Friday 17 July 2015

Finecast: giving in to the hate

I've never had the burning hatred in my heart for Finecast resin that many hobbyists have. I mean, I was so glad to be rid of white metal that I forgave what I thought of as teething troubles with mis-moldings and air bubbles, which were usually fixable.

HOWEVER, I have not previously built a Finecast kit larger than a man-sized figure. This morning I slipped a Bretonnian Trebuchet out of its box and, good grief, the throwing arm was curved like a half-moon. And that is to say nothing of the erectile disfunction lance on the Grail Reliquae.

I hereby take back everything bad I have ever said about Forge World resin. Come back poorly cleaned components that won't hold paint, all is forgiven!

I am determined to get this army built, though, as Tom and I spent an evening discussing the possibilities for our Empire/Bretonnia match-up and I am very enthused.

I just have to buy a kettle first... 

Thursday 16 July 2015

Suicidal Optimism (Suicide Squad SDCC trailer)

I am cautiously optimistic here. The big cast photo did not inspire me but the trailer that came out of SDCC has turned me around, rather.

For one thing Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn looks so much better as a performance than as a static image. She injects a huge amount of manic personality into the role that goes straight to that “I exist to amuse myself and the whole rest of the world is just a playground” place that my favourite versions of Harley inhabit. Will Smith is clearly very engaged in the chosen scenes. Most of all, though, Jared Leto's Joker persona is much better than the design foisted upon him. He's a straight-up sadist and there is a cold whimsy to how he delivers his lines, like a tired comedian who has come to view their own material as chore to get over with.

I just wish that DC-Warner didn't feel the need to include a scene that all but screams “LOOK! WE PROMISE YOU BATMAN IF YOU JUST COME AND WATCH THIS FILM!”. It speaks to a (admittedly not unjustified) lack of confidence in the product.

The Fantastic Four reboot still looks really rubbish, though. 

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Planning an educative Warhammer game

My friend Tom is currently putting together a small Bretonnia army. Bretonnia is, as has been previously mentioned, my absolute favourite army in the whole of Warhammer. It's the army I keep coming back to and, as such, we've decided to have a game where I bring out my new, improved (and not yet entirely built) Bretonnia army against his Empire so he can see how they work in practice.

He plays a very black powder heavy Nuln army so I'm going to get shot to hell and back before I reach him. The logical solution would be to take loads of Peasant Archers and a couple of Field Trebuchets. I'm taking one of each but, to be frank, he wants to see how knights work so I'm just taking lots of knights: four full lances and a five man unit of Grail Knights. Also, the whole issue of not being corrupted into relying on the coward's weapon that kills from afar.

We've made a few gentleman's agreements as pertains to the “classic” Bretonnia army book. Agreement the first: modern command costs, ten points each for champions, musicians and standard bearers. Agreement the second: back then Battle Standard Bearers couldn't take additional mundane equipment, now they can so my BSB gets a shield. Agreement the third: the rule is ambiguous so we're saying a Damsel in the middle of a lance can use the unit's arc of sight. That said, here's the “educative” list:

Bretonnian Lord with the Knight's Vow and the Virtue of Purity armed with lance and shield, wearing heavy armour and riding a barded Bretonnian warhorse. 160 points
Paladin with the Knight's Vow and the Virtue of Duty, armed with hand weapon and shield, riding a barded Bretonnian warhorse, Battle Standard Bearer with the War Banner. 141 points
Damsel of the Lady, Level 2 Wizard using the Lore of Beasts. 105 points
Damsel of the Lady, Level 1 Wizard using the Lore of Life riding a Bretonnian warhorse. 80 points
Paladin with the Knight's Vow and the Virtue of Empathy armed with hand weapon and shield. 72 points
8 Knights Errant, armed with lances and shields, wearing heavy armour and riding barded Bretonnian warhorses, full command. 180 points
8 Knights of the Realm armed with lances and shields, wearing heavy armour and riding barded Bretonnian warhorses, full command. 212 points
8 Knights of the Realm armed with lances and shields, wearing heavy armour and riding barded Bretonnian warhorses, full command. 212 points
20 Men-At-Arms armed with hand weapons, halberds and shields wearing light armour, full command. 130 points
16 Peasant Archers armed with hand weapons, bows and defensive stakes, full command. 126 points
9 Questing Knights armed with great weapons and shields, wearing heavy armour and riding barded Bretonnian warhorses, full command. 272 points
5 Grail Knights armed with lances and shields, wearing heavy armour and riding barded Bretonnian warhorses, full command. 210 points
Field Trebuchet with 4 crew including Master Craftsman. 100 points

2,000 points

If he can get the Empire miniatures together for 2,400 points then I'll expand with this, just for the hell of it:

Damsel on foot will gain the Channelling Staff. +15 points
Knights Errant will gain the Errantry Banner. +20 points
20 Men-At-Arms armed with hand weapons, halberds and shields wearing light armour, full command. 130 points
Questing Knights will gain the Banner of Chalons. +10 points
Grail Reliquae with 6 Battle Pilgrims and 12 additional Battle Pilgrims. 226 points

2,401 points

I would very much hope to get a charge against his Handgunners or one of his nastier war machine with the Questing Knights kitted out with the “you can't declare a stand and shoot reacion” banner. Also, having not been able to purchase some of the more exotic units until now this will be my first chance to road test the Grail Reliquae and Grail Knights, which will be fun for me.

