Monday, 29 June 2015

Ruins (Book Review)

Benefitting considerably from the set-up and establishment of Sentinel, the story of Ruins is one which is freed from its baggage. With less time required to truly explain what is at stake or the rules of the universe, there is far more focus placed upon the story and characters. As such, the story takes strides in fully fleshing out and detailing its characters while retaining a strong central narrative.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Dark Angels Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review, 7th Edition)

Of all the revamps and resigns of the past two editions, the Dark Angels are probably the chapter who have benefited the most from updates. Whereas the Ultramarines, Grey Knights, Iron Hands, Blood Angels, Space Wolves and Imperial Fists have had reactions range from embarrassed chuckles to unstoppable rage, the Dark Angels have remained exceedingly strong. This tends to stem from the fact that, while large chunks of their lore and ideas were altered and expanded upon, they kept to the spirit of the thing. Better yet, rather than being boiled down to one or two defining traits (something which hit the Blood Angels especially hard) while they are insanely focused upon one goal above all else, they never feel one note. This thankfully remains strong here.

For those not in the know, the Dark Angels are one of the First Founding chapters of the Imperium. Serving as a vanguard force, they fight the Emperor's foes on every front, secretive and grim in their perpetual crusades. However, they harbour a dark secret. In the final days of the Horus Heresy, a sizable number of their brothers joined Horus in his rebellion, firing upon primarch Lion El'Jonson's fleet as he returned to their home of Caliban. The war which followed destroyed Caliban almost entirely save for its massive fortress and left El'Jonson in a coma he has yet to awaken from. With the traitors dragged to safety thanks to the machinations of the Chaos Gods, many escaped justice. To keep their shame secret, and to ensure their honour is restored, the chapter hunts for their Fallen kind. Many even go so far as to turn their guns upon the Imperium's defenders to achieve their final victory in this old war...

Much of the lore is, as you'd expect it sadly, largely unchanged from the past book. There's not too much in the way of major expansions here or even minor additions to past ideas which really capitalize upon past tales. Due to the book's current structure and massive emphasis upon artwork, there just isn't the space. This said, unlike Codex: Imperial Knights, the book doesn't loose too much by comparison thanks to this. There's less of a massive sense of wasted potential or expansive lore cut down until it's a mere stub of a work, and there's still a few poignant bits. Nothing too impressive like vast stories of battles or even detailed descriptions of ongoing campaigns, but just enough to help the chapter feel a little more fleshed out.

Perhaps best of all is that the minor moments which are added are in the right place. These are very short paragraphs we have mentioned before, often accompanying units and specific ranks like Chaplains, Techmarines or Land Raiders. In the past these have often been many brief stories or tales, or given some idea about some unique rank within one warband or other force, such as with the Daemonkin. Here though, what we find consists of more of character building ideas to help give a much more open and deeper idea of how the chapter works. 

Many sections are more those which are about the individuals who drive the vehicles or the sorts of personal impact the chapter's drive has had on them. For example, Interrogator Chaplains feature mention of the black pearls, rewards to signify their victories in breaking a member of the fallen and forcing him to confess. This is a more obvious one, but then you have the really interesting ones. Take the Dark Angels version of the Master of the Forge. Due to their ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus rather than solely to the chapter, they are the one part of their topmost command structure not inducted into the Inner Circle. However, they still maintain a very key role within the Dark Angels: maintaining and piloting The Rock itself. Each is cybernetically bound to the gigantic Fortress Monestary as a Princeps is to a Titan, They are responsible for its every act for war and keeping track of the vast repositories of relics locked within its half-forgotten labyrinthine maze. When they die, their body is left in place until it rots away, leaving rows of skeletons at the fortress' cogitators.

Each section is just enough to give you an idea of how things work and of the chapter's traditions, but still has plenty of moments to leave you wanting to know more. It's really the best kind of lore, with detail here and there but also enough to build upon ideas and invest upon them. Well, that and stories. No, seriously, read this and just tell me with a straight face you don't want to see this turned into a part of a novel: "Brother Azaziel, who single-handedly defended the skies above Neuvenport in his Nephilim Jetfighter for six hours against successive waves of Necron Doom Scythes."

Many of the pages are devoted to units, which are once again repeated later on. However, while some do only offer the repetition of the same sorts of information you would expect, others help back this up with some ideas which really give a sense of weight to their reputation. Not to mention the impact the chapter's dark secret has upon their kind. This is best seen with the chapter's Venerable Dreadnoughts and members of the Deathwing. 
You are given an impression of just how monumentally strenuous the process of selecting each marine is, as much for their loyalty as their skill, and it's driven with far more impact than many books manage to convey. Many authors seem to keep forgetting that the astartes are an army whose neophytes would be on par with Conan the Barbarian. In this case however it's really hit home just how driven they have to be in order to ascend to any rank, emphasising just how truly elite the group is over all else. 

With the Dreadnoughts it's pointed out just how valuable such ancient knowledge is to a chapter hunting for the Fallen, knowing their tactics, methods and telltale signs of their involvement. More than just this however, the article on them also cites the point that not all of those interred in Dreadnoughts might know of the chapter's true mission. Some only learn it following being entombed, resulting in a level of rage and betrayal which drives them far further than many others of their kind. Atop of all of this, there are a unique few among them who guard the innermost core of The Rock. These are known as the Wardens in White, the two eldest Venerable Dreadnoughts of the Deathwing and gatekeepers who serve as the Dark Angels' final line of defence. Rarely do they leave from this post, and even when they do one always remains to hold their station.

The sad thing is that while such bits do help to give the codex far more substance than many other books, it's a bitter realisation. What we get is still extremely limited and it shows just what the codex could have been if words, descriptions and events had been valued over artwork and vast amounts of padding. This is evident from the very start, when the entire history of the chapter is cut down to about half a page's worth of content, skipping anything and everything involving the Horus Heresy. The codex gives an exceedingly brief, if well written, outline of Luther's betrayal before it moves on.

The timeline is just as bad when it comes to offering little to nothing. For the four pages it stretches across, over three pages focus upon M41. The rest, covering the other nine thousand years, is barely enough to make up a single paragraph. The sheer brief nature of so many of these points reaches utterly ludicrous levels, where one supposedly major encounter is covered only by the following: 

Several squads of Deathwing board the space hulk Wyrmwood. None are ever seen again, and records of the action are erased."

