Saturday, 24 March 2018

New Outlet and Ongoing Internet Provider Problems

So, after that last article, I felt you deserved an update on things. The first and foremost is that I will now be working as a staff member on TechRaptor. While most of the video game reviews will still be featured on Starburst Magazine, news and a few other pieces will be shown on there. With luck, this should become a regular thing, with a few ideas, concepts and articles emerging on that website as we maintain work on this one. It's never wise to have all of your eggs in one basket, after all, and they have produced more than enough good content in the past.

That's the good news, but unfortunately, we have some bad news.

You might have noticed that more than a few articles have been delayed or fail to show up on time. The Codex: T'au Empire review is the most recent example as, rather than going up on the night of its release as I like, it's almost a week late. There's a reason for that. Almost everything I have on here is reliant on having a good internet connection now, from working on Google documents to fact-checking to downloading review copies. It's a good system as a rule, and it does help to speed things up in the long run. At least it should, assuming you have a good internet provider. Well, over the past months ours has not so much shit the bed as unleashed a deluge of sewage into the airing cupboard.

Over the past several weeks, it has become a common occurrence to fight just to stay online at every other minute of the day. Computers will randomly disconnect, the link will drop and for every minute I am online, five will pass where it is impossibly slow or I cannot access it at all. Over the past three days, this reached the point where I managed to get perhaps four or five hours of work, over a planned 22 or so.

If you feel that this is an exaggeration, then keep in mind that our broadband connection - which we are paying a good download speed of 26.93mb for - often has a download speed of 1.81mb and an upload speed of 0.77mb. Or, if you don't want to take my word for it, here's a few reviews. This is the sort of company who is happy to charge you through the nose, but will not provide a fraction of the service you are paying for. The sort of one which is only standing due to a borderline monopoly on the system. So, it's the UK equivalent of Comcast, really. Until it is sorted out, one way or another, there is only so much I can do.

Hostile Takeover Threat Ended - Vivendi Sells Off Ubisoft Shares

For the past several years, the French multimedia conglomerate Vivendi has had its eyes fixed on Ubisoft. It seemed only a matter of time before the game publisher underwent a hostile takeover. Instead, the publisher has beaten the odds.

Friday, 23 March 2018

T'au Empire Part 1 - The Lore (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Review, 8th Edition)

The Tau (or T'au now) Empire has been in a very interesting place over the last few years. On the one hand it kick-started its presence in the Sixth Edition with one of the best codices ever written, fixed many things and then made it feel like an Empire. Then it got lumbered with a Tau vs Imperial storyline which started extremely well and went to hell (see War Zones Damocles: Kauyon and Mont'ka for the full opinion on that). With Farsight's entire story being botched and the Aun Cast devolving into an "We're Evil, We're So Evil! 1984! 1984! 1984" edgelord element which relied on the reader accepting a truckload of industrial grade cow manure to work.

Since that point the Tau Empire has been stuck in something of a holding pattern, locked out of key events and with its progress stymied by a gigantic wall of fire and Chaos wrecking the galaxy. Still, they're back now, but the question is if this latest codex's lore can fix things. The past few from other armies have been genuinely great and have actively ditched the vast majority of their worst problems, but many of those have been Imperial. The xenos books tend to be a wild card like no other.

So, let's get this show on the road and see what went right and wrong here.

The Good

Full forewarning before we get underway, this review will be calling the T'au the Tau. It's for the same reason the Aeldari are referred to as the Craftworld Eldar and the Astra Militarum are referred to as the Imperial Guard. It's not that the change is especially bad in any way, but after seventeen years of calling them the Tau, it's mostly what I am sticking to.

So, perhaps the single biggest thing this book gets right from the start is its attempts to treat the Tau Empire as an Empire. You have likely seen the same criticism brought up on here more than a few times before, but all too often codices treat any race as a singular army with a nation attached. It's understandable why, given how many factions are quite literally that, especially in the case of the Adeptus Astartes. However, the Tau Empire, Eldar of all forms, and even the Necrons are more than this, and any emphasis on culture or diversity is always welcome.

The opening quickly and succinctly covers the basics, with the Tau Empire's nature, goals and the mysterious arrival of the Ethereals among the warring tribes. It then moves onto how they united their species with this message, and the initial problems while traversing the stars, including the issues in claiming their first few worlds. It's brief but structured in a way that gives you the impression of a summerised history, and it actively avoids offering anything which might tie this down to a smaller scale action. You know the sort of thing, where it seems that four or five people do everything and the rest are just there to carry out orders. As a result, even in the brief statements it makes, the Empire always retains a sense of real scale and immensity.

Even when it does move on to using the likes of Shadowsun, Farsight and Aun'va, it never overplays their presence. It always makes it clear that they were massively important to multiple victories, it was always in the sense that they were part of a bigger army. Farsight in particular is repeatedly cited to be a brilliant strategist and key to multiple victory over Ork Waaaghs! but it doesn't stop and start with his role in things. This is worthy of praise as the book's style manages to accomplish this while still making them prominent, and without oversaturating the book with minor figures. In fact, there's rarely anyone besides them involved, and yet it still is written in such a way to avoid the usual pitfall.

Curiously, a few particular characters even gain moments which further cements their role within history. Aun'va is the most obvious among these, as the Empire's history notes that he was key to convincing the council to launch efforts to retake their colonies following the Damocles Gulf Crusade. In fact, it plays up this angle as him preventing the Tau Empire from falling back in on itself, with the following "After their long retreat across the Damocles Gulf, and their first-hand experience with the formidable forces of the Imperium, many of the T'au were filled with self-doubt. This was not a race that had tasted defeat before, in any of their prolonged endeavours. Aun'Va argued that without action, cracks would form in the foundation of their carefully orchestrated beliefs - and this must not come to pass. Sensing the truth of this, the ancient Ethereal nodded, leaving the details to Aun'Va to organise."

While the book does focus on a more duplicitous and manipulative edge behind him, the Aun'Va we have here is a far cry from the tantrum throwing, sulking figure Mont'Ka depicted him as. Rather than being a caricature of the Big Brother-style Ethereals, he seems like a true believer who is willing to get his hands dirty for the greater good. In many ways, this is infinitely more effective for both future stories and in reflection on his actions. Any fall might be less down to the Ethereals being outright evil than their personal desires to let the end justify the means, and too many compromises piling up atop of one another.

Speaking of Mont'Ka, we have good news on that front as well folks. More or less every downright stupid stunt or downright bad moment of storytelling is quickly swept under the rug and the codex does its damnest to ignore them. For example, the events surrounding the Second Agrellan Campaign are addressed, but it neatly avoids going into too many details over it:

"So thick and fast came the victories for the T'au that many Fire caste strategies believed the war to be won, and the Imperium of Man to be in full retreat. These naive hopes were dashed with the emergence of an enormous Imperial battle fleet in orbit above Mu'gulath Bay. Humanity had come to either reclaim their lost world or see it burnt to ashes.

