Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Matt Ward Returns To Games Workshop, 40K End Times Approacheth?

Earlier today, fans were given a very rude awakening and a reminder that sometimes their beloved franchises are never safe from awful creators. After the loud celebration at Matt Ward's departure from Games Workshop, the company has seen something of a minor golden age. While a number of releases remain extremely flawed, quality is up across the board, army balance has significantly improved and the number of Sisters of Battle massacres has dropped by 100%. Things were on the rise with even Age of Sigmar, initially derided as it was, slowly gaining respect and popularity among jaded fans.

That golden age seems to have been cut short, as we were offered this terrifying vision of the future:

Yes, it seems that like an especially bad case of Nurgle's crotch rot, his career at Games Workshop simply will not die. Kill it off, have him leave, and he will simply come back stronger. To say that this is bad news is an understatement akin to saying the apocalypse is "bothersome" for some people. In fact, given the dire nature of this announcement, I honestly would not bat an eye if Biblical plagues were to abruptly break out across Nottingham; going right from erupting boils to raining megalodons from the sky.

For those interested, here is my own eloquent and well worded reaction to this announcement:


Now, some people are going to defend this. Some are going to look back at his work with rose tinted glasses somehow declaring that his work was good or going from his prior list of armybooks/codices to declare that not everything he did was bad. Oh, people will argue that the Second Edition Codex: Blood Angels was fine, or that his work on Lord of the Rings was solid on the whole. Well, here's the thing: Just about all of those? Yeah, those were the books where he was playing second fiddle to someone else, often working behind the likes of other authors or their vision on the book. He had someone to temper his insanity, and the overall guiding force was not Our Ward in Heaven here. What did we get when he went solo?

  • A High Elves armybook so insane that, among other demented acts, it contained a banner which nullified all enemy magic directed towards the unit holding it.
  • Single-handedly sparking the massed hatred of all Ultramarines, declaring that all other chapters in the game were either poor copies of his favourite force, or they were "doing it wrong". An event so bad that, when the original Ultramarines penman Graham McNeill tried to fix things, Ward apparently entered an undeclared edit war with the man.
  • A Daemons armybook for Warhammer Fantasy so horribly overpowered that an entirely new Edition had to be wheeled out early, just to stop it breaking the entire game.
  • A Codex: Blood Angels so obscene that it not only included flying dreadnoughts, massed power weapons, and insane lore no one could take seriously, but the Stormraven as well. Also known as "someone glued wings onto a Land Raider!"
  • The first, and worst, Codex Grey Knights, which seemed as if it were scribbled down after a drunken bet to outdo the joke "Movie Marines" list. This is a codex which included the likes of the Dreadknight, a very infamous Sisters of Battle slaughter, nonsensically reworking the entire chapter to fit a Codex format, lore so bad it made the Horus Heresy impossible, and Kaldor Draigo. This book was, in fact, so bad that it not only broke the game, but took multiple efforts, retcons and massed rewrites by authors on damage control duty to try and mitigate what Ward did. Also, the Plasma Syphon.
  • The Cron Air and airborne Grey Knights lists. Armies so bad that, unless you took massed formations of Hydra flak tanks, you might as well forfeit the entire game on the first turn.

Oh, and keep in mind, this is the short list of his sins!

While we might have criticized the likes of Mont'Ka, or Curse of the Wulfen, or the later Codex: Imperial Knights, there was always something good in it. There were always good ideas, better concepts or something worthy of praise even at the worst moments. With Ward? His books have consistently proven to be bereft of any redeeming idea, and often even manage to do the reverse; annihilating any good ideas the book touches or dumbing down the bigger, broader universe one paragraph at a time. Since he left, we have had great, good or disappointing codices, each with their mixed flaws and strengths. With Ward, we could only be assured of lore so bad that book burning would be excused to rid the world of his works.

While it would be wrong to call him the Frank Miller of tabletop games, he is most certainly the Rob Liefeld of Games Workshop. This is a man who, despite producing some of the worst examples of lore, rules and simple sanity ever witnessed in the game, somehow maintains a career either through sheer luck or divine intervention. So, yes, spend a few seconds comparing his works with the likes of Codex: Legion of the Damned, Codex: Tempestus Scions, Codex: Black Legion, and Codex: Khorne Daemonkin among others, and it's clear the world has been better off without him. His return is just a sign of Armageddon itself.

Oh, and speaking of Armageddon? Yes, we've had yet more bloody hints of Warhammer 40,000 following the End Times for some daft reason!

Faeit 212, being the hive or rumours that it usually is, picked up a few suggestions of what might be following in the Eighth Edition. Fans were already dreading the apparent "few minutes to midnight" focus thanks to Curse of the Wulfen pushing things all but directly into the 13th Black Crusade and a few major, never before seen, events. Of course, some spoke back against this, but given how things were going, it looked pretty damn sure like we were soon to see the entire universe collapsing in upon itself. If this is true then it only further confirms this, and let's face it, wrong as it can sometimes be Faeit 212 did predict the extinction of several major armies before anyone even heard about the End Times.