Even prior points such as the infamous disappearance of a Black Templars strike cruiser are watered down, limited to the point of just mentioning the fact they came to blows. It's reading these parts which really makes you realise just how much these books are lacking anything of truly massive substance, or to actually offer the same kinds of stories which kept these armies going. For better or worse, for generating actual discussion within fandoms and long term attention, those lengthier stories were critical for establishing continued interest from fans. Without that, all people are left with is mechanics, and that simply isn't enough to maintain the interest of fans.

The final point to really remark upon is the artwork, which is the usual mix of things. There's a vast amount of recycled artwork, taken from prior books, sources and releases. Many have been coloured in, an addition which does little to improve their quality sadly. Others however, are truly spectacular additions, especially those focusing upon vehicles and the mailed fist of the Deathwing. It's definitely a mixed bag, and the sheer volume of recycled artwork is eyerolling, but it's certainly not without a few solid bits of high quality work.

Overall, Codex: Dark Angels is one of those books which is definitely one of the better releases of late. It's very much akin to Codex: Khorne Daemonkin, a worthy release with some great elements and ideas to it. There's certainly more than enough there to keep the attention of certain people, but its lore is more a nice bonus than a key reason to buy it sadly, as there's just not enough truly new material to keep it going on this strength alone. Certainly don't write it off, but don't go out and buy it purely for love of the setting.

So, next time we finally finish Codex: Space Marines, the world's single most dense armybook, and move onto Codex: Dark Angels' rules. Expect formations. Formations, formations and a lot more formations in the analysis here.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Post-End Times Warhammer Fantasy Images Leaked

Since the announcement of the Age of Sigmar, details have been leaked. While points here and there have suggested a world closer to Forgotten Realms than anything else, and the involvement of Andy Lanning in its creation, these have as of yet been unsubstantiated. Ideas and rumours have run wild for some time now, making it hard to know what retains substance and what has been faked. That said, if this is a fake it's a pretty damn convincing one.

Leaked via a few early issues of White Dwarf (isn't that always the way?) the images so far depict two armies involved. One a group of shining angelic figures in golden armour (who look as if they've practically been made for Blood Angels players to customise) and the other a rabble of Chaotic figures resembling your common or garden horde. Along with the former being identified as allied entirely with Sigmar or representing him in some way, the latter are quite clearly Chaos aligned, bearing both the traditional motifs and bearing a rather noticeable icon with the Blood God's symbol.

The view has been met with decidedly mixed results, as has almost anything involving Warhammer Fantasy following the End Times. On the one hand, no one is questioning the quality of these models, which are truly superb with some astounding designs to them. The mentions of new ideas an a very different world indeed are curious and have even opened up those jaded towards the idea of at least giving this new setting a chance, despite deriding what was done to get here. 
On the other however, others have criticised this for trying to rub off Warhammer 40,000's success onto Fantasy, and trying to spark interest by removing what separates the two. This was, again, already a big criticism during End Times both in terms of theme and visual aesthetic. The golden horde is decidedly Space Marine-eqsue with the pauldrons and massive greaves you'd expect, and Chaos's champions resemble Khorne Berserkers more than ever before. Atop of this, seemingly all use of regiments and formations are gone, as seen with the prominence of round bases and the lack of unit trays of any kind. Many are worried that what we will see will not reflect the tactical edge or greater emphasis upon strategy Fantasy was famous for.

As with many things it's too early to tell, but the other interesting point is what the brief extracts mention. The "Mortal Realms" are mentioned, but we also have mention of some War of Vengeance (apparently not the Elf-Dwarf one) with Sigmar's forces on the offensive. Rather than holding out against Chaos, it's now the other way around, with certain forces attempting to break Chaos' hold on the lands. Something known as the "Realmgates" have been mentioned, suggesting that rumours of many dimensions have proven to be correct, and the article specifically mentions that this is a "first chapter". This perhaps means we might see Games Workshop taking more of a stab at an ongoing narrative akin to that of Battletech or Legend of the Five Rings.

Whatever's the case, we now have some idea of what is to follow, and what direction Warhammer Fantasy will take in the future.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Skyrim Library Vol. 1: The Histories (Book Review)

Few can build a world quite as immersive and detailed as Bethesda. From their contributions to the Fallout series to the many Elder Scrolls instalments, there is a constant sense of wonder and creativity. However, while they might be truly beautiful, often criticisms surrounding the games list them as being shallow, lacking dimension or immersive lore to keep the world interesting. This first volume of The Skyrim Library proves just how wrong that assertion truly is.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Sentinel (Book Review)

As is often the case in many novels, Sentinel’s strengths stem more from the author’s ability to spin new ideas than the tropes themselves. Dead parents, a young man finding out the world is different than he imagined, ancient dark forces gathering against secret defenders – we’ve all seen these before. However, Sentinel finds a way to still spin out these ideas but keep certain points fresh.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Space Marines Part 2 - The Rules, Formations and Tactics (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review, 7th Edition)

With a sadly lackluster execution despite some good elements, Codex: Space Marines' lore is unremarkable. By comparison, how do the rules hold up? Not too badly actually, and it even manages to put a decent spin on ideas which I tend to personally hate.

Many ideas here are more a refinement and reexamination of the prior codex's rules. Rather than changing things entirely as we saw in the jumps from Fourth Edition to Fifth and Sixth, most of what made Sixth work in terms of mechanics is still here. That said, a bigger emphasis has been placed upon how certain dominating rules and traits influence entire armies. The most obvious of these are the Chapter Tactics, the governing rules which alter the overall play-style of a force. Rather than being a return to the good (if definitely flawed) pick-and-choose tactics of the Fourth Edition, these are a definitive set intended to cover the most famous forces.

On the one hand this Edition's approach to Tactics does detract from the idea of allowing a player to build their own force. It doesn't account too much for personal impact or even allowing people to put more of a personal spin on things, instead just replicating the best known attributes of their progenitor. On the other hand though, it's a more ambitious and game-changing set of rules, which allow each of them to stand out on a more individual basis. Atop of this, it means the rules aren't so insanely reliant upon characters to build armies as prior releases have been. This alone is enough to give it a thumbs up, even with a few flaws.

The actual system for these traits is a little wonky, differing in terms of impact from one to the next. These range from basic universal changes (certain units getting Stubborn etc) to widespread abilities which have to be triggered and activated in turn. The latter being the Ultramarines for the most part. Just to keep this simple, here are the Tactics one after another:

Black Templars - While sadly lacking a lot of their benefits from having an independent codex, there are a few good points here. Along with not being able to field Librarians (though perhaps not for the reason many would want) all models have Adamantium Will and Crusader as special rules. Along with this, Templar units which take casualties during Shooting or Overwatch phases of all kinds immediately gain Counter-Attack and Rage until that turn's end. In other works, you draw their blood and they run down anything nearby.

