Friday, 31 March 2017

Jim Sterling and John Bain Consult Valve on Steam’s Future

For all its major successes, few will deny that Valve’s Greenlight scheme has hardly been the success the company hoped it might be. After multiple controversies born from a lack of policing, Valve itself announced that it would be killing off the system and replacing it with a better alternative. In order to achieve this goal, the company has approached two of Greenlight’s greatest critics, Jim Sterling and John “Totalbiscuit” Bain.

This was announced earlier today on each video game commentator’s Twitter feeds, posting images from Valve’s HQ. This was followed up several hours later by several responses from Sterling stating the following:

Over the past several years both Sterling and Bain have repeatedly cited multiple failings of the system, with the former even creating a long running Youtube series focusing upon the more problematic releases. Often focusing upon the issues behind the system itself rather than merely the games which have been uploaded, this is their chance to hopefully change things for the better.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Reviews On Hold Due To Same Old Problem

I had hoped to avoid doing this once again, especially so soon after the last one, but it looks like i'm going to have to stop writing for a while. It's the same reason as last time - my absolute hellhole of a job is giving me grief non-stop, and I am constantly arriving back from work utterly burned out from the experience. The good news is this might be changing at the end of the month with any luck, but until then it seems the life sucking parasite known as retail is doing all it can to kill me from sheer stress before I can escape it.

With luck we should have better news soon, and until then I hope you are well. I will update if I can, and comment when I have time, but in all likelihood things are going to be quiet on this front for at least the next week or so.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda (Video Game Review)

Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t merely one game, but two folded in upon themselves. One is exactly what we had hoped for, a Mass Effect version of Dragon Age: Inquisition, with all the exploration and ideas any fan could hope for. The other verges upon self-parody so often that you only need Mel Brooks’ involvement to turn the game into a Spaceballs reboot. The sad thing is, you can’t separate one from the other.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch Part 4 - The Roads Ahead (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)

With the ending of this book, the Gathering Storm trilogy has come and gone. With it we have witnessed a number of sweeping changes to three of the setting's major factions, and the re-introduction of a number of major elements within the narrative. Obviously this was a massive game-changer, and it has reinvented a number of major parts of the setting on the whole. As the name also implied, this seems to have also been an opportunity to have Warhammer 40,000 spring-board its way into larger events, and a much bigger ongoing narrative.

So, having read through this, the question is so what happens now?

Because of how prominent this question is, and just how far reaching the possibilities are, this part will be both referring back to events in the book, but considering what they might imply. Specifically how they might reflect upon how future events will be handled and how the thematic approaches of future tales will differ from past works. 

Plus, we'll also be looking into a few of the mistakes which were made in my opinion; because there are some structural flaws here which simply cannot go unremarked upon.

The Age of Legends Over End Times

The very fact we're advancing the story is a massive change unto itself, both thematically and in terms of future books. While that might sound like a obvious statement, please seriously stop to consider what this means for a moment. Warhammer itself has always been made based upon the idea that it was just a few years away from annihilation. Every codex from the Fifth Edition onward repeatedly emphasised this point, over and over again by adding in more and more gigantic Armageddon grade events for each faction. Some were ascending, annihilating everything in their path, others were gripped in civil wars, while a few were fighting a desperate battle for survival. While some have exaggerated the technological decay of the Imperium, it cannot be denied as a factor in storytelling. Save for the likes of the Tau Empire or the daemons of Chaos, every faction is working with remnants of better ages. Relic weapons, vehicles and even baseline psychic concepts were all taken from a better age. Often a step forwards was either only made by building upon what little had been recovered, or it was reclaiming what had been lost, like with the Storm Eagle entering production once more.

The whole point was that almost every story focused upon a dark, almost nihilistic tone to one degree or another, where characters knew that something grim awaited them in the next millennium. It was akin to how the Cthulhu Mythos handled its own tales, and while some tales such as Gaunt's Ghosts, the Ultramarines saga, Ciaphas Cain books or others would lessen the effect, they could not escape it entirely. The grim darkness of the far future was as defining a theme for this setting as boundless optimism was for Star Trek. The problem is, now we have removed that stopper, and the game itself seems to have been shifting about us. What the lore focuses upon now is less an age where Chaos might reign supreme so much as the era of a new Eldar Empire or second Great Crusade. It's more hopeful, more upbeat and positive despite everything, and in some ways it seems to have gained and lost something in equal measure.

The obvious aspect it has gained stems from the creative freedom on offer now. With that seal broken, writers can begin working and experimenting with many of the ideas which have been hinted at for decades. The return of a primarch to the Imperium alone is enough to send shock-waves across the galaxy, and his reaction to things like the Imperial Church, new powers, technologies and threats the Legions never faced is ripe for story opportunities. Equally, the idea that the eldar could be united once more as a race is a genuinely good one. It would be a difficult uphill battle, it would be a chance to more thoroughly explore the species than anything seen before and, for all the criticisms I had of Fracture of Biel-Tan, a well executed approach would be an engaging narrative. Yet, because of this much of the initial mystery and wonder born of the original work seems to be gone. 

What often drew many people to Warhammer 40,000 was the same thing which made Dark Souls' lore so fascinating. Players were greeted with half-truths of older eras, an age of decline and a time when greatness had been seeping out of the galaxy. The truth behind many ideas needed to be pieced together by individual players, and everything was put into question to some degree. With this new start, that aspect seems to be bereft of this setting. Many of the old question are being given definitive answers, the old fan-fiction ideas rapidly dealt with immediately, and an unfortunate number of plot hooks are either being rapidly resolved or discarded entirely. The latest among these was M'Kar's invasion of Ultramar, which is only granted a passing mention in the Rise of the Primarch. While these stories are admittedly seeded with new hints and mysteries - including one surrounding Guilliman and Ynnead which could be very fun to see play out - they are approached in a very different way. Their scope is much narrower, much more limited to a few individuals, and is less "galactic" in terms of scale.

In brief, it's less the sort of thing you would expect from Warhammer 40,000 and more something akin to the Age of Sigmar.

Now, I have nothing personally against the Age of Sigmar (how it was brought about, yes, but let's not open up that can of worms again) but they're two very different games. One is a Norse war and celestial conflict, a mash up of Spelljammer, Flash Gordon, and the Marvel idea of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson, with the ideas of Warhammer Fantasy behind it. It's a great setting in its down right, but it focuses less upon establishing a vast universe and setting over a series of epic sagas following larger than life characters. By comparison, the dark nature of 40,000 worked better on a larger scope, focusing more upon the armies than the individuals. There were always the odd exceptions to this, yes, but if you were to sit down and compare the likes of Sentinels of Terra with the Vraks Campaign, it quickly becomes clear which style is more appropriate to the setting. 

