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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Movie Review: Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice

Hey there Chaos fanatics! No, I haven't forgotten about you, not at all. Its just that I've been really busy the past few weeks. I am working on a large painting project which I will show off when its done. I have a ton of 40K stuff that I have to put together... Wowza.

Anyway, like the title says, I'm going to share my two cents on Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. No doubt you've heard the film is divisive, to say the least. Well, Old Man Chaos intends to wade into those waters, with his own take on the proceedings. So- away we go.

First, I must acknowledge that Batman Versus Superman is not a perfect film. Indeed, it has serious flaws. However, it is also a very entertaining movie, with some thought provoking ideas and two incredible performances (and a bunch of good ones as well). Indeed, I feel the good far outweighs the bad.



To start, one must admit that BvS, like The Force Awakens, serves many masters. TFA had to accomplish a TON- show that SW is viable and relevant, get the bad taste of the prequels out of our mouths, dial up the nostalgia/fan service, create new compelling characters, create an exciting movie in its own right, and lots more. TFA is, frankly, a minor cinematic miracle in how many of these things it accomplished. We can quibble about having yet another super-death star and the like, but the fact is TFA did what it HAD to do to save the SW franchise and pull it forward- and the result is a highly entertaining film to boot.

BvS also serves many masters. Snyder and co had to: make a quality sequel to Man of Steel, try to deal with fan anger over the "mass deaths" issue, try to create a new Batman after Bale/Nolan's definitive take, lay the groundwork for a new DC franchise, go head to head with Marvel, and lots more. BvS accomplishes many of those as well. However, while JJ made it look EASY in TFA (seriously, the movie feels like seeing an old friend), Snyder runs into problems in BvS. For some people, these problems derail the whole thing. I however do not see it that way. I think the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts.

I want to start with the negatives first, if I may. First and foremost, the damn flashbacks / dream sequences / warning from the future. Right here is where the filmmakers try to build their universe too quickly. They throw so much at you, stuff that makes little sense. But worse, these sequences stop the film dead in its tracks. The movie just starts to build momentum when the first dream happens. Then the film chugs to recover when a (thankfully) shorter dream takes center stage, once again jarring the viewer out of the main thrust of the film. Both annoyed me- I think they should have been trimmed into a melange of images that make no sense- but happen quickly. Or perhaps they should have been excised entirely. The flow of the film suffers for these sequences.

The flow of the ending is very choppy, as we jump from ending to ending. Once again, I wish this had been done in a more linear fashion. But instead we jump from place to place, backwards and forwards. This diminished what I felt could have been a truly powerful conclusion. Instead it gets muddled, and again their eye is on setting up the future DC franchise, taking it off the BvS film itself.

I wish that the Lois Lane story was given a bit more import and time- I think showing Lois as a peerless investigative reporter is essential, and the "bullet" mystery is great, but it gets lost amidst the rest of the film's bombast. And its so important, but that importance has been blunted because of the truncated feel of her "side story".

There are some pacing issues overall, and a few things that don't make 100 percent sense to me (admittedly, I think I need to see the movie again to sort it out. I say that because as I think about it so much in BvS actually DOES make sense. It may be me. It may be that scenes were deleted).

Now, I really want to get into the plot and our three leads, as I feel these aspects are what makes the movie better than a casual look and/or the negatives might suggest.

First, Snyder and company throw a lot of questions at you about the Man of Steel. Should he be held responsible for the battle of Metropolis? Is he a hero or not? Should he be held to the same rules as the rest of us? Is he a god? A savior? An alien? The film devotes some time to these questions- politicians and the TV pundits / talking heads debate these quite a bit. Some criticisms have been laid that Snyder doesn't resolve these. That's outrageous. Of COURSE there's no consensus or conclusion to these. Look at the US right now- we argue about EVERYTHING. Nothing is "settled". I think the film does a fine job of building all of these up without a "full" resolution. That would be too easy, and Snyder doesn't fall for it.

Indeed, that is the core of the film. If such a "Superman" existed, how would the world respond? How would people view him? The entire film is about this very issue. Both Batman and Lex Luthor are, for their own reasons, consumed by these questions.

 Let's start with the easier of the two, Batman. First, I want to say that Ben Affleck gives this his all and then some. His performance is so good, so on the mark for THIS version of Batman, that its practically a revelation. Not only does he have the physical presence, the gravitas, the determination- he also has doubts about his "mission", and his witty banter with Alfred (played nicely by Jeremy Irons)- all done to near perfection. I cannot wait to see "Batffleck" in future DC films. He's that good. I still think Bale is the best, but in time... who knows?

Now let's look at Batman's motivation. He has been fighting crime for years. He has grown frustrated in his mission (criminals pop up like weeds, he laments to Alfred). He has lost Robin, and possibly other allies. You sense the weariness. It seems that fighting crime is a losing proposition. As he hits this point and becomes so bitter, his life is changed when he witnesses Superamn fighting Zod in Metropolis. Wayne Enterprise workers are killed, and Bruce can do nothing. He sees gods fighting with him and his people as nothing but ants. This feeling of powerlessness is added to his frustrations of a weary Batman, creating an even more bitter and vindictive Batman.