The battle that followed was a brutal grinder the likes of which the T'au had never experienced before. There seemed no limit to the manpower and armoured assets of the Imperium. Fire caste defenders fought until their last breath in the name of the Greater Good, yet even Commander Shadowsun's flawless Kauyon could not hold back the Imperium's ferocity. It was then, when all hope seemed lost, that red-armoured figures dropped from the skies into the heart of the Imperial formations, blasting the enemy into atoms with close-range barrages of searing energy. The pariah Commander Farsight had come to aid his people.

The rebel Farsight's noble intervention prevented the complete obliteration of the T'au forces on Mu'gulath Bay, but the Imperium of Mankind simply would not accept defeat at the hand of an upstart xenos empire. The humans deployed nightmarish assassins to hunt down the T'au high command, hoping to cut the head from their foes. In a further act of retaliation, agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus utilised bizarre acheotech to set light to Mu'gulath Bay, an unnatural fire that would spread across the entire Damocles Gulf. The dream of the nascent sept world ended in flames. With this atrocity, the Third Sphere Expansion came to a half. Shadowsun and the remnants of her coalition force retreated from Mu'gulath Bay, and began the long hard work of consolidating their significant gains elsewhere."

I know that's much longer than the quotes we usually offer but it needed to be made clear: In three paragraphs this codex managed to execute a more coherent, cohesive and respectful story than someone with an entire book. While it was often joked that certain writers (and they know who they are) would use criticisms as suggestions for their next works, this shows that someone on the writing team was listening. They're not ejecting the events wholesale, but they are doing their damnedest to fix the inherent stupidity within those stories.

The culture of the Tau Empire is also something the book sets time aside for, as we have a two page spread discussing its linguistics and alphabet. While this is something the codices have always utilised, a few new segments have been added or refined to better build upon this quality of the race. It's important to retain this as, above all else, these details can often help to make a species seem all the more alien. It's part of why the Third Edition Codex: Eldar's closing report on their language and connotations often left an impression on players. Well, those who bothered to read it.

Speaking of culture, the emphasis placed on integrating alien races over the Tau Empire simply dominating them is welcome. While it does not wholly oppose the concept of cultural destruction, there isn't the same emphasis placed on Tau visuals, ideals and concepts completely overriding all that the species had before. In fact, due to how the Kroot are depicted, it offers an example completely contrary to that fact. It's a more nuanced element that the book desperately needed, and it subverts an irritating quality all too many authors have stuck with. Something where they will claim the Tau Empire arrives, erases any remnant of an inducted world's culture, supplants it with everything Tau from names to their history, and regards anything which doesn't adhere to this as backward and wrong.

More importantly, the book does advance the timeline forward, but it uses it to refine a number of points. The old idea behind the Tau Empire, and one of the most engaging concepts, was how truly "good" they actually were. Even at their best, there were plenty of moral grey areas and moments of very questionable actions. This was often compounded further by moments from their timeline - such as a mysterious disease wiping out the first friendly race the Tau Empire encountered, leaving their strategically valuable worlds open for settlement. There are shades of this always present, and the inner darkness of the tau species is something that is core to a future storyline.

The big push forward here to get the Tau Empire involved with ongoing events is the Fourth and Fifth Sphere Expansions. Following the Imperium's literal firewall to keep them out, the Empire began looking into various ways to get around the obstacle and initiate another expansion. In this case, the Empire investigated the use of Warp Drives and their potential with tau ships. Despite a lack of Navigators, they managed to perform several effective tests, and eventually attempted to launch a massed fleet. This, unfortunately, all went to hell. Quite literally. While individuals or even small groups were effective in making brief jumps, an entire fleet, unfortunately, caused a few problems. Cue the jaws of hell itself opening up, as the fleet is catapulted into seeming oblivion.

Where the story picks up is following a surprising revelation. A wormhole has emerged within the Empire's space, in an area forgotten to them, with a friendly broadcast coming through. It's the missing expedition, decades after their departure. Some apparently survived and managed to regroup on the other side of this anomaly, creating a patchwork network of vessels. The Tau Empire fortifies the other side and begins initiating a new crusade.

That's the brief version and - as with past reviews - i'm avoiding the full one because it's well told. The Tau Empire's ambition is shown to work against it, resulting in the disaster of the Fourth Expansion. They did run every test they could, a few engineers did voice concerns, but the Ethereals overruled it as the the codex reveals that the Tau Empire needs to expand. It has almost a pathological drive to keep going forward, and cannot remain focused inward, which is a flaw as much as it is a strength. Equally, the Empire is more than a little dubious of the news that there are survivors, and it takes definitive physical proof to finally convince them to send an expedition to the other side.

Better yet, the final segment of this new timeline establishes several new points quite quickly and cleanly. The first is that the massive fortification - the Startide Nexus - is to be used as a jumping point to launch new expeditions through this wormhole. It's heavily fortified, protected and well armoured, but it's effectively the Empire's version of Cadia. The more interesting point is just what happened to the Fourth Sphere Expedition. The tau on the other side are extremely vague when it comes to just what took place, and what they witnessed. While the basic details reflect a difficult path through the Warp, the book notes the lack of xenos auxiliaries among them and the fact that they have picked up some very xenophobic tendencies in the time that they were gone. They are bent less on unity and building strength than they are extermination and conquest.

What's interesting about this - aside from the obvious hints which will likely lead into a campaign - is how this works around a subject the codex itself brings up. The Fire Caste are having difficulty keeping up with patrols, and generally maintaining the Empire's military. As a result, they are having to rely more and more on auxiliary troops from other species and garrisons defending their own worlds. The Fourth Expedition's own tendencies combined with potential risks of the wormhole, has left them using only tau troops in their new battles. As such, this does address the point that alien species might arise in the future for more units, but at the same time it provides a halfway decent excuse as to why they might not show up in future battles.

The absolute last moment of the book, shown in the timeline, heralds something massive. With little forewarning or even an indication that they are aware of this assault, a massive Death Guard fleet emerges from the wormhole. The Tau Empire is soon pitted into one of the single most desperate battles of its existence, as it tries to hold the line against this new foe, ending on a cliffhanger. It's an engaging way to keep the audience interested and, combined with the above points, leaves an obvious plot element for future stories to work off of. Rather than simply piling them on like there is no tomorrow with the End Times event problems of previous Editions, this is clearly designed to lead on to something. So, it means we hopefully have something huge on the horizon.

The Bad

Perhaps the single most obvious problem from the start is how it treats the other races which join the Empire. Now, the work-around it brought up is a work of genius and the notes added to focus on their presence do work. However, rather than having a fully listed page or even a section devoted to them, small bits are just noted in the history. As such, they're crammed into a larger story, and are pushed out of the limelight in favour of the tau themselves. This is a problem as it feels as if the book is only doing the bare minimum with them at the moment, despite the potential behind their ideas. Even old hands like the Demiurg and Vespid get little to no attention, and it seems as if the codex doesn't quite know what to do with them. While it is laudable that the writers remembered that the book has multiple psychic races (and thus dropped the Ethereal's "There is no Warp, there are no psykers!" nonsense) it wastes what could be their greatest benefit.

