Saturday 9 June 2018

Genestealer Cults limitations leak

Standard leak disclaimer: this could be fake. This could be meaningless. As real as the thing looks a fake like this is only a modicum of photoshop skill away. Also, sorry about the poor quality of the image, literally the best version I could find was on a Youtube video.
Here's the deal: instead of using allied detachments for some units and “Cult” versions of others from now on Genestealer Cults will just use selected datasheets from Codex: Astra Militarum and just replace the REGIMENT keyword with the BROOD BROTHERS keywork. For those using screen readers or unable to read the tiny, indistinct text the Astra Militarum units you can take are as follows:

Company Commander
Platoon Commander
Command Squad
Tank Commander
Infantry Squad
Special Weapons Squads
Scout Sentinels
Armoured Sentinels
Leman Russ Battle Tanks
Chimera APCs

On the one hand its not everything, which is effectively what you could take before now (or, rather, anything with the ASTRA MILITARUM keyword). Its also more than could be taken in a pure Genestealer Cults list.

Do I like it? Hell yes. There's Company Commanders, Platoon Commanders and Tank Commanders on that list which means Orders are now something Genestealer Cults can use. I am heartily looking forward to giving certain opponents a heavy dose of Front Rank, Fire! Back Rank, Fire! We now have access to Veteran Squads for some extra heavy fire power, as well.

Yes, there are gaps. I'm a little surprised Heavy Weapons Squads aren't on the list and I would have liked to see Hellhounds because I like Hellhounds. However, I get why even some of the more basic stuff had to be left out.

You can't take Regimental benefits because BROOD BROTHERS replaces rhe REGIMENT keyword, for instance, so as good as it is to have orders and Veterans and Special Weapons Squads you can't buff them further than their base statistics. Similarly, I get why the full spread of tanks and the more elite infantry are out of bounds: Astra Militarum needs to have things that make them superior to Genestealre Cults just as Genestealer Cults have things that make them superior to Astra Militarum.

At the end of the day, if Genestealer Cults could take everything Astra Militarum can take then there's no point in having Astra Militarum.

And I like the humble Imperial Guard, I want them to keep having a point.

Am I saying people shouldn't be annoyed about this? Not entirely. The way this concept was introduced in the Index allowed you to use anything with the ASTRA MILITARUM keyword so I imagine a lot of players are looking at some units that are not quite game legal anymore. I know I have two Hellhounds I can't use for my Cults anymore and I'm just lucky that my Brood Brothers units also happen to be my Savlar Chem-Dogs army.

On its own, though, in the abstract I do like this rule and look forward to the tactical opportunities it opens up.

Tuesday 5 June 2018

The Twelfth Doctor Adventures 1.1: The Lost Sailor (fan audio review)

(A quick preface before we begin: a big part of this review and a big USP for this series is that the new companion, Antonia Perkins, is trans. Your humble blogger here is cis and I just want to put that out there so readers know specifically where I'm coming from in reviewing this character and how she is written. Antonia identifies as female and she/her pronouns are used to describe her in the series' website copy. Any language mistakes contained in this post are most likely mine, are not mean as any form of disrespect and will be corrected accordingly when pointed out.)

SPOILERS: specific details of plot and how the story resolves are absent from this review but its impossible to discuss Antonia without some plot stuff, mainly things that happen in the first half of the episode.

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Adventures
episode one: The Lost Sailor
written by Janine Rivers

starring Paul Cabria as the Doctor
and Michelle Coats as Antonia

Its been a long time since I dipped my toe into the world of unofficial fan produced Doctor Who content (official fan produced content encompassing rather a lot including the TV series itself these days) and I'm old enough to remember the days of “not Doctor Who, honest guv” audio series like The Stranger, The Professor & Ace and The Wanderer. This series, being completely free and thus not for profit in any way, gets to call itself Doctor Who and use all the bells and whistles from the show it wants.

For one thing there's the Twelfth Doctor, played with uncanny precision of impersonation by Paul Cabria. I know its traditional in these circumstances to say you were fooled but I really do mean it is uncanny how similar the voice is. This isn't the audio equivalent of Richard Hurndall in a wig, this isn't even just a really good soundalike performance like Tim Treloar's Big Finish Third Doctor, this is a spot on impression of Capaldi's every verbal mannerism. The performance is helped by the writing, including the Doctor affirming respect for Antonia's gender identity in a speech very reminiscent of his assurance to Bill that she's safe in the TARDIS and always will be in The Pilot.

I guess now is about as good a time as any to address Antonia Perkins. How well or how sensitively her identity is handled is definitely better left to other writers with more stake in the issue than my cis ass but what I will say is that her treatment is interesting.