The article itself seems to strongly suggest this at every point, with multiple major campaigns building upon what we've had before. This either ties into previously semi-retconned events like Ahriman's battle at the Black Library's gates, or follows on from a few big storylines which have been set up. Unfortunately, pretty much all of those storylines are pretty bloody bad. One is the Wulfen conflict (argh.), another is focused squarely upon the "Ethereals = Evil! Ethereals = Evil! 1984! 1984! 1984!" theme forced upon he Tau Empire (Argh!) And the last one ties right into the Iyanden lore, pulled direction from the codex (ARGH!)

That last one is especially frustrating for two very particular reasons. 

Firstly, Codex: Iyanden went out of print and was effectively ignored by all future releases, with even those following on from it avoiding getting into the nitty gritty. Even Valedor (both the campaign book and the Guy Haley novel) shared to little more than "Tyranids attacked Iyanden, a Harlequin was there when Yriel took up the Spear of Twilight" and nothing else. As such, this was stuff the game actually moved on from, and all of a sudden upon Ward's return, it's suddenly being pushed right back into the spotlight again. That's just a tad suspicious isn't it.

Secondly, there's the bit involving Iyanna, which goes as follows: "Iyanna, the special character we all know and love (or hate) but she becomes very dark and sinister, shes floating on wild growing wriathbone and spirits." Longtime readers might recall that Ward handled Iyanna in such a nonsensical and horrific way, that analysis of his works suggested he was presenting her as a raging psychopath willing to sacrifice others in the name of a potentially nonexistent god. Either his was Ward/whoever's plan all along (which seems unlikely given the number of lore errors and disjointed story elements) or someone is taking criticisms as suggestions for future works once more. You be the judge, but either way it does not suggest a promising future for this character or her storyline, especially after the raging storm of bullshit which became the Elf plotline in End Times.

Still, this doesn't quiet get into the core problem here, does it? Warhammer 40,000 is having an End Times event. An unnecessary one, which is likely to create far more problems than it can possibly solve. We have already pointed out in past works both the problems in trying to move into M42 and the Warhammer timeline itself. The writers simply can't handle a constantly evolving storyline on a galactic scale, and they seem so focused on the future that they have completely ignored countless prior events, or left major galactic changes extraordinarily underdeveloped. In just about every timeline, you will find a good twenty fully fleshed out articles in M31 and M41 for every stub or paragraph of an event in any other millennium, and this is simply a waste of good storytelling potential.

What makes matters worse though, is how Warhammer 40,000 has been built up. You see, Warhammer Fantasy had a few plot hooks hanging over, suggesting that the final war for the Old World was upon them, and a few big events with each faction surrounding that. In Warhammer 40,000, we have so many that an entire series would be needed to sort them all out before actually moving into any actual End Times scenario. Think about it, we have a good three or four major battlefields where it seems countless forces from across the galaxy are amassing, spoiling for a fight. We have multiple prophecies from the Blood Angels to the Craftworld Eldar, preparing for the return of someone to building a god to kill a Ruinous Power. We have the Grey Knights' "smash in case of Chaos" button, the 13th Black Crusade, the rise of the Orks, the Golden Throne breaking down, the Dark Eldar deal with the Imperium, and the Mechanicum's own designs. Those are just the basic ones as well, and it would take a full article to list them all off. 

You see, there were always hints of this and a few points leaning towards a big end game event, but over the Fifth Edition and just past it, people went nuts. A few authors, mostly one the scrawler of words listed above, went berserk. They added in as may of these things as they could everywhere, until several factions now have what is little more than a "nuke everything" button allowing them to more or less win everything in an emergency. Trying to write around this issue would be akin to performing a victory lap about the Meereenese knot. Trying to even push one faction to oblivion at all will likely result in the instant annihilation of three others, especially if it's the Necron Dynasties who are getting desperate.

However, even above all this there is a vastly bigger problem which overshadows everything else. You see, love it or hate it, but the End Times was a conclusion. It was a finale, a full stop to a sentence, a beheading of a world and its total annihilation before moving on to a new one. Oh, the new one retained a few aspects of the old one, and a few characters, but for all intents and purposes it was a soft reboot, radically shaking things up and starting over. Warhammer Fantasy fans took this rather badly when it happened, and even now there is some derision thanks to this move; however, it was also arguably the only world you could pull this off in. 

Trying to do the same with Warhammer 40,000, without that more intensely magical element and more of an emphasis upon feudal high technology and barbarous science, it just doesn't work. You would need to continue things in the setting, focus them upon the galaxy as a whole rather than starting over, focusing upon the same core characters, and an ending doesn't allow for that. It would be akin to ending a series, then promptly pressing ahead and trying to keep the story going, right after everything has been resolved. Most fanfics which have tried this have ended badly, and the few success stories (Shape of the Nightmare to Come being a big highlight) focus less upon a big concluding plot than a gradually evolving event. Something which, as before, the authors of this company are not well suited to provide for.

Perhaps this is an overreaction. Perhaps this is just suspicions getting the better of me, and this is admittedly an article built upon estimated guesses backed by a few facts. At the same time though, these are all problems we have seen before, and for the most part their outcomes are not good in any way. Speaking personally, I do not want to see this blog going back to the days where I was churning out negative review after negative review of codices, or ripping this company a new one. There have been improvements, and the old errors were being fixed despite stumbling at a few key points. To throw that all away now, just as things are getting better, is an act of absolute insanity.

