Monday 29 June 2015

After Action Report #2: Orks vs. Tau Empire

I WON! That never happens in 40k. Seriously, I'm only exaggerating a little. Contrary to how the two systems of Warhammer are usually assumed to work I've always had more trouble understanding (and therefore winning) 40k. Its probably worth analysing why one of these days but I'm going to enjoy my victory lap first and see if there's anything worth learning from this victory.

Matters of Reality
1000 points, my Orks versus Dave's Tau Empire. Victory to me in Turn Six by way of tabling with a two Victory Points advantage beforehand. On the character pool side of things three of my characters are out for the count and under the care of the Mad Doks: my Big Mek with Shokk Attak Gun, my primary Warboss Kaptin Thunderguts and little Mek Mistah Chubb.

Matters of Story
After four games in this campaign I have finally broken out of my starting zone, capturing an area on the southern bank of a coastal estuary to the north of my home base. With the Kaptin still busy back at the rokk having bits stitched back on the other Warboss Mistah Krumpins, who won this victory, is going to be getting some quality plotting done.

He's also going to hosting a barbecue for the boyz. They have to get rid of all those Tau corpses somehow and bashing heads is hungry work.

On the “cinematic moments” side of things, in Turn Six the only model Dave had on the table was Darkstrider, who made a desperate dash into some rocks with five Flash Gitz, six Gretchin, three Deffkoptas and three Killa Kanz on his tail. The Flash Gitz got the kill in the end, so that'll have to go in the fiction.

Lessons Learnt
I've become much less timid about combat so the 20-man Boyz mobs are coming into their own. I'm currently running two in the thousand points list, I think for the fifteen hundred I'll add a third with shootas. Weight of numbers is always the way to go with Orks.

I tried out my Mek Gunz as Kannon (they're usually Zzap Gunz) and I have to say I did prefer them. The choice between a high-strength single shot and a lower strength blast template gave me much needed versatility. I think I'll keep them like this for a while.

The Flash Gitz spent most of the game stationary and finally taking advantage of their gitfindas and they really came into their own. The secret to using them, I've decided, is knowing when to sacrifice the gitfinda bonus by moving and when to hold your ground. I know “holding your ground” is an odd concept for an Ork army, but there it is.

Slapped a Kustom Force Field on the Big Mek and stuck him next to the Mek Gunz. Sadly the Big Mek blew himself up in Turn One so I'm not sure how useful spending those thirty points were.

Future Refinements
Expanding to fifteen hundred points I think definitely another twenty-man mob of Boyz. Also, with my Big Mek out for a game it may be time to try the Weirdboy. 

Sunday 14 June 2015

Warhammer Fantasy "panic buy" shortlist

Whether the new Warhammer Fantasy is good or not, whether it even is Warhammer Fantasy or not, it looks like the destruction of the Warhammer World as I understood it stands. What this means is that everything is up for grabs and with Army Books having disappeared from the shelves it might be now or never for adding the finishing touches to my armies.

(And before we start on that, if you're coming here from Google whilst looking for new edition rumours and opinions just don't start. I am perfectly open to the idea this thing will be good. I know the models will be good because look who we're talking about but I love the background and don't care how generic you think it is and how this “Warmahordes” things is better and everything needs to be “innovative” in order to have value. Just don't, I am not in the mood, especially if you're going to do what I've seen happen on comment threads and imply or outright state that my reservations are a symptom of mental illness. I can handle change, I am a comics fan, I just reserve the right to have an opinion. We clear?)

Anywho, my group are determined that if this is a complete reboot divorced from the Fantasy we loved that we'll continue with what we have. None of us are particularly enamoured of playing in store or at the local gaming clubs, we've got the armies and we've got the books so we might as well do what we like. As such, the priority becomes getting a few last things in case they go.

So what to get? I have what I want for my Bretonnia, Tomb Kings and Wood Elves armies so its more a matter of getting some finishing touches for my older armies.

For my Vampire Counts: a single Cairn Wraith to finish a unit; a Terrorgheist; and, considering I want to take the army in a more Lahmian-themed direction, the End Times Neferata model and Isabella Von Carstein.

