Monday, 21 August 2017
Every child is terrified of the dark at some point in their life. It's only natural really, and entirely understandable. For some it's what it represents, somewhere they shouldn't be and were never intended to go. For others it's the idea of what lurks out there, with things creeping about beyond the safety they know. For others, it's imply a different world. A place where they cannot truly rely upon their eyes, where things seem distorted in the half-light of the moon and even the most familiar icon or item is utterly alien to them. This is something many horror writers and creators try to recapture, but the most well known among them is the man who typified the idea of fearing the unknown: Howard Philip Lovecraft. Yesterday was his birthday and, for all the times we have mentioned him, now seems like a good chance to sit down and look into his universe. Specifically to delve into what helped propel his creations into public consciousness, and to truly stand the test of time.
If you are one of the few who does not recognise his name, this was one of a few writers who pioneered the Cthulhu Mythos. He was the one who pushed many of its core concepts and created many of its major figureheads, big tales, and even thought up the gigantic squid-faced half-dragon thing himself. He can be considered one of the early writers to truly experiment with the idea of alien races, blending them in with the horror genre and often depicting them through sorcery. In the way that The Voyage of the Beagle can be associated with everything from Star Trek to Alien, you can effectively find ideas or trace influences of things Lovecraft helped devise in a wide variety of science fiction narratives.
Yet, perhaps the most curious thing about Lovecraft's works (aside from the blatant racism on display in an unfortunate number of them) is how he depicted his monsters. Hell, how he even depicted his universe is worth considering, as for the most part, many of his creatures
were vast beyond human comprehension and yet not inherently malevolent. While the insanity they inspire, the horrifying deaths and even the impending doom which seems to forever approach the Earth are all core to the Mythos, most simply do not care about the dominant species of this world. Humanity is, for them, a thing of idle curiosity or a race even entirely beneath their notice. To some we're a simple byproduct of an experiment gone wrong, to others simply a backwards race to be rendered extinct and eventually be forgotten, while for most we are no more interesting to them than an ant is to us.
Such a concept, the idea that the monsters of such works, was utterly disinterested in humanity could have easily been a dud. After all, who wants to read about a ghost story where the ghost itself simply does not give a damn about its victims, or even recognises that they're there? However, Lovecraft focused upon the idea of the unknown and his own personal terrors to push a few fascinating concepts: That they are not out of place, but we are. Earth is, after all, just one small corner of the cosmos and that's an idea most narratives stick to save for the far flung future. However, Lovecraft seemed to bring up the idea that the rest of the universe is made of infinitely sterner stuff than us. That most of it is so utterly beyond our understanding, that so few of our concepts, laws or even realities hold water out there, that everything is deadly. What makes these things dangerous isn't that they're hunting us, it's that merely being caught in their wake is enough to utterly destroy anyone unfortunate enough to stumble across them.
A personal favourite when it comes to examples of this is The Shunned House, where the very corpse of a forgotten greater thing poses a truly staggering threat to almost anyone who stumbles across it. It's not even conscious by this point, and does little more than rot away underground, but the things it creates in its wake prove to be dangerous enough for it to be the major villain of the piece. Equally, you then have other examples where the other creatures either do not care or their threat is a mere byproduct of their presence. The Colour Out of Space turns a visual spectrum, and a formless thing formed of it, into a foe worthy of a John Carpenter film which deforms everything about it. The Dunwitch Horror focuses less upon outside threat itself getting in than how humans have abused its power for their own ends, cultivating and controlling it at will. From Beyond simply exposed humans to creatures which existed beyond their perception, and thrust them into a universe so deadly that the very act of drawing one predator's attention would grantee death. Even The Shadow Out of Time features a race of literal body-snatchers whose only interest in humanity is their history, ideas and stories, but turns them into a very twisted and horrifying parasitic force working across the eons.
That last example is also something which serves as another strength of these tales. They're far removed from many common tropes today, and even those which did influence later stories are still unique enough to stand up on their own two feet. For example, the idea of a body swap today is something all too often used for comedic effect. Freaky Friday, Marvel comics, and even a fan-favourite Farscape episode all played the very idea of it for laughs. However, when you get down to it, it could be a truly terrifying experience. The Shadow Out of Time accomplishes this by not only depositing the protagonist in a completely alien body and surrounded by things beyond his full comprehension, but later on he has to come to terms with what the thing occupying his form was doing. It turns the whole thing from possible comedy into full blown horror, and even ties it closely into a few subjects relating to time travel and even lost horrors of past civilizations.
The reason the effectiveness of these stories is so praiseworthy is thanks to, well, how so many original works fall into the unfortunate category of being unremarkable. When a tale forms a genre or even drives a new concept, the more times it is reused, reworked or even improved upon, the less the progenitors seem to stand out. You can even see this with a few relatively modern day creations, such as the xenomorphs from Alien. Re-use of the bio-mechanical insectoid look, the body horror elements or even just the basic story structure unfortunately serves to chip away at the original. While it remains a fantastic film for a multitude of reasons, more than a few audiences today are often encouraged to set up a sort of Chinese wall in their mind, blocking off the pop culture image seen before now. In some cases, it's really the only way to enjoy them, and it has become especially true of many past works, even the creations of H.G. Wells. With the works of Lovecraft though, his stories are displaced enough to avoid this effect. Each idea, every concept, was unique enough that you could hand it to someone and they would still find something fascinating within it.
To cite one obvious example, At the Mountains of Madness combined together elements which would be re-used in the Terminator, Indianna Jones, and (to offer a more literacy focused example) The Thing from Another World. Yet, until you specifically pointed this out to someone, they would rarely pick up on it. After all, both feature an apocalyptic "robot" war of sorts bringing the original creators to their knees, two scientists wondering about lost ruins filled with forgotten treasures, and ancient things in the ice which are not quite dead. Yet, in each case, the context and presentation is entirely different, as are the consequences and presentation of such events. The Thing from Another World is the work which comes closest to having true similarities with such a tale, after all, and yet the "monsters" in question have a very different end and a completely opposing mentality to the alien found in that tale.
Perhaps more so than anything else though, Lovecraft's ability to only take things so far might be what helped to keep his works alive. In each and every case, once he was finished with an idea, that was often it. While he would certainly refer back to his other monsters and even re-use them in secondary roles, he never over-exposed them in his stories. Once the tale of the Deep Ones had been told, that was it. Case closed, job done, time to move onto the next monster. This worked on several levels surprisingly, as it told the reader enough to keep them hooked while still leaving much of the information behind them untold. They were always left yearning for more, hungering to know what else was behind this species, and fearing what other unknown truths might be found within their history. This allowed readers to keep coming back for more, but the more isolated and episodic nature of his stories also kept them open to new readers and authors alike.
Lovecraft himself, unlike many authors today, was very open to others writing extra bits about his universe. This was years before fanfiction became the landscape of wonders, grammatical nightmares and fetishes it is today obviously, but because it was so open to others it meant that his works could continue long after he was done. Furthermore, it also allowed them to escape that old infamous myth that continuity is an enemy, or the idea that a reader had to look back through volume upon volume of works to catch up. Something which is very rarely true of anything even to this day, but it is sadly what keeps harming many bigger franchises even to this day. Without this particular element, it's sadly no exaggeration to say that they would have slipped into relative obscurity.