There are some things I have to build and the amount of paint on this army will be laughable even for me but I am so very much looking forward to playing my signature army again. 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Satoru Iwata (1959-2015)

There aren't many games companies where I know the names of the executives or have any real impression of them as people.

I knew the name of Satoru Iwata, the man who once said “Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone.”. He was the man who, as president of Nintendo when the WiiU failed to make sales targets, took a massive pay cut so they wouldn't have to make cuts lower down the corporate structure. I've seen this man in adverts where he's played by a muppet who slowly turns into a Starfox character (alongside muppets of two other Nintendo executives) and, of course, there's this...
I don't agree with every decision he or Nintendo have made in the last few years but this isn't a rant, this is what humble tribute I can pay to this man who believed in fun over all at a time when other games publishers and developers have driven the industry into something horribly resembling a crash trying to me grim and adult about things. The fact that he and his company have clearly and demonstrably prioritised customer enjoyment as the justification for taking our money, even in these self-consciously grim times, is no small thing.

This man's life's work brought joy to millions and I don't think there can be much greater a tribute than that.

Rest well, Mister Iwata, we understand and may you forever be remembered with bananas in your hand. 

Monday 13 July 2015

The Ultimate Fan Fic Bait Photo

That time Lee Adama, Mister Fantastic and the Eighth Doctor ended up in Horatio Nelson's navy. There has to an epic fan fiction in that idea. 

Sunday 12 July 2015

Batman v. Superman trailer reaction: meh

Yes, the Hollywood hype machine has convinced me to pick this particular scab again. Let's just do the high points:

It seems Batman's actual plan is to straight-up murder Superman for the good of the human race; Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor looks very young but at least he gets some decently whimsical lines; the DKR-inspired Bat-suit looks even worse in motion; Ma Kent has taken on her late husband's low opinion of humanity; and, Wonder Woman gets blown up at one point but wasn't judged enough of a draw to get a line in this trailer.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised the movie franchise that had Superman snapping necks would decide to jettison the “one rule” that Batman's meant to abide by.

Also, the US government has decided that Zod wrecking Metropolis is all Clark's fault. Considering they have no means of punishing him and no means of restraining him and that this might count as the most self-defeating act of victim blaming in history.

Eisenberg gets some nice lines as Lex, even if whimsy isn't a quality typically associated with the character it is at least a moment or two of humour in a DC movie.

Everything else, though, is no more or less than you'd expect from the bastard child of Christopher Nolan and Frank Miller: dark and dreary, good looking but ultimately vacant.

I mean, I wasn't expecting much from the sequel to an origin movie that failed to explain its main character, a sequel so desperate that it gives Batman top billing so it doesn't have to admit to being a Superman movie AND THEN turns out to be a Justice League prequel.

I want the DC Cinematic Universe to work. I strongly believe in creative competition as a the only way to stave off complacency and we really need some competition here. It increasingly looks like that's not going to happen and we're heading for an invincible orthodoxy where Marvel-Disney = great, Fox = middling and DC-Warner = dire. No, I didn't mention Sony in that list because I don't really believe we'll be able to call Spider-Man films “Sony movies” with a straight face anymore.

Also, turns out the Green Lantern reboot is going to be a Green Lantern Corps movie which... sounds interesting but probably won't be. 

Saturday 11 July 2015

The inspirational power of losing a game

Last night, after work, I went over to my friend Matt's house and we had a game of Warhammer. It was an 8th edition game because neither of us are bowled over by Age Of Sigmar (to put it politely for the sake of a quiet life) and, contrary to what the internet at large seems to believe about 8th, the game was fun, interesting and only took about three and a half hours.

2000 points, my Lizardmen versus his Orcs & Goblins. I lost as it happens. I spent the first four turns utterly dominating the game, helped more than a little by Matt fluffing endless Fear tests and having the laziest Fanatics known to man. They just didn't want to go anywhere, I think someone subbed out their madcap mushrooms for weed. He had nine of the buggers, they all got activated and the complete butcher's bill for them was two Saurus Warriors and three of his own Squigs. Also, as always seems to be the case with his Orcs & Goblins, his warmachines promptly destroyed themselves when fired.

On the plus side he totally obliterated my usual MVPs the Saurus Cavalry when they utterly fluffed their attacks on his Big 'Uns. My two previous games with Lizards have given this unit something of an inflated reputation, I feel, but a useful one from the psychological point of view.