For my High Elves: a Dragon because it is simply the best model GW have ever done; a second Lothern Skycutter because those feel like something you should field in pairs, plus it'll net me a second Sea Helm to build as a Battle Standard Bearer; and a Handmaiden of the Everqueen.

For the Lizardmen: a Stegadon to make an Engine Of The Gods because having a magical tactical nuke on the back of a dinosaur is just a cool idea.

Finally, for my old Skaven army: a box of Stormvermin, which I somehow don't own any of; a Hellpit Abomination; and maybe a couple of character classes like Lord Skrolk and Deathmaster Snikch.

Lucky I got my annual bonus and first aider bonus this month, really. To be clear: I don't want to be all doom and gloom about this but preparing for the worst never hurt anyone. Maybe I'll like the new direction, maybe I won't but I don't want to be stuck with unfinished armies with no way to finish them bar paying rarity value prices on eBay. 

Saturday 13 June 2015

Hobby Sprawl

These are the contents of my painting table right now:

Saurus Oldblood
5x Ork Boyz
5x Tomb Kings Skeleton Warriors with command options
2x Gretchin
Wood Elves Shadowdancer
12x Skink Skirmishers

That's twenty-six models split between five army projects and both game systems. I am, as many hobbyist friends of mine have observed, a magpie. I pick up models, work on them a bit and get distracted by something shiny. Luckily, the friends I play against are almost as bad as me and so I'm not the only one with in-progress models going down on the table. I put down more than anyone else, obviously, but no one minds.

Still, I really need to clear this table. Another thing for the to do list.

Friday 12 June 2015

Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)

How to even write this one? So I write a list of the things he acted in? We'd be here all day. Do I talk about the first time I saw him in something? I don't remember what that was, from my point of view this man always existed. The man's legacy was monolithic.
If you're of a certain age he was the definitive Dracula and if you're of any other age was an iconic Dracula. He was in Star Wars, The Avengers, James Bond, The Wicker Man, The Lord Of The Rings, the Discworld adaptations, he recorded metal albums about Charlemagne (I am not kidding and they are well worth listening to).
He was also of that great generation of actors who were just great characters in their own right. Some highlights from his Wikipedia biography have him, as a child, meeting the assassins of Rasputin (one of whom he would later play), wartime operations as part of the SAS, which he'd never discuss due to the Official Secrets Act, being the direct reason Hammer adapted Dennis Wheatley's novels and, my personal favourite, being tricked into narrating a softcore porn movie.
Most of all, though, there's that voice. That deep, resonant and commanding voice. That voice sold Saruman's authority and Dracula's sexual power, it even had the power to elevate his more middling roles like Star Wars' Count Dooku into memorable performances.

The Grand Pantheon of British Actors has lost another of the greats and he shall be missed. 

Thursday 11 June 2015

Nineties' comics explained in one panel

From Adventures of Superman #504. The over-designed guns, the crazy hair, the black, the ammo bandoleers, the curious utility garters. I don't miss those days, give me an issue of Willow-Wilson's Ms. Marvel any day. 

Tuesday 9 June 2015

I sort of want to watch Sailor Moon now...

A few days ago it turned out my neighbor's kid had been leeching my internet. She's eight and it turns out my wi-fi reaches her room. I discovered this because my Youtube recommendations were suddenly filled with Sailor Moon videos because she's big into Sailor Moon right now.

And I am a little curious. Anime is something I dip into every now and again and, for probably obvious reasons, I've never watched Sailor Moon but I get the idea its this huge thing in the anime world. Its the magical girl anime, admittedly the only one I know the name of but just that tells me it has huge cultural cache.

I vaguely remember being leant one of the books by a friend when I was... twelve, maybe thirteen. It didn't really grab me but back then I just couldn't read manga: I kept forgetting the right-to-left thing and the book was really low quality like a bad photocopy. All I remember is Tuxedo Mask because a) I like a good mysterious stranger story and b) such a simple but cool design.

And it would just be an interesting experience. I've dipped into a lot of the big animes, loved some (Fairy Tail, One Piece), hated others (Naruto) but all in the shounen “boys” manga vein. I've never watched a magical girl anime, everything I know about the genre comes from jokes in Megatokyo. It's a new art form to me and I actually looking forward to exploring it a little. 

