitions of a race far ahead of their time, and it does not bode well for any of them… 

The plot itself contains plenty of points people will be familiar with. An alien abduction, time travel, a race bent upon subjugation and extermination, but a big part of the book’s charm is that it displays an awareness of these traits. It reminds us why such ideas were originally enjoyed, while throwing in esoteric references which will please major fans of this genre and putting a new spin on others. While some of these are laid on a bit too heavily, especially one Gaunt’s Ghosts reference early on, they are rarely so intrusive they will confuse those not familiar with what is being referenced.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

From The Flames (eBook Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

The third story from this Legion of the Damned collection feels like a waste. While each story had their own flaws, they were at least stories with an obvious arc and acts to them. This one? It barely seems to even try to do that, and ultimately comes across as more insulting, especially to the eldar, than it does as a true tale. 

Taking place during the Invaders assault upon Craftworld Idharae, the story follows the survivor of a squad unlucky enough to bump into the city ship’s Avatar. Having most of his squad killed, Brother Seoc witnesses other astartes emerging to combat the Warp creature…


Read the article in full on this is simply a preview.

Besides having a title with too many colons, Annihilation is another solid effort to build upon the era of The Old Republic. Tied into the MMO, it displays new areas of the universe while invoking what came before, but unlike the seething bile present in Revan, this is an obvious love letter to the era. Following the tale of Theron Shan, the book depicts efforts by the Republic to weaken the Sith’s hold on their systems by bringing down the legendary Imperial battle cruiser Ascendant Spear before it can potentially turn the tide once more in the Empire’s favour. 

With a Sith Lord, a Jedi Master, a roguish Republic agent and a superweapon, it has everything you’d want from something in this universe. Any fans who were excited to see the first films will feel right at home here, despite a setting several thousand years prior to Luke’s birth, helped especially by a few choice set pieces.

Dark Heresy: 01/11/2013 - Violence Inherent In The System

So last time our group was seen fleeing from the scene of their crime as sirens filled the cold morning air of Seattle after triggering a mass city fire…

I’m sorry, wrong game.

Our group was last seen fleeing from the scene of a mass slaughter, the smell of burning meat and fallen masonry filling the dank night air and the fires of a partially destroyed apartment complex lighting their way.

Having taken out all of those opposing them, the Inquisitorial Acolytes dragged the remaining mook with them, found out he knew nothing, and Guilliman killed him. Their only useful contact had been taken out in the explosion from the lascannon blast meaning ‘Ard Dave was the only potential lead we had to follow beyond the man in the Arbites cells. Being a hardened criminal and this being a Hive City, it was not going to be easy to properly get him to open up to us. Especially as we had attachments to the local police which we had done little to nothing to disguise. With Cromwell insisting that “Let’s not assign blame to anyone by his lascannon” and Guilliman trying to remember where we were going, the group eventually stumbled upon our destination. It turned out we had been right as the hab-block we approached was guarded by two men with shotguns with who knew how many inside.

Taking the diplomatic route, Bardason opened up with his helmet’s in-built megaphone announcing “’ARD DAVE! COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!” which seemed to only produce reactions of confusion. This only got worse once Guilliman and Cromwell got involved, with the criminals taking neither seriously. After several minutes of this the group only managed to actually achieve any kind of progress once Bardason made it clear they wanted to speak. It turned out this was a good move later on given by what they found. Also something not made too easy thanks to Cromwell yelling “I have a lascannon and I’m not afraid to use it!”

After going to check that Dave actually wanted to speak to the nutjob in full armour who was demanding his surrender a minute ago, Bardason was allowed inside. Making sure to leave his com-link open and with Guilliman informing him that “If you need us cause an explosion” he advanced inside without the majority of his weapons. As the other two stood in the rain psyking out the guards (Guilliman mostly, by blending into the surroundings and using various psychic powers) the Guardsman was led through the hab-block. The interior consisted mostly of armed people among the civillians, with the way up to Dave’s room heavily guarded. Things only became obviously worse once inside, where a good eight or nine people stood in wait, ready to kill him if he proved to be hostile.