The future is dark, it seems. Few can truly tell what it will bring with it, or what we will see in the decades to come. Rest assured though, until we do, I will be sitting here, producing my works as normal. I will be here taking the bullet when a book is bad, highlighting the underrated epics worthy of a greater audience; and always watching for that terrible sign that the worst has come to pass.


  1. Well for me this is terrible timing. For the past little while I've been working 12-15 hour shifts and now that I'm back to my normal schedule and actually have time to read and reply it's going to seem like I'm a Ward fanboy who's only coming in to defend him, but hear me out.

    First of all I'm glad to see that he's back, though not quite for the reasons you might be expecting, and also because GW's writing didn't get any better while he was gone. I think you're looking at the time he was gone with rose-tinted glasses, especially when you call it a 'golden age' which is laughable.

    Here's a little list of the Codices that were released after Ward left and before he came back:
    7th Edition Blood Angels - Average. A lot of lore was just copy-pasted, the rules removed everything that was kind of unique without doing anything to replace it and let the Blood Angels stand out, to the point that the Blood Angels could have just been combined with the regular Space Marine book much like the Black Templars.
    7th Edition Necrons - Fucking terrible. A codex that thought 5th edition Grey Knights was far too weak, the lore was interesting but the rules, to put it generously, were fucked (regular Immortals now being almost as durable as terminators but with nowhere near the cost as one example).
    7th Edition Harlequins - Average. The lore was decent, the rules were limited, the Solitaire became a must-have in every Harlequin list, overall alright.
    7th Edition Khorne Daemonkin - Good. Nothing more to say, the lore was good even if it was limited (forgetting other aspects of Khorne) and the rules were also good.
    7th Edition Skitarii - Average. Nothing great, nothing bad, certainly not a codex meant to stand on its own and the lore was mediocre overall (when you factor in bad narration but good first-person).
    7th Edition Eldar Craftworlds - Fucking terrible. A codex that thought 7th edition Necrons was too weak, even if the lore was good (and what wasn't copy-pasted certainly wasn't good) the rules were shit, and for all the jokes people make about Matt Ward wanting to make handheld Strength D weapons, after he was gone they actually did it! This was also the codex that had hands down the worst paint jobs I've ever seen in any codex.
    7th Edition Imperial Knights - Not very good. It doesn't get a pass for copy-pasting old lore and then losing sight of some of the older stuff as well. The best thing you can say about it is it was a 7th edition codex made for 7th edition, that's about it.
    7th Edition Cult Mechanicus - Terrible. The rules were unbalanced as hell (some things were too powerful while other things were be)
    7th Edition Space Marines - Average. Most of the lore was just copy-pasted from the previous editions with no effort to fix things, and the rules were okay, nothing great and nothing bad since it just carried over what was in the 6th edition book.
    7th Edition Dark Angels - Average. See above, because everything I can say it has in common with Space Marines.
    7th Edition Tau Empire - Fucking terrible. Now I know you have a soft spot for the Tau, much like I have a soft spot for the Necrons, however this was the codex that thought Craftworld Eldar was far too weak, being made by an author who thought it was a great idea for you to be able to tailor your army to the point that the only way you can lose is incredibly bad luck. It also gave them a huge push down the path of blue slaver-genocidal-conquers that they are now, and it all but annihilated the Water Caste, because one of the few things that made the Tau unique has to be eliminated for some reason.
    So out of all the new codices, we have one good one. ONE. Out of eleven, ONE turned out to be good. That's just sad, and certainly not indicative of any sort of 'golden age'.

    This is going to be long so it'll be broken into multiple comments.

    1. Fair enough, perhaps "golden age" is the wrong term, but let's face it - Things have been a hell of a lot better since he's left. We have had bad codices for sure, and i'm certainly not looking back with fondness at more than a few of them. That said, while they have been bad, few have managed to ever reach Ward levels of bad. Well, save for Codex: Eldar at any rate. Even when one was so terrible I was reaming it, I could always see some effort in there to produce some good idea, I could always stop and praise some idea, something which did expand upon the universe or complimented it in some way.

      In the Cult Mechanicus book, several timeline events were interesting and a few were downright hilarious, and some of the church elements of the lore are worthy of further examination.
      In Codex: Imperial Knights, we were introduced to a wider number of Freeblades and heroes. Some were bad, some were alright, but more than a few were pretty damn good for what they were, and there were even pushes to focus upon the political issues behind these feudal worlds at points.
      In Codex: Space Marines, it tried to build upon what worked previously, tried to expand upon some ideas which stood out and there was a genuine effort to not reinvent the wheel. A lesson the game designers could seriously use at times.
      Hell, even in Codex: Tau Empire, I could at least appreciate the increased focus upon treating the Air Caste as its own power. Not, as with many prior works, rolling them into the Fire Caste and the lore behind the new units like the Stormsurge was genuinely great.

      In each case, I could at least stop and say "okay, you at least got that bit right." I could say nothing of the sort with Ward. If I spend a few minutes looking at Codex: Grey Knights, my format would just list the Good as "Well, Titan was described somewhat well. I Guess." before going right into ripping the book a new one with its countless failings. The same goes for almost every damn book he worked on, and any from his era. What we have now isn't great, but it's a step in the right direction at least, and more "average" books is better than the row upon row of shitstains being churned out during the Fifth and early Sixth Edition.