Iron Hands - Bizarrely - despite the downright hateful lore- the Iron Hands come across rather well here. All non vehicles gain 6+ Feel No Pain, from Tactical Squads to Devastators. Those who already have Feel No Pain immediately benefit by having +1 to all rolls, meaning Command Squads in particular can be durable beyond belief. Oh, and as if they needed to be a bit more unavailable, all vehicles have It Will Not Die and Techmarines gan +1 to their Blessing of the Omnissiah rolls. Not too shabby, could be more ambitious but a decent basis for a better Supplement should Games Workshop try it in the future.

White Scars - All White Scars models have Hit & Run as a special rule, and units composed entirely of their forces can re-roll dice when Running. Furthermore, all White Scars with bikes have a Skilled Rider special rule and add +1 to Hammer of Wrath hits. Nothing too remarkable here, but it's still good overall. That said, I have to worry about those who ignore the chapter's prior disdain for Dreadnoughts.

Raven Guard - All infantry units not beginning the game in a transport gain the Shrouded special rule until the second turn. They can also influence the Night Fighting special rule with +1. Atop of this, Raven Guard units with Jump Packs can use them both in Movement and Assault phases on the same turn. In addition to all of this, Hammer and Wrath attacks allow units to re-roll failed wounds.
This is very simple but reflect's the army's stealth and single strike fluff extremely well. It certainly takes intelligence to use well, but with a large force of Scouts backed by Vanguard units and rapid transports, it could be extremely competitive.

Imperial Fists - The Bolter Drill makes a welcome return, ensuring the Fists have a major advantage at range. All bolt based weapons can re-roll hits should a dice land on 1, from vehicles to infantry. This even includes those firing Hellfire, Kraken, Vengeance and Dragonfire rounds, meaning Sternguard are particularly lethal with this chapter. Siege Masters meanwhile means units can re-roll failed hits on buildings, and add +1 to any Building Damage tables. All Devastator and Centurion Devastator units then gain Tank Hunters. Admittedly as flawed and underrepresented as it was at the time of Sentinels of Terra, but it's still a decent basis for something better.

Salamanders - Along with the ability to re-roll Wounds and armour penetration rolls with flamer based weapons, all units have a 4+ Feel No Pain roll against flamer weapons. Perhaps the more beneficial opinion is their ability for each Salamanders character to upgrade a weapon to be Master Crafted. This means any weapon, even those which require it as a purchased upgrade.

Ultramarines - An Ultramarines force can use the Tactical, Assault or Devastator Combat Doctrines each once per game. They also have access to the Tyrannic War Veterans, a force unique to them.

That last one in particular is worth mentioning firstly due to what Doctrines actually are, and secondly to how they've changed since the past edition. Each Doctrine is effectively a specialised attack mode which favours certain units over others, giving them a major edge at exactly the right time and requiring the player to know when to set them off. You can probably guess which one favours which, and most do come down to a series of re-rolls.
So, Tactical offers (unsurprisingly) Tactical Squads re-rolls to hit in shooting and assaulting units. 
Devastator offers Devastators and giant armoured toddlers Centurions equipped with long ranged weapons the ability to re-roll shooting at units.
Assault meanwhile offers Assault Squads and Assault Centurions the ability to re-roll hits in combat.
An additional bonus to each of these is that Characters attached to a unit at the time their Doctrine is activated gain re-rolls to hit on everything.

The big bonus to this now is that such Doctrines aren't simply limited to the Ultramarines. Instead, all chapters can access this via the Gladius Strike Force detachment, offering them the ability to take one of these and use it in one turn. However, this effect can actually stack, meaning that if you have multiple Gladius detachments, you can engage the same Doctrine multiple times. While this might sound like the Ultramarines are getting the short end of the stick, it actually gives them a massive advantage, as they can use these far more than anyone else. Let's say that there was a Gladius detachment of Ultramarines being led by Calgar. This would mean that they could set off a Doctrine of the player's choice three times in a row (once thanks to the detachment, another thanks to their chapter Tactics, and again thanks to Calgar's own ability.)

Personally, this is an exceedingly well balanced system. It doesn't go too far into being overpowered, requires a good deal of knowledge in order to give it impact, and uses characters, armies and elements all as cogs in a larger machine. It also offers something of a more coherent structure to the army after Games Workshop decided to do away with all Force Organisation Charts, and gives the army a series of sections which can slot into one another. For example, the Gladius Strike Force itself is a basic detachment consisting of one or two core choices then several auxiliary ones. On the one hand this does mean that the codex is based primarily around Formations, but on the other it also means that there's a more flexible sense to it. Plus it helps that some of these core choices are built around the basics of the old FoC chart.

The core choices consist of Battle Demi-Companies. These consist of a single required HQ choice along with three Tactical squads, a Bike/Assault/Attack Bike/Land Speeder/Centurion Assault Squad and a Devastator or Centurion Squad. From here you can choose to add on a few bonus elements while still remaining within the Formation's rules, namely a Command Squad and a Dreadnought of some kind. The others built atop of this are those which follow more specialized Formations, such as multiple units of Terminators, trios of Land Raiders and the like. As a result of this, it proves to be oddly lore accurate on the part of the space marines. It represents Codex chapters as being a combination of various company elements built into a single army, and means non-codex forces can still be depicted as highly specialist or different. Admittedly that last point isn't helped by "Codex Astartes" being a special rule for forces consisting of multiple Gladius units. Okay, it just comes down to the use of Combat Doctrines mentioned before, but it's still a point of irritation.

The obvious issues with the use of so many formations are twofold. The first is that the company's track record for making balanced Formations is questionable at best. There's been plenty of easily abused special rules in the past, and that same problem does appear here with at least a few of them. The second is that, to be blunt, this is encouraging massive games once again. If you want to stick to an army with any kind of structure or force now, according to this you're going to need something larger than the average Battleforce. To make matters worse, players who might want to go for a relatively small-scale game are now going to be extremely hamstrung. Either they're going to be stuck just with a Battle Demi-Company, or they lose out on one of their faction's biggest advantages of late.

Still, given how massive a part of the book they are now, it's best to go through each Formation one by one.