It all turned on me in the fifth turn. I compensated poorly for some failed charges and my Saurus Old-Blood and his Temple Guard were surrounded: Black Orc Warboss and Black Orcs to the front, a gigantic Squig Herd to the flank. It was all over from there, the Temple Guard were obliterated, my right flank dissolved and I spent the remaining turn impotently victimising Night Goblins for want of anything constructive to do.

And it was really fun. Yes, part of what killed me was chance but it was also partly my own poor decisions. There were genuine learning experiences that will help me in future games, most particularly that Fanatics are not necessarily as horrendous as I previously thought. From now on I'll be a little more confident in charging Night Goblins. Equally, my Saurus Cavalry are not as hard as any of us believed, they just did well in the previous games and I need to be more cautious about charging them into ranked units.

This was the second time I've used Lizards against Matt's Orcs and we're starting to create a storyline around it with the Lizardmen trying to stop the Orcs colonising a series of vital nodes in the geomantic web. His Warboss keeps escaping me, as well, so I feel my Old-Blood So'Kar is going to be pursuing a cold-blooded and logical vendetta against the creature that keeps defying the will of the Old Ones by surviving.

So I'm feeling inspired to write about this game. I'm also feeling inspired to get some painting done, which is useful because the painting table, thanks to my experiments in white spray, is getting seriously over-populated. Currently sitting on or orbiting the paint station on various surfaces are:

5 Ork Boyz with slugga and choppa
5 Ork Meganobz
5 Tomb Kings Skeleton Warriors with command options
Lizardmen Saurus Old-Blood with halberd and shield
Lizardmen Skink Priest with Cloak of Feathers
1 Lizardmen Bastiladon with Solar Engine
5 Lizardmen Saurus Warriors with spears and shields
2 Lizardmen Salamanders
Wood Elves Shadowdancer

This is too much and, frankly, inspiration is probably for the best. I suppose that what's making me happiest is that, after weeks of annoyance and being told that my opinion is somehow objectively wrong, I'm rediscovering the actual joy in my hobby. Long may it continue. 

Friday 10 July 2015

The Comics Ramble: Archie #1 (an old-fashioned, traditional reboot)

To be completely clear: I am English, so Archie Comic aren't a big cultural touchstone for me. I know the basics (Archie the everyman, Jughead the comedy bestie, Betty the girl next door, Veronica the rich girl, Reggie the sleaze, Kevin the gay one...) because they are a big cultural touchstone in the US. Penny & Aggie, one of my favourite webcomics ever, is massively influenced by Archie Comics, by Dan deCarlo's art in particular; there are endless jokes about the central love triangle in US sitcoms, which growing up in the nineties were the only sitcoms worth watching; and, of course, I remember a few years ago when the internet exploded in all directions at once when a gay character was introduced.

So I don't have a very deep understanding of these characters. I love that Betty Cooper is good with cars and “smells of flowers and motor oil” but for all I know that's just how she's always been. It feels new but that might just be me falling into a trap of seeing these comics as old-fashioned.

This doesn't mean nostalgia plays no part in me liking this comic. We open with a full page of Archie Andrews standing in front of Riverdale High introducing himself to the audience, who he'll talk to on and off for the rest of the comic. You know what that reminds me of? Saved by the Bell. The original, proper Saved by the Bell and Zack Morris explaining the episode's plot to the audience.

I loved Saved by the Bell as a kid. It has aged phenomenally badly but I have very fond memories. Student Bodies was better, anyway.

Anyway, Archie #1: opening situation is that Archie and Betty have been a couple forever and for some mysterious reason known only as The Lipstick Incident they have broken up. Everyone is gossiping and the romantics, here represented by Kevin Keller and two random girls, are in a dead panic because this completely implodes their views of the world and romance. Through it all Archie displays this somehow charming mixture of knowing he 's being talked about but being completely oblivious to how much and why it's happening.

And particular praise has to go to Mark Waid's Jughead. My view of the character from that one old Jughead Double Digest I read was of a harmless, burger obsessed goofball but here he's presented as the most emotionally intelligent person in the group. He's the lone voice of sanity urging people to let Archie and Betty hash things out themselves instead of pursuing a semi-zany and mildly convoluted scheme to force them back together. Of course, stopping that plot involves his own zany and convoluted scheme which is all to the good. Good, traditional hi-jinx.

Which I suppose brings us to the elephant in the room: what has been modernised and how? The art. The art has been modernised, the script has not. Waid's script, unaltered, could have easily run in this series decades ago. A break-up, school gossip, a homecoming dance, a scheme involving the homecoming couple vote and some crazy glue. One smartphone gag aside, this is not a 2015 plot, it isn't a specific year's plot at all, so long as teenage drama has been something people write this could have been published any year. Fiona Staples, meanwhile, modernises the hell out of Riverdale.

