Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition - Thoughts, Predictions and Problems

Word was leaked onto the internet a few days from several sources that rulebooks for the current edition were begin removed along with Dark Vengeance and a number of starter kits. While I did put some stock in this I was personally waiting for a bit more confirmation and, yes, it does seem that 6th edition is coming to an end. While a number of countries do still feature the option to purchase the rulebook and the like on their pages, across Europe and allegedly America the option is disappearing. The supposed date in which the upcoming edition will be released on is the 24th of May. 

Suffice to say this is a monumentally stupid decision on the part of Games Workshop for a number of reasons. The most commonly brought up one is the timing here. This edition has been the briefest one in Warhammer 40,000's long history, lasting only half the time of any other release. This would be bad enough for any usual edition of the game, but for 6th? It causes the most damage imaginable. 

This latest edition saw a massive number of changes to the rules, from the reintroduction of Overwatch and integration of fliers to the massive number of individual rules which were added. Many of these only served to make the game increasingly monotonous and clunky, with turns requiring checking through multiple rulebooks to find more definitions than ever. It takes a great deal of time for players to truly adjust to new rules, and what Games Workshop does not seem to realise (or care) is that many have yet to truly adjust to these changes. Most people are lucky to get one game in a week, and one of the most common complaints I have personally seen from people is how they have yet to memorise the new systems and rules. While this is going to supposedly be a smaller step than 5th edition to 6th, it's still a very early change. 

There has also been little to no official announcement of this, as with almost any Games Workshop release these days. As such, most customers are being given no time to adjust or prepare for this new expensive release. Unlike the many other examples, this is also a . This is not to mention the fact 6th edition has been especially draining on wallets, and some of the gameplay problems.

6th edition has become infamous for one thing beyond the big units: The sheer number of rulebooks it is now churning out. Every other month we seem to be having a new codex. Even ignoring the dataslates, we have had a grand total of twenty-three codices, supplements and expansions. Just for comparison, the last edition had thirteen in total, and that's including a White Dwarf codex. The only thing which comes even close to rivaling this is 2nd edition.

All of these have been built around the 6th edition rules, some integrated very closely to certain points such as Cities of Death and Planetstrike, and now all of that is changing. As absolutely terrible as the vast majority of supplements have been, are we expected to believe that the new rules will take them all into account? It seems a near impossible task for such a small time-frame. Or will these rules simply ignore them entirely, wasting the money of any poor fool who purchased these rules.

Even accepting this however, many codices are still woefully out of date. Even those just one edition behind are at an immediate disadvantage thanks to massive changes such as fliers, with the stop-gap measure of fortifications hardly cutting it. This will also mean that several major armies will now be multiple editions of the game behind everyone else, with Codex: Orks in particular now three editions out of date.

I can only put this down to one or two things on Games Workshop's part. 

The first is an effort to streamline the current edition and take the additional rules into better account. With Escalation, Cities of Death and many expansions being pushed to be used by more players, this could be an effort to better combine them with the rules. Perhaps including them into a single set of rules, containing them it the rulebook and then have future codices be structured similar to the supplements. Namely with each one having a section purely devoted to scenarios or rules for those games.

The second and more likely one is that this is a desperate cash grab due to either greed or financial trouble. The current edition saw a massive rise in units and boxed sets which were game-breaking and extremely expensive. Usually huge units such as mini-titans, or with the direct integration of existing super heavy units into the main game. Even beyond that there has been a sharp price increase with even the most basic codices, under the excuse of hardcover copies. As mentioned earlier, we have seen a massive output of supplements and additional lore books. While some are good, many obviously had no oversight and little in the way of checking the person writing it actually understood what the hell they were talking about. The supplements were an especially egregious example. With the same price as a true codex, but half the content, lore so bad it defaced many armies, and proofreading which manages to make these articles look professionally done.

What backs this is two obvious events: The first is the sudden, massive drop in profit by Games Workshop back in January with a 24% decrease in their overall value. The second is the massive restructuring which took place within their company. The obvious one being vast numbers of their stores suddenly losing half of their staff, but a less remarked one being the lengthy restructuring which took place within Black Library. All seem to suggest problems in some way or an effort to cut costs, and as ever Games Workshop is failing to earn cash by milking its fans for every penny it can find.

These are still partially based upon rumour however, as such we may see changes in dates or times. However, if 7th edition is coming, I can only foresee things getting far worse from here on. Of course, these are merely my own personal thoughts. If you disagree or want to leave your own opinion then please do so in the comments section.

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Death of the Star Wars Expanded Universe

Well, we all knew this was coming.

A few days ago it was announced fully that the Star Wars EU was to be rendered completely and utterly non-canon. To give freedom to new directors everything written from Return of the Jedi onwards, and anything which might link into it, is to be utterly ignored. It's a bitter pill but one many understood was soon going to happen. I accept that. What I do not accept is the sheer lack of respect shown and the disgraceful way this is being handled. 

Say what you will about JJ Abrams' Star Trek and DC Comics' rebooted New 52. Both had their flaws but they did not simply pretend everything which had come before had not taken place. A massive sendoff was given to each universe and its characters along with the establishment that the new stories were taking place in a new, alternate dimension. What people had invested themselves in for decades, the stories and characters they had cared about were not simply treated as if they had never existed. 

This is not the case here. 

Instead of giving any kind of token gesture to the universe which helped keep Star Wars alive for those many years, it is simply being swept away. It's simply being classed as non-canon and that's that.
Knights of the Old Republic? Gone. Mara Jade Skywalker? Gone. The Vong War? Gone. Kyle Katarn? Gone. Rogue Squadron? Gone. Cade Skywalker? Gone. Jango Fett's history? Gone. Shadows of the Empire? Gone. Grand Admiral Thrawn? Gone.
None of it ever happened, none of these characters ever existed, none of it ever mattered. For all the money it made Lucas and others, apparently it wasn't enough to warrant even a basic goodbye. 