By following a few focal characters or general narrative threads, we run into the old issue of a very narrow narrative focus. It becomes less a story about various armies, less a story about empires and granting players the opportunities to build their own forces, and more about the few people leading them. While the opening Fall of Cadia might have been extremely character focused, there was still enough room to show that the ground troops and warships involved were playing an incredibly important role in events. Unfortunately, this was promptly thrown out of the window with Fracture of Biel-Tan and ignored entirely with Rise of the Primarch. In each case, the only important figures involved were the newly introduced characters, with everyone else effectively just serving as their fodder. It leaves me worried that, while the story itself might progress, it won't be enough to actually emphasis the sheer scale of galactic warfare, or the vast legions involved in any fight. When we have a story moving forwards, it makes me concerned that the narrative won't focus upon the potential loss of a major world or an army, but how it will simply affect the demigod leading it.

This also leads into the next subject rather nicely.

No Men, Only Gods

So, Guilliman is alive, Magnus is active again and the Yncarne is ascendant. We have beings so powerful that they can break armies on their own striding about the galaxy, capable of pimp-slapping Bloodthirsters about and fell mini-Titans in slugging matches. So, where does that leave room for everyone else, then?

It's the old problem of introducing someone like Superman into a story, as once you have someone who can beat almost everyone at their own game, there seems to be no room for anyone less powerful. The problem is, however, that while DC Comics and Marvel have their own methods of balancing out the obvious differences in power between such groups, Warhammer doesn't have that same opportunity. There's no morality issue to hold back any of these characters, no kryptonite to rely upon, and quite frankly few skills where they can edge out against these figures. 

This mentality of pushing anyone who isn't god-tier aside can already be found within these stories very early on. On the side of the eldar, the Yncarne is the single most important being of the entire book, understandably perhaps given his role, but also the only other characters of real worth are also linked directly to his power. Eldrad barely gets a mention, Yriel is pushed into being little more than a sacrificial lamb to show off their abilities, and Iyanna is all but forgotten within a few pages of her introduction. The same problem arises with Guilliman, but it's taken to an absolute extreme. While a few figures do receive glory moments early on into Rise of the Primarch, once the Avenging Son awakens he effectively hijacks the story for himself. Calgar is reduced to a background mention along with the entirety of the Ultramarines' command staff, Celestine only shows up in secondary mentions, and even the other released characters are little more than a means to an end. There's no real narrative balance here, and there are few moments indeed for characters to shine.

A rather heated discussion in the comments section of this review's second part (which I did not get involved in for reasons of neutrality) repeated such fears at a few points. While personally I cannot agree with several points - such as the fact the story will focus only upon the primarchs - I do think we'll see a rise in these sorts of characters over the coming editions. From Farsight to Ghazghkull, every faction has its own figure which can easily become a demigod and an ascendant power in their own right. Each has been seeded with figures which can be upgraded to a level on par with the primarchs and, going from past Supplements, the extremely character based tales effectively set them up for this sudden rise to power. The problem is, the story honestly seems like it doesn't fully know what to do with them once it crossed the line of adding them into the setting, at least besides having them fight one another,

Rise of the Primarch in particular showed Guilliman as a near unstoppable force capable of ripping apart Terminators with his bare hands. In terms of tactics, planning, leadership and sheer skill at arms he is presented as completely outdoing everyone else beneath him, and this turns him into the sole focus of the tale. So much so, that only the addition of Tzeentch's most powerful servant briefly stops him, and he runs into few problems at all until Magnus decided to personally have a go at fighting his brother. This has the unfortunate side effect of turning Warhammer 40,000 into a Godzilla film, merely with the JSDF replaced by standard troops and the kaiju switched out for the big guns. The latter can only be beaten by another of their kind it seems, at least going by narrative requirements, and by doing it effectively removes a great deal of player involvement from the story. As we mentioned way back in the Sentinels of Terra review, it renders any of your own creations or armies completely moot as it's always going to be someone else taking center stage and making the important decisions here.

Another factor, and one which can't be ignored, is the fact that by focusing more upon these "big guns" of each army, the Imperium and Chaos have a massive advantage over everyone else. While I disagree with the idea that it will somehow render all other races superfluous to the setting, the fact they have far more to work with and release cannot be ignored. After all, each side has seven of these figures to call upon. As it stands, the Tau Empire have only one potential figure, the Orks have perhaps two, who knows if the Tyranid Hive Fleets will even see one at all, the Necrons might have two, and the Eldar only have three at the most. Okay, perhaps more, but that depends heavily upon the Phoenix Lords getting a long deserved power boost. Because of this, even without going into the re-introduction of the Custodes or Sisters of Silence, we're likely to see the human races still taking an extremely prominent role in the setting. Likely one to the detriment of the other factions, and with an even more tunnel-vision focus upon Chaos.

Even if you don't accept that, however, consider this: Above all others here, the primarchs are the ones who the majority of the fandom would want to see. They're the ones who have had the most written about them, the most personality in their events and with the continued successes of the Horus Heresy line, and they're the ones with the biggest population of relevant armies. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that the fandom would be more excited as a whole about Leman Russ' return than a C'Tan partially reforming itself out of shards.

What's Now Is Now

Above all else, something which seriously needs to be considered here is the speed and pacing at which certain tales will be dealt with. Specifically how quickly events will resolve themselves and rapidly tie up loose ends so they can move forwards. When you sit back and really look at the Gathering Storm event for a few minutes you will realise two things: It accomplished exactly what the fandom wanted, advancing the storyline to a degree unseen in past years and rapidly retooling the universe to fit a new status quo. At the same time however, it cannot be denied that it went from "Chaos is victorious, we're screwed!" to "Time for the Second Great Crusade, long live the new Emperor!" in the space of perhaps a few days at most.

Little time was actually taken to really explore the consequences behind each event, or even the revelations that arose between the Fall of Cadia and the second Battle of the Webway. We had the Thirteenth Black Crusade succeed, we had Chaos spilling forth and attacking countless worlds, but no time at all was spent exploring the supposed Apocalypse which was to follow this event, nor the end of times which was supposed to follow. For what should have been the death knell for all that was good in the universe, we received what basically was presented as a bad few weeks for a few worlds and a few Chaos raids. Even the very assault upon Ultramar itself was almost nothing special. How unexpected, how impossible an attack, this should have been was all but completely ignored until the event lacked even a fraction of the scale it needed to reflect upon the major changes going down. Given how speedy a resolution we had, you would almost be forgiven for thinking it was more of a daring assault than any titanic invasion force.