Sitting on a moth-eaten couch was ‘Ard Dave himself, heavy set and quite obviously criminal in nature. Despite showing obvious distrust for the man dressed in stormtrooper armour in front of him, he was at least curious enough to want to know what had led them to him. Thinking quickly, Bardason used a few details they had pieced together from the scene of the crime to put a slight spin on things to make him talkative. Speaking about the murder scene, Bardason claimed to be another element involved and that a murder weapon with Dave’s fingerprints had been clearly left at the scene. Managing to convince him he’d been set up, as we’d found that weapon elsewhere, he promptly spilled the beans.

Dave and his goons had been hired by someone high up. Wearing a mask to disguise his face, despite an obvious scent of incense and good quality robes there was nothing truly distinguishable about their employer.  Still, with several thousand thrones being offered up front they were not about to start asking question, and were offered none in return. Dave, their employer and fifteen others had entered the factory earlier than the other group, dressed in crimson robes and armed with knives. Approaching the inspectors, they had gotten close enough to initiate a mass killing off all involved with the employer insisting the “Sororitas bitch” be left to him alone. Holding her down for their employer, the thugs had allowed the man to beat her senseless then kill the sister in a frenzy, utterly defacing her.

From outside, Cromwell got a call from the precinct stating that they were certain that the flesh beneath the Sororitas’ fingernails were from her killer. In addition to this, it seemed extremely likely that the amulet had belonged to him as well thanks to traces found on it. It now meant we were one step along with an accomplice found and evidence suggesting murder.

As Bardason was escorted back outside, the trio regrouped and confirmed their knowledge. However, there was one thing they all agreed upon. They had just found a hired thug involved in the torture and then killing of a member of a holy order, along with the slaughter of several others. They were not about to leave without incident.

After first their first option of calling in a full Inquisitorial strike force or Arbites gun-cutter was deemed impossible, preventing them taking on everyone inside the building, they opted to instead take a stealthy approach. As Dwr’ called them up to deliver some good news, but was cut off as they instead asked her to meet them outside a certain hab-block for a violent arrest.

Arriving in a squad car twenty minutes later, having the sense of park just out of sight of the goons we explained our plan: Take out the guards at the door stealthily, hurry up to Dave’s room, grab him and escape. Bardason would take point as he knew the exact room and general layout with potential ambush points. Bare in mind this was plan B following having Cromwell lascannon the side of Dave’s room, us grapple up, grab him and then escape. Something we only avoided when we realised we didn’t have rope for once.

With Cromwell and Dwr taking out the two guards on the exterior thanks to headshots from silenced weapons, Guilliman and Bardason sneaked up with blades drawn. Several guards were just inside the building, but unfortunately one had heard the slumping of bodies over the rain. Heading towards the door, he stuck his head out, spotted Guilliman, then got a knife in his throat by Bardason for his troubles.

This unfortunately led to the other trio of guards in the room suddenly being suspicious of why their comrade had issued a wet gurgle, then been dragged out the front door by someone. Before they could take a step towards the pair of Inquisitorial agents, Dwr promptly revealed she had brought an anti-material rifle with her. With the others signalling where about they were standing, she fired and took out a large chunk of the wall and everything behind it. The two heavily muscled men were promptly turned into high speed smears which had been struck by a fist sized round. Apparently thunder rolled through the city from the rain at the exact moment the bullet struck, preventing it being noticed.

Look it’s 40K, physics and common sense both take a day off at least once a week.

The last one didn’t live long enough to cry out, with Guilliman sprinting through and shoving a force weapon through the man’s cranium. Fifteen seconds and six men dead, no alarm raised and, as we looked inside, most of the hab-block closing up for the night. Not a bad start.

Rushing ahead as fast as we could, the warband sprinted up several flights of dilapidated stairs until we reached Dave’s room. After waiting a few seconds for Cromwell, who had not realised all of us were supposed to be storming the place, the tech-priest unravelled the arcane technological mysteries of the door handle and we sprinted inside. Just within, stark naked and atop a woman, was a very shocked looking Dave. After the woman screamed and ran after Cromwell began to pull up a chair, the tech priest shoved them man onto the ground and silenced him. A good thing too, as Bardason promptly informed him he was under arrest by the Emperor’s Hallowed Inquisition for murder, prompting a muffled scream of fear and rage.