Instead the closest this post ever comes to giving any kind of thanks is by saying these books will still be printed, just under the non-canon Legends brand. I guess someone still wants to earn cash off of them. More is presented through a video with authors talking about the Expanded Universe, but this means very little given how it is presented. Worse still, apparently all the new universe will be used for is as a scrapyard for new ideas. A fresh resource of concepts drawn up by authors and harvested for their new shows to be pillaged and stripped away. The rest of the announcement merely glorifies everything new to come, promoting new novels and future works.

Was the EU perfect? No. It had more of its fair share of bad stories, problems and bad authors. Yet despite that it deserved better than to simply be discarded like this now a a potentially bigger revenue is available to Disney. 

If this isn't enough for you, just keep in mind that we are losing this guy:

But keeping this guy:

And the next film is being helmed by the same director who brought us this guy:

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Hellboy In Hell Vol 1 (Comic 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.

Despite his comparative youth, the origin of Hellboy is a story more publicly recognized than many of Marvel or DC Comics' classic heroes. Drawn to Earth in an occult ritual, a demonic child is left stranded among humans. Taken in and accepted by them, he soon becomes their champion against supernatural threats which they face despite his destiny to bring about Armageddon. However, that's not quite the beginning is it? We know nothing of his origins in Hell, what made him so different to others nor how he came to bear the titanic fist which singles him out as doom-bringer. Well, expect some answers at long last. 

As the title says, this is the tale of Hellboy's journey through the realm of demons following the aftermath of the conflict in England. Taken out of his element, it often seems more like an attempt by Mignola to further flesh out his world and ideas more than anything else; along with giving him new and interesting things to draw. While far more of a traditional evil than the cosmic cephalopods known as the Ogdru Jahad, Mignola thankfully avoids the usual fire and brimstone depictions of Hell. Crumbling bastions of Greek architecture, frozen plains over a seemingly endless abyss, the place is less fire and more a realm of twilight. Every detail streaked with dark shadows which befit the comic's art style and the monsters who lurk there are less the cloven hoof variants. Instead they are more the sort of thing you'd see H.R. Giger producing if he was Salvador Dali's works as direct inspiration.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Index Chaotica: Garden of Nurgle (Warhammer 40,000 Digital Edition Review)

Of all the most basic facts long established in Warhammer 40,000 lore, the Warp seems to be the one which eludes some writers the most. While all get its basic ideas right, the birthplace of daemons and realm of the Ruinous Powers, it seems that evermore authors just keep getting facts wrong. 

Perhaps the absolute biggest problem people keep forgetting is that the dimension is completely inhospitable to mortals. It is total anathema to them and none survive without a daemonic patron protecting them or a Gellar field. What's more is that much of what mortals understand and know about the Warp comes purely from diluted information, broken down to a point where they can comprehend them properly. Khorne does not have daemons quite literally strutting about a fortress of blood within the Warp and the god does not physically sit upon a throne of skulls. Tzeentch's city is simply a concept, an idea of what his realm is, you cannot simply stride into the Warp and find it with easy directions.

Index Chaotica: Garden of Nurgle is the single biggest example of just how badly some authors understand this. The biggest one since Kaldor Draigo was sent strutting about the Immaterium merrily skull humping any daemon foolish enough to face him. There really are no words as to just how badly this gets things wrong.

Now, normally we would break down such a horrific book page by page. We would go through it section by section, citing the biggest issues as they appeared and break them down. We're not going to do that here. Instead I am going to start by citing one single incident which sums up this work's greatest failing. One moment, from two specific bits of the book, which shows the writers had no concept as to what they were doing or any kind of proper respect to what Chaos God actually means. Behold:

"Seldom has the manse itself been breached successfully and have the intruders escaped with their lives. One incursion is said to have involved a squad of Fire Hawks Space Marines, a Chapter long since declared lost in the mortal realm. While Nurgle was preoccupied drowning a Lord of Change in his cauldron, the Space Marines arrived engulfed in an inferno of flame and bolter fire to reclaim their fallen captain, whom Nurgle’s minions had once overtaken all-too easily from Khorne’s Wrathgate. The Lord of Decay has his suspicions about the source of this event, laying blame at the feet of the Blood God for the foul deed, for while the Fire Hawks brought their inferno, several blood relics and skullseeds also vanished from the garden."

"Ten Space Marines of the Fire Hawks Chapter slip through the ethereal void and enter the realms of Nurgle to free Captain Tirek, who is held captive within Nurgle’s manse. The Fire Hawks are enveloped in a spiritual fire, a cleansing inferno of their wrath made manifest. They fight their way through the thick, ever changing gloom and assault his dwelling, burning back the drips of ichor and clouds of spores. Fierce fighting rages throughout his oubliette, their weapons furiously dealing with diseased creatures. Their cleansing flame purges disease from the very air around them. The Fire Hawks’ incandescent attack results in the deaths of hundreds of the Nurgle’s subordinates. Having lost only two battle brothers in the melee, the Fire Hawks finally leave with Tirek. However, little do they realise that Nurgle’s Rot has taken root beneath their captain’s power armour, and the bubbling plague is spreading throughout his body. The Fire Hawks venture back out into the Immaterium, their captain slowly succumbing to disease, becoming a vector for the horrific Red Plague."

Oh sweet lord. Where do we begin.

Shall we go through just a few of the problems here?

  1. The former section tries to set this up as the Legion of the Damned being involved. The latter tries to set this up as the possible origin for the Legion of the Damned, showing the sheer laziness when it came to editing this book.
  2. The book suggests Khorne himself directly intervened to assist these astartes, suggesting one of two things. A- Khorne is so petty he will micromanage something so low a subordinate could have easily accomplished and will personally listen to anyone. B - The Legion of the Damned, a force whose original lore cites their sheer loyalty to the Emperor keeps them going, willingly does deals with the Ruinous Powers.
  3. The incident treats Nurgle as some physical being who can be distracted by a single event, a single daemon of a rival god. Not, as has long been established, as an omnipotent presence driven by primordial aspects of the universe and emotion.
  4. Even in his most powerful domain, filled with his most powerful servants, it can easily be set alight and his creatures cut down by the hundreds. By a single Tactical Squad.
  5. The book treats the Garden of Nurgle as a physical location, which can be walked around in and is a literal garden. Not something formed out of the very concept of decay itself and completely unlike the physical world in all respects.
That last point is perhaps the most important of all of this and is only reinforced by later events. There are long, extremely lengthy descriptions of the Garden and how it is built up, treating it like some physical location which is orderly and easily comprehended. A place easily sane enough for mortals to move in and out of with only extreme danger to themselves, not complete obliteration the second they enter it. 