When you sit back and compare this event to other outings, it doesn't take long to realise just how many missed opportunities there truly were. If there was ever a time to explore Chaos, to really shake up the status quo and rapidly change things, this was now, and we have seen that handled excellently in the past. The often mentioned Shape of the Nightmare to Come, my personal gold standard for these stories, spent its entirety examining how this would effect each group in turn. From Abaddon establishing his own Dark Imperium while fighting off opportunistic daemon primarchs to Biel-Tan establishing its own small empire at long last, to the fate of the Imperium breaking up into small feuding kingdoms, it covered everything. 

Now, while that story might have been a monumental event across ten thousand years, the author made sure to do two things: Firstly, to make sure that he did everything possible with these opportunities. From Yarrick falling as a hero to large factions of the Black Templars becoming nihilistic insane warmongers, it wasn't afraid to experiment with what might happen should Cadia fall. Each and every one of those mini-stories featured more fine detail and more substance than much of what was found here, covering enough to ensure anyone would be taken in by the in-depth narrative. Secondary however, it also ensured that there was a darkness before the light. When a primarch returned, it was only after the universe had suffered and readers realised just how badly they were needed, and it allowed them to have immediate impact upon the setting, adding to their grandeur.
Even if you don't want to count fanfiction options though, also consider what we have seen in the past. Imperial Armour always accomplished showing the long term consequences of each war, and the build up towards the ongoing battles. Smaller, minor, things like the affect a war would have upon shipping in the area or even the politics of the Inquisition were always present, and there was always enough there to give a sense of genuine conflict between two huge forces. More importantly, it managed to feature a number of prominent characters on each side, made their role essential to the story and featured a fair bit of personal drama, all while retaining a key focus upon the army as a whole throughout most of each story. Hell, even if you're tired of that one or think it has the benefit of a larger page count, the likes of Battlefleet Gothic also accomplished the same thing on a much more restrained length. It might have lacked a few of the character bits and featured a shorter ending, but it nevertheless built up the image of a hellish war and a sense of dread building towards the first battles.

The simple point is that many of these stories seemed to only focus upon what was important at that moment. They never paused, never seemed to move towards showing more of Ultramar affected by this war, and never stopped to really give a greater sense of scale. While it did have a few moments where it fleetingly touched upon this, such acts were often tied into the "protagonist" of that particular book, and were often quickly skimmed over.

On the one hand, such an approach does mean that they can more easily advance and adapt the narrative as the tale evolves. On the other however, it seems as if Warhammer 40,000 is about to lose one of its greatest strengths in delivering something the fans have asked about for so long. While a new approach is certainly needed to help encourage an ongoing tale and adapting storyline, it needs stories to back up the advancing plot and to give each twist more meaning. Perhaps Black Library can be used to fill this gap, but lore books or even extended segments within campaign releases would easily be able to carry out this role without too much trouble.

A New Dawn

More so than anything else, we need to cover this part. This is going to be very brief, but it seems to be something that few people have picked up on, despite the big warning lights going on throughout these books. So, here it is: This isn't a continuation, it's a soft reboot. 

Now, this is down to personal opinion, I will admit, but everything here fits in with that definition of the term. A soft reboot is where a writer tries to reset or retcon a series back to its initial starting point as something of a do-over, but it doesn't simply abandon what was established. Instead it works around the stories established, and brings them to a point where they can focus upon a new status quo after usurping the old one. In this case, what we have is a new Imperial crusade being launched against Chaos, a new seemingly united eldar people and Chaos growing in power. Many of these points fit into events closer to M31 than anything else, and while some M41 ideas remain, thematically and even in terms of general presentation, it is trying to almost start over. It's following a new direction entirely, and what we get is largely opposed to what came before.

This is most evident when you actually sit down and compare how the books treated established plot-hooks and cliffhangers with its own events. Each time, they were either rapidly resolved at a breakneck speed or quickly abandoned/dealt with off-screen so they didn't get in the way. Everything was rapidly shuffled side and reworked so that nothing would remain to get in the way of a fresh start for someone, and each army could focus upon something new instead.

Most of the stories we will see will likely revolve around the older ideas more than anything else. So, while Cypher's tale will be told at last, it's unlikely the Celestial Lions will see any resolution to their tale, nor will the abruptly dropped suggestion that the Dark Angels and all their successors had reformed into a single legion and were advancing towards Cadia. Again, this is good and bad, with the bad relating to the loss of ongoing ideas and story opportunities, while the good allows for more of an ongoing tale to be rapidly updated as time goes by. What will shift this in one direction or the other will ultimately depend upon how the writers choose to handle certain key events.

Final Thoughts

There's little left to say which hasn't been mentioned already here. Ultimately, we're off the edge of the map here and it seems that anything can go from here on. Whether or not that will be for good or ill will ultimately come down to the skill of the writers behind this, but it's hard not to shake the feeling that for everything we'll gain here, we'll lose something of equal value. Only time will tell if this push will have truly been worth it in the long run.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Nintendo Switch (Console Review)

Welcome to he Wii U Mk. 2, also known as the Nintendo Switch. Taking many of the assets, ideas and aspects of its predecessor, while trying very hard to learn from what led its older design to fail, the Switch aims to offer three things from the start: Accessibility, portability and convenience. While such praise might sound back-handed, almost insulting, it doesn't take long to realise that the Switch has captured qualities other consoles have long forgotten.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch Part 3 - Formations, Detachments, Psychic Powers (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)

Welcome to the second part on this book's rules. If you're after the previous part, you can find it here.

You know, I think i'm going to need to figure out a better format for these reviews. While we have plenty of the first option and some of the second, there are no psychic powers to be found at all here. Oh there are a few notes in this book, but they're just reminders of certain Grey Knights rules. Hardly a bad thing to have as a reminder in games, admittedly, but after the more specialized stuff the other psychic heavy heroes received, the lack of anything new is oddly irksome.

So, with that odd introduction out of the way, let's get on with the remainder of this book's tabletop content.


Most of the new formations this time around are tied directly into the heroes, even more so than usual. Rather than blending together a mixture of units a-la Fracture of Biel-Tan, they focus upon individual armies one at a time, and often hinge upon the involvement of a single specific hero to lead them. It's certainly an odd contrast between the two, especially given how willing the writers of Fracture were to mix in any unit they felt was engaging for the force. This could either be down to writers seeing various astartes armies as more separate entities than different nations of eldar (and no, I will not be starting that little rant again) or it could just be down to experimentation. Either way, it's an odd quality given these books have been released side by side.