There are certainly other elements beyond this which could be examined - and truth be told each one covered thus far would be worthy of an article unto itself - but these seem to be the core elements which have helped more so than anything else. Its other qualities, creative elements and benefits often stem from each of these in some manner or another, and without even one of them, they wouldn't still be as remarkable as they are today.
Still, if you could not read all of that, then allow me to present what defined his stories in a quote of his own. Not one of his famous ones about "fear of the unknown" or "strange eons" but a simple comment which seemed to define his take on his world oh so very well. A single line which sums up everything in his works from start to finish:
"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind."
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Youtube is arguably one of the single most important websites on the internet. Short of Google itself - owned by the same company, of course - and the likes of Hotmail, there are few people who are not tied to it in some way. Its existence spurred on creativity from areas we would have never seen before, allowed shows which would have never been possible without it to reach audiences of millions, and yet it is a flawed system. In fact, the days are likely numbered system's current structure and nature.
This sort of doomsaying is something I have personally always tried to resist unless things look dire. Unless there have been multiple warnings, a vast number of problems which have gone ignored or almost a full scale cataclysm, then I would remain silent. Yet, for a very long time the cracks have been showing and Adpocalypse seems to have been the result of all of this.
If you have somehow missed this, the Adpocalypse was part of an ongoing series of problems relating to advertising revenue offered to its creators. This first started when several major corporations abruptly withdrew their advertisement campaigns from the system, likely in response to a few unsavory acts by high profile members. Pewdiepie dressing up in full Nazi regalia (among other things) stands up as the prominent example, but there were more than a few others, such as the Counter-Strike: Go gambling fiasco and worse things still. Understandably, they were likely unwilling to be associated with such acts but opted instead to remove themselves from everything as a result.
Unfortunately, such a decision hit the advertising revenue of many creators quite hard, and it heralded the start of a major downward spiral for more than a few creators. Several efforts were made to try and remedy this issue, which ranged from effectively outsourcing moderation of videos to very stringent standards which they would opt to implement against creators. You can find a full documentation and links outlining much of this here, and parody videos by someone much funnier than I outlining just how bad this is here and here. Such efforts to try and draw advertisers back to the platform displayed a sheer bloody-minded stubbornness when it came to actually working with their creators or even offering them any direct information. So, even as these procedures threatened the jobs of several hundred thousand people, perhaps even more, they were granted nothing.
While Youtube's response to the aforementioned actions and issues by its members was undeniably a major problem, many suspect that it is actively trying to drive others away from the platform. Not just those who might repeat the errors outlined above, but also those who opposed Google's well known ideological leanings. While this would normally be the sort of thing I would put down to conspiracy theories, it does indeed look as if the changes to the current algorithms are focusing almost entirely upon certain types of content creators. Feel free to look it up yourself, but you might find that political coverage channels, more profanity laden commentary videos and odder things still (professional wrestling being one, apparently) have either been demonetized or reduced to a fraction of their previous income.
Anything which might draw the ire of a rival power or those they might garner cash from seems to be being hit hard, to the point where some have completely lost what was once a reliable livelihood for themselves. That or move to Twitch, but given that is owned by the same company, I would unfortunately say that the days of using that platform to escape this are numbered. It might take months for it to catch up, but it slowly but surely will. The Wild West era of the internet has slowly been dying out for quite some time now and this might be another step towards that end.
However, there is one other alternative I would like to offer in regards to just what might be causing this erratic change in income for many people. One which is somewhat less conspiratorial when it comes to the business' decisions and instead focuses upon one fact above all else: There are more people trying to make money via Youtube than ever. Youtube's processors and main servers need to desperately keep up with a truly staggering amount of information thanks to this, and this is a costly venture no matter how you cut it. Between this factor and the loss of interest from major backers, there might simply not be enough cash to go around anymore.
Yes, anyone can stop to watch almost any video no matter how major or small they might be, but there will always be only so much money which can be granted to any creator. That amount has likely been stretching thin for quite some time now - something alluded to by the abrupt dip creators see late every year in terms of their income - so with this latest disruption, they cannot offer the level of support as they once did. This could even tie into the previous point to some degree, where they are using it as an opportunity to trim their membership and limit costs to themselves. Specifically with them focusing upon creators who are typically safer, and less risky, bets to draw in viewers.
I certainly do not think that Youtube's days are numbered. It's not going to die out overnight, or fall apart in any way. It's simply too big to fail. However, as I have said before, things which are too big to fail are hardly immune to decay, and we have seen negative change after negative change for years now. After a while, without steps made towards actually improving the system, it will keep rotting away from within until it reaches breaking point. I simply hope that things are resolved long before it becomes irreversible.
As ever though, I would like to end stressing that these are ultimately personal thoughts over all else. I am not a Youtuber outside of a few occasional uploads, nor do I have enough insight into the company itself to offer a definitive answer to what is taking place, or highlight the Adpocalypse problem in full. While much of this is based upon recent news, please take this as a few independent theories and concepts over definitive truth.
Monday, 14 August 2017
So, after a very long delay we're back to this. With the lore done, here we are onto the major rules themselves. Now, this is going to be a little different from our usual format for more than a few reasons. For starters, this isn't a codex and it lacks the usual elements we would focus upon one by one such as the units, wargear or individual qualities most of these books would be judged by. In addition to this, what we have here is a framework or general skeleton of a bigger game, which lays down the foundations and leaves it ready for later releases to slowly build upon them. So, what we are looking at is less of how well balanced an army is or how competitive it might be, than the platform they will be using and how it might relate to later books. Specifically how easy it is to read, how cumbersome many of the essential rules are, and ultimately how it manages to overcome the failings of/improve upon the last edition.
So, we'll be breaking this down stage by stage into how well it executes and details the basic phases of the game, and how it alters its basic metagame.
Most of the core phases have been kept to more or less the same structure as usual, with the Movement phase, Psychic phase, Shooting phase, Charging phase, Melee phase and finally resolving events with Morale before starting over. Despite a few variations and expansions upon this idea over the years, it's effectively the same general system we have seen since the Third Edition reworked the game from scratch, and arguably even before then. However, there have been a few distinct changes here to each one, particularly the stages and elements you need to go through in order to complete one after the other.
To break them down one at a time:
- Movement is now vastly more rapidly paced and lacks many of the elements which previously slowed things down. For starters, terrain is no longer an element which slows your troops, but it still remains necessary to use it to create bottlenecks or block line of sight to certain targets. An odd choice to be sure, but combined with the new transport rules, it seems to be angling to limit the dominance of gun orientated armies. A squad can now disembark within "3 of a transport without the requirement for access points before it moves, and then act as standard with movement, shooting charging and all the rest. This means squads have a standard movement of "9 from a transport and a potential charge range of "21.
Furthermore, on a somewhat related note, while they might have previously been treated as mobile bunkers for attack squads in various armies, transports are now a much more hazardous environment to be trapped within. Squads can no longer shoot out of their vehicles and troops as a whole seem to be encouraged to ditch them to accomplish their main objectives. As an exploding vehicle can now inflict far more wounds on anyone inside it, remaining in there is hardly an option. They're not useless ,and the assault cannon Razorbacks are still a deadly force to be reckoned with, but there's a distinct push to restrict a few of the more armoured ranged play-styles when it comes to armies.