This reads less like the Warp than it does a daemon world, and I honestly think that was the real problem here. This is pure speculation of course, but the descriptions and ideas listed here are something which would be completely at home in the Eye of Terror or where the Immaterium bled through and corrupted a planet. I honestly think the author just looked at that and decided to stick with it rather than actually taking the time to look into the Warp itself.

The real shame of this all though? This could have easily worked. Okay, not so much the sheer stupidity of bits like the Fire Hawks ten man invasion but the actual bits about the garden. The descriptions here are fantastic, very vivid and with a great descriptive quality when they actually focus upon aspects of the garden. It's easily the sort of thing you could see a Sorcerer or preacher of Nurgle's ways citing in his prayers. The problem is that none of this is treated as half truths, warped visions or the mad deluded ramblings of a festering pilgrim. It's stamped down solidly as fact, without a single suggestion, hint or comment made to suggest otherwise.

What made the likes of Xenology and the Liber Chaotica series work so well was because they were obviously opinionated. They were written by the hand (or hands) of individuals within the universe and were prone to potential misinformation and heavy bias. What's more is that they were actually constructed like a scrapbook, showing the thoughts and texts to further impress upon the reader how this was an entirely in-universe opinionated account. Of course, putting together such a work would take more time and money, neither of which Games Workshop is willing to spend when they can churn these out by the bucket-load.

Even ignoring that solution, this still could have been written about a daemon world under the control of one of Nurgle's Daemon Princes. Many sections do show characteristics which his kind are known for and would fit in entirely with such a being. No luck there though.

Another problem is that the book cannot help but relentlessly misunderstand everything about the Warp with every event. Multiple accounts have mortals accidentally or intentionally flying into the Garden or crash landing, with people just walking about the place. One notable event is where an Imperial cruiser somehow accidentally flies into the place, crash lands in the Garden and then has the humans merged into screaming trees. Another one has the dark eldar accidentally flying there through the Webway. Yes, apparently taking a wrong turn in the Webway (that thing which is supposed to completely bypass the entire Warp) can cause you to end up at the very heartland of all corruption and decay.

That second example is especially irksome, but not just for the obvious reasons. It's one of a multitude of stories where the writers just seem to keep applying the wrong aspect of a Chaos God to Nurgle. Have a read for yourself:

"Of the mortal races that have been summoned to Nurgle’s garden at the whims of the gods, few have lived to speak of their efforts. The Archon Drekarth X’uskul once veered off course and spilled unexpectedly from the webway into Nurgle’s domain. While he was in this strange realm, he took the opportunity to capture beasts that would make good sport for the gladiatorial arenas in Commorragh. He led a band of Wyches with an array of advanced weaponry on a raid through the dark forests, but little did the Archon realise that his incursion would lead to his own raiding party becoming the sport itself. 
Bladed whips lashed against Nurgle’s putrid offerings. The Wyches’ web-needles raked through pus-bloated forms. Great phials were filled with all manner of toxic substances. However, the Lord of Decay cheerfully sent forth dozens of his Plague Drones to chase down the raiders. Fierce combat raged beneath low-hanging tendrils and in bacteria groves, as the membranous-winged Rot Flies thundered this way and that. Yet the strange weaponry of the Wyches brought down the bulging airborne beasts, and X’uskul’s swift blade liberated the fallen riders of their heads. Through guile and violence, the Archon and a sole Wych endured; they managed to leave with a captured Rot Fly. X’uskul did not question the ease with which he acquired the beast. Much as the Plaguefather had hoped, the Archon returned with it to Commorragh. Within days, whole sections of the Dark City were contaminated by a strange plague and were accordingly quarantined. Asdrubael Vect himself was forced to kill the beast that X’uskul had brought back, and the Archon has not been seen since."

Yes, this happens more than a few times. People just keep coming in via the revolving door the Master of Pestilence installed into his private domain and head out again with him cackling "Just as planned!" This is Tzeentch they're writing here, this guy's complete opposite! Okay, Nurgle is certainly not without guile of his own, but this happens a few times too often and doesn't reflect his specific type of subterfuge. Often less overly ambitious plans like this and more often a greater reliance upon corruption and spread of diseases en mass; not continual Trojan Horse tactics which require his foes to pinch things from his back yard.

While definitely a better work than the average supplement codex, the lore here contains far too many basic failings to truly represent Nurgle. There was some talent in certain aspects of this book and plenty of good aspects, but the basic concept is so horribly botched that none of this matters. As a result the talent behind this is misdirected and does not bring the ideas here to true fruition. It represents some of the worse problems with the Dataslates and the worst problems when it comes to basic fact checking among some of the company's writers.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Film Review)

Let's be blunt right out of the starting gate: This one is bad. I mean really bad. It's not the film you would say is worse than Batman & Robin, but you would probably mention it in the same sentence. All those who are worried about this having learnt nothing from the criticisms of Sam Rami's Spider-Man 3 were completely on the ball. Not only that, but it somehow manages to forget half the things it got right in the first Amazing Spider-Man.

Set some time after the original film, Peter Parker is continuing his life as the web swinging superhero protecting New York city. While still haunted by the promise he made to a dying man, the adoration of the public is clearly bolstering his confidence and keeps driving him forwards. However, when an act of mercy turns to obsession, Spider-Man soon finds himself with a foe a thousand times more dangerous than the Lizard. Worse still, he is not alone...