Fallen Champions

This is the one for Cypher's posse, if you'd not guessed from the name, and it largely serves as an excuse to deploy a heavily armied strike team into enemy lines. Consisting of Cypher himself and 1-3 units of Fallen (basically slightly better equipped versions of your standard astartes), it has no restrictions but a couple of key benefits. The highlighted special rule is the fact that any unit of Fallen within this formation gains And They Shall Know no Fear and Stubborn when within 12" of Cypher himself, but the more important one is the fact they call gain Infiltrate.

In effect, by taking this formation you end up with a substantial chunk of any army, capable of taking a variety of heavy weapons, power fists and grenades, and then dropping in on the enemy early on. On the one hand, there's nothing present to really boost their durability, and short of serving as a single massive (albeit a potentially very harmful) roadblock, they're unlikely to win the game themselves at high points sessions. These have not been written as veterans either, so it sidesteps the potential issue of allowing a player to drop thirty marines armed with lightning claws almost atop of the deployment zone in turn one; plus smart players will likely be able to wipe them out before reinforcements can fully show up to back them on the battlefield.

However, you then have to consider what impact this would have on smaller scale games of five-hundred or seven-hundred-and-fifty-point engagements. At those skirmishing sizes, this stops being an advanced force and starts being the majority of your opposition showing up all at once. As such, I personally like the concept of it and can see its use in more commonplace sessions, but at the same time it's another example of something written without budget battles in mind.

Bulwark of Purity

And now we're onto the Grey Knights. No points for anyone who predicted that, as there are few other armies quite so obsessed with having purity in their naming conventions as this lot. Well, perhaps besides the Sisters at any rate. The name is also fairly self-explanatory, as it allows you to have a rather big block of units which are hard to kill getting in the way of your army, and dishing out damage in return. Consisting of one Terminator Librarian, two units of Paladins and two units of Grey Knight Terminators, these guys have been custom made to screw with psykers and daemons at every turn. So long as three of these units are still standing - no matter how many of each might be left - everything in your army gains +1 to Deny the Witch rolls, severely screwing over Magnus' ilk. Furthermore, equally relying upon three of their number still standing, the Knights can pull an area-of-effect version of Banishment. If one lets it loose, anything with the Daemon special rule within 12" of any other unit from this detachment is immediately hit by the same attack.

While this is admittedly a much more specialized choice than most options in these books, it is nevertheless an extremely useful one. There are, after all, far more daemonic units on the tabletop than in past years thanks to Magnus showing up and the Thousand Sons getting a substantial overhaul. Furthermore, with psykers becoming ever more prominent in this game, the extra edge these guys offer as a counter is definitely a welcome bonus. It's not enough to end the unending tide of Horrors unfortunately, and lord knows we need a better counter to that than multiple Titans, but it is a step in the right direction at least.

The fact that the upgrades are largely defensive also helps this particular formation fulfill the role of an infantry based defender many marine armies lack. It's certainly a much more durable one than most expected options at any rate. As it serves more as a basic enhancement than a total game changer, it's one of the more moderate choices I personally like to see in these formations.

Victrix Guard

So, onto the Ultramarines choice, which is certainly quite the unexpected combo option of units. While you might have expected something to focus more upon their lauded tactical variety or, given the name, a massed force of Honour Guards, it instead consists of Sicarius, an Honour Guard unit, and then four Stern/Vanguard squads. These unfortunately can't take dedicated transports, which already hurts their capabilities quite a bit when it comes to the usual "Hi guys, I hope you like plasma!" drop pod attacks favoured by the Sternguard. Thankfully however, there is nothing to stop you taking jump packs for the melee orientated options on offer here.

The upgrades are somewhat basic unfortunately, with the big one being a basic +1 to WS and BS scores for everyone in the formation, for a bit of added firepower. Their real role though, seem to be to give Guilliman a few more meat shields, as any unit within 3" of him can perform Look Out, Sir! rolls as if he were part of their squad. While certainly not a bad choice, and a useful option to help prevent the primiarch from becoming bogged down by too many enemy units, it's a bit overly expensive for mere fodder. It really does seem to be a choice best left for extremely large games or Apocalypse battles, as it's too large and unwieldy to really fit into the average game.

Also, and this can't go without comment, but the use of Latin has taken a very odd turn here. Normally Warhammer on the whole is fairly loose when it comes to using the proper Latin pronouns or definitions, but "Victrix" specifically refers to a female warrior or champion of renown. I don't know if this was an odd jab at the female marines crowd or just a subtle in-joke, but either way it's a curious term to be sure.

Triumvirate of the Primarch

Now we reach the one everyone knew was coming. Really, as we mentioned, this combination of three distinct groups of heroes has been a winning option for the writers from the start, and they were hardly about to change anything now. With the choice of Guilliman, the Grand Master, and the Lord of the Fallen all together, you can expect that this is quite the powerful formation, and definitely the big gun of this book. Surprisingly though, it's actually the most tame out of everything we have seen thus far, at least in terms of Triumvirates, and relies more upon the heroes' individual special rules than any big bonus.

There are only two special rules on offer this time around, with the first offering the units here a bit of added durability. In effect, once per turn each model in this group can re-roll one save, but with Guilliman there to soak up so much firepower and the likes of Voldus being no slouch in just shrugging off bolt rounds himself, it's only a minor bonus really. In addition, the second rule really just gives every friendly Imperial unit on the tabletop Stubborn. While I am not complaining personally (as, again, having formations win games has been a pet peeve for a long time now) it's still odd that something so basic was thrown together for such a legendary mix of heroes.

So, those are the detachments. Nothing too bad, but nothing especially great either, and more reliable than anything truly outstanding. Let's see if the big army option can make up for that.


The only one on offer here this time is the Victrix Strike Force Detachment, which is an Ultramarines exclusive option. The combination of units is basically the "everything possible" approach to chocies, listing more or less anything present in the standard codex which isn't tied down to another chapter:

Core (1+)
Battle Demi-company
Strike Force Ultra

Command (0-3)
Strike Force Command
Librarius Conclave
Reclusiam Command Squad

Auxiliary (1-10)
Victrix Guard
Armored Task Force
1st Company Task Force
Anti-Air Defence Force
10th Company Task Force
Storm Wing
Suppression Force
Land Raider Spearhead

Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort

So, you can effectively re-work this to combine together with almost any army in mind, but still take advantage of the new special rules. What are those? Again, nothing especially noteworthy, but certainly much more useful than a few of the previous examples. besides the "re-roll Warlord traits" option which is always present with these, you have the command benefits of taking the Ultramarines' tactical qualities to their absolute extreme. You can enact one extra Devastator/Assault/Tactical Doctrine per turn at the moment of your choosing, per turn no less, and atop of this almost anything can now take an objective. So long as it's just not a transport, anything within range of an objective can hold it, even if it is contested. While that latter point is pushing things a bit too far in my opinion, it's definitely a welcome improvement over the stuff seen in Fall of Cadia and Fracture of Biel-Tan. Rather than just piling everything into a formation and calling it a day or giving them suicide speed boosters, there's more of a sense of direction here without resorting to sheer raw power.