      In the Fifth, only Codex: Dark Eldar stood out as actually, truly, great all throughout, with Codex: Imperial Guard following somewhere behind. The rest were either utterly broken thanks to hatred of the authors (Codex: Sisters of Battle, Codex: Tyranids) or insanely overpowered thanks to author favouritism. Speaking of favouritism for a second, with Ward's involvement the act of the Astartes stealing the spotlight was taken to a new level. Not only were astartes chapters the authors liked handed victories on a silver platter by writing xenos races as morons, but almost half the books from that edition were astartes codices.

      Sixth Edition started with some woeful decisions. Chaos got the short end of the stick as their codex was broken up, and the very idea of the Legions was treated as a distant memory at best. Oh we had some good lore, but even my by standards that could only do so much to save the book. The Sisters of Battle were nerfed so hard that even their detractors felt GW was being unfair to them, and Codex: Inquisition is considered mixed at best. Yet, during this time we started to see a few changes for the better.

    2. Whereas the Edition where Ward was king seemed to openly spite those who disliked it, even focusing upon the elements they hated the most, Sixth pushed for new improvements. Codex: Dark Angels was a solid book with some good lore. Codex: Tau Empire was outstanding and a major step forwards. Codex: Tempestus Scions proved to be remarkably great, returning to some of the more exaggerated grimdark elements the game had forgotten. Codex: Legion of the Damned worked multiple fan-theories and ideas into its concepts, producing some of the best lore the game had seen in years. Codex: Space Marines completely reversed on Ward's raging Smurf boner, trying to give each chapter its due respect, and despite my dislike for massed Super Heavy units, Codex: Imperial Knights proved to be one of the best ideas the company had ever seen.

      Hell, when Seventh Edition came about, it immediately fixed a number of core problems which had plagued the prior Edition from the start. Cron Air and the Grey Knights drop list suddenly found themselves facing some very hard counters, the Sisters of Battle became surprisingly capable in games (even if they were still missing some much needed support for models) and the allies chart was actually re-written to retain some semblance of sanity. Not, as was apparently the case in the prior edition, simply written less for balance than to favour people the devs liked most.

      Hell, even the Supplements suddenly saw a near full 180 improvement. Ward had worked in several major Supplements, each one proving to be a steaming pile of dogshit and even managed to outdo himself in terms of terrible lore. The only genuinely good one during his tenure was Codex: Black Legion, and that's only because Aaron Dembski-Bowden supposedly took over lore duties. What happened when things moved on and he moved out? Orks: Waaagh! Ghazghkull proved to be a step up by being good if unremarkable, while Space Wolves: Champions of Fenris and Haemonculi Covens turned out to be great books. The problem is that, like myself, so many people were so pissed at the previous quality of the books, few if any fans were willing to give them a chance.

      Also, this is without going into the End Times stuff, because I would be here all day after what he did to that.

      Warhammer now is not great for sure, and you are right when you said I should not have called it a golden age. That said, ever since Ward left we have had constant improvement after improvement, and even when the company stumbles, when it falls, they are at least trying to do good. Ward wouldn't do good if his life depended upon it.

      Comparing the game today with Ward's era is akin to comparing the current DC films to Batman & Robin. Yes there are problems, yes a lot needs to be fixed and improvements are needed across the board, but at the end of the day, there are gems of quality to be found here.

      That is why I am so pissed at this, because it seems Game Workshop is bout to turn around and crawl right back into the hole it spent years dragging itself out of. That and, well, this slight issue:

      Dan Abnett leaves to write purely for DC Comics.
      Graham McNeill largely leaves to help League of Legends.
      Sandy Mitchell hasn't written anything in years, and his last series was cut short by the companny.

      Games Workshop can't be bothered to offer any of them a better contract, but instead re-hires the guy who everyone hates.

    3. Arguments aside though, it is good to hear from you again grdaat, and i'm sorry work is consuming so much of your time.

    4. Ward books rarely reached "Ward" levels of bad writing, he's written and co-written a lot of books, as you say his worst works are when he was on his own, however are you seriously saying there was nothing redeeming in any of his books? Really? I know we've discussed this in the past, and we've discussed how a lot of his older works have decent intentions with horrible executions (one of which was mentioning how the the Grey Knights have killed faithful individuals before, notably a priest to use his holy blood in blood rites which I'm sure is what the Bloodtide was meant to be a callback to if it wasn't completely botched).
      I remember defending his Necron book as one of the most tactically flexible books ever written, which I still hold to, and when I brought up the various tactics you can get into with the book I also brought up how you need synergy. I remember saying that you couldn't just choose a bunch of units at random and expect to win, which is something you didn't contradict me on.

      In Cult Mechanicus the timeline events were interesting but important ones were extremely downplayed, the cult itself was derided for their beliefs.
      In Imperial Knights we gained some freeblades and heroes (some were already introduced though and their lore was just included here as well) however we also lost a lot of other lore or had it changed, like the bits where it was changed so that building new knights was now no longer possible, and their close relationship with the Mechanicus was completely glossed over.
      In Tau Empire everything good about the Air Caste comes at the expense of pretty much everything else, and if I really wanted to I could find minor examples in Wards books where something good happened, even in Grey Knghts, but a minor good bit doesn't prevent a book from being an absolute failure in my eyes if the bad so heavily outweighs the good.