It's especially problematic as, at many points, the codex tries to play up the more naive or clueless qualities of the tau on a larger scale. Things like Warp drives, how large the galaxy is, or even the risks of Warp travel are elements core to the story and it hinges on them knowing nothing of what is a basic detail for leaders of every other faction in the setting. It's an obvious angle to work with, and for the most part a good one, but it does nothing to address the fact multiple human worlds, several trading races and minor species experienced with the wider galaxy have thrown in their lot with them. Even just a minor note here and there or a few acknowledgements might help, but there's nothing here to actually address this point.

The Warp itself is a difficult subject here, as the codex stakes a step forward in avoiding the willing censorship of past books, but just as quickly takes another step back. Both in Black Library's works and beyond it, the Tau Empire has had multiple skirmishes with Chaos factions. Nothing major to be sure, usually a single individual or rogue element, but it's enough to give them some groundwork to know of it. Even if you ignore that however, even if you pretend that no one they have inducted into the Empire has even the most basic knowledge of it, other works have shown how the Tau Empire reacts to it. The Fall of Medusa V had studying the Warp as their entire objective, delving into it and analysing it. The result was something which scared the hell out of them. Equally, the first bit of fiction the army ever received - Fire Warrior - had the tau viewing Chaos as a physical manifestation of the Mont'au, the terror. It's frustrating to see that every existing plot keeps resorting to this willing blindness on their part, without taking advantage of how things may have developed even over their short existence.

Speaking of development, the roles of certain Castes are questionable here. The Ethereals are the big one here, as they have more than a few cold and calculating qualities added onto them. While a number can be easily accepted thanks to being stuck in difficult positions, others are less reliable. The big one is how the book keeps trying to insinuate that they are manipulating events from behind the scenes and altering qualities for their own benefit. While Aun'Va is one of the better examples of how this can be used to give the Tau Empire a darker edge, others still lean too much toward the idea that the Ethereals are simply using others for their own benefit. This is especially evident when their introduction page effectively ends with the note "All members of the Greater Good live and die by their command!"

This is nothing compared with what was done to the Fire Caste, however. The thing about the Fire Caste is that they are highly disciplined and controlled. This has been repeatedly made clear from the very start, both in this edition and others. In fact, one of the best parts of the Sixth Edition codex stemmed from what they were doing while the tau were attempting to leave their world. The entire force was effectively commanded to form a martial system of extreme control and focus to prevent them from becoming a loose cannon. Well, that has been ignored and cannons have become loose. In every depiction, at every moment, they are depicted more or less as a dog on a chain. Something to be let loose by the Ethereals and annihilate all in their path, unless ordered not to.

The idea that the Fire Caste are such a possible threat is almost certainly something the book is trying to use for its survivors of the Fourth Sphere Expansion. However, the fact it has tossed such an interesting element out the window, and watered down their role to such a degree, is still disheartening. It's only made worse when you consider how easy it would have been to write off many other elements as the result of Chaotic influence or whatnot. Instead, it seems to be presenting the Fire Caste as a whole as mindless thugs; the sort who will turn utterly xenocidal if left unattended for just a short period of time.

These might be a relatively small number of problems, but many of them specifically hinge on the story going forward. As such, they are likely to become greater flaws as time goes by. 

The Artwork

This is a very rare thing indeed, as it's one of the few times where re-using older artwork isn't too much of an issue. It's not simply the fact that there's a good balance between new and old, but also the updates to the old work surprisingly well. For example, there's a famous image of Tau civilians being evacuated while they are under Imperial attack. This was first made in their initial codex back in 2001 and it had a very distinctly sketchy style. Other efforts were made in books to colourise and adapt those pieces for the more modern books, but it never fully worked. For the most part they seemed to apply colour to them and a few shades, but did the bare minimum. Here though? It seems quite natural.

You can quickly see that tones, shades and details have been used in many areas to benefit the enhanced artwork. There's more solid definition to their faces in order to best benefit the new layer of colour, and the presence of the new elements grants greater texture than what we had before. It's not perfect, as some of the background elements have not been able to completely overcome the inherent sketchiness of the style, but it's infinitely better than previous efforts.

The rest of the artwork is fairly good across the board. While it certainly re-uses things from past books, there's more stylistic consistency to it, and many of the works opt for more dynamic shots than we are used to. The new ones in particular offer a great variety of pieces, with a massive cityscape image of fortifications being a personal favourite.

The Verdict

Codex: Tau Empire is more hit than miss thankfully, and it does a vast amount to improve upon its Seventh Edition incarnation. The use of older elements has helped to improve the book's quality, while largely ditching the previous story which kept screaming Ethereal betrayal(!!!) is only a move for the better. With that being said, it stumbles at a few specific points, and it's more of a few steps back in the right direction than a single massive leap.

Still, with all that being said, it does still serve as a solid introduction to the army as a whole and shows great potential for future stories. As such, it's by no means a disaster but it's not exactly going to knock Codex: Adeptus Custodes off of its plinth any time soon.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Sea of Thieves (Video Game Review)

There’s no denying that Rare has seen better days. Once the studio which produced classics like Goldeneye and Banjo Kazooie, the developer quickly fell from its lofty perch following Microsoft’s purchase. This is ultimately why many have been hoping that Sea of Thieves would be a return to form, and to restore the once legendary developer’s good name. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short of that mark. It’s still a fantastic adventure, but it commits a number of sins we have seen a few too many times before.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Ghost of a Tale (Video Game Review)

Ghost of a Tale looks at first glance to be the sort of thing open betas were built for. It’s an original concept devised by an indie team which was open to the public despite a lengthy development cycle. Unfortunately, while this method spawned successes such as Sunless Sea and Subnautica, this one doesn’t quite measure up to them.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Order: Daughters of Khaine Part 3 - Traits, Relics and Spells (Warhammer Age of Sigmar Battletome Review, 1st Edition)

So, let's finish this shall we? We have done the lore, we have done the units, so this will be a brief look at the remaining sections on the whole. While the overall skeleton of the army consists of its varying unit choices, many victories will depend on the qualities which follow. The abilities and modifiers which grant them additional durability, enhance their killing potential and also give them an edge in taking certain rewards under the right circumstances.

Battle Traits

Fanatical Faith: With this one, the Daughters of Khaine can ignore wounds inflicted on them with the roll of a 6+. This is your standard "Fragile Yet Indomitable" quality found in these armies where they can shrug off the strongest blows but be brought down by lesser ones. It's not fantastic, but given how commonplace it is, and the fact it's not another Feel No Pain variant, it's not too bad.