However, with that said, it's incredibly easy to see how this new ability could be easily abused. As the rule is not stopped or blocked by a unit falling under strength, it means you can end up with situations where the Ultramarines hold a single objective by having one guy next to it, overriding an entire army. It also isn't affected by any of the usual modifiers either, meaning that all you need to do is just stay somewhere close by and keep rolling saves, and the game is yours. The only reason I am not calling it broken is because there are so many units which can actively butcher their way through tactical squads with ease or break them in a single round of combat. Even with that though, it's still hard not to wince when you think of just how many easy victories this new rule could help someone pull off.


Like the lore and previous pages, these ideas seem semi-complete for the most part. They're rushed rather than truly bad, and it honestly reads as if someone was trying to experiment with something fun before having to submit a first-draft version of the rules. This unfortunately results in more than a few logical flaws and, as cited above, a number of rules which can result in insanely easy victories. While I would be hard pressed to call these rules truly bad, and you can have some fun with the formations, it's certainly not the best showing either. Overall, much like the rest of the Gathering Storm, the book retains good ideas but very flawed executions in many places. 

So, with that done, join us next time when we rap up this book for good with a few thoughts on the returning primarchs and what can come from them.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch Part 2 - The Special Rules, Units and Relics (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)

So, with the (largely) spoiler free story coverage done for the moment, it's time to move onto the rules. Obviously this is once again going to be very character driven, with three big main units being pushed more than anything else and a few general special rules being used to help flesh out the army as a whole. It's effectively the same song and dance as the rest of the series up to this point, but as a basic update and promotional extra atop of a story focused book, it's not too bad. Would more be better? Certainly but just to reiterate, unlike what a few others have said about this series up to this point, I personally don't have too much of a problem with it. It's trying to match the Imperial Armour books in style and substance, while also being limited to a fraction of their length. So, personally, I can accept what we're being offered here.

Oh, and what we're being offered is quite interesting indeed this time around.

Special Rules

Surprisingly, there's actually very little here to speak of this time around. While there are certainly a fair few specialist choices and unique rules, each is tied either into the individual units on offer (The Fallen, for one) or the formations which have been put together. As such, unlike the Eldar, there is no single defining theme or mechanic which drastically alters how they are played here. So, yeah, there's some fun stuff here and there, but nothing which reworks an existing army into something entirely new this time around.


There's a bit of the change from the usual format this time. Previously we have seen the tank, the glass canon psyker/anti-psyker and the duelist taking up the trio of roles for each army. Vital ones to be sure, and quite an effective spin on the usual variants of heroes we've seen. However, thanks to the figures present here, the lines between each of their respective roles have blurred considerably. It's perhaps to be expected given each is a power armoured post-human designed to keep fighting after having both arms ripped off and half their head missing, but it's worth mentioning.

Robute Guilliman

It would have been an easy thing to just lift Guilliman up from his Horus Heresy incarnation and say "there, job done!" when it came to stats. However, Games Workshop opted instead to build upon what they had resulting in something which is effectively Guilliman 2.0. While still featuring the same monstrous stats line, the primarch has seen a substantial boost in terms of his Weapons Skill and only a slightly lessened attack value:


9 6 6 6 6 6 6 10 2+/3++

In addition to this, perhaps to reflect his changed state, he has also lost It Will Not DieIndependent Character, and Master of the Legion. Two of these are unfortunate to be sure, even if the last one is hardly unexpected given it was unique to the Horus Heresy setting overall. Plus, it's a small price to pay for what he has gained atop of this, benefiting from Monstrous Creature (Have fun with that one!), Hammer of Wrath, Move Through Cover, Relentless, Smash, Feel No Pain and Preferred Enemy (Chaos). It's more than enough to prove that he can live up to the old legends of his supremacy, and that like all primarchs he can likely fist fight a Bloodthirster before going down. Admittedly though, he does also reflect upon the current ridiculousness of Warhammer when it comes to the rules because he has just so damn many to keep track of. Atop of the above examples, you have to also keep in mind that he retains Adamantium Will. Eternal Warrior, Fear, Fearless, Fleet, Precision Shots and Precision Strikes from his past incarnation as well.

Oh, and then you have to also mount the fact he can offer the following unique special rules to any game he is in: All Imperial forces can re-roll all failed Leadership, pinning, and fear tests. All Ultramarines gain the ability to re-use all Doctrines when he is in the army, and  his Leadership is not subject to any negative modifiers no matter the situation. Oh, and you can't kill him most of the time. If you manage to fell this big blue bastard, he will show up again sometimes with D3 of his wounds restored.

As said a few times before, this sort of character would normally have me complaining that he is ruthlessly overpowered, but it would be disappointing if he wasn't. He's supposed to be a one-of-a-kind demigod who could solo Greater Daemons, and anything short of this would seem cheap for the character. Plus, this seems like it is at least in part Age of Sigmar's influence at work here, allowing players of every side to have at least one obscene god-tier character in their arsenal.

The main thing worth finally covering is his weapons. The armour counters and blocks attacks as standard, and the 3+ invulnerable save is certainly a nice touch, but the fact he's also carrying one of the Emperor's swords cannot go unremarked upon. It allows him to attack at Strength 10 AP1 (because of course it does) and besides Armourbane, Concussive, and Soul Blaze it has two special rules. The first is the fact that any roll of a six on a hit causes his strike to become a Destroyer grade attack. The second is that he can sacrifice six attacks to hit every single person within 1" of him. So, in a mob melee it's not much of a disadvantage.

The sword would be enough of a boon in most battles, but you also have a specialised power fist known as the Hand of Dominion to take into account as well. It's a relic power fist with a gun beneath it which fires 24" S6 AP2 Heavy 3 shots per turn, which you can fire on the move because Relentless sidesteps the Heavy value.

While many are already calling him Calgar on steroids, the truth is that he ironically ends up occupying a role similar to that of Magnus. You'll often use him as a means to hold a force together, grouping up and buffing units before using his enhanced power to fell the more powerful foes which are sent your way. While his lack of ranged abilities is admittedly a step down from Magnus himself, not to mention the lack of psychic potential, he's ultimately not the wrecking ball many people might consider him to be at first glance.