The original Amazing Spider-Man was a solid installment which, while making a few errors, managed to do enough right to warrant its existence. Rather than completely rehashing the original film, its origin story moved in a new direction and tried to focus upon areas the Sam Rami films had never succeeded in. While Andrew Garfield may not have been a better Peter Parker he was definitely a better Spider-Man. 
The story may have been cheesy beyond belief and featured a plot hook no writer had any plans to continue with; yet at the same time it did the rare act of showing the police as (mostly) competent and the director had a great eye for action sequences. The film was extremely flawed but did just about enough right to warrant a look, despite the crane scene, and more or less holds up. 

The sequel drops nearly everything good and makes the flaws infinitely worse.

As the film opens up you'll immediately notice the massive leap in tone from the original. Rather than trying (and mostly failing) to do gritty, street level crime this film has opted to go for super happy fun times Spider-Man. As if it's trying to distance itself as far from the first film as humanly possible, yet it will keep bringing up plot points from the original. It's as if someone at Sony made the demand for the films to be brighter and more kid friendly, but didn't want all that money put into the first one to go to waste. So, half the time the characters are trying to act as if the first film never happened, and the rest of the time they are directly referencing it.

I am being completely sincere with you when I say I have not seen writing this lazy or quite so plot hole ridden since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The villains alone prove this one after the next, with the writes skipping next to all build-up, establishment and real introductions in order to fit them all in. Let's just go through them in turn for a moment.

The Rhino? You've already seen all of his scenes in the trailer. No, really, that's no an exaggeration. Every moment he is on screen as the Rhino you'll have already witnessed just from the promotional materiel. He shows up in the battle suit long after the big fight is over, effectively says "I'm here!" and the film ends. Despite being crammed into every bit of the promotional material, he might as well have been carrying a sign saying "SEE ME IN THE SINISTER SIX MOVIE!"

Electro tries to be written as a sympathetic character, but we barely get to know him prior to his transformation or are given a reason to care. Looking like someone who has walked in from a bad comedy, we're just about told his name and then OH NO, SOMEONE FLIPPED HIS SWITCH FROM GOOD TO EVIL! Oh, and he's a fanboy turned villain. Because the genre has only used that a good four or five times now.

Harry Osborne is easily the most mishandled figure here and where the film completely falls to bits. What made Harry in the prior trilogy and comics work was because he was a longtime friend. A person Peter Parker had been a long acquaintance of, so when he turned on him it was genuinely shocking. The film here actually has to have Peter say "he's my best friend" despite only sharing one scene together prior where they are on good terms. SHOW, DON'T TELL!

Any one of these characters, yes even the Rhino, might have worked if they had just been given focus. Instead the film seems to go out of its way to sideline them for as long as possible, just so it can have three villains ton the posters. That or so Sony can use them for the many sequels they have planned, which does seem to be their big focus here. 

The very core of this film's problems are that they are obviously comparing themselves to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and want to do the same. Rather than spending all those years building up links and connections though, here the creators cut corners to the point of saying characters are well developed rather than showing it. Rather than constructing one success at a time and linking the films together, what we have here is a desperate attempt to catch up by forcing out as many characters as possible. It's the same thing Man of Steel 2 is thought to be doing, reaching Marvel's heights without doing even a third of the work required. This even extends to the trailer which desperately teases a massive crossover to keep audiences interested.

Even ignoring some of the problems this causes in the approach to the film, we have much bigger problems with clearly no one knowing what they want to do. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 supposedly underwent some extensive re-writes, and that's visible here to the point where you can practically see the join where scripts were mashed together. 
Towards the end the film needs there to a ticking clock so Electro needs to be taken down before innocent lives are lost thanks to a potential plane crash. Almost at exactly the same time, the film sets up a second ticking clock with the hospital Aunt May is working in as the power goes out putting lives at risk. She spots a portable generator nearby as people are dying, then the film cuts away and never comes back to it again. There's a set up and no resolution, and the film is peppered with these moments. This is to say nothing of the mood whiplash you get as the film jumps from one tone to the next with no sense of constancy.

The while there are good elements in the film which begin to work, none are remotely decent enough to save it. 

While many of the actors are clearly trying their best, nothing they can do can hope to divert to tidal wave of bad writing which strips away any semblance of quality. While Peter and Gwen Stacy's relationship seems to hold up, it is promptly terminated for the sake of fan-service. Some go so far as to embrace the bad writing with Paul Giamatti in particular visibly taking nothing seriously, chewing on every piece of scenery he can find. While the fight scenes might be dynamically staged and well executed, you have already seen all of the best bits in the trailers. To top this off, the CGI is so poor that it looks visibly unfinished at times. For all the crap Green Lantern gets that film honestly looked vastly better than this. Hell, Daredevil has better CGI than this at times!

What you get here is a two hours and twenty-two minutes of cinematic disaster, something which should be given to college students as a guide on how not to do filmmaking. This is easily one of the worst science fiction films of the year so far, crashing and burning almost as soon as the opening credits finish. Normally i'd say go watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier instead, but you know what? Go watch just about any other superhero film from the last decade instead. X-Men 2, Iron Man, Batman Begins, all are vastly superior to this disaster and you'll have far more fun.

If this is the shape of things to come, we could be seeing the beginning of the end for quality superhero cinematic universes.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Dinotopia: First Flight (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.

Dinotopia has always been a curious series, feeling like something out of another age. It’s a story which feels like it’s been written right from the age of classic Dan Dare comics but with total sincerity, never once winking at its audience or feeling like a homage. That nature allows the often simplistic storytelling or sometimes out of time nature of each installment to retain your interest long enough to recognise some of the more brilliant elements of world building. It’s the level of thought behind certain elements of the world itself which always seemed to make it stand out, as well as the truly brilliant artwork which helped bring it to life. These elements remain a part of the work here, but it does feel like creator James Gurney took things a little too far this time.

Set during a time of war, the book sees Dinotopia on the verge of a massive conflict which could rip the island apart. The mechanised empire of Poseidos is seeking to expand into the otherwise peaceful world, with its leaders spurred on by visions of conquest and power. Rebelling against the society which raised him, the orphaned Gideon Altaire prepares to fight and save another world from extinction…

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Codex: Iron Hands (Warhammer 40,000 Fandex Early Look)

I've said more than once in covering these reviews that many modern codices are often a disgrace. This is usually referring to the supplement codices, but many others show a complete lack of respect for the army or even the source material. 