For one thing she does have to explain what being trans means to the Doctor which takes a moment but the Doctor does get it very quickly, reiterating that the Time Lords don't really have much of a concept of gender. On the other hand, by the time the subject comes up the pair are in 1985 and how this change will effect Antonia's personal safety flat out does not occur to the Doctor. Whilst I'm trying to comment as little as possible on Antonia's more trans-specific issues and experiences I have to say, as someone of an age with Antonia who resides elsewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum there is a certain very immediate terror to the idea of finding myself back in Thatcher's Britain. Its an idea that has enough broad resonance for people across the spectrum and even the densest of straight allies that it can have the maximum impact on the broadest cross section of the audience whilst still being very specifically tied to her particular identity.

Antonia's other unique selling point is that she's an aspiring writer lacking inspiration. Several early segments of the story have her narrating her work in progress and giving up in frustration. Again, this is a trait with broad appeal as I think everyone who has ever tried to write anything can relate. Other than that her main claim to fame amongst modern companions is that she has a decent relationship with both her parents which I'm glad of because, oh boy, could we do with the plague of bad parental figures Doctor Who has been dropping in since RTD not continuing with the first (albeit unofficial) trans companion. That isn't to say such a storyline would be without merit just that I think its something that can be done without especially so hot on the heals of Moira and Bill's relationship.

A queer character having two accepting parents is a subversion of expectations in itself and I'm glad to see it for once.

A large part of the early story, the getting to know you phase, is spent with the Doctor directing Antonia by phone as she searches for the TARDIS. The two talk about a lot of things, the Doctor slowly letting her in on just what a weird situation he's dragging her into and bonding over both shared and different experiences. One of the similar experiences they bond over, in fact, is the idea of choosing one's own name. As with many a modern companion introduction the story starts off with her and is moderated mainly from her point of view and, let's face it, that's a format that works.

I am absolutely on board with seeing where these two travel next.

The series will be twelve episodes long, each running about the length of a typical modern TV episode and will be released weekly on Saturdays from the series' website here. Download is free and the series is not for profit and unaffiliated with the BBC.

Monday 4 June 2018

Some finished models and a goal for June

During my recent hiatus I had a chance to knuckle down and get some serious hobbying done. It was one of those moments when I really got into the zone and ended up actually getting a decent amount done. So much so that if I did individual pictures even for the units we'd be here for ages and I really want to just quickly showcase the miniatures and move on to my little hobby goal for the month.
So, to start off with there is this veritable Imperial Soup of things for the Deathwatch and their associated allied detachments. Starting from the left side of the picture and moving anti-clockwise we have a Company Commander and Command Squad for the 322nd Savlar Chem Dogs made out of Cadians with the Genestealer Cults upgrade sprue (the foreheads cunningly filed down to remove the more overt signs of mutation). As it happens this army will be performing double duties as an allied detachment for my Genestealer Cults army down the line but that's neither here nor there. Next up we have two HQ choices for the Deathwatch itself: Captain Lucius Almas of the Angels Of Vengeance and Codicier Trayvon Delios of the Blood Ravens. On the far right we have Magos-Dominus Narses Hood (yes, not just a joke name, a pretentious joke name!) of Stygies VIII, overall commander of the Watch-Fortress' Mechanicus contingent. Finally, at the back we have the first of my Deathwatch Venerable Dreadnoughts, a charming fellow by the name of Antigeminus, late of the Omega Marines chapter.

As well as that little lot I also completed two six-man Kill-Teams. First up is Kill-Team Fury under Watch-Sergeant Varil Marak:

From left to right on the line-up we have Marines from the Fire Lords, Flesh Tearers, Consecrators, Brazen Minotaurs, Iron Hands and Subjugators chapters kitted out with long range firepower. By contrast, Kill-Team Mortis under Watch-Sergeant Zauriel (yes, I have a favourite Justice League run, why do you ask?) is geared more towards close range firepower and assault:

From left to right: Libators, Dark Angels, Carmine Blades, Sons of Medusa, Iron Snakes and Sons of Dorn (that last one modified slightly because there is no way I have the skill to freehand a circle, let alone a white circle).


The Goal

Since the New Year I've been keeping a little hobby diary and it informs me that with these models I have painted 78 miniatures this year. My goal for the month is to bring this to a nice round hundred or (fingers crossed) beyond before we enter the second half of the year.

My challenge to myself from there is to see if I can do even better in the second half of the year. This is already the most productive my hobby has been in a long time and I've been carrying that energy over into other aspects of my life. Its genuinely been a positive experience.