Oh, and he's only one hundred points more than a Land Raider, so have fun with that.

Grand Master Voldus

When compared with everything else across this series, Voldus seems rather tame in terms of stats and capabilities. He has the same basic stats line as a common or garden Grand Master, with the only notable difference stemming from a higher Mastery Level of three. In addition to this, he has access to most of the psychic disciplines you would expect, from Daemonology (Santic), Fulmniation, Divination, and the same ones we've seen rehashed from Codex: Angels of Death onward.

So, he's reliable and dependable, but what actually makes him truly stand out here? For starters, his hammer isn't Unwieldy, meaning you can strike at Initiative 5 rather than suffer the usual delays, and comes equipped with that ever popular Iron Halo + Terminator Armour combo which makes these guys so durable. Unlike many options seen across this series, it allows him to be used as a frontline fighter without putting him at too much risk. All this amounts to a general and very good hero choice, but one who will likely (and unfortunately) be pushed into the background thanks to his competition.

If you do want one major advantage though, the fact he is listed under Armies of the Imperium rather than specifically Grey Knights means he can team up with almost any Imperial force. So, Imperial Guard players? Yeah, they're about to get a big psychic boost.


As with Voldus, Cypher here is relatively unchanged from his previous stats line. With that said though, it is still one hell of a stats line:


7 10 4 4 3 8 3 10 3+

If you need someone to be quickly dropped at close range by a few precise shots, this guy is your man. With both a bolt pistol and plasma weapon at his disposal, his special rules permit him to fire each twice in the same turn, or once each while Running. Top off all of that with the option to fire them in close combat and maintaining his full BS while shooting in Overwatch, and he can cause almost as much damage as a full Tactical Squad in the right situation. Sometimes even more than that.

While his lack of an Invulnerable save might make him seem fragile at first glance, he has no end of special rules to help make up for this. Consisting of And They Shall Know No Fear, Eternal Warrior, Fleet, Hit & Run, Independent Character, Infiltrate and Shrouded, he's a useful semi-glass cannon which can be dropped into almost any situation. There is also much less risk in sending him far ahead of the main force, or even using him on his lonesome, as another unique special rule means he can escape annihilation. If any foe is not within D6 inches of him upon his death, Cypher is considered to have escaped his captors/killers, so he adds no Victory Points to their sides.

There are some interesting combinations which can be considered given how you can pair Cypher up with a few extra units of Fallen Angels as well. Given just how nasty an opening barrage of plasma bolts can be to anyone, we'll probably be seeing him used quite often from here on.


The Relics of Ultramar here are really much of what you would expect. We have the usual combination of various categories from the defensive, offensive and the odd weird one, but there are few here which can really be called bad. At worst a few are just a bit overly specific in their use, or unfortunately cover points or stats which are almost standard with many units today.

Tarentian Cloak: Wearer gets Eternal Warrior and It Will Not Die. Generic but certainly a nice combination of two very useful skills. Thirty-five points unfortunately makes it a bit steep for adding onto a Captain, but nevertheless it's still a good choice on the whole.

Helm of Censure: A nice call-back to Aonid Thiel, this is one of the somewhat more fun options as it thematically justifies the Preferred Enemy (Everyone) option far better than most other choices. This alone would normally make it quite dull, but it comes with the added bonus of re-rolling all hits and wounds against Chaos Space Marines, which makes it somewhat situational but it can be a nice extra.

Sanctic Halo: This is reserved for Captains only, and confers Adamantium Will and Feel No Pain. While there isn't anything inherently wrong with this choice, I would have personally preferred something a bit more inventive. One item like this is usually enough for any one book, but two which just add on a couple of special rules makes the whole thing look rushed. That's just personal opinion though, and it still does its job well.

Soldier's Blade: Oddly this is just a very sharp blade. Really, that's it, no power field, no ancient runes, it's just near preternaturally sharp thanks to lost smithing methods. Because of this it hits at AP2 in melee, making it a useful replacement for a power blade.

Standard of Macragge Inviolate: Of all those on offer here, this one is easily the most ambitious of the bunch. It's the elites option, available only to the Honour Guard, they offer +1 Leadership and +1 Attack to any and all allied Ultramarines within 12" of the bearer. This would be standard really, but you also have another odd option where your dying troops might go down swinging. On the roll of a 5+ an Ultramarine felled within 6" of the banner can make an out-of-turn shooting or assault move before dying.

It's limited in range, but it can be an interesting twist on things if used correctly. After all, it can give the likes of Terminators a bit more firepower or general attack capabilities, making it use for spearheading assaults or countering a major attack. Not too bad on the whole.

Vengeance of Ultramar: As you might imagine with that name, this is somewhat bio-weapon related. This is basically a souped up storm bolter with Poisoned 2+ attacks. Capable of shooting at Assault 4, it means you can blaze away at approaching targets and sap more armoured figures of their wounds with ease. Overall, it's a personal favourite on this list.


Thus far the book can largely be summed up as good but unremarkable. Much like the lore, it has one or two big high points, with the rest remaining run-of-the-mill throughout. There's nothing wrong at all with it, but it does little to experiment or try to push the boundaries a little bit to keep things fun. 

So, with that out of the way, onto the next and final bit of the rules.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)

Every ending has a beginning. It's an often repeated message but quite an accurate one, and it seems to be the mantra Games Workshop has been repeating while working on this project. Even as Cadia itself was torn asunder, the company was visibly making a massive push to enforce massive changes on the Imperium's side, and the company hasn't exactly been keeping quiet about this. This was clear even in Abaddon's moment of triumph, and the brief interlude to look into the world of the eldar did not change that in any way. In fact, Games Workshop promptly went the extra mile by all but plastering "GUILLIMAN IS BACK!" all over their website.

This is the first step towards the time foretold, with the return of the primarchs and the final war against Chaos. Old myths, prophecies and suggestions of a new age are coming to pass, and with the revival of the Avenging Son, it suggests that there might be more truth to them than we first realised. The question now is, even if he has returned, is there still enough of an Imperium left for him to command and help save?

The Good

Once again, and this must be stressed, someone was clearly listening to criticisms. Either one of the writers involved with Fall of Cadia decided to jump in or whoever made a mess of things with Fracture of Biel-Tan was regulated to a secondary role, as we don't see quite so much blithering insanity this time around. Rather than having Guilliman race around the galaxy abruptly ending every single plot-line surrounding the Adeptus Astartes all in one book (with a speed and style worthy of the Benny Hill theme) there is a concise focus here. You see how one story leads into another, how the developments of a falling galaxy come to play here, and the natural conclusion of so many ideas colliding in one place.