Codex: Grey Knights was an abomination, Codex: Sisters of Battle seemed to be written by people who wanted nothing to do with them or outright hated the army, and the less said about the last two Codex: Tyranids the better. In terms of rules they were either extremely underwhelming and forced the player to go through an uphill battle to effectively play, or were so simplistic they offered little beyond raw power. 

Others still completely went out of their way to destroy an army's previous identity, such as Clan Raukaan which read more like the carefully planned destruction of the entire Iron Hands' lore. What couldn't be destroyed or retconned was altered to make them unlikable, turning them from the monsters the Imperium needed to guard its gates to hypocrites, hired thugs and ineffective council members being manipulated by a daemon. That brings us to today's topic - Codex: Iron Hands, a fan made creation which does a far better job of honouring the sons of Ferrus than the official material.

The reason this is classed as an early look than a proper review is because this is an unfinished work unfortunately. The Reference page has yet to be completed, the Armory section only consists of three items and many of the units listed thus far are HQ or Elites choices. As such, while there will be some valid criticisms of the book this is more an early look at a fan made work than a true review. That done, let's begin.

The first point which really sets the book head and shoulders above many supplements is that this is treated as an actual codex. There is no visible effort to pad out the pages with entire sections devoted to displaying the models available. There are no multiple sections devoted purely to scenarios no one will use simply wasting space. Best of all, there are not pages upon pages of rules which will only work in Cities of Death or the like. This is devoted purely to the army itself and never makes the mistake of using it as a platform to encourage people to buy more works. Rather than putting in the bare minimum effort when it comes to the army itself, the author (Shadowclaimer) made getting them down right his primary focus.

The very introduction shows this when it quickly gets the basic information out of the way (Iron Fathers rather than Chaplains, their unique structure, etc) and delivers two characterful but easy to remember special rules. The first is that due to their burning hatred, a controlled and focused spark which remained within their logical exteriors, Iron Hands' units have access to the Fearless special trait and cannot refuse challenges. The second is that due to their extremely strong wills and bionics, their units can re-roll Deny the Witch saves.

Both are choices which do still need work, especially the second rule, but you can see the logic behind them and why they are present within the codex. They do at least reflect aspects of the Iron Hands nature and, unlike so much in other works, aren't an excuse to push people to buy a newly created unit. Better yet, these and many other similar sections are not based upon random tables. Since the beginning of this edition there has been this growing obsession with having certain army aspects decided by a roll of a dice, but here it is completely controlled. Better yet, it actually reflects the army's major strengths.

Unlike Clan Raukaan, the document contains an (admittedly in progress) bionics table for upgrades. Unlike many such items and ideas, these are not merely reserved for HQ choices and are instead available to entire units for a certain points cost per model. The upside is that a couple contain good ideas which allow you to tailor make your force to a good degree, with many providing the likes of Fleet, Night Vision or +1 Toughness if taken. 
The downside is that many others can easily become broken. It's hard to fairly judge without points costs listed but others bionics range from allowing +1 Toughness to Feel No Pain, +1 attacks in close combat and allowing models to carry an additional bolter or flamer. None of these are especially balanced and would need some serious points costs to prevent the army steamrolling the opposition. It's certainly good it's here but it's an idea which definitely needs work.

The Psychic Powers meanwhile are a solid bunch and offer the ability to use the Librarian as a walking cannon or to buff allied units. While there are definitely a few viable choices for close range, many psychic powers seem to be designed for long range engagement. Admittedly this is in part because a number are carried over from the Imperial psychic powers chart. The likes of Avenger, Quickening, Might of the Ancients, The Gate of Infinity and Null Zone all make an appearance, greatly bolstering a player's options.

The more interesting and unique ones on this list are Betrayal of Flesh, Deus Ex Ferrum, Machine Curse and Punish The Weak. 

That last one in particular is an especially interesting if risky choice which effectively turns the Librarian in question into a walking daisy cutter. Unleashing a single ranged attack against any foe within "6, it seems to be intended to cull swarms prior to charging into combat. The obvious problem here being that a failure results in the attack also including friendly units. 
Deus Ex Ferrum is a comparatively simple but effective power, giving the Librarian and any attached units Feel No Pain. 
Betrayal of Flesh meanwhile is a Heavy 2 S8 attack which can only be used against non-vehicles. Useful in certain situations and for culling heavy infantry prior to entering battle. Combined with The Gate of Infinity, it seems like something which could turn the Librarian into a very effective sniper.
The final choice, Machine Curse, is unfortunately unclear on how it works. It causes an automatic glance on vehicles within a "24 range, but it does not specify if this is a single attack or something like the Bloodspear. One is not very useful, the other would be a viable choice against certain forces.

If there are two things to seriously criticise here it is these:

The Iron Council seems to only be there to encourage heavy use of HQ choices. While at first it appears to be a traditional Command Squad, it in fact allows you to take three to five of any HQ choice from Apothecaries to Iron Fathers, allowing for more than one. In effect, you can take multiple captains for a single HQ slot. These can then be split off and attached to individual squads, once again turning the army into a mere extension of its leaders.

The other problem is more a personal comment with the Codex featuring many elements of Codex: Clan Raukaan. Rather than completely ignoring that abomination, certain ideas such as Iron Captains, the aforementioned Iron Council and Karden Stronos all show up. 
The good news is that this is far more of an incorporation of certain elements while largely adhering to the traditional depiction of the chapter. Iron Fathers and Clan Commanders are an actual rank, Iron Chaplains are nowhere to be seen and no mention is made of the Codex Astartes. It's just a shame it didn't completely abandon lore seemingly intended only to spite anyone who ever cared about Ferrus Manus' scions.

This is still a project which is very much in a state of working progress, but it's on the right track and i'd honestly take this over almost any official supplement codex. It can be found here for the full version with a few additional concepts which are located in a thread here. Even in the unfortunately likely event that this is not completed or continued, i'd still recommend taking a look at it for inspiration when making a codex of your own.