She doesn't change everything, most of the characters are on-model to a greater or lesser extent. Principle Weatherbee and Mister Lodge (in a stunningly well-framed cameo if I remember his relationship to Archie correctly) are almost perfectly their old selves moderated through Staples' style. Jughead's inexplicable crown survives intact because some signifiers are too important to jettison just because they make no sense. Staples modernises a lot of other things, though: the halls of Riverdale High are crowded with teens dressed in modern clothes and (I'm just going to say this) if there was a perception of the series being old-fashioned then it was a smart move for Staples and colourist Andre Szymanowicz to make such a big visual thing of the school's ethnic diversity. Whether or not it was a hugely whitewashed environment before, which I doubt but I know how perception trumps reality, this was a smart move.

And, my goodness, but Staples is great at facial expression. There's a lot of the script that's left for her to sell through artwork rather than dialogue and she knocks every emotional shift the characters undergo right on the head.

Not only am I looking forward to the next issue, which promises the introduction of Veronica Lodge, but I'm looking forward to the Jughead series advertised at the end of the issue. 

Thursday 9 July 2015

Testing Corax White Spray

I usually prefer to paint over a black base coat. It helps with shading, if you miss a bit its more forgiving and, of course, Skull White spray is crap. It has never worked, twelve years in this hobby and it has never worked: it bobbled horrendously and even if it didn't it never covered consistently. The Ceramite White base paint was somehow worse. I've tried to game the system by going up to white through grey and through blue but it takes so many layers that I lose the detail of the model.

And now I'm painting Lizardmen, whose bright blue skin tones are so arduous if you start from black. Having painted a dozen Skinks like I finally broke and decided to try the new Corax White spray.

And it works! Miracle is miracles it bloody works: it covered flat and consistent. I did a test Saurus and then a few other things that had sanded bases to make sure the thing actually worked and I hadn't just got lucky. Yet four more Saurus, two Salamanders and a Skink Priest not one came out of the experience badly. I even tempted fate to make sure! The Skink Priest in question is the one with the cloak of feathers, which is my favourite of all Lizardmen minis so if it was going to fuck up it would fuck up good and hard on that one.

Just about the only flaw in it is guessing whether you've covered the whole of a Finecast model since the spray is inconveniently resin-coloured. Still, Finecast is not long for this world so that won't be a problem for long.

So, yes, finally I can paint from white which opens out the options rather. I imagine this'll be especially useful once I start painting Bretonnian Knights. 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Matthias Eliasson presents 8th edition Bretonnia

Bretonnia. My white whale. My beloved signature army. My brave sons and daughters of the Lady. In a moment when Warhammer Fantasy has gone completely to pot and I have to work to remind myself why I want to be in this hobby, of course I was going to turn to Bretonnia.

Bretonnians were my first Fantasy army: brave knights, grubby peasants, wise sorceresses, flying knights on pegasi, trebuchets hurling bits of church at the enemy and every knight (in the hands of a better painter than I) a work of art in its own right. Now, twelve years later, is my chance to do right by this army and make the noble host I always dreamed of fielding: each knight with his own heraldry and individual colours on the horses, peasants' heraldry painted to match the character model they owe fealty to. Honestly, the way things are going, this is probably going to be my last chance at this.

Just about the only thing I don't like about Bretonnia is the rather outdated Army Book. Its the oldest one left, dating back to the 6th edition. It isn't that its unplayable, just that times have changed. Several items and abilities simply don't work in the 8th edition, the command upgrade prices are ludicrous and largely negate the benefit of the knightly units getting free champions. And, of course, there's the fact it was a typically bare bones 6th ed. book: four character classes, four core choices, four special choices and two rare choices. This was exactly how a lot of the smaller armies worked in those days: creating a stable basis on which later editions would build.

In Bretonnia's case, later editions never came and now they never will.

But never underestimate the dedication of fans. Matthias Eliasson, whose Warhammer Armies Project I've praised before, put together an expanded 8th edition version of the Bretonnia Army Book, our subject for today. Its huge, its free and it looks pretty well-balanced at first glance. I've already taken temperatures with my gaming group and we're looking forward to field testing it.

So what's different?

The Basics
The lance formation stays as is but it gets the Devastating Charge special rule. The knights are slightly more expensive overall to represent this but the price hike is pretty low given how the years have changed them from being dirt cheap cavalry to merely averagely priced cavalry.

Knightly champions are still free and most musician and standard bearer upgrades are the standard ten points.

Every knightly unit has an option for one unit of that type to carry a magic standard.

Damsels and Prophetesses now have access to the Lore of Light as well as the specially-written Lore of the Lady in addition to the previously available Lores of Life, Beasts and Heavens (and, yes, Damsels get Heavens now, as well).

Men-At-Arms are now “proper soldiers” with WS 3. They still have low leadership to show they aren't the equal of Imperial State Troops. Their former”useless arrow fodder” duties are taken up by a new Peasant Levy unit we'll discuss later. Best of all, the pole-arms that were previously just a halberd under an assumed identity can now be used as a halberd or a spear, decided at the beginning of each close combat phase.