      As far as 5th edition goes, I don't remember anyone hating Space Marines for its rules (in fact I remember a few people liking them, regardless of how much they hated the lore), I also don't remember them hating 5th edition Necrons (that one was actually pretty well received rules wise, until 6th edition broke the game anyway), and Dark Eldar wasn't that great throughout, find one good list that had a practical use for Mandrakes as an example of the rules, and as for the lore Phil Kelly made the mistake of creating the invincible faction that could never be stopped or truly defeated in any way, shape or form. No matter what kind of problem they're up against the Dark Eldar effortlessly solve it (barring one or two events that were only done so one of Vect's plans could work) and the scope of their city is so huge, they could take over the entire galaxy in a few weeks while having the benefit of characters who can't actually die because they'll just be reborn back home.
      It's amazing that nobody really called them out on being a mary-sue faction when they blatantly are.

      I'd like to point out the Astartes being handed ridiculous victories isn't something new with Ward, while they might have had an increase on his arrival and I'd agree it's likely he had something to do with it, they were already having these ridiculous victories back in 3rd edition and it was only on the rise since then. Take a look at the Daemonhunters Codex just inside the cover, you see that massive army of Daemons and those very few Grey Knights standing against them? The Grey Knights actually win that fight. Even in the current edition that victory would be ridiculous, yet it happened back then, other things that happened is five Grey Knight terminators led by a Brother-Captain vanquished a Lord of Change, a Brother-Captain empowered by ten Grey Knights challenges Angron to single combat and kills him, a Black Templars Emperor's Champion destroys a Defiler in single combat, and the list goes on, all of which didn't have Ward involved.

    5. I'd also like to point out that, and this might ruffle a few feathers, the Sisters of Battle are possibly the best army to show dying in decent numbers (nothing huge, which I'll admit is something a lot of works get wrong), because one of their main themes is martyrdom, in fact in their first main Codex having a unit die was actually how you regenerated faith, so if it's used decently (your mileage may vary on what numbers that counts as) then it's more the lore sticking true to the tabletop than anything else.

      I'll certainly not argue that all of those Codices are bad, I like them all (except the crunch of Legion of the Damned, that was a disappointment) however if we're drawing parallels to his tenure, then you know what Dark Angels, Tau Empire, Tempestus Scions, Legion of the Damned, Space Marines, Imperial Knights and Eldar (the 6th edition one people loved excluding the Wave Serpent spam) all had in common? They were all released, or at least heavily worked on while he was still working at Games Workshop. I also didn't mention Black Legion, Waaagh! Ghazghkull, Space Wolves: Champions of Fenris or Haemonculi Covens because they were all also worked on while he was there and according to Ward, their writing would have been finished before he left.
      According to Ward, the last book he worked on (or at least had any major part in) was Khaine, he said this shortly after the book came out and said the writing was done when he left. The intermediate time was just the final steps GW had to go through before releasing it according to him, stuff like packing all of the artwork, lore and rules together, as well as printing and shipping it, and apparently this is standard for every book. All of those good examples are books that would have been finalized before he left and both because Phil Kelly stated the authors help out each other even if their names aren't on the books (for example, Eldar Battle Focus was actually Ward's idea that he gave to Kelly) and because the authors have their names removed from the latter books, we really have no idea which books he worked on or how much of a hand he had in working on them.
      This is also why I chose those eleven Codices, those are the only ones we know for sure that he didn't have any part in, and even with their redeeming elements, I think you can agree that those books you're defending just slightly above aren't great books (certainly not on the same level as Khorne Daemonkin), which is why I said we're left with one out of eleven being good (keep in mind, I'm not saying he's the one responsible for those good books, I'm simply saying we don't know if he was involved in any way).

      Given GW's extremely long production time (something that's very well known and even Ward mentioned how everything took forever to be released) it's only recently that we've been getting books that were made entirely without his involvement, and for a while after he's back we're going to get books he wasn't involved in, so if we want to see how GW is we're just going to wait and see if their upcoming books, like Deathwatch and the second half of Fenris are good.

      I do agree that it's sad those authors left, personally I'd be happy to see Phil Kelly go instead, for all the shit people give Ward about what he said of the Ultramarines, at least he didn't write that Daemons have a class system and everyone who can think snubs Daemon Princes because they are "inferior beings who are deeply and irrevocably tainted by their mortal origins". Yes that isn't a joke, in other words, despite earning the ultimate form of favour by their patron, 'they can never be true Daemons'.

      Also don't be sorry that your work takes up some of my time, it just means I get to read interesting articles once my ridiculous hours are over with. To be fully honest I don't feel that I have to read and that I have to comment, I do it because I enjoy it.