Knocking Dave out and with the woman gone, it was obviously only a matter of time before someone raised the alarm. With Dwr slinging the unconscious criminal over one massive shoulder, the group sprinted towards the entrance with all haste. Not fast enough it seems,  as one thug opened up a door just ahead of them going to check on their boss. His statement of “I’ll go check on-” promptly turned into “HOLY SHIT!” as he saw the group of heavily armed figures running towards him. Before he could get off a proper warning, Guilliman slashed his throat on the way past and Bardason followed it up with an arrow nailing him to the door.

With sounds of guns being loaded and masses of activity coming from outside, the group sprinted to the squad car, Bardason pausing just long enough to yell “AVE IMPERATOR YER BASTARDS!” before they left. Piling inside they raced away, not hitting the breaks until they were within the safety of the precinct’s reinforced walls. Handing over Dave to shove inside a cell, we got back on track somewhat:
Bardason – “Sorry about that, Dwr, what did you learn from the interrogation?”
Dwr – “… You people are fucking insane, you know that?”

Managing to calm down, she outlined what the man had revealed during her interrogation: He had been drunk but had heard the sounds of screams and a scuffle within the factory. Amid the screams had been cries of “Heretic!” and “Burn in hell!” with a group of red robed men storming out the building a minute later. The man leading them wearing a vastly more ornate outfit than those behind him.

With the church under heavy suspicion, Guilliman suggested we return to the Cathedral of Thunder, much to the glee of Cromwell. The tech priest had been desperate to break inside the office of the archbishop, convinced that he was behind everything thanks to his timely disappearance. He was also not someone to be dissuaded from such an objective.

Now the dead of night, the group managed to blather their way inside with Guilliman and Dwr distracting everyone while Bardason and Cromwell sneaked upstairs. Managing to sneak up the second level, Guilliman went off to speak with Thaddeus in the archives, effectively in command of the church following the archbishop’s absence. Dwr meanwhile started distracting everyone else by some superhuman effort, keeping them all at the front door.

Just as they reached the landing, Cromwell’s loud clanking unfortunately attracted the attention of one priest on duty. Questioning what he was doing up there, Bardason managed to sneak past and head for the door hoping Cromwell could be trusted to keep him busy. He did, but not in the way we needed. Regarding the man as not showing the necessary respect for a Magos, Cromwell stomach punched him in the hopes of knocking him out. Several more punches finally took him down, but not before it drew the attention of several servitors, forcing him to head back downstairs to avoid them. A lucky roll kept them following, leading to the robots chasing Cromwell through the streets Scooby Doo style, before he finally managed to lose them in a sweat shop.

Failing to force the lock several times, leading to yet another elderly priest investigating what was going on, Bardason eventually broke the door down before shoving it back in place. By some miracle this led to him going undetected, allowing him to examine the room. Finding evidence of DNA on the decidedly un-priestly cigar and ash tray on the man’s desk, plus a whip used for ritualistic flagellation, meant they had enough to compare with the skin samples. More importantly, a quick search of the archbishop’s desk soon revealed several letters from Fane Douru. All were angry with the change of shipments with threats of consequences if the Ecclesiarchy, but seemed slightly odd in some ways. Several were the exact same letter but with minor spelling and typographical differences, as if they had been copied. Shoving all of them into their backpack, he crept out once again.

As Cromwell returned to the church, he was promptly dwarmed by priests asking for his assistance. Apparently they had found an unconscious member of their order slumped against the floor meaning the church had intruders. Tomfoolery ensued. They were soon joined by Bardason who announced “Oh-no! Someone has broken into the bishop’s office!”

In the archives, Guilliman managed to make considerably more progress. Citing his beliefs that Archbishop Halmn had turned traitor, thanks in no small part to the mounting evidence, Thaddeus agreed to hear them out.

Managing to leave the church a short time later, the group split up with Cromwell and Guilliman returning to analyse their finds, while Bardason and Dwr followed up another possible lead they should follow. Namely the Sororitas themselves given the frenzied nature of the attack. As Guilliman prepared to arrange their findings to put forwards a case to the Inquisitor and other officials, Cromwell performed DNA analysis upon what had been discovered in the archbishop’s room. As it was being analysed, he soon also realised that the letters were definitely attempts at forgeries to match Douru’s handwriting.