The film makes it quite clear that Batman has been getting worse. He has, as the film starts, been branding some criminals. In the film he does indeed kill (indirectly with the Batmobile and plane, but still). While many are screaming that this is breaking Batman's cardinal rule, I say not so fast. First, every modern film Batman (except for Clooney- and that should tell you something) has killed. Burton's Batman killed the Joker, Joker Henchmen, Penguin Henchmen, Penguin... Val Kilmer killed Two-Face at the end of Batman Forever. And Nolan... try as he might, he didn't avoid it either. How many League of Shadows goons did Bruce kill escaping their mountain citadel? He then later KILLS Ras (the line "I won't kill you... but I don't have to save you" hardly absolves him). In TDK he doesn't kill, but in TDKR his Bat-Plane surely blows up a few LoS henchmen (along with Talia). He may not kill Bane, but Batman doesn't even blink when Catwoman guns him down. Hell, Batman doesn't even check to see if Bane is alive! So please- don't give me the Batman doesn't kill thing. At least in film.

However, and more importantly, it serves the plot and arc for Batman. He has no hope, and he descends, ever closer to that line, the abyss that will make him what he hates. A villain. He's so close to that. And the appearance of Superman makes Bruce feel as if his entire career as Batman is pointless. What difference does a criminal make when you've got Superman and others who could destroy the world. Batman has been fighting small fires (and losing). Superman upends Bruce entirely.

Now, while Bruce is internalizing this, he comes to the conclusion that Superman must be destroyed. This may be the only thing Batman might do to keep the world safe, the only thing Batman can succeed at. Bruce becomes determined to stop Superman, using ANY means necessary. He believes that only such a measure can save THE WORLD. Not Crime Alley or Gotham- the future of the world.

Batman cannot see that Superman is good, as Bruce is too far lost in his own despair. Alfred tries to act as Bruce's conscience, but Bruce may already be too far gone. All he can see is the danger. He cannot admit to other possibilities. So, he sets out to fight and destroy Superman.

That brings us to... Lex Luthor. Now, Jesse Eisnberg's performance may be the most divisive thing in the film. And while I get some of the complaints, I find that the character is actually well handled in the final analysis. And what he symbolizes in the plot is just enormous.

First, this version of Lex is an amalgamation of all the versions of Lex. So many people want the bald ruthless industrialist version. The fact is this version has only been around since the 1980s. Lex has gone through LOTS of incarnations. In the Golden Age, "Luthor" was a mad scientist with red hair, with futuristic weapons at his disposal- he threatened the world many times over in the 1940s. Later versions have Lex Luthor as a bald mad scientist type blaming Superboy for an accident that caused the baldness.

 The eccentric and outlandish insane genius persisted for years (and is the basis for the Gene Hackman version). Then, in the 80s, Luther got reinvented as the megalomaniac industrialist billionaire businessman that we know and love today.

BvS Lex Luthor is a combination of those elements, combined with the new billionaire, the tech guru. Look at guys like Jobs, Zuckerberg, Beezos, and any of the other silicone valley billionaires. They are an eccentric bunch- nerds and geeks. But- they are a major force in our economy and just about every other facet of our lives. Indeed, their nerdiness and tech have made them VERY powerful. The Internet not only has info on EVERYBODY, it also has the power to mold people, shape events, change the world. In fact, it is scary how much power and influence the tech world has over us.

Eisnberg's Luthor combines the various Lex incarnations with this modern "tech industrialist" sensibility. The result is a Lex who is full of insecurity, nervous tics, and eccentricities. Underneath that veneer though, is a man used to getting his own way. His company literally has the sum of human knowledge at his fingertips. as well as the money and power that goes with that. Luthor is truly the (invisible) master of his domain. He is used to having total control, with everyone dancing to his tune- other businessmen, consumers, the media, and naturally politicians...

Luthor is king of the world- but like Batman, his world changes when Superman fights Zod. Suddenly, like Batman, Luthor's accomplishments feel VERY small. He is the king of nothing. He is an ant to Superman. This feeling of powerlessness drives Luthor. But, rather than be like Bruce, wanting to protect the world, Lex only sees his own ego. He views Superman (and the meta-humans that he is researching) as a personal challenge. Lex will have all of these beings dancing to his tune, one way or the other. Its the only we he can stay powerful and, frankly, relevant.

Some critics have said Luthor's intentions are murky. Nonsense. He spells it out (in his eccentric way). Luthor compares himself to Prometheus at a party. This legend tells how Prometheus challenged the gods- stealing fire and giving it to man. That is exactly how Luther sees himself- he is going to take on the gods. What other challenge is there in life for someone like him?