  2. Now let's look at the expansions:
    Shield of Bhaal - Overall average. It didn't push any envelopes or take any risks, everything at the end is the same as how it started with no real developments aside from giving a more detailed explanation on why the Blood Angels and Necrons worked together before, which people were able to figure out anyway after it came out without this supplement.
    War Zone Damocles: Operation Shadowtalon - Really Good. This one is actually really good, and it's shocking to find a book featuring both Tau and Space Marines that is from 7th edition that does a great job at focusing on the strengths of both, not to mention it shows why Etherals are an asset instead of cowardly cartoon villains.
    War Zone Damocles: Kauyon - Decent. While I don't think it's all that good on it's own (I still think it's decent, and I'd bump it up to good if you decided to buy it to get the new rules for 7th edition Tau instead of the 7th edition codex), I feel you have to admit the amount of forethought that goes into Shadowsun's master plan is a little ridiculous (my opinion's been slowly changing after talking to friends about it), especially when it could easily have been ruined by something like an orbital bombardment (or even heavy bombing runs, bombers being with fighter escorts), which is one of the Imperium's standard tactics (which oddly she didn't prepare for, probably because she knew they wouldn't use them).
    War Zone Damocles: Mont'ka - Holy shit this was fucking awful and it outright ruined the Tau. Any redeeming aspect that was carried over into their 7th edition incarnation was completely destroyed here, and even the parts I previously considered decent are in retrospect only decent in comparison to how bad the latter sections get, and the only way I could concretely state how bad that book is, would be to dissect it page by fucking horrible page. Hands down the worst book GW has ever released and Ward had nothing to do with it.
    War Zone Fenris: Curse of the Wulfen - Fucking terrible. As bad as Ward's knights were they didn't have S8 AP2 weapons that struck at I5, nor did they have the Wulfen's ridiculous attacks, durability, movement, or easy access to Storm Shields. The lore also sucked too.
    Death From The Skies - To be fully honest I haven't played this that much, I try to avoid flyers whenever possible, or the group I'm with just treats them as skimmers with minimum movement and limited turning (I won't include it in the final tally).
    Angels of Death - No points given from just copy-pasting rules/lore from other supplements (meaning average, even if we factor in good Salamanders lore, bad lore elsewhere brings it back down).
    So out of six books (ignoring DftS as mentioned above) there's one good one, though the good in that is ruined because it leads into a book which ruins the faction and overall conflict the good book was building up.

    I'd also like to point out that it's a bit unfair for people to hold the Sisters slaughter over his head without mentioning the genuinely good lore he wrote for them when he wrote the fluff for their White Dwarf supplement in which they were depicted as being badass, even going so far as to show them fighting off an entire Daemonic invasion by themselves (the Grey Knights never once show up to practice their blood magic). It's a shame that Cruddace (who Ward worked with on this) seemed to be in charge of the rules.

    1. Personally speaking, I actually thought Shield of Baal was pretty good all things considered. Really just need the time to sit down and actually write the damn thing out, detailing its strengths and failings. As for the others, i'll largely agree with you there save for Angels of Death, which did justify its existence as a combined tome with various multiple rules from across many books. Some people just wanted them all in one place, and combined with some good Salamanders stuff and very fun psychic powers, I felt it wasn't bad but it could have definitely been a lot better.

      The rest though, honestly, I stand by what I said before. Each and every one of them had their own failings and major problems, but I could always find something worth praising or saying "you did this well, thank you" at some point in the book. In Mont'ka it was the initial assault, orbital elements and character balance between Imperial and Tau Empire forces. In Curse of the Wulfen, the tonal balance, character elements, revelation surrounding Bjorn and the prophecy ideas were good overall. Even when it came to the rules, I could at least stop and praise a few of the formations as fun choices. By comparison, I can't think of a single book by Ward where I could do that. At all. Whenever he has been involved, it has been a slow descent into madness as I find layer upon layer of poor storytelling, terrible design choices and bloody awful ideas, all bereft of any redeeming concepts.

      Also, just for reference, as bad as some of the War Zone books have been, few have matched War Zone Damocles in how badly they have treated another army.

      As for the fluff in the Sisters of Battle codex, yeah, about that. A hell of a lot of the stuff people praise there was either lifted wholesale from past White Dwarf articles or taken from past editions of the game, or reworded and reworked into his own terms. His actual new stuff was minimal at best, and once you strip away the past ideas, you're left with very little there in all honesty. Plus, let's be honest here, the "badass" moments tended to end up with the Sisters taking far more casualties than they should have, or losing their heroes. Far more so than had the guy been writing the Ultramarines in their place.

    2. Personally speaking I couldn't help but feel Shield of Baal was a bait-and-switch. How much promo material did they release which they based on the Necrons and Blood Angels working together again? How about how much they tried to build up this event as a make-or-break event for the Blood Angels? At the start of the event the Blood Angels are preparing to fight the Tyranids who are heading straight for Baal and they're worried about how they're going to win, the Necrons are worried that the Tyranids are going to eat everything. At the end of the event, the Blood Angels are preparing to fight the Tyranids who are heading straight for Baal and they're worried about how they're going to win, the Necrons are worried that the Tyranids are going to eat everything. What was really accomplished? A tendril of Leviathan was destroyed and I'd consider the book good if it didn't immediately establish that another tendril was heading right for them, putting them back at square one, not to mention this 'team-up' featured next to nothing of the sort, which is why I felt it was average. I guess if we're looking at it on its own and ignoring the marketing, blurbs on the front and back and a good portion of the artwork, then sort of like how we both enjoyed Fear Itself then I'd say it's good, but that's about it (at least it didn't have the ludicrous failing some supplements had of making one army look pathetic because the author was too busy jerking it to the other army).