As a final note to those reading, this was as much an experiment as anything else. I have a few more (completed) fan made codices lined up for true reviews. If you want to see those or have any fan content for Warhammer Fantasy or 40,000 you want to suggest please leave it in the comments. With luck we should be returning with a few more book reviews in the near future, the much delayed lore review of Codex: Militarum Tempestus and something special.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Xenology (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.

For all the emphasis which is placed upon the Emperor’s Angels of Death, it’s hard to deny that one of the things which makes Warhammer 40,000 such a great universe is the nature of its aliens. Many have far more depth behind them than the species found in much more prominent franchises such as wookies, klingons or na’vi and there is always that interesting element of how many have been reworked from a fantasy setting. Above all, this book is an essential when it comes to seeing what really makes them stand out.

Much like the sections examining the nature of the xenomorphs in the Colonial Marines Technical Manual, the book is ultimately pages upon pages of lore written with a framing device of an investigation. Following the death of the radicalist Ralei, fellow Inquisitor Brehm Sasham is sent to examine his findings. His orders are simple: Expose Ralei as a heretic and destroy any items which pose a great threat to the Imperium. Convinced to stay his hand until the last of Ralei’s captive aliens have been dissected and fully cataloged, Sasham soon finds that things may be even worse than the Ordo Xenos suspects…

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Eternal Crusade - Founder's Packs And The Great Devourer

Released in their latest newsletter, the developers behind Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade have given a bit more insight into what is to come. While they've been fairly open about what will follow, and inclusive of any suggestions made by the community, this one gave a few interesting details to readers.

The big point of interest here is the first proper look at the Tyranids. A force of hyper-evolutionary space locusts who served as a major inspiration to Starcraft's Zerg, they will be appearing in the game as an NPC faction. While the Orks, Space Marines, Chaos Worshipers and Craftworld Eldar battle one another, swarms of Hormagaunts and the like will pose a constant threat to each side. It's hoped by many that this will encourage more defensive and garrisoning actions by factions in order to prevent the relentless advances which are so prevalent in the likes of Planetside II

What is most interesting however is what the artwork shows. Every artwork thus far has depicted something which will be present in the game and revealed much about the factions. The presence of Terminators was first solidly confirmed with the Chaos poster which was released and the four sub-factions to each group are only ever truly confirmed once people see art of them. Here we see the Tyranid units which will be involved along with a few unexpected things. 

The cannon fodder Hormagaunts are naturally at the forefront along with a Tyranid Warrior at the back, but right there in the middle is a Hive Tyrant. These monstrosities are the leaders of the Tyranid Swarms, second only to the Swarmlords and Norn Queens. This suggests that major organisms will be a part of the game and opens up a wealth of possibilities about the Tyranid swarms, the least of which is that this could be a full scale invasion. Or perhaps it could even lead to major objectives where factions need to hunt down and kill the beast before the Tyranids become a true threat to them.

What is even more interesting is what is lurking behind the Hive Tyrant. Just visible if blurred thanks to the background is some massive beast which even dwarfs the Tyrant itself, roaring. The letter confirms that this is a Tervigon, a massive beast which spawns Hormagaunts onto the battlefield in swarms as it advances. Its presence alone means that players will be forced to effectively fight advancing spawn points which can move to wherever they are needed. Not something to be taken lightly with a force which specialises in waves of cannon fodder.

However, best of all is this little gem in the letter stating something else may well be in the game:

"Yes, Crusaders- Tyranids make up the bulk, but not all, of the PvE threat in Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. 
You’ll face the Tyranids in three different areas of the game. You and your closest friends will encounter them directly in the shifting, labyrinthine Underworlds, where they make up most (but not all) of our PvE opponents."
Necrons anyone? How about going back a few editions and throwing in some Ambulls then? Or hell, perhaps even some Squa... technologically adept Ratlings.

Moving on from the subject of Tyranids we next have the Founder's Packs at long last. Long hinted at, the letter revealed that the player will have access to all four factions and full access to the game on launch. Atop of all this, here's the full list as given in the newsletter:

  • Identity – Enhance your character’s core identity with unique Founders-only squad emblems, Heroes, and background-related titles, biographies, and cosmetics 
  • Weapon Skins – Unique cosmetics for each race 
  • Armor Skins – Unique cosmetics for each race 
  • Space Ship Decorations – Unique cosmetics to dress up your Squad or Strike Force Cruiser’s interior the way you want 
  • Miscellaneous – Unique execution animations and pets, both utility and non-combat 
  • Vehicles – Unique Founders-only vehicles 
  • Consumables – Extra ammunition, grenades, and other convenience items 
  • Accessories – Unique equipment pieces

Still fairly vague at the moment but it does give some indication of what to expect, with a vast number of cosmetics and lore over anything utterly game-breaking. Though you have to wonder what Chaos Space Marines would keep as pets.

Atop of all this we have been told that over the coming year the developers will be "adding content to each of these categories to increase the value for everyone who purchases a Founder’s Pack." This is also in addition to purchasers gaining access to purchasable modules far in advance of their full release within the game. Not too shabby at all.

The letter can be read in full on here and it gives further information behind the game's development. Citing a number of new additions to the team including level designers who have worked on The Secret World and Rainbow Six Vegas, both of who will be in charge of fortifications.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Returns - Civilization: Beyond Earth

Well, it's about damn time.

For as long running and lauded as the Civilization series has been, one title which has always stood out has been Alpha Centauri. Following on from one potential ending from Civilization II, the game saw a players taking control of landing forces attempting to colonise an alien planet. Hostile to foreign life and with ideologically opposed factions of humans vying for power, it was everything a sci-fi Civ needed to be. More importantly, while it shared many assets and aspects of the original game it was not a mere clone with a new coat of paint. Along with tailor made units, the ultimate victory conditions were entirely different to previous titles and the world was far more hostile than other games.

Now it seems it could be returning under the new name of Civilization: Beyond Earth.