Blood Rites: You probably recognise this as a reworded "Power From Pain". Well, a retitled one at any rate. With this one, your units are granted a new special rule that stacks for the remainder of the game. Every turn no less. It's an interesting quality due to the aforementioned fragility of the Sisters, meaning that as your numbers ultimately dwindle, these guys gain more and more benefits. This offsets the inherent aggression required to properly use their best qualities. A few fun tactics can be created by using this as a kind of fall-back counter when things go wrong.

Quickening Bloodlust: You re-roll runs if you get 1 as a result. Simple, direct but welcome given the lack of armour.

Headlong Fury: R-eroll dice when charging if the result is a 1. Same as above, but it's more directly offensive.

Zealot's Rage: You re-rolls 1s to hit. Another basic modifier, but it comes with the added advantage that the Avatar can move on its own if it gets this. So, that removes one big weakness there.

Slaughterer's Strength: Same as above but it counts for wounds.

Unquenchable Fervour: You do not need battleshock tests, and you also re-roll 1s for saves.

Overall, it's simple but unremarkable. There's a few too many rules which follow the same basic premise here for my liking, and while all of them certainly work, it really seems as if something more ambitious could be put in their place. Still, it gets the job done so you can't complain too much about that.

Command Traits

Bathed in Blood: This focuses on survivability above all else, as it gives a model an additional wound, but also allows them to heal a single wound at the beginning of each hero phase. This is a more useful option for your bullet (or arrow, in this case) magnets such as the Cauldron of Blood, but consider it as a bonus rather than an essential. Still, it's good on the whole.

Zealous Orator: General's Bravery is now extended to 14", but the problem is that it's only a minor buff. You don't get that much of a benefit as Bravery throughout the army is notably quite high and units will rarely break. It's worth it against some armies with plenty of options which downgrade this stat, but otherwise, pass on this.

Bloody Sacrificer: Add an additional +1 to the hits made by your General's weapons. Useful if you're using them as a hero killer or mob annihilator, but not so much if you want to use them as something to support the troops. As such, this is very dependant on your play style, but it's not inherently bad.

Terrifying Beauty: -1 to hits against the General. This is an exceptionally useful one in many cases, as it can be stacked with more than a few other abilities to cause your opponent all kinds of hell. This is worth it on most options, even the budget ones.

Mistress of Poisons: ... Well, there has been a distinct lack of poison up to this point. This one adds a +1 to Damage characteristics of your General's weapons, giving them a chance to inflict more damage. The same comments as Bloody Sacrificer apply, but this can be more broadly distributed to different lists.

True Believer: Above all else, this is the one you will want. This increases a unit's Blood Rites rolls up by several turns, speeding up their bonuses and the number of special rules which can be applied. This is worth it with almost everything, but it is best used with the Avatar to wake it up and get it moving ASAP.

Overall, it repeats many basic modifiers as the above option, but it at least is more viable and flexible for most army list outlines.

Gifts of Morathi

These options can be given to any Hero unit in the army.

Crown of Woe: This is a useful one for forcing more typical fodder options to run. It modifies the Bravery stat of all those within 7" (not allied ones of course) by -1, and this can be increased to 14" once the focus of this manages to kill someone. So, basic but pretty damn good in helping to break through frontlines or flanks.

Cursed Blade: +1 to hit rolls but only on one of the carrier's melee weapons, but if this boosts the result to +7, then this is modified to a bonus Mortal Wound over normal damage. Situational admittedly, but it can help with Slaughter Queens.

Amulet of Dark Fire: An exceptionally useful one, this grants the carrier a 4+ save against Mortal Wounds. For a unit so valued and costly as a decent Hero, this is a must buy if you intend for them to slow down or bring down heavy hitters.

Crone Blade: This is somewhat useful depending on what you are fighting. In effect, every time you slay a model with one designated weapon, the Hero regains a wound. This is good because you can't exceed your total wounds, but it also specifies "slays" over wounds inflicted. As such, against single wound squads it can allow them to last longer in melee. In multi-wound elite options, this is not going to be as useful on the whole.

Thousand and One Dark Blessings: It's a +1 to saves from all attacks. It's self-explanatory, and this should likely be one of the two "go to" options here for making sure your Hero lasts long enough to make their points back.

Bloodbane Venom: This is an odd one as it looks good on paper, but it becomes a bit trickier in practice. In effect, every time you inflict a wound which doesn't kill a target, then you can roll a dice. If the number equals their remaining wounds or beats it, then they're instantly killed.

This is very irksome in many ways, as it has an obvious counter, but it still seems like a very cheap way to kill big, tough targets. As such, it's difficult to place down as this isn't broken, but in tournaments or the like I can see it being used to rack up a few quick victories.

Artefacts of Shadow

So, that's the Heroes done, now we're onto the wizzard weapons. 

Shadow Stone: A major plus in favour of casting and getting spells off, this allows the wielder to re-roll 1s while attempting to cast spells and adds +1 when casting from the Lore of Shadows. This makes it extremely useful for making sure your usual tactics don't backfire on you, and getting your wizard to do more than die to bad luck. On the whole, a solid go-to option but there are better ones on here.

Rune of Ulgu: This immediately gives the wielder an extra Lore of Shadows spell. Nice, and it's certainly a useful way of giving them a bit more variety, but the same result as above.

The Mirror Glaive: This one is surprisingly situation as, each time the wielder unbinds one of their spells, they can immediately attempt to cast Arcane Bolt or Mystic Shield. On the one hand, this can be done in more or less any phase, and a successful result means that the spell cannot be unbound. The problem is that the Medusas will be your main option for using this, and they can only attempt to do this with one spell per turn. It's not a bad choice by any means, but it does leave you lacking some of the firepower you might expect.

Seven-fold Shadow: This is the only real dud here, as it just adds one more of something the army already has plenty of. Rather than moving, once per battle you can have them teleport to anywhere else on the board more than 9" from their enemy. In most lists this would be excellent, but as the Daughters have no end of this sort of thing, it's probably best to forgo this in favour of another option on here.

Crystal Heart: A surprisingly risky yet excellent choice, this allows your wielder to fire off a second spell in the Hero phase if successful. Each time, however, you need to roll a D6 otherwise you will take D3 Mortal Wounds upon getting 1 as a result. This gives added risk, but it makes them all the more effective in games.

Shade Claw: The Whisperclaw on Meduas now Rends at -1, which gives them a massive bonus in melee. It's worth taking in a list which utilises these, especially if you plan on using them to get stuck in.

Relics of Khaine

So, here we are with the Priests options. These are usually an interesting alternative to the big options as a rule, but here especially it helps to contrast and compare them with the spells above. Unfortunately, in this case they line up rather exactly in a few cases, which is hit and miss. On the one hand it's sticking to a solid format, but on the other its forging creativity in favour of reliability.

Blood Sigil: One additional Prayer for the wielder. A decent option to be sure, and a nice extra.