      Angels of Death could be a good one for me, if they bothered to add extra ideas to it. Think about it, this is a book that could have split the chapters into their own recognizable force, similar to how Black Templars used to have their own book, take what was previously written and expand upon it, what we have instead can barely be qualified as an expansion, and even if we include the good of collecting the various rules, we can't forget that it also gave us the Skyhammer Annihilation Force, which is why I said it's average overall.

      Mont'ka's orbital assault isn't anything to write home about, compare it to orbital assaults from previous codices or even Battlefleet Gothic's orbital battles and you'll see how lacking it is, not to mention it has the problem of being too powerful yet too weak, apparently it was easily able to wreck all of the Tau's installations, except for the ones that the major characters needed whereas if its power was consistent the book would be over in the first twenty pages. I can't really say there was much of a character balance either, there was Pask who was written as being out of character (only liking one model of Leman Russ and never communicating with his tank crew) so no points there, and then there also was... The Imperial Guard's colonel? I mean Shrike and Khan were also there but just barely, and they were never balanced against anyone else (which is probably why they both vanish off-screen) despite the book's buildup for them.

      I feel we might be better on just recording a live debate on whether or not Ward's books have some merit, since we seem to be running in circles on that issue, also my feelings on the Sisters Martyrdom still stand, which is probably why I'm not bitter that they lose characters (especially when another of their themes is that their equipment, abilities and sometimes even memories gets passed on, which I feel is a good idea).

  3. Now that I've pointed out GW wasn't in some sort of golden age while he was away, I might as well explain why I'm happy to see him back (since there's no guarantee from the above lists that he'll make things better), so I'm going to break down the rules and lore separately, starting with the rules.

    I'm looking forward to his return on the rules because he has unique ideas about how armies should work. Now I'd like you to think back to 5th Edition, did any army play or feel the same? No matter what there were always various rules that allowed the armies to stand out and Ward's armies were among the most unique, as ridiculous as something like being able to attack in the movement phase was, or how about the silliness of pulling enemy vehicles with the Magna-grapple, you'd always find them unique to one army and one army only and his books always had a good deal of customization (granted unique doesn't always mean good, see Grey Knights as an example).

    The reason I'm looking forward to his return on the lore is twofold, firstly he's actually good at writing the Ecclesiarchy (Grey Knights notwithstanding) and if there's another Sisters Codex he might work on it, and the second reason is because everyone hates him. This reason might seem a bit odd, but when shit lore is held up as good lore it irks me to no end, and now that he's back lore will be scrutinized more, and shit lore will be seen as shit lore because everyone will assume he wrote it (and in a lot of cases I wouldn't be surprised if he did).

    So overall I welcome his return, because GW's proved that his departure has nothing to do with how good or bad its books might be and now people might be more interested in seeing the shit lore for how bad it really is.

    1. Honestly, yeah, several of his armies did keep feeling very similar. Codex: Grey Knights, in terms of core attack tactics and planning, felt very much like an extension of the Blood Angels. They both focused upon that same first strike element, both focused upon having sheer overwhelming speed and power over all else, both placed a heavy emphasis upon their psykers, and both encouraged the use of Stormravens over all others. More than once I compared lists of Blood Angels and Grey Knights choices and you could play them more or less the same way without losing anything (albeit with the Grey Knights often hitting much harder due to their nonsense). Even the Necrons slid towards this at times, and you could still see the core unit aspects or driving concepts of "SHEER OVERWHELMING POWER!!!!!" overriding all else there.

      With the Tau Empire (at least prior to this edition) I got the sense I was using a highly mobile ranged force which was somewhat fragile. With the Eldar, was always given the sense of a hyper specialised army which could be tailored to any role, but focused upon being a glass cannon. With the Imperial Guard, I was given the sense of a massed assault force, best suited for airborne drops, armoured assaults or entrenched attacks. With most of Ward's works past the original Codex: Space Marines, all I ever got the sense of was just another broken, over the top list by him. There was no character, no definitve play style, no opportunities for actual, real tactics. You just drummed up something vaguely effectively and cut your way through the enemy army by sheer broken stats, rules and weapons. Even the silliness of some of his rules didn't stand out, as I was just left rolling my eyes so much I was going "yep, of course it does that" each time. The insanity just became a white noise and even the ability to punt things around the board as you describe didn't seem like a unique, fun idea characteristic of that army so much as Ward going "ME AM ARE BEST WRITER! ME AM ARE WEAPONS OF EMPRAH!" and churning out armies which were easy to win with.

      The others have been bad of late and some have lost their characteristic edge (Tau, Eldar, you know what you did wrong) but I can still see more of them there than under Ward's direction. Plus, no offense, but i'd rather not see rampant rules stupidity as a boon to any army.

      Well, there we'll have to disagree again. I can't speak much for the Ecclesiarchy angle, though what I know heavily contrasts with that statement, but even without him things were bad. Even before he left, people were blindly praising Codex: Iyanden as a fantastic codex in terms of lore, ignoring how poorly written the book really was. Some morons even claim Codex: Clan Raukaan is deep and the best lore the Iron Hands have ever seen, and Mont'ka speaks for itself. However, bringing him back will not cause people to look at these in any different light. The only reason people looked at Ward as a terrible writer, is because he pulled stunts a 12 year old on would balk at and even openly pissed on people for playing armies he disliked. He took things to such a supreme level of stupidity they could not help not to notice it, but even then they were ignoring the finer points of his stupidity or those of other books. No, instead the fault for people praising bad lore lies with writers like me. I covered this in more detail here:

      but they key point is that far too many reviewers treat the lore as some secondary aspect. Gamers and fans as well, view it more as simple trappings, or a nice bonus rather than a core part of the game. The fact that so many people covering these books will ignore the lore outright or skip over it with a paragraph saying "yeah, that's good, now onto the IMPORTANT stuff" is what's wrong here.