Even as the story does move about the galaxy, there is far more purpose and time spent on each point than anything we received with Fracture, and a few even pause to flesh out certain concepts. Rather than merely blitzing past existing settings, someone seemed to be going "Okay, but have we talked about this before?" and adding some nice details into the flavour text. This is especially evident early on during the events surrounding Fortress Hera, where the Ultramarines are under siege, and the story pauses to get across the grandeur of the moment.

The book also seems to remember that Chaos often strikes in indirect ways. So, while we are still treated to the Black Legion mounting a full scale assault upon a world, or even just bombing the enemy to hell at long range, it does pause to offer more subtle methods of attack. Sorcery, plagues, curses and a few rather nasty twists which turns the fate of the loyalists against themselves all come into play alongside daemons and the like. It gives more of a sense of humanity fighting against the daemonic hordes of hell itself, and of the dark powers which desire them dead. While Fall of Cadia might have featured daemonic ascensions and more than a few moments filled with mind bullets, Rise of the Primarch is the one which introduces the likes of the Weeping Plague, which causes soldiers to cry themselves to death. Trust me, that's sparing you some very gory descriptions found within the book.

The balance between characters and armies is far more solid than anything we have seen before, and while it does still lean heavily in favour of protagonists, there are some good exceptions. On multiple occasions the book will take time to shed some light on the lesser armies noted to be backing the bigger forces, or even cover some of the skirmishes which follow in the wake of larger conflicts. A particular section titled War Zone Ultramar is effectively an action montage in written form, covering the arrival of displaced Imperial forces, and it does just about enough to convey the size of the ongoing formations taking place. While certainly not nearly as effective as the efforts found in Battlefleet Gothic - and lacking the fine detail on certain troops, civilians and resources to help it stand out - it at least tries to give the impression that the conflict is a full scale war rather than merely a bum rush of troops.

Surprisingly, Guilliman himself also proves to be a major source of goodness all throughout the tale. It's true that Games Workshop has a notorious habit of over-promoting the primarch and his sons, often to the determent of everyone else. While Matt Ward's contributions will often be pointed to as the chief problem behind this, even the otherwise fantastic Horus Heresy rulebooks and novels have an irritating habit of dipping into this over and over again. Yet, despite this, Robute is in fine form here. He's still the demigod we know, still the expert strategist and tactician who rebuilt the Imperium, but the writers rarely feel the need to push this. They let him punch the heads off of traitors, regroup his forces and turn a losing battle into an abrupt victory but never feel the need to add something like "and thus this proved the Ultramarines were better than all others" or have him kill an entire Titan Legion with a glance. Oh, don't roll your eyes at that, we've seen stupider things in the past.

The primarch we get here is a good, solid character and some of the book's best moments come from the choices he is forced to make. A major one stems not from him pummeling traitors to dust or acting at an army's head, but instead coming to terms with all that has happened. While it only lasts one page, and a brief note of how he pauses for several days after Macragge is freed from traitor presence, it shows him reflecting upon the world he has awoken to. Not one which is the hopeful realm he left, but a borderline feudal and despotic state of near hopelessness, held together only by the tyranny of those above him. 

As a final major strength, Rise of the Primarch does press to resolve a few big outstanding questions and make use of established ideas. It doesn't merely pull a number of abrupt twists out of its hat, nor even shoehorn in a metric ton of irrelevant elements, and most of what it adds is pushed in an attempt to flesh out the world. It seems to truly ask how the universe would react to the return of a loyalist primarch, from the forces of Chaos to those on Terra itself, and what course of action he would be forced to take in order to re-rail the Imperium back onto its intended course.

So, whatever else is to follow this, the book was a genuinely solid effort to explore some much discussed ideas. While I am going to heavily criticise many points from here on, the book does still have a few gems to offer, and its failings shouldn't be allowed to completely overshadow that fact. It's just a damn shame it has so many failings that we need to cover here.

The Bad

The one thing you will find arising time and time again throughout this book, is that whoever was behind it didn't want to ever go into any massive amount of detail. On anything. Often making the mistake of trying to turn events into a novel over an ongoing conflict between armies, for every genuinely great moment of fantastic characterisation there seemed to be one missed opportunity. For every time it did remember the likes of the Ultramar Auxilia existed, it would reduce them to the role of mere cannon fodder or shove them aside for most of the book. There was a constant sense of Rise of the Primarch wanting to briefly deal with certain concepts, but never cared enough to actually commit to them at any point.

The issue of actually focusing upon a story and sticking to it is made all the clearer when you see just how quickly previous story ideas are abandoned. The distrust and hatred between Celestine and Greyfax is dealt with in little more than a paragraph - a secondary one of the skippable type at that- meaning that it amounted to nothing in the long run. Rather than tying into the conflict of a cynical Imperium reacting to prophecies or a primarch's return, or even the elements which would need to be culled, it is all but forgotten about save for a few brief comments. The same goes for much of the Archmagos' own actions, as he spontaneously seems to pull a new suit of power armour and a primarch fixer-upper out of his riveted arsehole, with little done to really question where in the hell this stuff came from. Oh, we get a few small comments, but it's so rapidly hand-waved aside that you'd be forgiven for missing it first time around.

That's just the Imperial stuff as well. The eldar have it even worse, as they are all but irrelevant here. Rather than actually being the second part of a larger narrative arc, apparently everything in Fracture of Biel-Tan was merely a side-story, and with it over and done with we're back to the Imperium. They exist purely as an excuse for certain characters to pull off certain things, and to lazily avoid plot holes via the easiest means. As the book opens, their presence and involvement is downsized rapidly, with Eldrad promptly disappearing from the story along with everyone else, until only Yvaine and Viscarch remain. So, for those wondering, yes the entirety of the last book was little more than an unnecessary diversion to the big story.

The issue of the story just going for the most direct means possible, flaunting logic and canon alike, is evident over and over again. If something needs to happen, then it just happens no matter the lack of any explanation or logical flaws. If something contradicts the path the book is set on, well, screw it we're just going right ahead with it. If you want to see this at its finest, just track the Black Templars during the opening act of this story. The book features them tolerating alien uber-psykers with little more than basic dislike (with the Marshall even dueling one of them in a friendly practice bout), but promptly gets major storytelling traditions wrong by having someone abruptly becoming an Emperor's Champion for having survived a major battle. Please, facepalming is permitted upon reading that, and actively encouraged.

It's something I personally like to call the Steven Moffat effect, where things happen just because they can and the story needs them to. Personally, I wouldn't harp on this so much, were these not basic things which should have been easily ironed out of the book but arise so many times that it reads like an early draft which has yet to be run past an editor. 