- The Psychic phase is a difficult one to judge as we only have a few basic rules to work with thus far, and a great deal of it is heavily reliant upon the specific spells and stats of each army's psykers. More so than any other phase here, it seems to have been the most streamlined and generally focused compared to some of the more diverse if unwieldy mechanics from past editions.
The risks and general dice rolling is still present here as it still includes Perils of the Warp and requires you fail while unleashing certain spells. However, the difference here stems from how these elements are divided up. You no longer have every single psyker contributing their abilities to a single pool of psychic energy, which cancels out the "batteries" some units effectively turned into in certain forces. You know the sort, the kind which accompanied the Crimson King in Wrath of Magnus, where they seemed to exist to fuel the powers of others. This means that every individual psyker is now wholly reliant upon fueling their own abilities, and rolls 2D6 against the risks of the spell they're facing off against. Sometimes it fails, in others it can get through. Furthermore, Deny the Witch rolls can be made several times per turn, for as many Mastery levels as the target has.
On the whole this is very much a toned down and back to basics approach, closer to what we had a couple of Editions ago with psykers. Many concepts and ideas have been streamlined to the point where you have simple and direct actions and reactions to certain risks, rather than multiple random chance tables or things spiraling out of control. This more direct nature sadly means that things like Perils of the Warp have been boiled down to the psyker taking D3 wounds should he fail it, and it will not bleed over into any nearby forces. With that being said though, you can simply choose which powers you want to take now. Plus without the ability to basically funnel an army's entire psychic potential into a single model, some of the infamously cheesy lists from the Craftworld Eldar or Thousand Sons. As a result of this it seems to be both a step backward and forward, costing us some of the freedom of previous rules while leveling the playing field.
With this being said however, the basis is set to rebuild the psychic phases from scratch once again, as every army will once again have wholly unique psychic abilities to call upon. So this seems less like scrapping the entire system than pausing to take a look back at just what was problematic in the past, and trying to build a better alternative. Troubling, yes, but it's not wholly bad by any means.
- Shooting is up next, naturally, and this is a notably odd one. As before, streamlining the whole experience has been the big focus of this new edition and that's a point we'll be getting into later on. However, with most of these you can typically see just what helped to influence the basic concepts or serve as a guideline to the new rules. With shooting it's a little more difficult to pin them down, as the concepts are focusing more upon mobility with a few basic limitations.
Armies which rely upon heavy weapons now lack the ability to simply Snap Fire at enemies while racing forwards and instead have a simple -1 modifier to hitting their intended target. This extends to vehicles as well, meaning that you might find it difficult to have a Leman Russ racing forwards and nailing a transport with its lascannon. Interestingly however, this is also counterbalanced by the fact that every single squad in the game now has access to Split Fire. It's no longer limited to a special rule or the realm of the Space Wolves, as you can opt to have every model with a different weapon pick out a separate target. This naturally means that adding on a few anti-tank weapons to your basic infantry units is now infinitely more desirable. You no longer have anyone armed with a rifle ineffectually twiddling their thumbs while the lone man with a rocket launcher tries to hit his target over and over again, and mixed Devastator squads now have a major advantage.
However, shooting does not rain supreme in this Edition as there are a few distinct limitations and problems. For starters, units with rifles cannot fire when an enemy model is 1" away from them or even closer. Something which is admittedly not much of a limitation, but it can allow certain high speed armies to disrupt enemy formations and movement with a little careful planning (plus the new Assault rules we'll be getting to next). More importantly though, this new rule offers far more benefits to squads wielding pistols. They lack this limitation in any way and, combined with the new rule stating that all models can fire all of their weapons in a turn, it makes it easier to soften up a target while closing into melee range.
With that said however, weapons with the Assault rule also take a -1 modifier when targeting an enemy unit. Something which will severely cause problems for units such as Eldar Guardians, Tau Fire Warriors (well some of them anyway) and some Sternguard units after their initial drop. While it does serve to make flamers and template weapons a much more reliable option when engaging at close range, this sort of sweeping change seems to do as much bad as good. While it can certainly push things back towards favouring melee and close range assault forces without damaging gunlines, it limits the choices many armies require to compete against their rivals.
Now, none of this is to say that gunlines themselves have emerged unharmed from this, as there are a few distinct changes which will seriously hurt the likes of the
What you might find interesting, however, is how the changes to cover benefit much heavier troopers far more than low save cannon fodder. The likes of autocannons and heavy bolters can now rapidly cut through most expensive squads due to how the AP rules have been altered, specifically in that there aren't any. Instead the whole system is more akin to the Second Edition rules where heavier guns can reduce the save of a target, to the point where the usual invulnerable Terminators will be rolling +4 saves against some heavier guns. As such, bigger mob units which are capable of soaking up more firepower by sheer weight of bodies (or big template weapons) tend to have a much bigger advantage in long range slugging matches.
While the above point might severely limit how certain armies are played and encourage certain Marine forces to either engage in risky assaults or more defensive moves, you can see the logic behind it. It does push to create an awkward if immediate balance between most armies and, as mentioned in the Psychic section, it's the sort of sweeping change which hinders much of the previously established invincible lists. Unfortunately, with this being said, the fragility aspect seems to have been taken to an extreme with vehicles. While we will go into more detail in the actual Vehicles section below, the new AP rules means that any gun can hurt a vehicle on the roll of a 6+. This has led to a few infamous combinations, either through sheer luck or concentrated fire, where squads armed with basic rifles can blow up Super-Heavy Walkers. As a counter to make them a little more cautious it's not too bad, but it also means that APCs are more vulnerable than ever to being blown up far from enemy lines.
- So, now we get to the Assault phase, which is a very difficult one to judge. It has seen a shift away from one standing rule, that Initiative plays a very important role in deciding the outcome of events. Rather than having the unit with the faster reaction time draw striking first, it's simply instead down to the unit which charges first. It's something lifted from Age of Sigmar to speed things along, and make direct engagements a little faster, while retaining the usual race advantages via special rules. So, the eldar of all breeds often strike first, but it is down to a special rule over Initiative itself.
Once they're charged in, each player takes turns activating and moving in one unit at a time a-la Lord of the Rings, until everything is bunched together or focused upon specific targets. Like before this really is meant to streamline the process but that seems to have ditched a few of the more fun options in combat. You can argue that comparing Initiative and all the special rules associated with it slowed things down, but the game has also lost Challenges for those heroic duels and the advantages which come from units carrying multiple melee weapons. Furthermore, much of the intended scaling between abilities seems to be off. As how easily you hit a target is down to Weapons Skill now, you would think that would be an easy thing to control. Instead, unfortunately, you can end up with situations where one of the single most powerful beings in existence can have the same chance to hit a target as an unnamed captain. This is one of those cases where simpler did not immediately equate better as, while it served to speed up the game, it could have easily been left as it was.
Perhaps the most noted change overall though (and one of the better ones) is how one certain ability once unique to the astartes has been distributed among all the armies here. If you truly want to pull back from a fight, then squads have the ability to move out and walk away from a melee at the start of their turn. While this sacrifices their ability to shoot, advance or charge, it does allow other units to target the enemy forces engaging them in melee. So, for the Tau Empire and Imperial Guard, having daemons in close combat is no longer quite the death knell it once was.