The actual rules behind the Battle Demi-Company are, as mentioned before, fairly reasonable. You're given Tactical Doctrines, but also one ability which gives them a very curious edge. Any unit from this formation can now hold objective markers even if another enemy unit is contesting it. On the one hand it does encourage more structured and tactical play, giving them an edge against Unbound Armies, but it also gives them an even bigger edge against structured forces. This isn't supremely overpowered, but it starts to become problematic once you see how this Formation can be built up. If you bring two of these Formations to a game with a Gladius Strike Force, they then count as a full Battle Company. What happens there? Rhinos, Razorbacks and Drop Pods can all be taken for each unit. For free. Sure, you need to buy the upgrades and all, but given that can give an army an additional ten twin-linked lascannons this seems a little ill thought out for bigger games.

Moving into the more specialised forces we have the Anti-Air Defence Force. Not exactly an awe inspiring name, and as you might guess it's made of Hunters and Stalkers. This said, the formation retains a good benefit when it comes to bringing down big monsters. If a Hunter hits it, all Stalkers suddenly gain +1 BS. I'd say this was overpowered, but it's specifically cited to help bring down Monstrous Creatures with wings as much as fliers.

The next one beyond that is the 1st Company Task Force. No, that's actually how it's spelled in the book. As you might guess from that as well, Terminator, Sternguard and Vanguard galore is what makes up this one, with three to five units making up the Formation. Along with causing Fear, all models in this are Fearless, making them a good crowd control group as well as a solid roadblock for something big and very killy. This seems to have been specifically made with this in mind, as they can be given Preferred Enemy to one specific type of unit in the enemy army, allowing them a major edge against certain forces. Not to bad at all, though their next rule is fairly useless: Subtract 2 from the Leadership of enemy units within "12 of three units from this Formation. A little useful if you're throwing them in as a spear-tip, but not much else.

Strike Force Ultra (yes, that's what it's called, and the lore mentions Codex Astartes multiple times. How did you guess?) is the 1st Company Task Force's bigger brother. Requiring a Terminator armoured captain, four units of Terminators/Assault Terminators, a Venerable Dreadnought, a Stormraven Gunship and a Land Raider Crusader, it's definitely a sledgehammer. This is all the more evident in the rules where the Formation is kept in Reserve at the game's beginning, but then summoned at the start of the player's first turn. It doesn't allow for them all to show up at once, just a bit earlier than usual though. Furthermore, upon arrival all ranged weapons from this Formation have one additional shot each, but only the Terminators. This seems oddly useless for what it is, and without much overall benefit to the army. Especially as it can only be used once per unit. This is slightly more beneficial with the Assault Terminators allowing at least for them to hit harder when charging into combat, and cutting down anything in sight. Plenty of Hammer of Wrath to be sure, but it's hard to estimate if this is worthwhile given the costs with this one.

Also, someone decided that Lysander should be a viable choice to be taken over the Captain. In a Formation called "Ultra". Methinks someone was feeling a little vindictive when this was written.

Next up is one of the HQ Formations, the Reclusiam Command Squad. Now much to say here, it's just a Command Squad with a Chaplain. Beyond the bonus of giving them Crusader, it's more useful as a brief bonus for armies with an emphasis upon close combat. While only range "6, the Chaplain allows for re-rolls to hit, but only on the first round. For what it is, the choice here just seems oddly limiting really, as this would be best used keeping him in the second wave, but it would require bunching all your forces together to have it hit more than one squad. Really, it could have just been done with a little more thought, and even the potential upgrade to Cassius isn't really worth it. Admittedly, the restriction isn't much to comment on given they're just required to take a Razorback.

By comparison the 10th Company Task Force is far more interesting a choice, with three to give units of Scouts or Scout Bike Squadrons. Also Telion if you want. No, no idea why these formations are insisting upon taking certain Special Characters. The further restriction of requiring all squadrons to carry cluster mines is another odd one, given neither of the rules reflect upon it. For all that bad though, there are some good elements here. The first among these is that this is treated like a stealthy attack force in the best sense. 
Firstly, all units are given Precision Shots in the first turn, favouring Sniper teams and heavy weapons that might have been moved in ahead, allowing them to inflict a solid opening blow. Then, atop of this, you have the option for all units without Stealth (AKA the bikes) to count as Concealed until they move from their position or charge. The fact they're not blocked from shooting is especially helpful, and it really seems like a Formation intended to infiltrate en mass, hit hard at range, draw in the enemy, then move in for the kill. Definitely one which needs to be used carefully, but it will work well as an advanced force for a main army.

Storm Wing is something somewhat similar to the 10th Company Force in its overall nature, just with airborne units dropping in rather than infiltrating. Consisting of one Stormraven and two Stormtalons, all of which are called in from reserve as a single unit. Beyond this, the main benefit is offering the Stormraven a Strafing Run ability so long as one Stormtalon is still alive. It's really more of a ground attack formation despite the name, but it could potentially be useful in the right hands with the right timing. Really though, it has just been transplanted from an older edition without anything added or altered.

The Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort really speaks for itself. It's just two to four Centurion Assault Squads and a Ironclad Dreadnought bundled together. With a first special rule which is largely useless for Imperial Fists players, re-rolls against buildings to penetrate or glance, it's useful for some chapters but limited given its focus and the sizable number of points it drinks up. The more interesting one is how each unit affects anything hiding in vehicles or buildings it destroys. Try to hide inside something blown up by one of these things, and they're automatically hit full in the face by 2D6  Strength 6 AP4 attacks, all of which Ignore Cover. Overall, given its limited range and focus upon close combat weapons, the Formation seems more beneficial for making your opponent reconsider taking fortifications.

The Librarius Conclave meanwhile is three to five Librarians banded together. This benefits their abilities considerably as it allows you to select a Librarian at the start of a Psychic Phase and then use them as a psychic Fireprism. All others within "12 of him can't use their powers, but the one shooting mindbullets has access to all their powers for that turn. Oh, and he also gains a considerable power boost. Warp Charges? They're harnessed on a 3+, or a 2+ if there's at least two Librarians close by. Pair these guys off, and you're effectively walking about with a pair of mini-Ahrimans blowing holes in the enemy army. Given the risks involved and potential problems of keeping these guys open on their own, it's definitely a high risk choice but one which quite frankly seems too damn fun not to try. Honestly, if you've ever wanted to try a Blood Ravens army, now is the time.

The remaining three Formations are all vehicle focused, specifically concentrating upon long range firepower, massed armoured assault and Land Raiders. Some of these are a little more ridiculous than others.