Monday 8 June 2015

Farewell, fair Bretonnia

Well, not really. I still love the Bretonnia concept and the miniatures and I'm absolutely reviving the army... just not using my old models. You see, I'm one of those artistic people: the ones who hate anything they did more than a few years ago with a visceral passion. I painted these models when I was twenty. I really couldn't paint that well and so I went for a “house” colour scheme every knight had the same livery. Hell, if I could actually paint then that might even have worked, I've seen some fantastic Bretonnian armies painted that way.

A thing about me is that while I can and so repaint models there comes a point where I've done it so many times to a single model that I just can't do it anymore. Its a mental block that is honestly cured by buying a new copy of the exact same model, which is both irrational and financially ill-advised.

Still, my friend Tom wants a Bretonnia army of his own and I want to get rid of this so I've been sorting it all out, deciding what little I want to keep and the rest he can have for whatever he feels is a fair price.

I'm keeping a few things: a Virtue Of Empathy Grail Lord I converted (not well, but it has sentimental value); some spare Grail and Questing Knights that I can add to my new Finecast ones to create FULL LANCE FORMATIONS BWAHAHAHA!!!; and the fifth edition Damsel On Foot, who is genuinely the best damsel model GW has ever made. The rest can go and good riddance.

I really hope Tom enjoys them. He's got some damn funny ideas about keeping the more exotic choices, like Grail Reliquaes and Questing Knights, out of his army. I shall educate him. Once my own Bretonnia army is built (I am a very slow painter and anyway my group has no problem with in-progress minis going down on the table) I'll take the field against his Empire, or even against his Bretonnians, and show him the value of going to full monty with your spread of knights.

Also, I have a Green Knight and he doesn't so we'll see how he likes getting that to the face. I've never used the Green Knight, I wonder if its still as sick as I heard it was back in the day?

We shall see.


Friday 5 June 2015

Crappy "I have a cold" filler post

I received a box set of Tomb Kings Carrion in my mail orders yesterday and I had to get this joke out of my system:

Thursday 4 June 2015

I wanted to review Fury Road but...

but the post just kept devolving into utter fanboy drooling about how amazing Charlize Theron is as Imperator Furiosa so let's just embrace that.

[minor spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road]

I mean, just to start off with, its always nice to see Charlize Theron being cast as something other than an imposing blonde sex goddess. She's a great actress, a woman so good at projecting power (be it physical, emotional or, yes, sexual) that its a crying shame that so few directors seem to know what to do with her.

Hell, she absolutely saved Snow White And The Huntsman as Ravenna, the Evil Queen. That film was all kinds of confused about its tone and what it wanted Kristen Stewart's Snow White to be but Theron just about managed to rescue it. Up until now that was probably my favourite role she's played but Furiosa blows Ravenna out of the water.

For a start she's very clearly not being cast for her looks here. Don't get me wrong, there's not a make-up artist on the planet that can make Theron unattractive but one of the benefits of the fact Furiosa is smugglings sex slaves to freedom is that the slaves can be dressed in floaty, diaphanous clothes and coded “attractive” so Theron in her practical clothes and skin covered in layers of dirt gets to be more clearly coded “fighter” and equal to, if not superior to, Max in the narrative.

And she absolutely is Max's equal if not narrative superior. This movie is absolutely her story that we are experiencing through the period in which it intersects with Max's larger story. Max is the franchise, she is the film. This has grated the spuds of a lot of... let's just call them sensitive gentlemen who have a problem with this for some reason even though this is a perfectly common way of handling a long-running character: have them as a unifying presence in a bunch of stories about the people they encounter. I've seen it done with Batman, Judge Dredd, a few other long-running 2000AD strips and it is how Doctor Who has worked since they started doing character arcs for companions. This format basically allows there to be a defined journey with a beginning, middle and end without spending all possible development of the title character, or where all that possible development has already taken place (like with Dredd).