Pegasus Knights now have barding! This is a massive and longstanding complaint of mine answered. They still have only two wounds (most monstrous cavalry has three) but they're also five points cheaper.

The Virtues have been rewritten and re-priced where neceessary, as have the Vows. Questing Knights now re-roll only Fear and Terror tests but also ignore Always Strikes Last when using their great weapons. Grail Knights and characters with the Grail Vow gain +1 Leadership.

And then there's all the new stuff:

New Characters
Of the three new character classes, it's the Priestess of Shallya that interests me most. She's essentially a healer version of the Empire Warrior Priest with a series of Bound Spell blessing she can confer on units. I rather like that the two blessings that effect the Priestess's unit don't effect her,its a nice representation of self-sacrifice.

The Templar Crusader is an experienced knight who gives buffs to any unit he joins: a mounted unit re-rolls 1s on their charge distance whilst a foot unit gains the Hatred special rule.

Yeoman Serjeant is something I'm not entirely convinced by. Why? Because he's actually good at things. He has WS, BS and Strength 4. He's on par with knights in a lot of ways. A useful cheap character to be sure but perhaps rather more useful than a Bretonnian peasant, even a relatively “upper class”one, should be. I don't know, I'll probably give him a ho someday but there are so many more tasty options to play around with.

New Units
Peasant Levy. Skill stats of 2, armed with “Farm Tools” that give them +1 Strength but also require two hands and always strike last. They test for Leadership on 3D6 and pick the highest result of 2 dice because they are just that crap. Sounds like a fun unit and, yes, I really mean that, you won't find me shying away from fun random crap, oh no.

Truffle Hounds. Oh, how I look forward to using Truffle Hounds. Right now Matt is fielding Orcs & Goblins and, oh, how we love those crazy Fanatics as they hew through our armies like a hot knife through infantry. These are by now means as devastating but they work in a reasonably similar way: concealed in peasant units they charge the first enemy unit to come within 8”. If they make the charge they inflict D3+1 Str 3 hits and are then removed from play, if not they then make another charge against the closest enemy unit in the next turn until it hits something. Nowhere near as devastating as Fanatics but a hell of lot more reliable an no risk to yourself.

Foot Knights are exactly what it says on the tin: elite armoured infantry fulfilling that Greatswords / Tomb Guard / Grave Guard role of anchoring the battle line. They've the Knights' Vow but an impressive array of weapons options, being able to choose between hand weapon and shield, morning stars, great weapons and halberds.

Herrimaults are absolutely, one hundred percently Robin Hood and his Merry Men (or, if you're of my generation, Maid Marian and her Merry Men). Rules wise: Skirmishing, Scouting bowmen with a champion who has knight stats. I really want to make some of these guys and put my Virtue of Empathy Grail Knight character with them.

Hippogryph Knights are as awesome and monstrous as they sound. Hugely expensive at 75 points but you get what you pay for: Fear-causing, flyers, Stomp attacks, Str 5 and 3 Wounds, plus the Knight has Str 4 basic. They do, however, inherit the old issue Pegasus Knights used to have that they don't have barding even though it's sculpted on the model!

Spirits of the Fey are fun: mini-Green Knights represented as Ethereal, Fear-causing swarms, plus if they're at least partially within a forest or water feature they regain D3 wounds lost earlier in the battle at the end of each close combat phase.

The Sacrosantum of the Lady is a Bretonnian version of the Chaos War Shrine, essentially. Its a chariot with a Damsel and relics on it that every turn confers an automatic (not a bound spell, not random) benefit to the army around it. At 125 points, you certainly can't complain on value for money.

Now just to work out how to model some of this stuff. 

Tuesday 7 July 2015

50 Shades of Flashheart

Okay, for serious, we have to discuss this. There is a tumblr called 50 Shades of Flashheart [link] where lines spoken or thought by 50 Shades of Grey's Christian Grey are placed over screenshots of Lord Flashheart from Blackadder, thus:
The fact that everything on this tumblr sounds like something Flashheart would say, is a crushing indictment of Christian Grey because if you have seen either of the episodes Flashheart turns up in there is no ambiguity attached to the character. Flashheart is an arse. He's vain, arrogant, narcissistic, sex mad, sexist and completely self-absorbed and he perfectly suits Christian Grey quotes.

There's a lot about Christian Grey that I think is... only situationally attractive, I think is the best phrase. I don't think he'd be half the fantasy figure he is if he weren't rich and it worries me that maybe part of the psychology here is that his behaviour is acceptable if in other areas he provides material luxury to his partner. That really creeps me out, if I'm honest.

It creeps me out almost as much as the most mainstream representation of BDSM not involving negotiation of limits, informed consent or aftercare. 