Of the final few, Land Raider Spearhead is the truly eye-rollingly overpowered one. Effectively, put together a trio of any three Land Raiders. Keep them within "6 of one another, and the damn things ignore all results on the Vehicle Damage Table short of exploding. Atop of this, they're capable of killing damn near anything, with re-rolls to wound or penetrate armour against super-heavies, gargantuan creatures, and buildings with the Mighty Bulkwark rule. Guess someone thought these things needed to compete against the Eldar Knight. Really though, this thing is obscene, and turns an already powerful bullet magnet into a downright unstoppable behemoth of tracked death.

Armoured Task Force is one of the more toned down ones. Consisting of, well, almost every other vehicle in the list, requiring between three to five Predators/Vindicators/Whirlwinds, one Techmarine and the option for three Thunderfire Cannons. Oh and Chronus. Because special characters. It's mostly useful as a fire base, as their big special rule is ignoring Crew Shaken and Crew Stunned when nearby the main Techmarine or those manning the Thunderfire Cannons. Useful to be sure, even if "6 seems an incredibly short range for this effect. Admittedly this is offset by the Techmarine being close enough to use his own beneficial ability, having +1 on Blessings of the Omnissiah rolls, giving tanks a little more durability. Not bad, but its effectiveness really depends very heavily upon the game board and the type of enemy you're facing, and it could easily go very wrong.

The final one then, at long bloody last, is the Suppression Force. There really isn't much to say about this one either though, as it's just a unit of Whirlwind tanks (to a minimum of 2) and a Land Speeder. As you might guess, the idea behind this one is for the Land Speeder to serve as a kind of spotter plane, picking out units within "18 of it and giving the Whirlwinds re-rolls to hit. Good to be sure, but the real advantage here is that it offers them infinite range, as such it seems like a great Formation to use against blob and primarily footslogging armies. This said, the Land Speeder's limitation of being unable to use Flat Out on the turn it engages this does mean there's plenty of chances to shoot it down before it gets in range.

So, those are all the Formations. These really seem to be intended to replace individual units as a kind of FoC and it's done to a far better degree here than in other lists. The likes of Codex: Khorne Daemonkin attempted the same, but there seem to have been a few far better ideas which have gelled extraordinarily well here. Many parts seem to work far better as individual bits than a full army, and while still very rough around the edges you can see how there might be a beneficial idea behind this continued focus. It still has problems, but for the most part, given this codex is remarkably balanced and varied in its units, proving that the concept really just needs to work out a lot of kinks. Well, that and not be used to give armies insta-kill abilities or just writing whole lists for players.

If there is one thing to seriously criticise here, it's that so much of this is just carried over in terms of basic concepts when it comes to the Chapter Tactics. Some have been given more of a pass here, like the Iron Hands and Imperial Fists, which were cited as failings in their supplements. However, that's only because it's minimal enough here to be excused thanks to the broad focus. Given the page count and even with the expanded details, it would have been good to see just a little more done here to focus on each one. Perhaps Stormseers, Ironfathers or the like being brought up as alternatives to certain units at least. Still, at least they got a few things right.

As you might have guessed given all that's been covered here, we're far from done yet. Given the extraordinarily dense nature of the codex, there's still yet more to cover in terms of weapons, equipment, warlord traits and even a few basic changes to the units. Join us here for the rest of the codex and to finally finish off the book once and for all.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Warhammer 40,000 Eternal Crusade - 5th Space Marine Chapter & Leader Revealed

As Eternal Crusade trundles on with new updates and developments, fans of space marines have been treated with quite a surprise. The first of these is the identity of the overall leader of their faction and the warrior guiding them in battle. Given the revelation that Abaddon the Despoiler was unveiled as the warlord uniting Chaos, many suspected that Chapter Master Calgar or Chief Librarian Mephiston would be leading the loyalists. Guessing intensified after the revelation that the leader would not be a Chapter Master, Captain or Chaplain, nor even a Dreadnought. Earlier today this was confirmed as Belial, Grand Master of the Deathwing will be leading the astartes to war.

The use of Belial does coincide with the increased focus the chapter has been receiving of late, often replacing the Ultramarines as poster boys. It is nevertheless and interesting choice, given both his nature as a leader and the presence of the Fallen on the world. How this might lead to conflict with other chapters remains to be seen, or if there will be narrative threads attached to this in any way.

However, even more surprising were the choices for the fifth sub-faction for the astartes. With Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Ultramarines and Blood Angels already confirmed, and Black Templars ruled out, people were unsure as to what would follow. Many had hoped for the Imperial Fists, who have indeed been added to the running, but also the Raven Guard and Iron Hands. With many members of the community hedging bets on the likes of the Salamanders, this is an especially surprising turn. It certainly shows a willingness on the part of the dev team to select the less obvious choices. Quite how this will impact the game mechanically remains to be seen, but with siege masters, stealth experts and armoured assault cyborgs in this final contest, whoever wins is certain to fill a specialty which the astartes currently lack.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for an ungodly amount of badly made propaganda.

Friday, 19 June 2015

John Carter (Film Review)

Of all the world's most hated films, this is easily one of the most perplexing. Upon its release, John Carter was lambasted left, right and centre with it appearing on many "worst films of the year" lists. Over and over again it has repeatedly been derided and effectively mocked the few times it has been mentioned, and it's really hard to see why. It's by no means perfect, there's more than a few obvious flaws among its strengths, but it was by no means another I, Frankenstein.

Loosely following the ideas set by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the tale follows the life and times of John Carter. A former captain in the Confederate Army, Carter finds himself fleeing local tribesmen and and hunted by the United States military. When an attempt is made upon his life by a being wielding a bizarre weapon, Carter quickly finds himself transported without explanation to a ruined an dying world: Barsoom.

It's fairly obvious from early on where the film's influences lie, and you'll quickly see where there are obvious parallels to be made with the likes of Star Wars, Flash Gordon, Dan Dare and (sigh) Avatar. Ultimately this is something carried over from the source material as, just as so many of Burroughs' works influenced those later tales. It really feels unfair to hold that against it (after all, you don't watch/read Dune then complain it too closely resembles its successors), especially when the visuals and ideas do help hold up. It's hard to pick out a film which features glass winged skyships broadsiding one another, a city on legs slowly harvesting the world, an alien bulldog which can break the sound barrier, and humans benefiting by being a physically stronger for once. Well, in the cinema anyway.

The actual events of the story are well paced and well plotted out. While some seem to complain it was moving too slowly, this seems like a truly bizarre statement to make. After all, before Carter even arrives on Mars (or Barsoom as it's known) you have a ship battle, establishment of the world's state, Carter's personal history and an escape with thrilling heroics. The film seems to have been specifically plotted so that the audience is left waiting just long enough for some real action before it's given to them, with enough world-building left in to balance things out. If anything, the film strikes almost exactly the right balance between the two, yet it never makes the mistake of repeating itself. Just as soon as one fight is done, it shifts to try and give something entirely different, never blowing its big ideas too early on. Not to mention that one of these fights remains one of the most memorable I have personally seen to date. Watch it, you'll know the one.