- Finally we have Close Combat as a phase, which has definitely been buffed up from the previous incarnation of this game. The changes here largely boil down to the weapons once again, thanks primarily to the differences in AP and the removal of a few key special rules within the book. For starters, we no longer have Unwieldy to worry about, and both power weapons now use differing AP values from one another. The idea is effectively what you would expect, and in concept it's not too dissimilar to how some of the prior weapons were differentiated from one another.
To give the short version - Power swords have a greater penetration than axes but lack the sheer strength bonuses of other weapons. Power Fists now only have a -1 to hit over their usual disadvantages, and can inflict multiple wounds at twice the user's strength. Unfortunately however, it's only striking at AP-2 so power armour can shrug off certain blows if they're lucky. Mauls meanwhile largely act like swords, but sacrifice some of their AP for Strength. It's a decent balance between the various options if a little strange one given how it alters certain well established weapons rules, but you can see the logic behind how each basic weapon is balanced against the other. Plus, it has to be said, it helps that basic melee weapons such as chainswords just grant one extra attack as standard.
On the whole, this is certainly direct and simplified but it's hardly all that bad. There's not nearly so many pauses or gaps in the game where someone's scrabbling around to double check rules, and it offers what is typically quite a clunky and slow system some much needed speed. There is a great deal of Age of Sigmar present here, and to a lesser degree other smaller games such as Infinity which focus upon implementing rules at the right time and the death toll can be staggering. The much more limited cover system in particular seems to be more in-line with the kind of thinking which brought about that game.
Atop of this, morale has also undergone a few basic changes on the whole. Well, sort of, it's basically gone from the typical series of counters and knocks to drive one another back to Age of Sigmar's Battleshock. You roll 1D6, add together how many models you have lost and compare it to your leadership value. So, while the likes of Khorne Berzerkers can hit hard and shred their way through most squads, there's more of a chance that a swarm of Termigants could turn the tide against them with some lucky rolls. The basic skeletal structure we have here isn't bad at all, and it's certainly an improvement over past options, but combined with the elements missing from the assault phase and it lacks the additional layer of complexity which often made melee combat fun. Still, at least it's viable to run in and start cracking skulls over shooting, so beggars can't be choosers.
Infantry - The treatment of infantry on the whole is a stark contrast to the previous Edition. As you might have guessed from the previous segments, their damage potential has been seriously improved over what we had before. Many are capable of overwhelming their foes through sheer firepower and, given the opportunity, their ability to focus their fire upon multiple targets makes them far more threat than before. While most basic troops cannot hope to stand up to some of the Elites choices or more dedicated specialist forces, unlike before they're not just fodder. Rather than simply being an add-on to take certain objectives or fodder to protect HQ choices and super-heavy units, and the fact that they can also take advantage of certain cover saves which are impossible for vehicles is another bonus.
Ultimately their treatment under the new rules focuses upon offering less downsides and allowing them to chip away at bigger units as needed rather than just being stonewalled. They can certainly still be overwhelmed by a tougher unit or generally overcome by superior firepower, but there's more of a chance that they might go down swinging. With this being said however, some aspects did push this a little too far unfortunately. The statement that squads can bring down Super-Heavy Walkers is certainly something of an exaggeration, as they required hundreds of shots at a time to punch through. The level of attrition required would need several full squads firing away at it for most of the game to truly overwhelm it. At least in most cases.
As you might guess, there are more than a few squads or army types which have a big advantage when it comes to whittling down vehicles. The Craftworld Eldar and Tau Empire are the big ones of course, especially the former of the two. Against a weaker Knight type walker, a hundred or so shots from squads of Dire Avengers can utterly overwhelm it. Something which sounds like a massive amount, until you take into account the likes of Bladestorm and what sort of impact Doom can have on this. Well, if they can do that to a battle hardened machine, you can imagine how quickly they can cut through a metal box like a Rhino or Chimera APC. Most games tested while writing this analysis saw the weaker armoured APCs being shredded by most lists, and quickly cut down if they were ever in the open. While it's certainly true that these were never the most durable of vehicles, comparing one Edition to the next displayed a much higher mortality rate among such vehicles, as they were rapidly cut down by most relatively standard Ultramarines armies outfitted with lascannons and bolters.
The few exceptions where the tanks lasted against infantry was only thanks to effectively spamming the machines and performing a full scale Rhino rush. Even then however, more than half of the squads they carried were often left to leg it towards enemy lines over the course of the last two or so turns before they got within range. Plus, even without this, the fact that vehicles can no longer disengage from melee meant that more than a few could be swarmed or simply roadblocked by the right sort of squads. Unless we see a few major changes in how vehicles are listed, it looks as if infantry will be the dominating force for this latest Edition of the game.
Vehicles/Walkers/Flyers- Carrying on from that last section, you're likely wondering what has changed to make vehicles so susceptible to more attacks. While certain designs and more armoured elements are still very effective in the right list, the big change here stems from how armour values are treated and countered. The entire old system is completely gone, from hull points to standard armour values on every side. In its place we have a more general profile system more akin to monstrous creatures or generally bigger beasts, meaning that they are using the same sort of baseline profile as infantry units. While they thankfully do have reasonably high Toughness value and a multitude of wounds to help offset this, this does unfortunately open it up to the sorts of problems outlined in the previous section. A problem which is taken further when you consider that a vehicle's overall stats will suffer as they take more damage, lowering their Weapons Skill, Strength, Ballistic Skill, and Attacks depending upon the vehicle in question.
Another definite issue stems from how each vehicle handles combat. Tank shock no longer exists, and without it there's no rapid way to simply push through swarms of enemies. Instead they move and charge into combat, something which initially looks like a good idea due to each vehicle's high Strength stat and sheer volume of attacks, until you note the abysmal Weapons Skill most of them are lumbered with. As they act exactly like troops in this regard, it means that it's much more difficult to simply reverse and pull away from combat as older vehicles used to do so. As if this wasn't enough, vehicles have also lost Relentless, so the mobile firepower you're used to relying upon isn't nearly so effective as usual. As a whole, this means that your average Predator or Hammerhead Gunship is going to be much more of a static emplacement than usual, and it will be easier to bring down over time.
However, this isn't all bad. There are more than a few notable benefits to certain armies in this book, especially in some unexpected quarters. For starters, Goliath Rockgrinders from the Genestealer Cults are remarkably effective now, as they're cheap, fast and can hit hard at close range. Khornate vehicles can have a few bonuses thanks to upgrades in their codex, meaning that they can help to break gunline armies if luck is on your side. Plus, and it has to be said, Dreadnoughts have seriously benefited from the new changes. The older walkers which still used armour values had areas which could be more easily exploited by long range guns or well honed tactics to take down a major keystone of most armies. By removing that and upgrading them to Toughness 7, they can wade through most troops and rip through units with four attacks per turn on their basic stats line. The same is true of those which you can find in Codex: Orks and the smaller walkers used to augment most armies. While they can rarely take whole flanks on their own or simply annihilate squad after squad, they're usually enough of a walking battering ramp or force multiplier to turn the tide in most fights. The same can actually be said of Super-Heavy walkers as well, such as Knights, as they're certainly more vulnerable and open to attacks, but they can still take hits. Plus, anything which is armed with a battle cannon and a close combat weapon twice the height of most men is always going to be a danger to almost any army.
As for flyers, well, there's little to really say. They have a few bonuses and advantages over the older generation now in terms of how an army is structured. Rather than competing for a single slot with other units, you can now more freely include them as an addition to your army. Furthermore, some flyers have both a minimum and a maximum movement distance, reflecting how they need to move at supersonic speed. Some can pause to hover such as Valkyries, but this largely has them operating in a similar manner to vehicles at these points.