There is also a very, very obvious effort not to actually fully deal with the consequences behind certain actions or even the big issues which should be taking center stage here. Guilliman is back, right? Okay, so everyone bows before him. What then? Does he comment upon their ultra-narrow adherence to the Codex? Does he ask after incursions like the Tyranids? Does he even question the various conflicts now raging across the stars? How about his sons, how do they react to this? They bow, yes, but what else? You effectively have the second coming playing out right here, a demigod from the Imperium's founding made flesh once more and with xenos assistance no less. Do something with it!

Instead, what we just get is a bunch of Imperial forces gathering about Ultramar, paying their respects to Guilliman, and treating him like some great general. It's nothing more than we would see of a returning Chapter Master, and as great as the writing about Guilliman is, the world around him always seems to fall short. In fact, it reaches the point of parody when every major Ultramarines character is sidelined a few pages after they are introduced, and cut off entirely from the plot. So, not only does Rise of the Primarch actively avoid confronting the issue of past vs. present values or conflicts, but it actively flaunts it when it doesn't even have them object to Guilliman launching a crusade back to Terra. Really, what we get basically amounts to this:

Guilliman: I'm going to Terra.
Calgar: Isn't that rather dangerous right now? And impossible?
Guilliman: Yes, but I have an idea, and it involves leading our entire fleet into that Maelstrom place owned by the Red Corsairs!
Calgar: Welp, have fun with that, we'll hold down the fort until you get back.

I would joke further about this, but that little exchange is far more than anything the book give us. It never seems to fully know what to do with certain people, to the point where a large number almost read as if they were forced upon the writers. Kairos Fateweaver shows up to do one thing, and then buggers off for the rest of the story, while Celestine remains ever in the background doing next to nothing and Cato Sicarius is mentioned to be hitchhiking with the fleet, but he doesn't actually do anything of worth. This sadly even goes so far as to extend to the two other big characters. Grand Master Voldus contributes nothing of real worth to the story save for one clever moment analysing Nurgle's actions, and Cypher might be as awesome as ever, but the tale simply doesn't know what to do with him. Also, if you're wondering, no, he asks to be taken to the Throne Room of Terra but is promptly barred before he can get there, meaning we have no answers and he's effectively here for fan service and little else.

Perhaps the greatest issue above all else, however, is how the battles are handled. Say what you will about Fall of Cadia but, while the book did have legitimate failings, the battle scenes were excellent and there was a push to show more than simply a list of models people could buy. This isn't the case here. Over and over again the book forgoes the more obvious choices of how a battle should play out, or even the units which should be involved, to shill existing models. 

You'll notice this trend pretty quickly as, in stark contrast to Fall of Cadia, almost everything ship related in the void battles is skipped entirely save for relentless glorification of the Stormhawk Interceptors. Really, when the book enters a pitched battle we get more descriptions of "entire wings" of these damn things launching attacks runs or giving the enemy hell than any battleship, and it moves away from said ships as fast as narratively possible. Even when the book does require fleet engagements, it promptly goes the extra mile to focus on resolving everything through boarding actions and little else. In fact, the few times anything which isn't a modern model shows up, it's usually only so it can quickly be killed off.

Models need to be sold, sure, and no one will argue that in the slightest. Yet, when the story is so hell-bent upon shoving them into the tale that they're supplanting more obvious choices en mass, it shatters that ever vital suspension of disbelief. Perhaps if they could hide this well, that might be one thing, but the book seems to push any questioning move right to the forefront of this tale. Along with suggesting that the Ultramarines apparently retain Stormhawks in the hundreds, we repeatedly have astartes carrying out menial or nonsensical jobs which goes against their very role on the battlefield. Terminators are noted at one point to be patrolling battlements rather than being at the forefront of any fighting, and the book uses Marines in place of Guardsmen so often that you're left questioning if there's one or ten thousand of the blue armoured bastards.

Even a gigantic firefight in front of Guilliman's resting place is hard to take seriously thanks to its staging. There's no rhythm to the combat, no structure and no staging. It fails to strike the drama of a general retelling of the flow of battle or even the more structured person-by-person conflict of a massed engagement; instead opting for Fracture of Biel-Tan's bizarre trend of listing units off one at a time. It's such an artificial structure, such a poorly staged sequence, that at no point can you possibly hope to keep track of where everyone is or become engaged by any part of the battle. It's the literary equivalent of shaky-cam, jumbling up and messing with something which could be a competent sequence until it becomes incomprehensible.

The Artwork

Surprisingly, the art found within Rise of the Primarch is easily some of the best we have had in a long time. While certain images are once again re-used, they veer towards the less commonly seen options, and there are always enough glorious new images to stop you complaining about the lack of any content. While these vary heavily in terms of style and subject matter, no single one manages to feel inadequate or out of place, and the few splash-pages thrown in feel earned rather than serving as an excuse to pad out the page count. The fact they're carefully placed directly in combination with the right moments means it's hard to ever object to their presence.

In addition to this, it's also one of the very, very few books to use the current army layout to a good cause. Rather than using pages upon pages of colour-swaps to pad out the book, we receive only one page and it's put to good use. Examining and covering the details behind the Fallen Angels, it adds in minor quirks and traits to show that this is an army of individuals. No one astartes has the same goal or fate, and there seems to be an equal number of traitors and repentant warriors among them. It helps to flesh out the army without becoming tiresome in the slightest.


"Flawed" is a word used often on here, but it's hard not to think of a more suitable one for Rise of the Primarch. The entire narrative seems to take a step forwards and then two steps back at every turn, with plenty of great ideas hampered by poor placement within the larger story. It would be easy to downplay its every success as a result of this, but there is still some good in here. It's just a damn shame it's so badly timed and staged you have to stomach so much to enjoy it.

More than anything else, this book needed to be held off for a while longer. Jumping back to the Imperium now, r
esolving almost every plot from the first book and rushing through so much was just a storytelling mistake in too many ways to count. While we'll be getting into this more in the final part, this trilogy needed to be a quadrilogy or even a minor saga. It needed to pause again, either to have a book squarely focused upon Chaos and the doom they would truly bring to the universe, or at the very least to add some questions as to how badly humanity was losing this war. Well, that or possibly to add some much needed variety to the conflict by adding in a few more xenos races. As it stands, everything seems so utterly simplistic and underwhelming for an event on such a vast scale, and it lacks the punch, weight and sheer scale of events it so desperately needed. It could have been worse, certainly, but it also should have been a hell of a lot better.

So, that's the story done (for now). Join us here as we move onto the rules.