The film was helped significantly by the fact that Carter himself is never presented as utterly invulnerable or all-knowing. There's a great many times where he slips up, makes mistakes and even outright fails to combat others. Much of the film's early act sees him hamstrung by the low gravity and lacking any knowledge of Barsoom, surviving only thanks to the generosity and uncharacteristic kindness of one green, four armed alien. Even after establishing he can kill a man with one punch, the following skirmish is more akin to an Indiana Jones running battle, with him just one step ahead of his foes.

The actual visual design of Mars itself is a very odd contrast between tribalism and futuristic technology; with guns and spaceships carried by feudal era kings and tribesmen. Again, it is a generic idea, but unlike Avatar there seems to have been some effort into trying to give it some identity of its own. Reflecting upon the dying nature of Mars, much of the planet is shown to be bleakly beautiful deserts peppered with a handful of oases of life. The film goes from showing barren, lost planes to a few of the remaining cities, shifting from one to the next; with the latter often blending shades of Greek, Roman and Indian influences.

Unfortunately, the real weaknesses are not exactly hard to pick out as John Carter goes on. More than a few come down to the script, specifically in terms of tone and characters. The script never plays itself completely straight faced and there's more than a few moments where it pokes fun at itself. Never so much as to make it seem as if it's mocking the original stories, but it does seem to weaken the strength of the material. It's really almost as if they didn't quite believe in people taking the story elements wholly seriously, but given some of the trends in science fiction it's hard not to agree with this. However, while this could be argued as acceptable, the characters fail to really hold up. Carter and many of the others are ultimately roles we've seen done far too many times before, and there's little offered to help them truly stand out or avoid being cliched. It's easy to keep a story with somewhat generic elements going on the strength of good characters, but not so much the other way around.

The story itself unfortunately also does seem to burn out a little too soon. While it has more story to go, after the midway point the fights don't quite compare with the film's biggest battle. There's still new ideas to be sure, but it never quite reaches those same heights. Atop of this, the CGI does start to become painfully obvious that it's being blue-screened. It was a little wonky but workable to start with, but around the time of the bike chase you start having serious problems not getting distracted by some of its lesser qualities.

The big one which really stands out for almost everyone however, is how the film doesn't end. It kind of peters out after the villain is briefly defeated, before ending on some fairly heavy sequel bait. We're never given much closure and it's obvious that the filmmakers were angling to make this a trilogy or franchise, but did it in completely the wrong way. As such, the narrative sets up a lot of ideas but fails to fully confront with the consequences of them or tie things together. As a result, there's more than a few frustrating plot threads left dangling.

Despite its failings though, John Carter is a hard film to hate. There was definite potential for a full trilogy in here and even at its worst it still remains head and shoulders above Cowboys & Aliens. There's a definite sense of fun and adventure throughout, and while more than a little corny at times it's hard not to get caught up in the excitement. Is it perfect? Hardly and it's definitely got more than a few problems, but don't completely overlook this one. If you have any interest in a more lighthearted film with plenty of traditional science fiction elements, this is definitely one worth your time.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Under New Management

So, yeah, The Good the Bad and the Insulting is under new management. After several years of running this blog on my lonesome, i've joined up with the House of Paincakes after they graciously accepted my application. Truth be told this won't change too much on what we cover or when. We'll still be looking through wargaming lore, wargaming rules, science fiction in all forms with the odd bit of news and opinionated articles. 

There will still be a massive focus placed upon Warhammer 40,000 but i'm hoping to also branch out into new territories with this. We've spoken a few times about the likes of Firestorm Armada and Infinity, but perhaps it's time we start to properly examine them. Of course, that really depends largely upon news, releases and deadlines as much as anything else.

Also, expect actual content tomorrow. Sorry for the slow nature of things, but it's been an interesting week or two, and Codex: Space Marines has proven to be surprisingly dense to cover.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Codices Sentinels of Terra and Clan Raukaan Updated For a New Edition (News)

In news which will earn ire and celebration alike among the Warhammer 40,000 community, Games Workshop has announced that its two supplements will be updated for the latest Codex: Space Marines.

Reported on by Faeit 212, the books representing the Imperial Fists and Iron Hands chapters are to receive digital upgrades to keep them in use, with the following information supposedly delivered to those enquiring about the codices’ status:

“The supplement books are no longer available and we have not been made aware of them getting reprinted or of any FAQ updates for them. However it does look like the digital copies of these two supplements have been updated. So if you have purchased the digital copies then you can get the updated information there.”

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Space Marines Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review, 7th Edition)

So, another year, another codex. A few regular readers might be wondering one thing right now - Why wasn't there a few hopes and predictions preceding this? Well, that's fairly simple: I personally didn't get the time to read the previous one to consider improvements. Unlike Codex: Khorne Daemonkin, Imperial Knights or many other works, this is one of the few I was unable to read the predecessor to beforehand. Still bitter over the Fifth Edition Codex: Space Marines - Ultramar Rules, All Others Drool, I didn't have the stomach to go through more preaching and shafting every other chapter in favour of one faction. As such, this is without some of the grounding other reviews benefited from, and more of an outsider's view. If you see me repeating or praising new ideas or criticising changes which were in the past book, it's not a lack of oversight so much as a lack of knowledge. That said, comparing this Seventh Edition update with its Fifth Edition predecessor, it's a vast improvement. It seems that Games Workshop at least tried to account for the backlash here, fixing some big problems, but at the same time it also lost elements of a successful format. As such, it's taking three steps forwards but two back.

The strengths and failings of the book can quickly be seen in the introductory pages, establishing the major factions among the astartes, their defining traits and what space marines are. The book quickly lists out the basics, with a brief stylised blurb selling the reader on the space marines next to some stylized artwork, followed by a brief outline of the Horus Heresy and the establishment of the chapters. Atop of this however, it takes a few steps further to try and include points of interest for new readers. The big ones here are the various internal organs a marine requires and a map depicting just how far-flung many astartes homeworlds are. While they might be points we've seen before, they're ultimately areas with a little more depth which help to give a better idea of the setting to those recently introduced to it. They're details which aren't necessary to the army exactly, sure, but they're ones which show how much thought was put into this faction and gives them more personality.