Monday 6 July 2015

On creating your own Space Marine chapter

You know, as much as I don't like them popping up in Fantasy, there's nothing wrong with Space Marines. They're a great idea and creating your own chapter is one of the great pleasures of this hobby.

Over the course of the group's recent campaign I've been rediscovering my joy in writing background and inventing characters, in having them be defined by their victories and failures on the tabletop as much as my pre-determined ideas. Right now my Orks' primary Warlord has been knocked out for a couple of games and his second-in-command has been having great success in his absence. I smell a power struggle coming (as well as lots of barbecued Tau following my most recent game).

Anyway, I really fancy revisiting one of my own brand Space Marine chapters, but with a twist.

Once upon a time when I was nineteen I had an army called The Blades of Sanguinius. They were Chaos Space Marines dedicated to Tzeentch, the daemonic Changer of Ways who had cured them of their Flaw in exchange for service eternal. They were, essentially, little more than muscle employed by my Lost And The Damned when I had a particularly tough opponent. In time I got better at the game and moved on from needing the crutch of Astartes to prop up my LatD army.

So, the Blades of Sanguinius died, cut down by forces still loyal to the God-Emperor of Mankind.

Tzeentch, however, is ever-ready to snatch a continuation from the jaws of an ending. The contracts of Tzeentch are binding in both directions: the future and the past.

It is now a decade later and centuries since the Blades fell to Chaos. Across the Imperium records of their victories, their honours and their very existence have been incinerated to hide the terrible truth from the citizenry that Man's greatest champions can fall from the Emperor's Grace.

In the present of the group's 40k timeline, 012.M42, a fleet will emerge from the Warp that set out centuries ago to fight a war long over. The Blades of Sanguinius, true and loyal scions of the Ninth Legion, have returned. Cut off from their homeworld, set adrift in a galaxy that has alternately forgotten them or pledged to exterminate them, the time has come to explore who they were before I invented them.

It's timey-wimey but this is Tzeentch we're talking about (and, hey, I can experiment with Daemonology if I feel like it. Love me some Tzeentch Daemons).

In truth, I have to admit I was no real fan of the Blood Angels background when I first came up with these guys. I just picked that particular lineage because it gave me a simple reason for the chapter to fall. Since then I've really fallen for the whole angle of noble warriors cursed by a thirst for blood and an unquenchable rage that will inevitably consume them. Getting a chance to explore those concepts, which I criminally ignored in my youth, will be really fun especially as it'll almost be like creating the chapter as new. I didn't really give much thought to who they were before they became Chaos Marines.

Now I get to find out. First step: write an Index Astartes article for them. I loved the old Index Astartes books, they were my introduction to the hobby and the artwork for the Black Templars article was what convinced me I wanted to collect an army. Once that's done I'll see about getting some models together. 

Sunday 5 July 2015

Age of Sigmar: let's get this one over with...

[Warning: strong language. I say “fuck” a few times. Also, this might be too much like the opinion of an actual, complex human being for a lot of people on the internet, so be warned.]

I really don't want to write this post but it seems inevitable. At some point its going to become clear that when I talk about my Warhammer projects that I'm talking about 8th edition rules and not Age Of Sigmar so let's get this over with.

Just to be clear: I have read the new rules, I have read the free downloads for my existing armies, I have played a game, I have watched several others being played. Can we please accept that now, finally, I have enough evidence to base an opinion on without being accused of “being a hater” or “fearing change”? Can we do this, please, internet? Because I am getting pretty fucking tired of me saying “This doesn't seem like a game I'll enjoy” being a signal for people who don't fucking know me to judge my emotional and mental state. I have actually had people imply I have a mental illness for not liking proposed changes to the rules, which is shitty to me and infinitely shittier on people with actual mental issues.

Oh, and the other perennial one: “throwing my toys out of the pram”? I ain't. I'm keeping the toys. I got my armies, I got my Army Books and I got my friends to play against, none of whom are bowled over by Age Of Sigmar. This is still a hobby I love and enjoy and it matters more to me to get pleasure out of what I do than to tailor how I spend my free time to please faceless dick-weasels on the internet.

And just to be clear, because there is another sort of gamer I can't stand and I don't want to be mistaken for them, either: I don't make any judgement on anyone who does enjoy The Age Of Sigmar, either as a rule set or a fictional setting. I am an actual adult and can in fact countenance someone else having fun with something I don't like. It is truly amazing how that works and I've encountered a lot of anonymous jerks who could stand to learn this. You know the ones: they wish Sisters Of Battle and Bretonnia would be done away with so they won't have to listen to those armies' fanbases “whining” about not having a current book or modern miniatures.

(For serious though, GW, where my Sisters book at? You've done Harlequins and two Mechanicus books. Get the fuck on with this.)

Nor do I want this new game to fail for Games Workshop. I don't have anything against the company or the design team as people. I don't want their business to fail and for them to lose their jobs because I don't like a product.