Iron Circlet: The Priest re-rolls the results of a 1 when seeing if her prayer is effective, and they also manifest on a 3+. Speaks for itself really.

Rune of Khaine: It gives you a suicide bomber priest. There is a terrible, terrible joke which could be made here, but the chances are you have already thought of them.

When the Priest is killed you immediately roll a dice. On a 1, nothing happens. On a 2 through to 5, the unit which kills them takes D3 Mortal Wounds, while on a 6 this is upgraded to D6. What is interesting is that this works against any attack, and isn't limited purely to melee engagements, so you can hit a squad of archers from half the board away. It's not a bad final option, but you rarely want to ever sacrifice your Hag Queens due to the bonuses they offer. Viable in big games, but the random chances involved means that it's something left to make up points costs over an immeidate choice.

Crimson Shard: The Blade of Khaine gains the ability to wound on a 2+. You will rarely want to give this to a Queen on their own, but hand it to one on a Cauldron and they become utterly beastly in melee. A good choice, especially in bigger games.

Khaineite Pendant: Boost Prayer use up to three times in the Hero phase. However, this isn't without a possible downside here, as you instantly take D3 Mortal Wounds upon rolling a 1. Still, it's a good option as a spell spammer.

Hagbrew: This is another one best left to the Cauldron of Blood, as it adds +1 to wounds when in melee. Give it to a Slaughter Queen, stick her on a Cauldron and watch heads go flying. There's really no downside to this one.

Lore of Shadows

This is largely unchanged from Fantasy, and it retains that lovely, lovely Pit of Shades which was the doom of Steam Tanks.

Steed of Shadows: This has a Casting Value 5, which allows the wizzard to Fly in a single 16" move.

Pit of Shades: With a Casting Value 7, this allows you to pick an enemy within 18" of the wizzard. While they need to be in line of sight, you then roll 2D6, and promptly inflict a Mortal Wound for every point more than their Movement value. Dear lord this thing is hilarious to use.

Mirror Dance: A Casting Value of 4 this time, as it allows you to pick two heroes within 24" of the caster. So long as they are beyond 6" of another unit, you can instantly switch their places. Useful if you know what you're doing, but you need to carefully set it up.

The Withering: This has a Casting Value 7 and once again an 18" range. From then until the next turn, all attacks against the enemy unit they target gains +1 to wound.

Mindrazor: With a Casting Value 7, it allows you to pick out a Daughters of Khaine unit (a friendly one) within 18" and gives them -1 Rend to all weapons. They also gain an additional extra point of damage if they target something with a lesser Bravery score, which is a great many units.

Shroud of Despair: With a Castling Value of 4 and, you guessed it, 18", this one allows you to inflict -1 to Bravery on a unit. This lasts until next turn, and if your result was an 8+ then its a D3 result instead. Combined with Mindrazor, this can be deadly.

Prayers of the Khainite Cult

Catechism of Murder: Pick out a single Daughters of Khaine unit within 14" of the Priest in question, and for the rest of the turn any 6s to hit they inflict explode, and deal 2 hits. It's inclear if this keeps working from there on, but hopefully it will.

Blessing of Khaine: Same range as above, but you now re-roll results required for Fanatical Faith.

Martyr's Sacrifice: Same range again, but roll a D6 for every model killed in melee. If the result is a 5+ then it deals a mortal wound which stacks with the Bucklers. Now this is just nasty.

Crimson Rejuvination: 14" again, and it works in everything save for Morathi. You instantly heal D3 wounds. Not the best option really, as there's more viable choices on here.

Covenant of the Iron Heart: Same as above, this one isn't the best in the world, as it's limited to 14" and prevents a single unit from needing to take Battleshock tests for a turn. It has its uses, but there are better options.

Sacrament of Blood: 14" yet again, and the effects of this one allows you to count a single unit as a point higher in determining Blood Rites effects. This stacks, which makes this very useful in working in combination with a few others.

The Verdict

The same theme as the entire book rings true here. It's good, but not great. It really seems like this is a book where the developers are still testing the waters and trying to create a stable and equal basis for armies. That's not a bad thing by any means, but we have seen much more creative concepts emerge despite that mentality dominating certain armies. If you're a Dark Elves fan then this should please you, and it's a good alternative Order choice for those who want a token evildoer among their lot. That said, I think it's only going to flourish in later Editions.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Devil May Cry HD Collection (Video Game Review)

The past few years have been good to Capcom of late. Having managed to pull themselves out of something of a rut, Resident Evil 7 and Monster Hunter: World have both taken their classic franchises to new heights. Unfortunately, while there has been rumblings of a new Devil May Cry for months now, nothing definitive has come to light. In its place, the company has decided to placate fans with an HD release. Unfortunately, it’s a very mixed bag.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Why There Has Never Been A Better Time For Female Space Marines

The subject of female Space Marines was something I had personally hoped to address once and never again. In a previous article on this blog, I briefly summed up the problems with adding them into the lore, issues with how to depict them, and thematic problems. This ended with what seemed to be the only viable way to add them into the setting though, in order to show just how fans could create chapters without disrupting the status quo. Well, if the large scar of Warp energy dividing the galaxy wasn't enough of a clue, the status quo has been shaken up a bit.

This is no longer a timeline which ends on (and in one or two cases slightly after) M42. We have crossed that event horizon and into a desperate age which is infinitely more hopeful and infinitely bleaker at once. While it has stumbled in a few places, and people will almost certainly lament the need to press forward, overall it's a move Games Workshop has handled extremely well. While it isn't demanding that players forget the past, while it is frequently revisiting previous eras and using older characters, we're off the edge of the map here. This can be seen in nothing better than the Primaris Space Marines themselves.

For those who somehow missed them, these are effectively a Mk. II version of the Adeptus Astartes. Taller, tougher, with enhanced reaction times and largely bereft of genetic failings, they are Guilliman's new secret weapon. Yet, they were not made by his hand. The man responsible for this was Belisarius Cawl, an ancient cog in the Imperium's machine. Almost ten thousand years old himself, the Archmagos Dominus has spent much of his long life working on this project, but more importantly also innovating on it. While we know little of his history, it's evident that Cawl is a rare figure in the Adeptus Mechanicus. Someone who can, rather than repurpose existing components or recreate advanced lost technology, completely innovate on a design. In most settings, this would make him a revolutionary, but this is Warhammer where even the best man tends to have a shade of darkness to him.

Cawl is a Heretek, either borderline or outright, and has broken more than a few rules. Along with effectively building a personal AI and redefining the Mechanicus' boundaries, he is power hungry and has few scruples. He is detached from most human morals and even the most general sense of honour. In fact, the idea that he has spent so long on this project means that it would not be a surprise to learn that he had a hand in the Cursed Founding. Using it either as a test bed for his ideas, or perhaps even intentionally sabotaging it so that it wouldn't overshadow his own accomplishments. 