Following the map and a brief outline of Ultramar, the codex then gives a short description and bits of information relating to a multitude of major chapters. The Imperial Fists, Black Templars, Iron Hands, Salamanders, Raven Guard, Ultramarines, White Scars and, in a pleasant surprise, the Crimson Fists are all given a moment to present themselves to the reader. While the Ultramarines might take up the first bit of the artwork, it's a moment to have each and every chapter share a moment in the spotlight and catch the reader's attention. This is, naturally, far more even a depiction than what the Fourth and Fifth editions offered. It helps to give a better idea of the force being a group of varied, different, but relatively equal brotherhoods who all are mighty in their own right. Unfortunately, this is still plagued by a few notable issues, ones which run throughout the book.

For starters, all that lovely padding is there once again. Rather than spending time fleshing out the book with words, massive page-and-a-quarter splash pieces dominate much of the opening here. While you could justify this for impact in the opening bit, it's harder to excuse when it truly screws over the Horus Heresy. Players are offered only the bare bones of the war's events, skipping Isstvan, Calth, the Thramas Crusade and even Mars; as such we're just left with Horus' fall, the Emperor's entombment and an explanation of the primarchs and Great Crusade all squeezed into five paragraphs. It's simply not enough to truly impress upon the reader the importance of this event, and it even carries over to many of the chapters, who are only offered fleeting descriptions of their general defining traits.

Things don't get much better when it comes to the book's choice of language and focus, with some obvious favouritism when it comes to the Ultramarines. Wait, those of you already reaching for pitchforks, stop for a moment! Thankfully the writers don't pull a "they can never be Ultramarines" and the term "Spiritual Liege" is never inflicted upon the codex. It's still far more even and it doesn't try to beef up the Ultramarines to the complete detriment of all other chapters, turning them into poor copies of Guilliman's lot. At the same time though there's some obvious favouritism on hand here. The vast majority of the new artwork in these opening pages are all of the Ultramarines, and the description of the Codex Astartes' formation reads as if it were penned by Ward himself. It focuses more upon how Guilliman was right, how he was instrumental above all else, mentions little of other chapters, and frames those who did not follow the Codex in a way which presents them as making the wrong choice. It's truly cringe-worthy to read, and only tolerable because it doesn't reach the excesses we've seen in truly bad lore of late.

The codex also takes the time to outline Ultramar itself and its many worlds, explaining the advantage it offers to the Ultramarines. It depicts it as a near perfect empire, and efficiently run dominion, which is in all honestly completely fair. It's generally accurate, well rounded and shows it's a superior part of the Imperium without, well, reading as if the writer was waxing his pen off to it. It's also one of the better uses of space here, balancing artwork with words. So, what's the problem here? The Ultramarines are the only ones who get this treatment, with nothing done with Medusa, Deliverance, Chigoris or even the likes of the Phalanx. It's frustrating as it provides a bit more focus to make them seem all the more important than the others when there was easily enough content and space there to warrant the same treatment. 
It's only made all the more irritating when the Ultramarines are presented as near perfect, yet the majority of the other chapters have a far more balanced depiction. Well, usually more balanced. The codex states that the White Scars are savage and brutal, yet resourceful, intelligent, and deadly warriors. The Imperial Fists have a habit for stubborn last stands which are thought to be needless, yet they have a far higher rate than other chapters at pulling off seemingly impossible victories. The Salamanders and Raven Guard are a bit more positive, usually just noting their slow recruitment or cold, secretive demeanor respectively as weaknesses. Then the Iron Hands are thoroughly screwed over, to the point where you can almost feel the venom seeping from the author's keyboard. No, really, read the biggest bit of lore they get in this book for yourself:

"The ground shakes to mechanical lockstep as the Iron Hands advance, their optimised fire patterns destroying all in their path. To an observer, the Iron Hands seem coldly emotionless, almost entirely mechanical, with little humanity left. Yet below the surface, the Iron Hands' souls burn with the bitter fires of a fury long repressed.

The Chapter's bitterness stems from the tragic death of their Primarch during the opening exchanges of the Horus Heresy. Blinded by the emotions of caused by Horus' betrayal, Ferrus Manus led his sons into an impossible battle and was subsequently slain. The scars this left upon the Iron Hands' collective psyche have never truly healed, leading them to believe wholeheartedly that all flesh is weak.

For long millennia, the Iron Hands have sought the purity of the machine. They replace healthy limbs with bionics, take their mission briefings via simulus chambers, and long for the cold metal embrace of a Dreadnought sarcophagus. Guided by a body known as the Iron Council, the Chapter fight many wars alongside the Adpetus Mechanicus. they have a reputation for incredible efficiency, but also for the callous abandonment of any they view as 'weak'. Of late, the heroic Iron Father Kardan Stronos has led the Chapter in something of a spiritual renaissance. Some believe Stronos seeks to save his brothers' atrophied souls before their humanity deserts them altogether. Some even say he is succeeding. However, the hour grows late, and if the Iron Hands are to know true redemption, they must seize it before darkness engulfs them."

... Good fucking god, whoever wrote and approved that insulting shit-stain on this book deserves to be fired from their office. Preferably out of a cannon.

Yeah, this may or may not have been the fault of the author, but the codex adamantly sticks to the lore which has embaressed and drawn the most ire from players over past years. It's downplayed in some places, and then crammed into your face in others, especially when it comes to integrating Codex: Clan Raukaan's lore. For example, the Imperial Fists sidestep most of Sentinels of Terra's drooling stupidity and gibbering batshit insanity by making sure their bits aren't written as if the author is ashamed of their siege proficiency. At the same time though, almost every major event the Fists are involved in throughout their timeline stems from Lysander's story rather than anything actually focusing upon the chapter as a whole. The Ultramarines are the same, as we have the ridiculously biased Battle of Orar's Sepulchral (AKA Calgar shoryukens an Eldar Avatar) proudly displayed alongside many events taken from that particular codex, but tries to gloss over some of the more ridiculous stuff. The Iron Hands though? Nope. Despite the limited space the writer went the extra mile to ensure that all of their damnation and how wrong they are was depicted here in full.

Of course the Iron Hands aren't the only ones to suffer from this, as the Black Templars are beaten over the head with their dismembered lore. Chief among these is this bit which will likely send longtime Black Templars fans into a seething frenzy of ZEAL:

"Abhor the Witch
Outsiders often mistakenly interpret the lack of Librarians within the ranks of the Black Templars Chapter - and the fury with which its battle-brothers slay Chaos Sorcerers,- as an intolerance of all psykers. This could hardly be further from the truth, for the Black Templars hold special reverence for Astropaths, seeing them as holy disciples who have actually communed with the Emperor. Navigators are similarly honoured, their psychic blessing allows them to see the divine light of the Astonomican and to guide the Black Templars through the Warp to deliver righteous retribution against the Emperor's enemies."