      IF anything, I dread his return all the more, because we'll now have people like Spikey Bits trying to encourage those to accept his lore as well written and meticulously planned out. Those who aren't taken in, who do oppose this, might even view his stuff as so bad they become more accepting of lesser sins to the setting because of their severity. Hell, this last point has already happened a few times over. People were so pissed off at Draigo's stunts and conquests, that they openly ignored how it should be impossible for him to be "walking" about the Warp in the first place.

    3. Grey Knights was awful however I don't think it's fair to say it plays like Blood Angels when I could say the same about Orks or Tyranids if we're generalizing that much, the Blood Angels have better deployment, movement, far more close-ranged weapons that aren't entirely focused on melee combat and their own special rules that change which fights are preferable to engage in melee and which ones aren't (unlike Grey Knights, which were good against everything). I even remember somebody building a dreadnought-themed Blood Angels army just for a lark because it was possible and completely legal and was definitely something you couldn't do with Grey Knights (ending up with eleven dreadnoughts), though naturally on the tabletop it certainly wasn't competitive.

      I am curious what Necron units you think slid towards the "SHEER OVERWHELMING POWER!!!!!" Angle, and that's genuine curiosity since I remember when I said you couldn't just randomly put together a Necron army you didn't say anything to the contrary. All I can really think of was the Doomsday Ark, which costed a lot (think about how many plasma cannons you can get for that price that would possibly do the job better), was relatively easy to destroy when factoring in its armour after the first penetrating hit (which wasn't too hard to get with a Lascannon or two, a Predator Annihilator could easily kill it and fully make more than its points back in doing so) and it was one of the Necrons very limited sources of high AP ranged attacks. If you took it out, then they didn't have much at all that could deal with AP2-3, literally the only other non-character weapon that could hurt terminators were the Heavy Guass Cannons the Heavy Destroyers carried, the Death Ray (on the very easily destroyed Doom Scythes, to the point that I barely found anyone using them) and the Transdimensional Thunderbolt C'tan power (which was ludicrously overpriced). Keep in mind Necrons have no unit options (no plasma options for their regular squad) and they have no unit champions to take stuff from their armoury. Hell after the Doomsday Ark and Destroyers, the only other thing they have that can reliably hurt Marines is the Particle Whip on the Monolith (which is also an Ordnance weapon), which is only AP3, so I'd very much like to know where this idea of their "overwhelming power" comes from. This is also why I said in a previous article that the best way of dealing with a Necron force is to pick it apart bit by bit.

      I also feel like you might be a little blinded by how bad Grey Knights was, as I honestly didn't have a problem winning against his Blood Angels (for example, it didn't take long to realize Mephiston has no Invulnerable save), and when I first started using them I definitely had a problem winning with his Necrons, even including fighting the Sanguinor it didn't take me very long to realize that he sucked against Monstrous Creatures/Walkers as C'tan would routinely kick the shit out of both him and Mephiston, though admittedly after powers they were either equal or greater in cost but they had the AP2 to go through Mephiston's armour, and the Toughness to survive the Sanguinor's attacks, while remaining too limited to spam wherever I wanted and not providing the same army buffs the other two did (however even Tyranid monstrous creatures could usually deal with the Sanguinor thanks to him only being S5). Aside from those three I can't think of any Codex of his that had people bitching about it for a long time (in the case of Blood Angels it was more a knee-jerk reaction, and in the case of Necrons it was because of 6th edition).

      I know that there's always going to be idiots who'll accept any lore, and I know that there's those who don't care about it, however I'm also sure that there's going to be those who're going to be more skeptical of any new releases now, which at least makes me a bit happy.

  4. Now I haven't even started on 40k's equivalent of The End Times, first things first though, the article mentions that everything's still going to freeze at the "one minute to midnight" scenario, so apparently we're actually not going to get The End Times of 40k.
    I do find it a little funny that the Necrons are apparently pissed off at everyone, if those mentions are accurate since Necrons are mentioned as showing up in every single book where they seem to be fighting everyone at the same time (which might be the best way to depict them, several small but strong forces spread over a wide area).

    If they decide to do a soft-reboot with 40k, I think it's entirely possible to do it without completely annihilating the original universe, there's a project going on called The 9th Age which looks at what would have happened if Fantasy's world hadn't been destroyed at the end (to say the least it's a clusterfuck, but a really interesting one that I can find myself getting invested in when it's finally finished) and the main reason now I haven't played Age of Sigmar is a lack of interest due to running older campaigns with better Fantasy books (by which I mean better than 4 and 5 of The End Times, I'll admit I haven't read the AoS stuff yet).

  5. *sighs* Just when I thought Warhammer was turning shit around...Now what Sci Fi universe will I enjoy?