With those character flaws in mind, one of the major things he pushed for was to take full advantage of the genetic information behind the Primarchs. Simply ignoring the genetic material of who had turned on the Emperor, was a waste in his eyes, and given the scale of their threat they needed every resource they could access. So, with that in mind, one of the great weaknesses of the Space Marines was that their gene-seed could only work with one gender. Wouldn't he think of adapting it to both? It's hardly an impossible idea, after all. Given that his work has erased so many prior flaws and even refined the overall process of making an Astartes, tweaking the shortcoming which meant it worked only with males isn't out of the question. We even know of "mongrel" creations in M41 which have been made from the gene-seed of multiple primarchs, after all, so you could even use that as a justification for why he might experiment further.

Even if he did not wish to openly admit to this, you could perhaps have Cawl attempt it in secret. Perhaps he could find somewhere primitive enough for his needs, and use his resources to found a private chapter. Something akin to the Steel Confessors, where a force has been privately funded and assembled without outside knowledge. Given the fact that - as discussed in the previous article - these would likely only have minor physical differences once they had fully matured, it would not be impossible for them to remain openly active with no one noticing any true oddities. Given how varied and diverse chapters are in their cultures and genetics, many qualities could simply be written off as a genetic quirk.

Even without this aspect, however, you could even argue in favour of another faction benefitting from gene-modification. The Sisters of Battle have long lacked an equivalent to Terminators in their armies, or a harder hitting elite option. If Cawl or another were to experiment with gene-forging a limited number of members (at least of those Orders who would be open to the idea, rather than those who deem the Adeptus Astartes as mutants) it would open the door there as well. Perhaps their process might even be closer to that of the Custodes, where each is individually rebuilt and tailor-made, rather than being reliant upon the gene-seed process. This would help them somewhat sidestep the issue of simply being the alternative to Space Marines, and would further diversify that army for those seeking to give them more time in the spotlight.

The state of the Imperium overall also means that a multitude of new story opportunities have arisen. There are new threats, new cataclysms and new fronts in each war, obviously. However, the lore also notes rather nebulously that several hundred chapters are currently unaccounted for, and that others were outright destroyed. Both would allow fans the opportunity to experiment with their personal lore and depiction of existing chapters. Perhaps a new one was created based on this experimental gene-seed alternative under the name of a destroyed one, either to respect their loss or for Cawl to hide their existence. Others would even be able to exist alongside them due to poor communication or simply serving as a replacement while the original was MIA.

Why is this important exactly? The first reason is simple - In the original article, a big problem cited emphasised how many existing cultures were already heavily used for the basis certain existing chapters. Some are obvious such as the Space Wolves being the Norse faction of the setting, while the Thousand Sons served as the Egyptian group. Part of the problem here cited from how many were already taken up, but also in how a substantial number benefitted from having that closer link to reality due to the gender choices. The fact that fans can easily alter, supplant or re-arrange the lesser known chapters means that there are more options to work with female Space Marines now. It allows them access to cultures previously more closely associated with others, while the actual planets themselves can be somewhat rewritten due to the state of the galaxy at large. 

Few worlds seem to have escaped from the recent years unscathed after all, which gives writers leeway to re-write certain elements due to cataclysms or even social changes borne by new threats. Due to this method, and the fact that the timeline is now moving forward, this means that you're not having to overwrite or even erase ideas previously set in stone. Instead, you can have one evolve from the previous lore into something new, which sidesteps many obvious issues in terms of canon or continuity.

None of this is to say that Games Workshop must have female versions of the Adeptus Astartes of course. Many previous points in the prior article still remain relevant, and I personally still stand by them. However, if there ever was a time to start creating these as fans or even the company as a whole, now is the best time possible to justify their presence.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Order: Daughters of Khaine Part 2 - The Units (Warhammer Age of Sigmar Battletome Review, 1st Edition)

As an army with limited clothing, relatively little armour and plenty of swords, the Daughters of Khaine are what you would expect. They're a glass cannon. Fast, numerous and with a variety of units which can deal a substantial amount of damage, they take the Sylvaneth's core qualities and push them to an extreme. However, this isn't to simply say that they are the Sylvaneth in a new and scantily clad style. Their greater emphasis on melee, special rules and unique units quickly makes it clear that you need to approach this army in a very different way.

To be blunt, the Daughters of Khaine are the sort of army which rewards careful tactical thinking. It's less the reliance upon multiple fall-back rules or even singular focused attacks than it is the capacity to engage on multiple fronts. The ability to divide up an enemy force, conquer them in a number of careful overlapping battles and steadily use one victory to chain into the next. To borrow an analogy used in the discussion of Battlefleet Gothic ships, they're a rapier. Using just enough force to cut through the enemy will lead to easy victories, but try to swing it about like a broadsword or engage in battles of attrition, and it will just shatter.

So, that's the short version of this anyway. Let's take a look at the individual units.

Morathi, High Oracle of Khaine

If you have looked into most Age of Sigmar armies, you will notice a theme: Many have a big god-tier unit. This isn't universally true, as there are a few exceptions, but it's to be expected in most forces now. Morathi easily fits into this, but she is less a utility and army enhancer than she is a blender. Throw her at an enemy unit, and you will watch them be reduced to piles of well-sliced gore. 

This said, she is a wizard above all else, and comes with a unique spell. Arnzipals Black Horror is the spammable one many will favour, as it allows her to instantly inflict a random number of mortal wounds onto enemy units. It's cheap to be sure, but with this game style and so many characters at this tier, it's to be expected. This would make her effective on its own, but the bigger bonus is how her spells work. She has the ability to cast three spells per turn and twice with unbind, which adds +1 to her rolls and doubles her spells' range. You can easily have her hang back and cause all sorts of hell without too much trouble, and her hardy stats line means she can soak up a fair amount of punishment.

The more aspect of the character (which will likely be overlooked by many) is Worship Through Bloodshed, a command ability. This allows two nearby units of Daughters of Khaine within 14" inches to instantly make a shooting attack, which is perfect for thinning out mobs prior to an assault.

Even in direct combat, Morathi still slices through plenty of squads. While she has six wounds and cannot be healed, the Iron Heart of Khaine rule means that she cannot have more than three removed in one turn. This means that it is outright impossible to one-shot the character, and she will always get a chance to hack her way through a few things before going down. Furthermore, her nine 3+/3+/-1/1 damage attacks or D3 attacks thanks to her Heartrender and her Bladed Wings makes her a force to be reckoned with. Combined with a -1 imposed on units trying hit her, she will keep standing for quite some time.

Yet, what is more interesting is that this version is the Jekyll of the book. The rule The Truth Revealed means that upon being wounded her personal Hyde might come out, should you roll on par or less than her current wounds in a test each turn. This can be activated willingly, but it comes with a step forward and backward.