Arriving at a small Sororitas clinic in one of the better parts of town, he spoke of the killing but they were ultimately unable to cite specific enemies of their order beyond general heretics. What they could do however, was lead us to a scholar who knew of their history and potentially the amulet they had uncovered. Heading over to the House of the Emperor’s Smoking Gun (did you really expect anything else by this point?) they were introduced to the scholar. After nervously confirming he would not be charged with heresy for his knowledge, he began to provide some very helpful information. The amulet in question was a pre-Thorian symbol dating back to the ages of the Vandire heresy in M36. Belonging specifically to the Church of the Savior Emperor, they were known to venerate him in blood sacrifices and lavish rituals, the exact like which were outlawed by Sebastian Thor. The Aquila, to the order, was intended to represent the God-Emperor being king of the universe. Furthermore this badge of office was intended to allow his priests to freely impose their will upon all around them. Naturally, being so close to Vandire, any surviving faction would have hatred for any member of the Adeptus Sororitas.

This was more than enough for Bardason to recall the Temple Tendency, a group Inquisitor Van Graff had mentioned in passing but had enough similar information to suggest it was likely them they were facing. Just as this was finished, Cromwell’s analysis came to a close with an exact match between the DNA on the whip and under the Sororitas’ fingernails.

With proof of his involvement, an accomplice who had confessed to his involvement in their cells, a motive for his actions and proof of attempting to frame Douru, we were done. The Archbishop was our target and our task was now to take him down. One call to the Inquisitor later and the group was heading with all speed to the Cathedral of Illumination in Hive Tarsus.

It was now our job to bring him in, alive if possible. A near physical impossibility for our group.

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

VMCast Episode 04 - Warhammer 40k/Eternal Crusade Podcast

Having been invited back onto the Vigila Mortis Podcast, discussing the upcomming Warhammer 40,000 MMO Eternal Crusade.

This time we're discussing a few new developments such as not adding Black Templars as an additional chapter and a few reveals in the developer AMA.

It can be found here on Youtube:

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor (Episode Review)

There's no easy way to say this so i'll make this clear from the get go: 

The episode has some very visible flaws and these will be brought up. This isn't going to be a rose tinted review, it will look into the many issues the anniversary special has and compare it with some traits in the recent series. 
That said, this episode was still the single most entertaining piece of Doctor Who media I have seen in the past year or two. It has fantastic kinetic energy, the chemistry between actors is fantastic and the sheer level of fan-service still makes it prevail. This will be made repeatedly clear throughout, it is a fun episode with many great elements which ultimately do the show service. That said, I will not be overlooking its many flaws and will be judging it by both its failings and triumphs.

That done, let's begin.

Quite literally dragged back to UNIT. the Doctor, Clara and the TARDIS are taken to the National Gallery at the behest of Kate Stewart. Something which was once contained within the Gallery has seemingly broken out, running amok within the building and lurking within there. Worse still is where it originated from. A number of time locked portraits displaying locations capturing specific locations of time are located within the Gallery, and one has been smashed open with something, or someone, having escaped from within.
Meanwhile, on a distant planet, a man weary of the constant fighting which has dominated his entire existence seeks to end a timeless war no matter the cost...

Joining together three incarnations of the Doctor, with so much material surrounding the program linking it into other works and building upon the anniversary, it should be of no surprise much of it runs of fan-service.

Like the many which came before it, it serves as a massive tribute to the years prior. There's an old enemy returning and the joy of seeing the characters interact with one another. Easily the biggest and best points are where you have each of the trio of Doctors playing off of one another and considering the events of their lives. It would be very surprising if the writers and actors didn't take inspiration from the Three Doctors, as there are shades of how Pertwee, Troughton and Hartnell played off of one another with the right amount of enjoyment and mild hostility. They are obviously very much playing their own characters, but that same vibrant chemistry and it's only enhanced by Moffat's usual witticisms. Yes, i'm actually praising that element of his work for once. Even Hurt, who is having to play an effectively new character, easily slides into the role without any issues, holding up next to Smith and Tennant, both of who have been playing their figures for years by now. The core of the story is ultimately made up of how each of them plays off of one another and the fact the actors nail is so perfectly is half the reason the episode holds up.