This seems to have been intended as a major shake up as the rules more than anything else, but it is certainly still an effective one. Many have compared a lot of the decisions here to the Second Edition, but the truth is that it's more a few concepts or ideas from that era adapted into a much more rapid and fast flowing structure. The whole system here seems to have been whittled down, breaking free of much of the heavier stats, rules and points which had been seriously dragging out even smaller scale games or limiting the potential for more rapid engagements. As such, it seems to have altered the basic meta to free up things, removed a lot of the special rules which had started to choke out the game, and brought the focus back to the army as a whole.
Previous reviews on here of codices over the years have criticised a few distinct points in particular: The encouragement to only have massive armies, the narrow focus upon HQ choices, and promoting Super-Heavy units at the cost of all others. Often to the detriment of more general front line troops. This new set-up addresses all of that and, while certainly far from perfect, offers a level playing field. It's still relatively complex and engaging enough for older veterans to get used to, while keeping the door open for new blood.
None of this is to say that the new system is perfect by any means. A few points are definitely overly simplistic, weaker vehicles are going to need a lot of love if they are to remain competitive and certain new shooting rules have negatively effected some long standing units. With that said, it's not hard to see how a few tweaks to one unit or another couldn't remedy this while sticking to this core system and balancing out the various forces. It will need a lot of work to be sure, but it's hard not to feel much more optimistic about this new structure compared to the older focus upon bigger mini-Titans.
Still, that's just the core rules and points done. Join us next time when we finish off this book with the missions and a few more special rules.
Sunday, 13 August 2017
Psychology in video games can easily just become just another statistic. No matter how well executed, no matter how well developed, it’s easy just to boil it down to another health bar you need to maintain. Very few games have managed to escape this trap, and even then it can unfortunately be more amusing than truly terrifying. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is the exception to this rule, as the protagonist’s constantly eroding sanity haunts the player’s every step.
Thursday, 10 August 2017
Super Meat Boy has always stood as one of the most famed of indie icons. The mere mention of the name brings to mind boundless frustration and the sort of macabre cartoony gore which manages to be as hilarious as it is disturbing. It seemed to be a lightning in a bottle experience, but one half of the creative team behind it (Hello again, Mr. McMillen) has returned to refine the mechanics with this latest release: The End is Nigh.
Tuesday, 8 August 2017
There have been many alternate takes on the Horus Heresy by now, both good and bad ones. Some are highly detailed while others are simple guidelines to excuse a concept, but they have this issue of repeating the same cliches or events. On the one hand, this offers the benefit of seeing how a similar conflict could play out if the pieces were re-arranged, but on the other it can become very repetitive if not downright predictable. So, this is an experiment to create a new narrative. One which both defies the common alternate Heresy takes and opens up Warhammer 40,000 for a very different setting, even with a few general similarities.
So, before we get the ball rolling on the events thus far, here's a list of the various forces involved and what has changed from the traditional timeline leading up to Ullanor. A few remain unchanged at the time of the Great Crusade - and don't worry, their fun stuff comes later on - but others might not be quite as you imagine them...
Dark Angels - Lion El'Jonson:
The origins and nature of the Legio I remains largely unchanged in this timeline. They were the first founded, among the largest and felt pride in that history. Even in the face of the late discovery of their primarch, they were well decorated for their actions. However, the legion utilized their history and accomplishments to claim several worlds for themselves as recruitment grounds. This permitted them to create a group of systems which was seemingly independently governed but ultimately beholden to the Legion Master's will, albeit unwillingly.
El'Jonson himself likewise shared a similar origin as his legion but with a very different outcome. While he was found amid the forests of Caliban by one of the world's knightly Orders, he was an adult at the time, having made a living among the forests. While curious enough to follow other humans, he was nevertheless constantly distrustful of them, and even remained distant while in the presence of his mentor, Luther. While controlled and focused in the presence of others, El'Jonson was disturbed by a deep-seated paranoia, brought on by the Watchers which seemed to shadow his every step from his childhood onward.
If given a choice between peace and combat, El'Jonson would perpetually favour warfare in order to permanently bring a foe to heel and ensure that they would remain under his control. A mentality which brought him into conflict with other Orders even as he united them to scourge Caliban of its corrupted life, and later even the Emperor upon his arrival. Even after submitting to the Emperor and agreeing to follow his vision, he would constantly clash with his brothers, seemingly viewing everything as a test of strength or competition; a point which made his placement in command of the Dark Angels a difficult matter to be sure.
Along with initiating a number of sweeping reforms among the legion's structure during his ascension, he constantly watched his officers for signs of possible betrayal or dissent. While his command proved to be nothing short of exemplary, he forever sought more control over the astartes under his command. A move which would push him into openly backing the Nikea Reforms and embracing Lorgar's suggested Chaplaincy implementation; even going so far as to use the latter as his eyes and ears among the various expeditions.
Emperor's Children - Fulgrim:
Unchanged - See official lore.
Iron Warriors - Perturabo:
Unchanged - See official lore.
White Scars - Jaghatai Khan:
Perhaps the most curious element surrounding the White Scars was their contrasting nature. Joyful in war and jovial in peace, they were a force which was as easy in taking a man's head as conversing with the more respected human officers within their fleet. For all their unrelenting savagery and emphasis upon sheer speed, many of their number could be remarkably personable and vastly more reasonable than many of their kindred. This was a quality which they shared with their primarch, and something which brought them to near annihilation upon his discovery.
Having landed among the horse tribes of Chogoris, Khan was raised as a plains rider and taught their ways of war. Capable of launching lightning fast assaults and rapid retreats, under Khan's eventual leadership the tribes were slowly reworked into a singular fighting force to overcome the heavy infantry and slow moving formations of the ruling civilizations. Within a matter of years Khan had overwhelmed the ruling elite and claimed the throne for himself, and yet he did not press his advantage. Rather than annihilating all ways of life there, he instead sought to form an alliance of the various factions and populations of his world. To completely destroy all they had built, to erase their cultures, would have been as much a crime in his eyes as the attempts to drive his own people to near extinction in the Empty Quarter.
While Khan was far from the most deft of diplomats, he was able to force a tenuous peace among the various factions vying for power and unite the planet under his singular rule. Yet, more impressively, his ambitions stretched beyond this as he sought to uplift the people to the stars. Older texts had depicted warriors riding horses of iron throughout the stars and making their homes among distant worlds, and Khan wished to return his people to such a state. To this end, he was able to negotiate several pacts with the Demiurg Brotherhoods of the local sectors; xenos miners and traders who were willing to exchange raw materials and technology for a more stable supply of food and a safe harbor.
Unfortunately for the Khan, while this did indeed allow him to return to the stars, it drew the attention of a Raven Guard expeditionary fleet. The astartes descended upon their alien allies in a fury, threatening to even burn the world beneath it in their drive to claim it in the name of the Imperium. Only Khan's presence saved it from annihilation, and even then he was questioned and tried over his collaboration with an alien race infamous for engaging and raiding Imperial convoys. Rogal Dorn eventually spoke out in his defense, and volunteered to take his erstwhile brother into his custody until he fully understood the Emperor's vision and the threat xenos races posed to humanity.