Morathi, the Shadow Queen

As her true form, Morathi's guise here is less enchanting than her humanoid form but it is certainly far more powerful. For one thing, her six wounds are instantly boosted to twelve, meaning she can tank far more hits, but this is impacted by her previous state. Rather than simply hulking out and recovering everything, not only are her previous wounds retained but the number is doubled. As such, the Shadow Queen is less of an easy escape than she is a trap to be activated when needed in many situations.

Along with gaining flight, boosted versions of her melee attacks (including an especially nasty version of Heartrender) and new weapons in the form of a stinger tail and snake hair, she also has a few notable buffs. Every attack by her hits on a 3+, meaning that she will decimate whole squads at a time if given half of a chance. The fact that she has access to Blood Rites means that this will steadily snowball as the game continues as well, gaining more buffs throughout the battles. 

However, while she is hardier and notably much more melee focused, Morathi is still intended as a spellcaster above all else. As such, much of this seems to have been made with her unleashing long ranged attacks and then closing in to finish them off. This is best displayed when, for all her deadliness in close combat, one of her most potent abilities is a ranged shot - Which allows you to pick out and instantly remove an enemy unit from a squad if a dice roll you make beats their wound characteristic. Her spells are admittedly dulled in this state though, so it's less the extreme contrast of spellcaster and warrior, and more that one focuses on areas the other falls short in.

Overall, it's an interesting contrast and a mechanic which helps to give her a creative edge these big hero units need.

Slaughter Queen

Much like the leader of their order, the usual head honcho of the Death Hag has been divided in two. Unlike her, however, you can't switch back and forth between the two modes. The Slaughter Queen here is the Priest option, offering minor buffs while engaging in close range melee combat. She's poor at the former due to a few odd spells, but decent at the latter, thanks to the brilliantly named but irritatingly bland Blade of Khaine, but the hilarious yet deadly Deathsword with its D3 damage. That's not a slight against the Deathsword either, as there's something utterly hilarious in how bold faced it is in giving it that term. It's like the fantasy version of a 40,000 character showing up with a weapon called The Death Ray. It's just hard not to like it.

The odd thing about the character is that she is a decent spellcaster, with successfully casting her spells on 3+ rolls but always botching on 1s, which isn't a bad trade off. The issue stems from how she is only good for buffing herself, with Rune of Khaine turning her Blade into another D3 weapon, and doubling her attacks each turn with Dance of Doom. Rouch of Death, however, is extremely short ranged at 3" despite the D3 Mortal Wounds it can inflict. Orgy of Slaughter - the only one specifically devoted to assisting other Daughters - is fairly boring, as it just assists them when attacking and piling in, but only if there is another enemy squad within 3"

The 5+ save and a fragile stats line means that she does take the glass cannon aspects of the army to an extreme. As such, while it is clear how someone can use her to good effect, at the same time she is needlessly complex and reliant upon skills to constantly buff herself.

Hag Queen

At a glance, the Hag Queen is more or less identical to the Slaughter Queen. Both have the same overall stats line with only minor variations, share most of the same abilities, but whereas one has the Deathsword (Sorry, the DEATHSWORD!!! *guitar riff*) she only has a Blade of Khaine.

However, whereas the Slaughter Queen has been made with more direct combat in mind, the Hag Queen is a drug dealer. Her Witchbrew allows any Daughters unit within 3" of her to re-roll their wounds in combat, giving them some additional killing potential on her charge. Overall, she's the cheaper option, but can be quite a nice force multiplier if you need to inflict massive immediate damage to an enemy, or someone cheap to animate the army's Behemoth unit.

Cauldron of Blood

This is something just about everyone predicted would be reused here, and it's an essential part of any Daughters army. This can serve as an upgrade for both Queens listed above, and can also benefit from extra attacks via its attendants, inflicting D3 Mortal Wounds on enemy units who finish their charge within 1". This seems like a small amount, but given the model's size and the fact that many of its special rules require being used at close range, it becomes surprisingly beneficial.

The Cauldron can be used to also animate the army's Behemoth, but it comes with a +1 to Bravery for all Daughters within 7" of it. Furthermore, the spell of Bloodshield grants +1 to saving throws of nearby Daughters units, albeit with the note that units cannot be influenced by multiple Cauldrons at a time. The model's main attacks stem from both the nearby elves, but also the aforementioned Behemoth standing atop of it - An Avatar of Khaine. We'll get into the specifics of him at the end, but save for the fact it has +5 as a save and 13 wounds, it shares many of his attributes.

Overall, it's a good tanky option for a hero choice.

Bloodwrack Medusae

These are the closest the army has to a big tough Troll-style unit despite its Greek myth-inspired qualities. While they are quite effective in melee thanks to having a 2"/D6/+4/+4/1 tail along with the standard four attacks offered by Whisperclaws and two by its Bloodwrack Spear, their advantage lies in their ranged attacks. Bloodwrack Stare, for example, is a unique ability which targets one of every member of a unit, and rolls a dice for each of them. On the roll of a 5+ it's an instant Mortal Wound. A small group working in coordination with one another can quickly cut their way through the core of an army, but they are still somewhat vulnerable to attacks. It's only their 5+ save and sheer expense which stops them from crossing over into downright broken territory overall, and the fact that pressing forward can quickly backfire thanks to flanking assaults.

Bloodwrack Shrine

The Bloodwrack Shrine is an odd one here, as it doesn't quite fulfil the Cauldron's overall role, but at the same time it doesn't quite stand out from it either. The model benefits from the Bloodwrack Stare of the Medusae and the D3 Mortal Wound rule of the Cauldron itself. However, its benefits stem from how it can counter certain key foes if it remains close to allied forces. The Aura of Agony can target every enemy unit within 7" of it, and can inflict D3 Mortal Wounds on them. However, this diminishes quite rapidly depending on the damage inflicted. While it has 13 wounds overall, it only takes three for it to start dropping off.

The Enfeebling Foe is quite a tasty one, however. A spell which is core to the Shrine, it has a value of 5 and retains an 18" Range. For the rest of the turn, the unit targeted suffers from -1 to all wound rolls, something which is especially helpful in killing heavily armoured opponents. 

It can work with most lists but this is one either left to armies specifically built with this model in mind, or those which have separated the Cauldron and Avatar, but still desire to have most of its effects.

Witch Aelves

Welcome to your frontline troops here, and they're exactly what you would ultimately expect. Well, mostly. They are fast, they do rely on multiple attacks per model and their numbers to win fights, but the rules have tweaked this with various buffs and special rules. For one thing, the Blade Buckler special rule gives them a 5+ save but with the benefit of inflicting a Mortal Wound if they roll a 6. So, yes, this is the rare example of basic infantry potentially murdering the enemy if they roll extremely well on saves. Furthermore, the Frenzied Fervour rule grants them an additional attack per turn when they are within 8" of the army's hero choice, allowing them to have quite a high damage output. This can then be taken further by carrying another blade, albeit at the cost of the Buckler rule. 