So, twenty-two models to go. Sitting here looking at the rambling excesses of the work in progress shelf, which has seen some reinforcements as I look through boxes for things to finish, I see three Kataphron Destroyer;, that bloody Cryptek that I still haven't finished; three Raveners; ten Skitarii Vanguard; another Venerable Dreadnought; six Poxwalkers; ten Genestealer Cults Hybrid Neophytes as well as a Magos and a Primus. More than enough to be getting on with although looking at my hobby diary I notice just how few Fantasy miniatures I've painted this year (a mere six Skinks) and feel the need to redress the balance somewhat.

Anyway, twenty-two models minimum in the next four weeks. Doable, especially with so many half-complete ones to chip away at.

Then the real fun of exceeding the record begins...

Friday 1 June 2018

Comic Reviews

This week Brian Michael Bendis gets a third chance to make a first impression; Judge Dredd penetrates Patrick Swayze; and, Jean Grey does some family visiting.

Spoilers below...

Man of Steel #1

Okay, cards on the table: I have a huge writer crush on Brian Michael Bendis. When I was getting back into comics after an absence of years it was his Daredevil that drew me in. Between that and Ultimate Spider-Man it was clear that this was a writer with a real love and appreciation for the characters he was handling, one who knew where to modernise and where to leave well alone for the benefit of continuity.

So now he's writing Superman. Now, there's no one more skeptical of nostalgia than me. I know its a drug, I know its a con half the time but damn me if this isn't Superman exactly as I remember the character. Bendis plays it smart, intercutting his bold new take on the “true reason” Krypton was destroyed with a very conscious greatest hits reel to assure people that this is their (and their father's and their grandfather's Superman). We see him swoop In to the rescue a couple of times, once with supervillains and once with an apartment building fire and all with that very earnest honesty about him even when he's being sarcastic.

I am also very, very glad to see that Jon continues to exist. Not that I thought he was going away, exactly, but more than I suspected Bendis might ignore the boy's existence between the very iconic and classic feel of things (down to the red shorts) and the plotline from the DC Nation one-shot about Lois not being at the Planet anymore.

If there's one thing Bendis seems absolutely determined on its that Superman is a reported above all else. Even when he's rescuing people from the burning building he's thinking about how this rash of electrical fires came about. Arson? Bad city planning? Ordinances that aren't up to scratch?

Its been a long time since a version of Superman grabbed me this quickly. I'm not saying its been all doom and gloom before now (Patrick Gleason's run on Superman stands out in my mind as a great recent series) but this just perfectly captures what I love about the character.

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1

So, for a while people have been telling me that the American Judge Dredd comics from IDW aren't the disaster one would assume them to be. Not to insult anyone of a Yankish persuasion reading this but American fans (and most comic authors are fans these days) tend to not get that Dredd is meant to be funny. In fairness, a worrying number of British fans don't get this either nowadays but that's a rant for another day.

Reading this I'm trying to remind myself that this is by no means the first series IDW has put out and the conspicuous similarities to Dredd (2012) are probably a one off. Like the film (which I adore) we have a situation where two Judges are trapped in a giant apartment building with enemies on the top floors and a control room to be taking control of on the other side of the baddies.

In this case Dredd has been sent in to Patrick Swayze Block to locate Judge Beeny (presumably this story is set some time before she became a member of the Council Of Five) who went missing when the block went off the comms grid when she was meant to be doing a routine school visit.

Beeny is actually a character I have a lot of time for: a young, idealistic Judge who was the daughter of anti-Judge activists and one of the few reformers Dredd has ever been seen to so much as give the time of day. If nothing else I look forward to her and Dredd interacting across this series even if, sadly, the plot looks like one I've been through before just with slightly different villains. Who knows, though? Time will tell.

X-Men Red Annual #1

Even four issues into the main series, I'm still cautious about X-Men Red. Its not that its bad, its certainly entertaining, but the sticking point for me is that its essentially a Jean Grey series. I don't like Jean Grey much. Over the last few years the teenage version that's been running around has softened my view of her and I think its just the Ms. Perfect version that everyone idolises that gets my back up and Taylor seems smart enough not to push that angle too much. Jean in this series is definitely the same woman with the same formidable reputation but more conscious of her flaws.

Anyway, the annual is basically the story of what Jean did just after her resurrection, in spite of the whole of the rest of the team being on the cover, and is a pretty personal story only connected to the Red team by featuring Jean's first meeting with Laura and Gabby.

The long and the short of it: not much happens here but fluff and then of Jean's emotional journey is basically just to put her where we say her in #1. That said having been said: ain't nothing wrong with fluff, especially fluff that has Jean and Rachel interact like family for practically the first time ever. Plus, any issue with Gabby in it is definitely worth at least a look.