I'm also not taking my business elsewhere. So long as the models exist, and they don't seem to going anywhere just yet, and I can at least source square bases I'm happy to lay down the bones same place as ever. Time may come I'll have to turn to eBay and other sources, a day of wolves and shattered shields but it is not this day!
Okay, got carried away there.

I do have one Stormcast Eternal, though. It came free with this week's White Dwarf. To be perfectly honest, more important than any issues I have with the rules (and there are many) is the fact that this model just doesn't inspire me. It just looks like a Space Marine. I like Space Marines well enough but they have their place and that place is the grim darkness of the far future.

I don't know, maybe I can make a halfway decent Blood Angels Breacher Captain out of the thing. Feels wrong to throw it away.

The fact that the poster boys for this new edition do nothing for me even after reading their rules and background is what damns it for me. Gaming itself is the smallest part of this hobby for me. I play maybe two or three games a month and so the most time is spent building, painting and writing for my armies.

Everyone in my group writes, to a greater or lesser extent, and we've built up an extensive internal mythology to our games that none of us feels like abandoning or retconning to match this new setting.

Ultimately, I much prefer to be positive about my hobby. No, I don't like the Age Of Sigmar but it also represents a moment of complete artistic freedom. The Olde World is dead but in another time and another place where different heroes rose to its defence it can live on and that's the story my little group wants to tell. We can chart our own future now without even the slightest chance that some official publication will descend from on high and cause unwanted complications. Seriously, I had some High Elf character in our last campaign and when Khaine came out... ugh.

And I don't think that's unreasonable. It's my free time and enjoyment I'm talking about here. Yet people have insulted me over this, called me a hater and engaged in some seriously pathetic attempts at emotional manipulation to get me to like the things they like because that's reasonable to some people, I guess.

So, yeah, that's where my hobby's going for the time being. End rant. Peace out. 

Saturday 4 July 2015

Final Fantasy VII redux

I love Final Fantasy games. I can't beat them but I love them and at E3 this year Square Enix finally announced they were re-making Final Fantasy VII. FF7 was the first RPG I ever played, it was my introduction to the idea that computer games could have not just a premise but a story. I'm not sure I remember how far I got, probably not far into the second disc, but I remember the story absolutely blowing me away.

Just that there was a character who was there to drive the plot by dying, a character you go to know through action and dialogue so you felt it when she died, was amazing to me then. These days, of course, that's so basic as to be beneath discussion in many ways.

Still, since then I've got (slightly) better at games, a lot better at understanding stories and, most important of all, a lot more patient.

Square Enix announced the remake only a few weeks ago so I've probably got a couple of years to replay the original before they actually release it. I'm a very different person from the one kid who first sat down to play this game. I'm pretty sure I still have my copy and I still have my PS2 so this should be fun. 

Friday 3 July 2015

Comic Reviews

Barb Wire #1
If there's one thing I've learnt over the years, it's to never judge a comic by a movie adaptation made before 2000. Memories of the Barb Wire movie? The “Don't call me babe!” catchphrase and... well, to be honest, Pamela Anderson in a leather corset, that's about it. My first Barb Wire comic? A pleasant surprise.

Now, as I say, my memories are the movie are hazy and, uh, booby so I was surprised to find Barb's status quo to be running a dive bar in a bad part of town and doing bail bond enforcement on the side to pay the bills. She even dresses sensibly on the job in a stab vest and jeans. All in all, the issue did pretty well in introducing me to the city of Steel Harbour, its gang factions, Barb and her supporting cast of employees, gangsters, her brother and a sleazy TV producer who films her for a Dog The Bounty Hunter-esque reality show.

It was also nice to see the work of Patrick Olliffe, definitive artist of the much-missed Spider-Girl, again. Once you get past the cheesecake cover, Olliffe's interiors are as sharp, angular and anatomically sensible as ever. Barb clearly has a sexual side, present in suggestive dialogue and her choice of wardrobe round the club, but the book isn't wall-to-wall “look at the sexy woman with a gun”. Sexuality is situational, as it should be.

I really only got this to see what the series was actually about. A surprising addition to the pull list.

A-Force #2
Turns out this series is continuing after Secret Wars and I'm really looking forward to it. Jen Walters as a team leader interests me and I love her power struggles here with Medusa. The series is just damn gorgeous, too, with Jorge Molina drawing the hell out of both the characters and the architecture of Arcadia, which seems to be the closest thing to a classical paradise Battleworld has.

Though I doubt she'll continue into the ongoing its also nice to see a maternal take on Loki's female incarnation and on Nico Minoru as a daughter with an affectionate parental relationship. Not a surprise that Loki might have soft spot for orphans, really. Also, the way Nico reacts to Loki finding her in her room combing another girl's hair I wonder if we'll have to wait long before Bennet and Wilson pull the trigger on Nico's long-delayed bisexuality (oh, like that wasn't where things were going with her and Carolina in the last series of Runaways).