Dorn was seemingly successful, and Khan later took command of his legion within a year, but the memory of the violent introduction to his kindred was never fully forgotten by him.
Space Wolves - Leman Russ:
Even among a group of brothers whose exploits were legendary, Leman Russ is regarded as one of the greatest conquerors of the primarchs. While many would be required to overcome or remake their worlds entirely from the broken ashes of past civilizations, few of those were ever forced to contend with a world so bellicose or violent as Fenris.
Discovered by a small raiding tribe shortly after crashing onto the near eternally winter-locked world, Leman was exposed to warfare from his infancy. Constantly hounded and assaulted from all sides by rival forces, one of his earliest memories was of the a desperate longship chase across kraken infested waters. The sight of humans slaughtering one another even as the world's vicious predators slaughtered them was forever burned into his vision and ultimately would push him into enacting a violent and bloody unity among his kindred.
As soon as he was old enough to carry a spear, Russ began to launch counter-raids against those who threatened them. Many were crippled by the brutality of his lightning assaults, while others were subjugated entirely and forcibly unified under his banner. While this initially started as little more than a series of massed raids and assaults, Russ' relentless onslaught rapidly allowed him to swell the ranks of his makeshift army and by the time his father passed away, tens of thousands of warriors had been absorbed into his tribe, until they dominated swathes of the Savage Sea.
Eventually laying claim to the entirety of Asaheim, Russ spoke with his warriors of establishing a true kingdom and a lasting dominion over their planet. He spoke of a vision where they were the rulers of Fenris, not merely survivors of its ravages and challenged them to follow his leadership. While many would have called him insane, Russ' constant victories emboldened those at his back, and few denied his challenge. Using tens of thousands of slaves, those who had sought to fight him rather than bow before him, Russ constructed various blockages and gullies to divert the annual lava flows away from the most stable ground. This came at great cost to the slaves, as did the warriors who guarded them, as they were forced to relentlessly contend with the most ferocious beasts of their world. Russ himself would earn his long standing title of Great Wolf by cleaving the head off of a massive she-beast and claiming its pelt as his cloak.
By the time the Emperor found his lost son, Russ had built a fledgling kingdom of walled cities to constantly guard against invaders. Approaching him openly, Russ was easily swayed to the Emperor's side upon learning that his father planned to overcome the stars as Russ had Fenris. He bent the knee before him within a day's talk, and was granted command of his legion.
(Author's note - This is someone who is less Wulf Sternhammer than he is Eddard Stark in this retelling.)
Imperial Fists - Rogal Dorn:
Unchanged - See official lore.
Night Lords - Konrad Curze:
Few would ever call Curze a ruler, nor his legion true soldiers. Rather than combat opponents on the open field of battle or govern worlds, the Legio VIII are known as avengers and judges, hunting down and slaying all those who would wrong humanity.
Butchering the corrupt leadership and hostile gangs of his world, Curze operated from the shadows, killing any and all he saw as tyrants. Those who dared to claim governorship of Nostromo did so with a sword constantly hanging over their head, ready to strike at a moment's notice, while only the most desperate of rapists and murderers came to leave their homes. However, Curze did not act alone in this matter. While never revealing himself to them, he constantly pushed for others to uphold his justice; pushing others to defend themselves and retake the crime-ridden hives of scum and villainy from the worst humanity had to offer. It was his hope that by doing so he would push others into shattering the chains of fate he was tied to, and ultimately avert the annihilation of Nostromo which had long haunted his dreams.
The Emperor's arrival changed little in his mission, as Curze had long foreseen his coming, and that of the winged figure at his side, Sanguinius. He knew it was his fate to follow them, as he had known from his birth, yet their meeting would prove to be surprisingly beneficial to the Lord of the Night. Sangiuinus was in many ways a kindred spirit, understanding the need for brutality and annihilation in the name of a better cause. Under his tutelage Sanguinius eventually learned of the fits which afflicted Curze and his visions of fire and blood and, upon realising the other primarch's greater potential, taught him to focus them into a coherent image. This permitted Curze to predict and counter several impending disasters among the nearby systems, including Nostromo's eventual corruption following his departure.
Realising that even his own fate was not bound to single future, Curze began to work to reshape his legion to act as a hidden vanguard for the Imperium's forces. Secretly crippling hostile worlds through fear of the warriors which stalked the night, and forcing the Emperor's subjects to remain loyal to his will out of fear of reprisal, the Night Lords became closely associated with retribution.
Taking the title of Lord Justicar, Curze acted as a necessary evil for the Imperium, guarding it from threats both within and without.
Blood Angels - Sanguinius:
Like so many of his bothers, Sangiunius' cradle was the ashes of a failed world. Untamed, hostile and heavily irradiated, Baal was anathema to human life, and had driven the few remaining unmutated humans to near extinction. Monstrous lifeforms prowled the wastes, and the handful of strongholds left to the world's original populace were slowly being overrun. Men and resources were forever pushed to the limit, which made the risks taken to recover Sanguinius all the stranger.
His pod had crashed deep into the hostile wildlands, and in the hope of finding lost relics to repair their failing equipment a number of armoured humans had set out to recover what laid within. Only one would return, heavily wounded and near death, carrying a winged child in his arms. While certainly mutated the infant Sanguinius lacked the ferocity or insanity evident in so many of his kindred, and the man's dying words requested that he be raised as one of them. Something within the pod had convinced him to spare the mutant's life and recover him. but his heart beat to a stop before his discovery could be passed on. Many men had died for Sangiunius' sake, and they would not be the last.
Growing up amid the stronghold, the primarch was forever exposed to the horrors of near annihilation, seemingly without hope of rescue or survival. Often the nights were filled with the sound of gunfire or mutants hammering on the outer airlock doors, and the faces of those present blurred in his mind. So many had died in his first few years alone that he was raised by no single parent, and by the time he was old enough to wield a weapon he had been filled with a grim fatalistic resolve. Extinction seemed certain, and yet he would be damned if he would allow those who had harried and threatened them to claim this world as their own.
Day after day, the primarch would fly through the irradiated clouds and dust storms, single-handedly hunting down and massacring any threat he found. More than one stronghold came to repeat sightings of a seemingly immortal figure decapitating mutants hundreds of feet tall or ripping fire scorpions limb from limb. Not knowing his true name or presence, those he rescued in his efforts came to call him the Blood Angel, a figure of pure annihilation who slaked his wrath upon those he faced.
Sanguinus' efforts were not futile however, and what had initially been viewed by he and his people as a last gasp of defiance started to turn the tide. Panicked hordes of mutants began to avoid their bunker, opening the way for trade with others and even to safely reclaim areas long lost to them. Realising that they stood a chance, and glimpsing visions of a burning light descending upon a distant ruin half the planet away, Sanguinius began to rally the scattered populace in a crusade against the mutants. Slowly but surely, in a series of bloody conflicts, the primarch's small army groups began to make their way to the place seen in his vision, culling anything which stood in their path. Once there, the primarch was greeted by the Emperor himself, descending from his flagship to the irradiated earth.
Within one year, with the Emperor himself and his elite bodyguard at their side, every mutant had been purged from Baal Secundus. This opened the way for humanity to reclaim the planet, and at long last to begin the slow process of rebuilding what had been lost to them. In return for his assistance, Sanguinius pledged his eternal loyalty and his sword to the Emperor's service, becoming the master of the Legio IX.