While little has been revealed thus far, what we know does resemble a great deal of the old game. The cinematic trailer depicts humanity having advanced to its technological apex on Earth but is forced to abandon the planet thanks to overpopulation and an event known as the Great Mistake. Similarly many screenshots, such as the one above, feature human forces combating alien wildlife which appears to be linked to the planet somehow. While there are no signs of fungal growth thus far, both are very good signs.

More importantly, comments by a representative of the developer have confirmed that 
"The factions do have named leaders that are representatives of their group." However, unlike the previous game you will have much more control over their overall identity. While it certainly means that the groups involved may not be as strong, it does show they are trying to do more than simply replicate what came before. It's a possible sticking point given the impact certain leaders and their characteristics had, but there's not nearly enough information to damn the game just yet.

Another interesting innovation is the idea that you have far more choice about how you begin. You choose the spacecraft, colonists and cargo you arrive with and unlike past games you are not simply locked into a single world. Instead your craft and colony are one of hundreds if not thousands which have been scattered throughout the galaxy, allowing for more random events. It's likely this exact point which is going to cause a divide among old and new fans as, rather than having the main driving story of the original, the tales within games are going to be driven by a quest system. Something which the developers have claimed will lead to emergent and random storytelling.

The final and perhaps the most important point in terms of gameplay is how the technology tree will work. Rather than the linear system we had before, apparently there will be a "tech web" which will allow you to research in three of its different branches. Each one will coincide with a different win condition but we know little beyond this at the moment. This could either be a comparatively minor change to the game or completely transform how you progress. While innovation is certainly something to be lauded, this could be seen as the developers attempting to fix what isn't broken.

Still, for any concerns here this is definitely good news. The screenshots so far look fantastic and seem to be sticking to the game hex based system as Civ 5. It's definitely going to be something to keep an eye on in the coming future.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Games Workshop Restructures Website - Removes All Codex Erratas

A few short days ago Games Workshop briefly took down their website, replacing it with a newly restructured version of their main page. Along with the unfortunate but unsurprising removal of the Specialist Games section (including all PDF rulebooks, damn it) there is a much more streamlined look to the main page.

Advertising is visibly front and centre, with nearly all space given over to their latest products. Many sections now relate to explaining delivery services, gifts and as a whole it resembles a website store far more than before. While there is an obvious push to convince people to purchase items, on the whole this is a definite improvement. With a much more obvious search bar, each hobby sections have been divided up into less cluttered menus of items. Furthermore, it is much more customer friendly with a better laid out FAQ on the website and purchasing items. The unfortunate thing is that, as ever, while the commercial side has much been improved the hobby side has suffered. In this case the website has completely forgotten to carry over a major necessity to even playing basic armies.

Go search on Games Workshop's website right now for either erratas or FAQs and you will find nothing to do with codices or armybooks. At best you will find a handful of Bretonian units which it will bring up thinking you misspelled "errant" or "fey" and the like. There is not a single errata, correction or hint of a balancing update to be found on any part of the website. As overlooking major necessities go, this is fairly high up there.

For those not in the know, erratas and FAQs are the minor updates and tweaks added following a codex's release. These work to try and balance out certain issues and quickly solve certain problems or misinterpretations of badly worded rules. While this has certainly led to problems of favouritism and game breaking issues in the past (the Plasma Syphon being one of the most infamous items in recent years) they are a major part of keeping the game running. Often released only a few days to a fortnight following a major codex release, they are constantly referred to when it comes to certain items, rules and how to implement them. By not carrying these over, the company has just created a world of problems for many players. Admittedly, this is not a complete surprise given the last true one was released back in September.

While it is certainly possible they could be introduced in the near future, the lack of warning prior to their removal or even a hint of consideration is definitely concerning. Perhaps we will get lucky and they will soon be re-introduced with certain erratas tweaked for balance rather than giving certain armies extra power.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Siege of Castellax (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.

Another book in the long running Space Marine Battles series, Siege of Castellax shifts focus to the traitor legions. Having long since liberated the planet from the Imperium of Man, the Iron Warriors Third Grand Company holds dominion over countless billions of slaves. With the mineral rich planet being continually strip mined for its wealth to supply their forces on Medrengard, they soon find themselves under threat by a massive Ork WAAAGH! With their pride preventing them summoning reinforcements, the Iron Warriors will soon learn if their legendary resolve is enough to withstand this foe... 

Along with the Night Lords and Word Bearers, the Iron Warriors are the most popular Chaos faction used by writers. It's easy to see why as well. With a very different attitude to Chaos, a callous disregard for life and an iron discipline many legions have since lost, they're an interesting force to see written about. The success and popularity of Storm of Iron definitely helped in this regard. Siege of Castellax wears that inspiration on its sleeve, both to its benefit and determent. You can easily see the scope and many aspects of that book reflected here despite the Legio IV serving in a defensive role.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Enemy Front To Receive Limited Edition Treatment

In a bit of news from Namco Bandai, the upcoming Second World War shooter Enemy Front is to receive a limited edition release. As expected this contains a few bonuses you won't find in the traditional release, but for once this seems to consist a little more than just a unique gun.

In their news letter, the publisher stated that the release will consist of the following:

  • The M1 Garand and Webley Pistol, specified to be weapons new to the Limited Edition version of the game.
  • The full soundtrack of the game.
  • A full standalone mission titles the Raid on St. Nazaire.
  • And exclusive DLC.

The letter unfortunately does not specify certain details such as the size and length of Raid on St. Nazaire; nor how weapons such as the M1 Garand will compare with the rest of the game's arsenal. Given that these are fairly standard weapons however, notably being equipment most Medal of Honour games start you with, it's unlikely anything truly game-breaking. 

Enemy Front Limited Edition will be available for $49.99 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on June 10, 2014.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Tabletop Wargming: Where To Buy, Who To Avoid

It goes without saying that playing any Games Workshop hobby tends to be an expensive addiction. Prices seem to rise every year, sometimes leaping up 50% or even outright doubling at any time, and it remains one of the few games to still charge players for buying rules. Quite often i've heard long time players argue that new people shouldn't join due to the continual betrayals by certain authors, and because it costs so much to even start up a basic army.