Sonic Boom #9
Sonic comics are my guilty pleasure: pure comfort food in comic form. Sonic Boom, however, is not usually my cup of tea, the humour skews way too young for me and I'm really just here for the crossover. Not much to say: its mainly a long battle scene, Sticks is as annoying as I remember from the few previous issues I read before giving up on the series and the best bits are Robotnik and Doctor Wily rekindling their bromance from Worlds Collide.

Not a keeper. Definitely just here for the crossover.

Secret Wars #4
I have to admit that if nothing else the whole set-up of Battleworld fascinates me. Not just in the different “realm” series like A-Force but in the central narrative of the all-powerful god Doctor Doom. This issue is where it all collides: Doom himself, the heroes from the Life Raft and the villains of the Cabal. It interests me that in all the realms of Battleworld there apparently isn't a single Reed Richards, which knowing Hickman's hugely elaborate structuring of this event probably relates to Doom's psychology in the creation of Battleworld.

I am genuinely looking forward to where this is all going.

Groot #2
At long last: the story of how Rocket and Groot met and became friends (spoilers: it involves prison), which is sweet enough but the promise of next issue's guest stars (the other sweetest pairing in Marvel's cosmic comics these days) is one I'm heartily looking forward to.

Green Lantern #42
Now this is how you do a second issue. The first draws you in with the shocks (Hal is a bounty hunter.!Hal has long hair.!Hal has a sarcastic spaceship!) and now this one presents us with more details and some larger questions. For a start we discover that there are some problems that come with Hal's new power gauntlet and that his current bounty hunting gig isn't going to go as smoothly as he might hope. We get a nice little mystery that ties into one of the more central theme of Venditti's run pre-Convergence and we see that some of the characters introduced last issue are going to be series regulars for the foreseeable future.

Personally, I really like this new direction and I'm surprised how strange it is to see Hal with long hair. It's a wonderful signifier that he really has let go of military discipline, that he's actually living his life outside of his old structures rather than just going through the motions to convince the galaxy he's a renegade. 

Thursday 2 July 2015

Kaiju highlights

I've been getting into Mystery Science Theater 3000 recently, courtesy of Youtube since most of the series can't be released on DVD for legal reasons. Naturally, the first ones I watched were the Japanese monster movies. They did a couple of Godzilla flicks and ones with a sort of giant nuclear turtle called Gamera, who I hadn't previously heard of.

I've never been into kaiju films. The 90s Godzilla film did a very bad job of relaunching the genre for my generation. I think I saw one Godzilla movie at 3am during a sleepover when I was a teenager but I don't remember any of the details.

Anyway, the reason for today's post is to enthuse about my favourite kaiju so far: Guiron.
He slices! He dices!
Yes, his nose is a knife. There's even a scene where he defeats another kaiju called Gaos and proceeds to cut Gaos into (bloodless) slices using his nose-knife. Naturally, Joel and the 'bots have a lot of fun with that scene. I just l've the design: an iguana with a head-mounted knife. Even better, that circle on his nose? That opens to reveal shurikens that he can fling at other monsters!

Between this and the ending to Godzilla vs. Megalon which devolves into, I kid you not, kaiju tag team wrestling, I am beginning to think I should look deeper into this genre. 

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Entertainment to do list for July

Nice little mind-focusing exercise, this. I didn't get the whole list done last month and didn't have time to blog about what I did but here's hoping for better this month.

On the DVD front there's a hotel themed double bill with The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel still sitting on my shelf, plus the sequel to the latter if I end up liking it. Also, massive Doctor Who nerd that I am I really, really need to watch Season Eight. Also, I'm making progress on Daredevil but there's still half a season to go. I'm absolutely loving it but it is an exhausting series to watch.

On the CD front there are two Doctor Who box sets: The Companion Chronicles: The First Doctor volume 1 and the unabridged reading of Mark Gatiss' Last of the Gadarene.

Time to clear out some clutter from the bookshelves and Kindle so let's inaugurate a “to read” section. This month, the half-read: the second Megatokyo light novel Dire Water,. Graham McNeill's Gods of Mars, David A. McIntee's Past Doctors pure historical novel The Wages Of Sin and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. Also, I should really write a review of the first Megatokyo light novel, The Tower Of Kartage, its interesting.

As to hobby, I really want to get another 500 points of Orks built so I can field a 1,500 points army in Dave's campaign. The 1,000 points has served me well but I'm confident with the army now and I want to experiment with some more varied units. Also, I picked up some of the Finecast (I know, I know) Plague Marines for my Death Guard and I have always wanted a set of these so I'm definitely getting those made and painted.

Hmmm, maybe also nailed by trousers to the mast when it comes to the painting table. Right now, on or to the side of the painting table are: five Ork Boyz, five Ork Meganobz, a Tomb Kings Skeleton command rank, two Grots, a Wood Elves Shadowdancer and a Saurus Oldblood, all half-painted so I'll try to clear that up somewhat.