Furiosa kicks arse, too. She has an amazing knock down, drag out fist fight with Max early in the film and she's a dab hand with firearms. She's absolutely a product of this world as much as Max, Immortan Joe and the random gangs. Again, the presence of the sex slaves allows fantastic contrast: they are beautiful and soft and dressed to emphasise their femininity while Furiosa has very short hair, very practical clothes, she's dirty, she's muscular, she's armed. Her prosthetic arm matches the cobbled together over-design of every other piece of technology in the film.

As for her personal journey that's too spoileriffic to go into here but suffice to say that there's a fantastic consistency in how her every action proceeds from a unified set of motivations which are never explicitly explained but perfectly understandable from those actions. More characters, not just female characters but all characters in all media, should work like this.

Furiosa is a great character portrayed by a fantastic actress and hopefully by tomorrow I'll be sufficiently over that fact to actually discuss the film. 

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Big Finish Dr Who main range renewed to 2020

Yesterday, Big Finish officially announced the continuation of their monthly Doctor Who main range until the end of their current license in March 2020. This will bring them to their 262nd regular release. That's an enormous amount of Doctor Who.

I don't have the actual numbers to hand but between main range, Companion Chronicles, Paul McGann and Tom Baker spin-offs and so on there are already more Big Finish stories under the Doctor Who name (nevermind Jago & Litefoot, Counter-Measures and the rest) than have ever been made for TV. Every Doctor other than Tom Baker have done more than twice as many Big Finish audios than they did TV stories. Even Baker has enough stories on pre-order now that he will have done more stories for BF than the BBC by the end of next year. They've worked with every living regular actor from the classic series bar one and she's never gonna do it so let's just call this as big a win as they're getting.

They've done wonders with the missed opportunities of the classic series: producing stories that exploit Steven Taylor's backstory; finding a way to make new stories with Sara Kingdom; completely rehabilitated the Sixth Doctor (with no small amount of input from Colin Baker); created a bunch of innovative new takes on the companion role; gave us an actual Eighth Doctor era; and made several stories that deserve a place on an “all time classics” list.

This is not to say there aren't issues. In recent years their pool of writers has shrunk somewhat with a lot of stories coming out under the same names. Not bad names, not names I dread or anything, give me a good Nicholas Briggs monster mash or a John Dorney character study any day, but I do like a varied diet in my Doctor Who. I'm also not totally convinced hour-long single CDs were the best format for the Tom Baker range, they often feel rushed and as if the stories don't have room to breath, oddly a feeling I rarely had for the similar McGann line.

Still, in spite of any of that this is my favourite form of Doctor Who right now. I'm sort of fatigued on the TV show and the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip never quite reaches the heights of its glory days (the Eighth Doctor and 2009 Tenth Doctor strips, if you're wondering) and the less said about the direction of the books the better.

So, on balance I'm looking forward to this and I'm looking forward to what these guys have coming up next. 

Monday 1 June 2015

Entertainment to do list

Saranga had this idea a while ago, to write of all things a to do list of things to watch and read. I'm in a mood to clear the decks rather and I suppose this is as good a way as any. So what's on the slate?

Well, for one thing, I need to watch The Keys Of Marinus so I can get on with my Saturday Teatime watch through, so throw in the rest of Season One (The Aztecs, The Sensorites and The Reign Of Terror) into the bargain. Also on the Doctor Who front I've still not watched last year's series all the way through yet, I only got as far as Robot of Sherwood.

On audio I have a couple of things I picked up in Big Finish sales and on subscription to get through: four Dark Shadows plays (The Death Mask, The Voodoo Amulet, Dress Me In The Dreams and The Last Stop), the Doctor Who: The Stageplays trilogy and the first season of The Early Adventures. I'll also end up with The First Doctor Companion Chronicles volume 1 and The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield volume 2 sometime this month.

I've had a few DVDs on loan from friends for far too long: the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, the classic mini-series Tripods and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, all of which should really go back to their owners at some point.

It being one of my favourite series ever I should really watch the last two “books” of Legend of Korra.

Also in the spirit of catching up and concluding: the final episode of Sherlock series three, the final season of The Tudors, the fifth season of Game Of Thrones to date and Arrow, which I have the first two season box sets of but haven't got past episode six of the first.

I really must pick up a copy of the Mad Max trilogy and go see Fury Road (not necessarily in that order).