Storm Walkers - Ferrus Manus:
Every legion, every primarch and soldier is shaped by their world. To some this readied them for a life of relentless conflict, to others it brought them into the role of leader. To Ferrus Manus, the world of Medusa readied him for a life as a monster. Having fallen amid the barren mountains of his home, the young primarch's life was spent hunting for food amid the broken remnants of ancient machines. Hiding or fighting the metal guardians who still prowled the wastes, his life was a perpetual challenge to prove only the strongest lived. Yet, rather than hate such strange creations, he almost came to respect them in a bizarre way. Their prowess, their constant unrelenting stamina and incredible strength marked them as a worthy foe to test himself against.
For years he remained among the machines, fighting each one in turn and constantly testing his personal strength. The few times he did truly encounter humans, Ferrus showed little interested in them, regarding even the best among them as weak and flawed to the point of failure. Feeling little kinship for such beings, his interest with the automata which stalked the wastes drove him to range deeper into the lost deserts avoided by the various clan crawlers.
The true changing point during Ferrus' years among these wastes was his encounter with a steel mountain, a lost complex or bunker hidden away towards the planet's far north. His personal accounts cite that he traveled there, delving deep into the planet's core itself and emerging with a new comprehension of what the universe required of him: To judge those worthy of survival, and rebuild them accordingly.
Taking the weak, the failed and the forgotten from the crawlers, Ferrus began to turn them into his chosen. Each he would personally see that was reborn to his will, stripping them of their flesh in his experiments and rebuilding them in skins of iron. Little would often be left of the original man or child he had taken, and often even their memories were claimed from them. This personal experimentation would continue for years and, while Ferrus gladly joined and followed the Emperor upon his emergence, his apparent obsession with remaking humanity in his image would extend to his legion.
Many reports cite astartes among the Storm Walkers being utterly reworked into near inhuman beings, or turned into living tanks. Many carried wielded multiple weapon tipped limbs and others even became built into the very vehicles they guided into combat. While bionic enhancements were hardly unheard of among the astartes, Ferrus pushed the capabilities of what an astartes could withstand to their limit, and his ideas often bordered upon heresy. Such acts strained even the Emperor's leniency, and more than once over the Crusade he was asked to account for his actions.
War Hounds - Angron:
Growing up in bloody fighting pits of Nuceria, Angron was perhaps doomed to failure from the beginning. His pod was discovered by a group of high-riders and the wounded infant within was taken by the local lord as his chosen captive, to be enslaved to the Butcher's Nails and thrown into relentless combat. Blinded by their constant pain and driven into a near relentless berserker fury, for the first several years he was treated as little more than a murderous beast. Only strange visions of a golden figure granted him moments of peace from the bloodshed, focusing his thoughts for a few precious moments at a time.
While Angron initially believed that such images were little more than hallucinations of his damaged mind, they began to offer him messages. Glimpses of how to combat his foes, how to exploit their failings and even messages on the nature of the guards who defended the pits. It repeatedly urged him to be more than a simple monster killing others at the whims of his lords, and to claim the world as his own. While it hardly broke the bloody haze gripping his mind, such messages were enough clarity for him to organize the gladiatorial slave into a force and stage a revolt. In a single night, the city-state which had chained him was burned, razed to the ground and its populace butchered, freeing others who had been driven into a life of servitude.
While retaining little more than a semblance of control over his force, Angron was able to marshal them into a semi-organised assault force of brutal killers. To each he swore that the slavers would fall and by their hands Nuceria's slaves would claim the world for themselves. City after city fell before them, picked off one at a time by his relentless fury and careful strikes. Always making certain to disguise their true numbers and exploit their bitter rivalries to isolate one state from another, he picked them apart one after the next. By the time summer had turned to bleak winter, every fiefdom of the continent burned and Angron had begun to create his own nomadic state.
It was at this point that the Emperor revealed himself. Having watched in secret for years, using his psychic powers to push Angron into acting against his oppressors, he had been quietly judging the primarch's progress. While he would have favoured leaving each of his sons to their own devices, conquering their worlds by themselves, Angron was one of the first he had uncovered and the Emperor knew the Nails were hindering his potential. Unwilling initially to accept another lord so soon after overthrowing his previous masters, it took both an honour duel and a reminder of his visions for the Red Angel to accept his father's commands.
Re-organizing the War Hounds into a more bloody fighting force capable of rending entire systems asunder with little more than a pistol and chain-axe in each warrior's hand, Angron accepted his role as a butcher. However, as the years wore on, it became clear even to him that the curse of the Nails was more damaging than first realised. It did not rob him of clarity, but was slowly eroding his sanity, and the near murder of his brother Corax during a training bout eventually drove Angron to the only solution he knew. Gathering his Devourers, the warriors of his legion who had taken it upon themselves to emulate their primarch's implants, Angron entered stasis. Promoting his Equerry, Kharn, to the rank of Legion Master, he commanded that they leave them to slumber through the centuries undisturbed. At least until the day the Nails could be safely removed or a situation were so dire they required his strength once more.
Ultramarines - Robute Guilliman:
Most primarchs were warriors, generals or annihilators. Their forte lied in their capacity to murder others, or even to wipe away whole species at a time. Yet Guilliman was different. While certainly a skilled warrior, his true talent lay in his ability to unite vying factions under a single banner, and to unite them under a single purpose. This, in many regards, made him closer to the Emperor than many of his kin in his ambitions, and yet he rarely sought to dominate as his father did.
The Macragge of Guilliman's childhood was one of the more fortunate worlds to have endured the fall of humanity, retaining both advanced technology and space flight. Contact and travel between nearby worlds had been retained, and although skirmishes and disputes among the various nations of the planet were common, full scale war was unheard of. Guilliman's childhood was spent in the halls of one such leader, Konor, Consul of the Valley of Laponis and its surrounding lands. As one of the many senators and leaders who met to decide the fate of the planet on a monthly basis, he sought to raise and teach the young Guilliman the ways of politics and manipulation as much as warfare. Guilliman took these in stride until, when the time came for Konor himself to step down, his skill as a diplomat and politician had already become a legend among his lands.
Through his words, Guilliman was able to unite and direct the various forces throughout Macragge coercing others into willingly following his vision and uniting the various states under his direction. While never officially taking control away from them, he was nevertheless able to ensure that each would be bound to his will or obey his commands as he slowly came to take control of the planet. It was perhaps for this reason that, by using Macragge's remaining voidships, he was able to make contact with several rivaling worlds and gradually bring them into his fold; guiding them until they were operating to provide resources and men to invade and subjugate the few resisting planets beyond their range.
By the time the Emperor arrived, Guilliman had conquered the dissenting planets and established his small realm of Ultramar, transforming a splintered series of conflicting nations into a singular goal of improvement and conquest. Guilliman quite happily joined with the Emperor upon seeing just what the Imperium could offer his people, and with the Ultramarines legion under his command he began using them to expand his sphere of influence. Developing and creating a small empire within the Imperium which was nevertheless directly bound to his control, Guilliman pushed to reclaim world after world and personally took control of them in the Emperor's name.
Death Guard - Mortarion:
Mortarion infamously stands as the last of the primarchs to be found by the Emperor and united with his legion. Having found his way to the obscure and forgotten world of Barbarus, the young child was claimed by a xenos sorcerer curious to know how this human resisted the toxic clouds of his home. Though young, Mortarion came to despise the creature and its magicks, viewing them as some perverse and twisted mockery of life and the peace owed to the dead.