This isn't to sell the other actors short. While they are not given anywhere near as much material to work with, and largely shunted to one side, Jenna Coleman and Jemma Redgrave both play their parts extremely well. While perhaps not given the character moments they quite deserve, we'll get to why in a minute, they are none the less a welcome addition to the story. As is Billie Piper. Many were split upon their inclusion within the story, especially those with understandable criticisms to the character she played on the show, and what happens here will likely cause a further split. While the character she plays is linked into Rose, more fan-service, it is not exactly here. This allows Piper to try something a bit different and it definitely proves to be a move for the better, especially in the early introductions. While used more than her fellow actresses, she still remains underused but strong. However, it's not with her where the cracks begin to appears.

The flaws start to open up with the inclusion of the villain. While not the most prominent of villains, ranking even lower than the Sontarans in terms of being a nemesis of the Doctor, they do have a popular fanbase. Ultimately that seems to be the reason why they are here as they feel extremely superfluous. It's as if the writers felt the story needed to be punched up by a more direct villain. One to help keep the narrative going forwards and selected one we'd not seen yet in modern Who. However, they are abruptly dropped almost as fast as they are introduced, shooting in and out of the story well before the end with very little actual resolution. They prove to be something to heighten the stakes and for the Doctors to work off of, but they fail to be integrated into the actual plot itself. Instead feeling as if they were thrown in as a last minute addition.

The Zygons are not the only point which is introduced and then dropped either. You could honestly make a drinking game based upon the number of times something is thrown into the anniversary episode and promptly dropped a few minutes later. Or, if you really wanted to punish your liver, added without much reasoning. To discuss these would be to delve deeply into spoilers however, and as such it does reduce the episode to a structural mess. Yes, sticking to a basic plot structure has been a major failing of the series of late but it is especially bad here and it does weaken the story overall. Some of the minor fan-service additions also don't make much sense as a result. Some work extremely well, most do in fact, but when you get to things like Tennant repeating the "I don't want to go" line, its placement feels pointless. It's just there, adding nothing to the story and doesn't feel relevant. Hell, David Bradley stating as such while playing William Hartnell in An Adventure in Time and Space resonated much more strongly due to the themes of the episode.

Above all however, there is the ending. There is a major twist which changes a great deal about the story and serves to unify all incarnations of the Doctor. It ends on a note of hope, having changed things significantly for the better and perhaps heralding a bright new future for the Doctor and even a new status quo for the show. Unfortunately, it does this at the cost of not making much sense. This has nothing to do with the science involved, but for all that's been established it effectively opens up a massive series of Gallifrey sized plot holes and problems. Both for what we've seen thus far and, given a small note about the Doctor's memory of events, perhaps for the future as well.

The conclusion makes for a huge ending, much more grounded than the last few series finales but still feels massive in terms of scale and impact. What diminishes it is the fact that the involvement of the past Doctors is ultimately put down to stock footage and brief pre-recorded lines from old episodes. This is understandable for some but it feels as if, for all the reasons why the classic era figures couldn't be included, it would have been extremely easy just to approach each person, get them to record a few lines or shove them onto a set for a few minutes. The charity special Time Crash already proved that viewers are more than happy to have an actor's age hand-waved away by techno babble. Okay, one does and his scene is brilliant but you'd be forgiven for spending the whole thing being extremely confused and wondering what he's doing there. Again, hard to detail without spoilers.

Still, for all this, for every failing and flaw, the Day of the Doctor still ultimately succeeds at one thing: Being fun. It's entertaining, fast paced in the right way and knows what elements to work with most of the time. The production values are still high, the direction is good and the soundtrack great. You likely won't have too many complaints while watching it, and even when you do question something, at least up to the end, you'll be quickly distracted by something else which emerges within the story. Furthermore, it ultimately avoids my previous fear of being directly locked into the previous series and manages to mostly work as an isolated piece if you have general knowledge of modern Doctor Who.
That said, once it is over and you look back, problems do appear. This is ultimately the episode's greatest flaw: It will not age well and as time goes by and the excitement begins to fade, it may well diminish in the eyes of fans. I'm happy it existed, but it just feels that with a better editor or direction there could have easily been so much more.

Watch it, enjoy it and have fun, but don't expect it to be timeless.