... That distant roar you just heard was the sound of a few thousand scored neckbearded zealots cursing Games Workshop to the blackest abyss of hell.

Really though, sweet heaven, how could you possibly get a chapter more wrong? Was someone seeking to compete against Clan Raukaan's authors, or did someone just decide to start a full scale vendetta against any chapter who openly shunned the Codex. At this point bits like this read as if they're more the result of active pissing on the established setting than they are sheer unprofessional ignorance. It's especially bad when the new lore behind their foundation and refusal to follow the Codex apparently came down to Sigismund effectively wanting to flip off Guilliman.

Anyway, that's the first thirty pages. Some of you at this point might be asking a few questions such as "is there anything truly good in this book?" "what does it do beyond the chapters?" or more likely "how much bloody longer is he going to spend on this!?"

Well, truth be told this is the bulk of the interesting lore we've just covered. The rest of the codex is hit and miss as well, but it focuses on more general themes. Sometimes for the best, others not so much. For example, the next few pages are spent outlining the role of each company as decreed by the Codex in quite some detail. A page (well, half a page and some padding) is given over to explaining the role of the companies in turn, starting with the First Company through to the Battle and Reserve companies, and ending with the Tenth. While it might take up a great deal of space, what's on offer is very concise, very poignant and offers a far more well rounded depiction of the Codex's advantages than past works. In this we see how each company serves a specific role within its chapter, and how they are ultimately a cog in a much larger machine, each exchanging warriors as needed. 
Overall it focuses mostly upon a general depiction without delving too much into one chapter or another, save for brief examples, and presents some decent updates to certain parts of the lore. Notably how a First Company might not universally wear Terminator armour, even when assembled as a single unit for war. Amid this though there are some questionable ones. Like where the book states that "there is no fixed limit on how large a Chapter's 10th Company should be." A point which contradicts almost all other Codex related material. Still, on the whole it does offer a broader and grounded look for new players at the advantages of the Codex; and could help dissuade the attitude of ignoring the book when a custom chapter for themselves without rhyme or reason why. Oh come on, we've all seen plenty of people do this.

Further efforts to really expand upon each chapter in turn could be found in their own articles. Sections covering their individual strike forces and honours - while pushing formations on players - gave some better weight to how they are chosen for war. This focuses upon how demi-companies can be formed at short notice from elements throughout the chapter, making sense while fitting in with how each company is supposed to operate. Atop of this, the timeline itself is extended to twice its usual length, in order to try and give every chapter a chance to shine. In this, while there are plenty of bad ones, better story ideas exist as well, such as how the Raven Guard secretly evacuated an entire city in one night, just prior to a Dark Eldar attack. Then laid in wait for a massive ambush of course, because they're power armoured ninjas it seems.

When it comes to the rest of the chapters, a few of the more notable successors, there are also some interesting new bits of lore added to each faction. Some are just bits of flavour text to help them seem a little more unique, while others have big parts of their future altered entirely, to the point of shifting their very position in the galaxy. As an example of each, the Brazen Claws designate their companies by the colour of their chest aquila rather than pauldons. The Revilers meanwhile were last noted to be locked in a shadow war with elements of the Alpha Legion, possibly over something of great importance. Plenty of bits of both show up here, and there are even a few aspects like this for the bigger chapters. The Crimson Fists for starters have new, but very fitting, tradition known as the Bloodied Fist; an annual trial for Scouts to ascend to full battle-brothers and even possibly where their name was solidified beyond Pollux's moniker. They're often minor details, but some truly do work to shed a little more light on the minor factions. Hell, for the first time the Inceptors actually have a colour scheme in a codex.

Some of the stories carry more weight this time, including some surprisingly great ones such as an Iron Hands/Iron Warriors battle, and a few of the side notes for each unit have more relevance than usual. These range from explaining what the Crux Terminatus is to the livery of each Techmarine, and even some surprisingly obscure concepts at points. A particular favourite is the long awaited return of a famous cut-away image of a Land Raider, showing the vehicle's full interior.

Unfortunately a lot of this really is just small moments, as so much of the codex either just resorts to squandering the variety on hand or lacks even the events found in past books. There are no individual short stories showing certain battles, no lengthy sections on the campaigns they fought, and no narrative threads which are used in brief to help better define the chapter alongside world-building fact. As a result, much of the book is incredibly empty, and this is only made infinitely worse as so many units fail to even account for basic alterations or differences between roles between chapters. The closest the book ever gets to exploring how each different chapter actually handles certain shared elements is the occasional brief mention in the Captains section, and how Vindicators are favoured by some chapters.

Rather than say, going into the unique non-Codex formations of the Salamanders and Iron Hands or the widespread crusading nature of the Black Templars, we just get padding. From page sixty-eight to one-hundred-and-twelve, the book jackknifes into random and unexpected low quality artwork. We get pages upon pages of minor notes of each chapter's colour schemes and how their vehicles look, with a few useful ones on their successors, followed by a vast number of pointless dioramas. Not even very useful or inspiring ones either, as they're just very bland "seen it all before" mob shots with armies swarming over one another. To make matters worse, so much of even the previous sections have more or less the exact information - you guessed it - repeated later on. The book defines who the Legion of the Damned, Apothecaries and Techmarines are, and the role of units like Tactical Squads; then does exactly the same thing towards the end just with less are and more rules. By the end, there just really isn't much in the way of actual content, and you're left wishing for something more substantial.

Codex: Space Marines ultimately does avoid the problems of full on smurf syndrome and tries to give a few good bits to fans, but sadly it proves to be blandly uninteresting for the most part. While it removed Ward's insanity, it simply didn't fill that void with anything interesting. There was the perfect opportunity here to really push some boundaries and show how diverse the astartes are, but that's all lost here. Rather than using the massive page-count to give each major chapter a mini-Index Astartes segment, we just get stretched out non-content with a few gems of interest. It's provokes less rage (save for Black Templars and Iron Hands players) than it does disappointed apathy at what was squandered here. Sadly, nothing really stands out or proves to be truly interesting in this book.

If you're after good lore, skip this one and save your cash for something more substantial. Forge World is fast becoming the only outlet for high quality lore in its rulebooks, and you'd really do better to just get an Imperial Armour volume instead. Just don't waste your cash on this one unless you're desperate for new rules. Want to know what those are? Take a look here.