Soon breaking free from his father's stronghold following a failed attempt to assassinate the sorcerer, Mortarion descended to the lowest regions of the world and found the miserable populace who cowered there. Constantly harried by legions of the dead and hunted for sport by the world's warlords, Mortarion sought to turn them into a force to be reckoned with. Turning their farming scythes into reaping weapons of war, Mortarion began to halt the assaults and even lay siege to the strongholds of each warlord, burning them to the ground one by one. By the end of ten years, the rabble of brave peasants who followed him had been reorganized into a pale skinned elite fighting force the primarch named his Death Guard. Outfitted with stolen technologies from the xenos forces, and reverse engineered equipment allowing them to brave the clouds, they soon destroyed all but one stronghold - that of Mortarion's adopted father.
The siege was grueling and costly to both sides, as the Death Guard were felled by both the corrosive mists and psychic energies conjured against them. By the time they reached the peak, each was close to collapse and almost overcome by the poisons, with even Mortarion himself suffering. With the last of his strength overcome, Mortarion collapsed as his father emerged, ready to end the primarch's life as he choked to near death before him. Only the sacrifice of the last of his troops brought Mortarion the few moments he needed to recover, and the distraction required to decapitate the foul creature. There was no celebration in his victory, no moment of triumph due to the staggering cost of this final battle, and as Mortarion descended the slopes with the burning mansion at his back, he swore to honour their memory.
By the time the Emperor found Barbarus, Mortarion was gradually expanding the few settlements left into fledgling towns and homesteads. While initially resistant to the presence of the stranger in plated gold, and resenting the power he represented thanks to its abuse by the world's sorcerers, Mortarion challenged him to single combat; decreeing that those who lost would serve the other's will. For almost a full week the two battled, until finally Mortarion submitted to his father. Without his guidance or sheer endurance to brave the mists, the towns he was forming were suffering, and he was not willing to allow them to fall to satisfy his pride. He asked only that, in return for his service, the Emperor would ensure that Barbarus' people would have a future free from the oppression of outsiders. This seemed to satisfy his father. As Mortarion departed to lead the Dusk Raiders into war and reshape them as his new army, the Emperor tasked the Mechanicum with terraforming Barbarus to the primarch's specifications.
Thousand Sons - Magnus the Red:
Unchanged - See official lore.
Word Bearers - Lorgar:
Unchanged - See official lore.
Salamanders - Vulkan:
Among the legions, few are so closely related with annihilation as Vulkan and his forces. Rarely leaving more than charred corpses and blackened ground in their wake, the Salamanders embody their primarch's sheer rage and hunger to crush all who oppose humanity's destiny. Such a drive was born both from the firestorm of the wars on Terra, leaving little save for a few bitter veterans to make up their ranks, but it was only further enhanced by the primarch himself.
Often a favoured hunting ground for eldar corsairs, Nocturne's populace faced death on a near daily basis. Those who did not meet an early end at the hands of the lava flows or tectonic instability were often hunted down and dragged back to the slave pens of the alien raiders. Upon his discovery and adoption into one of the villages barely managing to survive against the relentless assaults, Vulkan's childhood was spent trying to ease the burden of his people. His natural talent with the forge was put to work rebuilding destroyed huts or building farming tools, and yet it was never enough to truly make a difference. The primarch was finally pushed to breaking point when one such eldar assault resulted in the death of his adopted father and he began putting his mind to weapons of war.
Day and night, without end, the primarch crafted weapons of war designed to breach the advanced armour of his foes. While technologically basic and undeniably rustic, when put in even the hands on an untrained warrior they were able to shatter the weapons of their foes and rend their flesh asunder. Vulkan himself claimed to have placed something of himself in every weapon, and soon the raids began to break against his village. He garrisoned others against similar attacks, forcibly uniting others alongside him under threat of turning his makeshift armies against them, until they located the ancient Webway portals used for such attacks.
Rather than closing off the device however, Vulkan instead led his warriors in a massed assault into the Webway itself, disappearing within there for months on end. Eventually, after almost a full year of silence Vulkan emerged alone, covered in alien blood, and announcing that the threat was ended. Yet, to ensure that his people were ready to face whatever else would follow, he continued to build weapons and even began to unite the villages in a series of gladiatorial games to improve their discipline and martial prowess. Those who failed to meet his standards were left to the fire drakes to consume, and the few who succeeded were taken by himself to form a personal guard.
When the Emperor uncovered Nocturne, Vulkan did not easily accept his rule and the two fought many times before his father finally settled the matter with a display of his psychic potential. Learning that there was yet another power he had yet to master, something he could devote to improving his craftsmanship if given the right disciplines, Vulkan submitted himself before his father and his rightful place at the head of the Salamanders legion.
Raven Guard - Corvus Corax:
Unchanged - See official lore.
Alpha Legion - Alpharius:
While most primarchs found their place on worlds forgotten to time, Alpharius was an exception. No one wholly knew when or how he was discovered, yet supposedly his pod was uncovered floating deep in space by the survivors of Old Night. Not all had fully succumbed to the ravages of Chaos and the Scarlet Fleet was one of the few true successors to the old states. Piloting a fleet of pre-heresy transports and warships, they were a band of nomads, pirates and privateers who made their living by taking what they could from others. Loyal only to themselves, their king initially took the young primarch as his personal slave, naming him Alpharius - The first among servants. It was not long, however, before he realised the boy's potential and instead opted to raise him first as a successor. Taught the ways of void combat, lightning boarding actions, atmospheric raids, and how to use secrecy to overwhelm superior foes, Alpharius eventually claimed his position at the head of the fleet through an honour duel.
For several decades Alpharius led his ships in constant raids across the galaxy, recovering lost wrecks and stations abandoned by long dead crewmen; leading the Scarlet Fleet into a seemingly a new golden age. It was perhaps inevitable then that his lifestyle would lead him into a bloody first contact with the Imperium, where he successfully captured a battle barge of the Luna Wolves legion. Thinking of the astartes at first as little more than another small relic, Alpharius was surprised to find full Explorator fleets slowly infringing upon his hunting grounds, and a massive battle fleet led by Horus himself searching for the lost vessel. Over the course of several months, Alpharius was slowly driven to ground as other primarchs joined in the chase and, despite several victories, cornered in a forgotten system on the galactic rim.
In a bitter but one-sided fight, Alpharius was taken captive by Fulgrim and brought before Horus in chains, each understanding that they had found another of the lost primarchs. While Alpharius would need to answer for his crimes, only the Emperor could truly decide his fate. Thankfully, the Emperor himself was willing to forgive his son of his actions upon swearing loyalty to him and, under the watchful gaze of Corax, would take the Alpha Legion and retrain them to his ways of war. Still using the Scarlet Fleet as his personal recruiting grounds and homeworld in all but name, the Legio XX soon became masters of void warfare. Using their natural talent for subterfuge to cripple the naval capabilities of one foe after the next, earning a rapid string of victories against seemingly impossible odds.
Curiously, when the time came to rename his legion, Alpharius ignored the offer. Instead he stated that he did not care what his bothers called his forces, so long as they respected his victories.
Horus Lupercal - Luna Wolves:
Unchanged - See official lore.