Rather than add to this naysaying just for once, this is going to be a quick look at the better outlets which could serve you well in getting into the hobby. Those who price Warhammer miniatures at a more reasonable cost; or even still support those games the company has shoved into the gutter then shot twice in the head. This is also going to list one or two to avoid in your browsing, who have proven to be unreliable or suffer from horrible customer service. That done, let's begin.

Element Games

Often seen as a go-to option by many players, Element Games is one of the retailers who have built up a good reputation with customers over the years. Along with frequently promoting their discount prices for various miniatures, often 15-25% off, they are known to have a reliable customer service. This also extends to various Black Library products, with multiple novels, audio dramas and even prior editions of White Dwarf available for a discount price.

Furthermore, they feature a wide selection of tabletop franchises beyond Games Workshop such as X-Wing, Warmachine and Infinity. Even if you're not too interested in starting these games properly, many do offer great custom additions to forces. Deep Wars alone offers plenty of fantastic miniatures which could be customised for Dark Eldar, Chaos or Mechanicum themed armies.

The downsides come from two things. The foremost among these is due to one of those embargos which Games Workshop just loves to use against "freeloaders" selling their stuff. While nearly all their products are sold worldwide, anything relating to Warhammer can only be shipped to countries in Europe. If you're in Australia or the USA, you're unfortunately out of luck.
The other problem is that many products often seem to be in very limited supply. While things like the Lord of Skulls have a full fifteen quid knocked off their price, there are only two in stock. This is common for many things within their range, and quite a few are listed as out of stock. 

While the retailer definitely has its shortcomings, it's still one of the best on this list. One well worth a look if you're at all interested in getting into tabletop wargaming.

Firestorm Games

In many respects Firestorm Games is quite similar to the above retailer. They have the same handicap of Games Workshop's embargo problems and also give discounts on many of their products. The difference here is that, along with providing for a number of titles Elemental Games overlooks, they have a better international service. While Elemental Games does offer free shipping within the UK for anything over sixty pounds, Firestorm offers the same anywhere in the world for anything over thirty. It's definitely the better deal for buying models in bulk and caters far better to wargamers overseas. Comments from customers and other gamers within the hobby have also suggested that shipping from Firestrorm is a great deal faster.

The problem is that despite this advantage, it's offset by slightly higher prices. Discounts are definitely less across the board, with many sets only removing one or two pounds from the usual costs. However, they are also more open to sales with considerable discounts. At the time of writing, the website is currently undergoing a clearance sale of certain items. Some prices have been reduced to as half as much they previously were before.

While it might seem like a weaker option in comparison to others on here, Firestorm Games is still a very viable source for models. One which many wargamers should make a point of not overlooking.


This was one I was definitely on the fence about adding for a few reasons. While Yoymart definitely undercut the obscene prices of Games Workshop's products, they also don't sell the official versions. Yoymart is effectively the Chinese substitute to Games Workshop's official products, casting figures in a different form of resin and often finding ways to cut corners with them. Flash and mold lines are just as bad with them as they were with early Finecast, though sans warping and bubbles thankfully. A good analysis of the products here have been made on another blog along with a few images of what to expect.

The thing is though, it's hard to overlook the idea that this is theft. Price gouging as Games Workshop might be, it's one thing for a company to produce very similar substitutes while retaining certain aesthetics and another entirely for this sort of knockoff casting. This very nearly prevented me listing it, until it was revealed what else they were offering.

While I am entirely against someone making money by selling their own castings of official models still supplied by Games Workshops, there are others. It doesn't take much searching to find a large selection of miniatures which Games Workshop stopped supplying or culled entirely being sold on the website. Several Battlefleet Gothic miniatures can easily be found, as can Battle-Brother Artemis from the discontinued Inquisitor line. Better yet, the company individually sells the various custom Terminators from the last edition of Space Hulk and features a number of Gamesday exclusive miniatures which have not been remade since.

If you are after miniatures Games Workshop no longer makes or games it has gone out of its way to kill off, Yoymart may have what you want.


Yes, now we get to the obvious one. This tends to be the first port of call to any who are after Warhammer related stuff at a price which will not cost you an arm and a leg. While most people will look for figures or squads sold by people departing the hobby, there are plenty  of independent retailers who sell through the website. Grim Goblin for example offers a tasty assortment of Cataphractii Terminators, Contemptor Dreadnoughts, Ork models and unique customisable add-ons. While it takes a bit of searching, there are more than enough retailers on eBay not to immediately put down the website to second hand models.

That said, you shouldn't completely avoid individuals selling such models either. Just because a Warbuggy looks like a misshapen blob thanks to over-layering doesn't mean you should immediately discount it. With some stripping and repainting, the chances are it can be made to look like a great centerpiece at a small fraction of the cost of buying one new. Plus, unlike Games Workshop, there are more opportunities to purchase individual bits for units and customisation. World Eater chainaxes, legionary bionic legs and the like can be found quite easily, meaning you won't be stuck buying a whole unit just for one pistol.

Again, it's an obvious choice for cheaper purchases, but it's still well worth a look.

Now, while all these are good options there is one which needs to be warned against. I am going by word of mouth with this but I have heard nothing but bad things when it comes to this company and its services.

Total Wargamer

With a near universally negative reputation, Total Wargamer is the sort of independent retailer which makes Games Workshop look good. Despite their problems, at least with them you generally receive your models on a timely basis. With these guys, delivery and timing is extremely slow at best and communication with the customer is next to non-existent. Stories range from buyers receiving their models after a little over five weeks after ordering to not at all. This is despite the website displaying an expected ten to fifteen day delivery for each item. 

While they do offer a bigger discount than others on here, it doesn't matter if you're not even sure if you'll receive the item.

So those are a few recommendations and one retailer to avoid. There are certainly many more which could be added to this list, but these are the primary choices for the moment. Chances are that, should this get enough attention, there will be another article like this again sometime in the future.

Until then, I hope this list helps anyone attempting to build an army on a budget.