With this being said, if they are caught outside of melee in the open they will die. As such, you need to use their speed to either get them into combat ASAP, or constantly move under the cover of your archers. It can work if the dice are with you, but you can also screw up badly with them as well.

Sisters of Slaughter

Another obvious option for the army's backbone, the Sisters of Slaughter share the Bladed Buckler rule but come with a few better melee weapons. The Shield and Barbed Whip offers them a 2" range in combat which, as any old Lord of the Rings player can tell you, quickly stacks up at close range. This is further enhanced by the 6" pile in range over the 3" which helps them to close in and hack smaller groups of models to bits with their sheer range of attacks. Besides this, however, most of their benefits are shared by the Witch Aelves. They're a better option overall, but they also share many of the same weaknesses.

Blood Sisters

This is the Battleline if your main hero is a Medusae and these are an interesting addition to be sure. They're a more elite option to be sure, as they're smaller in number, have greater rules and benefits and can serve as a major stonewall against enemy attacks if used correctly. Their standard glaives come with a 2" 3+/3+/-1/1 attack and they share the capacity to benefit from Blood Rites and the like. While they are admittedly more fragile than most models their size (and yes, I am sorry, but that word is going to keep showing up) they do benefit from an obscene Crystal Touch special rule. In effect, they cause an instant Mortal Wound with every hit. Quite frankly this one is fairly ridiculous even giving Age of Sigmar all the leeway it needs, and they are on the very edge of being Wraithguard levels of cheese. That being said, the fact they have a 5+ save with two wounds per model and very small unit sizes means that they will be whittled down quickly if isolated, but they will seriously damage anything which comes into contact with them.

Blood Stalkers

These are the ranged counterpart to the example above, as they share more than a few qualities but with bows in their place. Hitting on a 6 at long range will inflict a Mortal Wound, and they are highly mobile, capable of falling back and retreating when required. However, what is far less wince-worthy than the above example is how they operate in that area. They have fewer attacks due to the ranges involved and cannot benefit from massed volley firing on units, meaning it is harder to get multiple Mortal Wounds off.

Unfortunately, the unit's seemingly awesome upgrade is sadly quite underwhelming, as the Bloodwyrm (a pet dragon) cannot be used warhawk style and is limited purely to melee. Also, no they will not do too well in melee at all. While they stand out above the Stormcast Judicators in terms of their capacity to engage in combat while mixing things up at range, you should use them largely to pick off tough targets in the turns leading into an attack.

Khinerai Lifetakers

So, we've had the Aelves, the snake-women and now we have the Harpies. The Lifetakers are basically the Witch Aelves of the air, with even the Heartpiercer Shield effectively serving as their own Blade Buckler. However, while they share largely the same stats line, their abilities are where they differ once again. This unit is airborne for starters, meaning you have increased speed but they can also effectively Deep Strike into battle. So long as they are outside of 9" from the enemy, they can pop up and start causing havoc. This is further augmented thanks to their ability to add +1 onto attacks when charging into battle, giving them a bit more of an edge in sudden arrivals. Oh, and for those who enjoyed the ability to jump back out of combat, these guys can do that as well on a 4+, right after performing their attacks.

Overall, the Kinerai Lifetakers are a solid option, but it feels as if so much more could be done with them. The fact that they show so many interesting combinations in terms of rules, but have a core which is effectively identical to the Witch Aelves is frustrating. It seems as if so much more could be done if they simply spent a bit more time tweaking them, and granted the army some greater variety. This is supposed to be a force of monsters and mythical Greek creatures, but it seems as if there should be more to it than just this.

Khinerai Heartrenders

Three guesses as to what these guys do, and the first two don't count. Yep, it's a range version of the above unit, same as what we had with the snakes. They also carry out a somewhat similar role, focusing far more on a few very strong attacks over massed strikes. This is due to their 12" 3+/3+/-1/1 spear throws, which means they can drop out of the sky and instantly cause all kinds of hell for their enemy. Combined with their Rend ability being boosted to -2, the unit can inflict some very, very severe damage quite early on.

They come quite close to Sternguard in how they drop out of the sky and then kill something, only to often die in return. Still, unfortunately unlike those squads from 40,000, the Heartrenders do have an irritating flaw. There's multiple ways you can have them come down and pull this on the very first turn, meaning that they can cause all sorts of hell for other players. This is its main weakness, but besides that they're a nicely tactical choice for the army.

Doomfire Warlocks

These are the only male units in the entire army, as you might have guessed from the name. They also might have sprung up from an old joke on 1d4Chan. Some time ago there was a gag suggesting what might happen if an entire Imperial Guard regiment of psykers was formed. Well, on a squad-based level, they might well resemble this lot. The Warlocks are fast moving, lightly armoured and have severe spell damage they can inflict on others. This is based entirely on how many people in the unit you have left, but at the usual 10+ numbers, you are effectively unleashing an immediate 6 Mortal Wounds on a target at a casting value of 5. Plus, when you can't do that or have other things in mind, their repeater crossbows serve to thin numbers in a way other ranged units cannot.

Most interestingly, while they are expensive they do sidestep the glass cannon quality found in other units here. You will rarely field more than one, but this makes them a costly but very effective distraction to draw fire away from the numbers of blade-wielding blood nuns who could be hurt by concentrated attacks.

Avatar of Khaine

Yes, this was a surprise to me as well. Apparently having jumped universes, the Eldar Avatar has shown up here to start a few fights with the Chaos boys. However, there are a few crucial differences. While this is an Avatar and it is related to the Bloody-Handed God, it operates on a different wavelength than the version found among Craftworlds.

This counts as the book's major Behemoth unit, this is less the entombed shard of a dead god than it is an animated black golem. As such, you need a Wizard close by to keep it animated and active. A living one at that, otherwise it just becomes a hunk of metal. As an aside, I thought that this was a minor but quite nice touch to reflect the differences between the two universes. Okay, it can be animated from turn three onward via Blood Rites, but you have lost half of the game by that point.

Anyway, the Avatar can wade into battle with four  -2 rend and 3 damage attacks, while taking a severe amount of punishment in return with its 9 wounds and a 4+ save. However, it also benefits from a ranged attack which can inflict six 3+/3+/-1/1 shots at its intended target, giving it a damage output on par with most ranged units. Furthermore, the +1 Bravery it offers to all Daughters units within 7" means that it offsets the difficulties in initiating a massed singular charge if needed.

Overall, while it has a distinct weakness, the Avatar is a solid character killer and an interesting bullet magnet which can return fire with ease.

The Verdict

Like the lore, this is very much hit and miss. It's okay on the whole, as there's nothing truly wrong with it, but it seems to be playing things very safe in a lot of areas. I do wish that a few more risks had been taken with some of the more creative units, but it's still a solid baseline for armies and for future editions to build on.

So, that's that done, next time we will finish this off with the remainder of their rules.