This scene takes on new meaning when you realize Lex KNOWS who both of his guests are long before.
 So- Luthor does many things- and you have to sort though his many layers of machinations. He begins to keep tabs on meta-humans (and Batman presumably). He learns a lot about them- facial recognition software is a wonderful tool- Luthor quickly figures out that Batman is Bruce, and Superman is Kent. Lex learns about Kryptonite as well. So he sets out to put the two against each other. Lex engineers events that make Superman look questionable (the dessert bullets, the explosion of the Senate). Meanwhile, he ALLOWS Batman to dig in a little into Lex's knowledge, with Batman discovering Kryptonite. Lex WANTS Batman to get the Kryptonite. He wants to make Bats kill Supes. Why should Lex get his hands dirty? After all- he's making this happen, and that gives him his kicks.

But- why would Superman fight Batman? Lex kidnaps Ma Kent (and in his best scene) Luthor explains that if Supes doesn't fight Batman, Ma Kent will die. Some have criticized this, after all is this all Lex is capable of- brute force against an old woman? Nonsesne. He manipulated Batman so well, testing his intelligence. For Superman, brute strength will do (hence the crude threat to Ma Kent). As Luthor throws pics of the captive Ma Kent at Superman, the hero falls to his knees. Lex is exultant, and Eisnberg gives him a cruelty unmatched by many modern comic movie villains (he exudes more menace and evil in this ONE scene than Mandarin, Ultron, Dark Elf, Ronan, and most of the other Marvel movie villains put together). In this moment he is evil, despicable and perhaps, MORE powerful than Superman.

So, Batman and Superman fight. Now lets get to the third piece, Superman himself. Henry Cavil does a good job here, though his role is less flashy than either Batman or Luther. Superman is a man still unsure of himself, his powers, and his place in the world. He WANTS to help, and doesn't want reward. He is idealistic (a dream of a Kansas farmer). But, even he sees how dark and hopeless our world is. Can he stay pure? Can he truly "save" others? Superman is uncomfortable of the hero worship, and he is truly hurt by the criticism and jealousy. He has many doubts. However, he does have convictions. As Kent, he appears to be a bit of a crusading journalist, feeling that Batman only attacks the poor and disadvantaged, and his tactics are brutal, savage. To Superman, Batman is bad- and worse, represents what Superman could be if Kent LOST his moral compass.

For both good and bad, Superman is forced into a bit of a reactionary role, reacting to Batman, Lex, and events that Lex has caused. This both strengthens and weakens the character's portrayal. When he confronts Lex, he is hamstrung- he wants to protect both Lois and Ma Kent. He has no choice but to dance to Lex's tune. Or does he?

When Supes goes to fight Batman (unaware of the Kryptonite threat), rather than fight Superman tries to reason with Batman, but Bruce is past that. The fight is brutal, but Batman has the upper hand with the Kryptonite. As Batman is about to land the killing blow (with a Kryptonite Spear of Destiny no less), Superman calls out Martha- his mother's name AND ironically Bruce's mothers name. Now, some asked "Why did Superman call out his mother's first name rather than say 'mom'"? They didn't hear the whole thing- Superman is struggling to breathe- he says to Batman that he needs to save Martha Kent- how else would Batman have known who "mom" was? No. So it actually makes sense. With that, Batman stays his hand- he and the god have something in common after all. All of Bruce's doubts (and Alfred's lecturing) come to the surface. Batman has been a fool. Superman is GOOD. Bruce was wrong. But he vows to correct the mistake by rescuing Ma Kent. Batman's line "Martha will not die tonight" sent shivers down my spine.

Meanwhile, Lex plays his last hand. He has spent a part of the film researching the secrets of Kryptonian knowledge and technology. Once again playing Prometheus, he uses this knowledge to build Doomsday- again, to prove his superiority, but also as insurance against Superman (should he win) and the other meta-humans. The battle with Doomsday is brutal, with Wonder Woman making her appearance (a minor role, but Lex had her in his file and she was concerned about it). When all seems lost, Superman grabs the Kryptonite spear, and destroys Doomsday with it. In the process, Superman is also killed.

(For those complaining about Doomsday- in the original Death of Superman comic storyline, Doomsday was one dimensional, to say the least. A force of nature without direction or goal. Indeed, Doomsday is just a plot device to kill Superman. The main meat of the storyline is the Return of Superman- which involves various Super-imposters and versions of the Man of Steel. Now, Doomsday has been upgraded since. But in the original story, he has ZERO character or motivation. For me, Lex's engineering of Doomsday is good enough for me. There are more Superman villains out there- to me Doomsday is sub par at best- so I'm glad they got him out of the way). 

In the end, Bruce realizes the error of his way, and vows not to fail again. He swears to honor Superman's sacrifice. It is clear that Superman's example has redeemed Batman. Batman has come out of the darkness, morally and spiritually. And now Batman wants to assemble these other meta human heroes to protect the world. The life and death of Superman now serve as an example, and Bruce means to live up to that as best he can. It is a great conceit, and it flies in the face of the "comic standard" idea that Bruce is reluctant to join  the Justice League. I loved the turnaround. It also plays into Jor El's lines in MoS saying that Superman should be an example to all mankind, and I appreciated the callback to that.

To me- that is what the film is about- Batman's redemption. Naturally, Superman will come back (I think...). We will also see new DC heroes as well. The film successfully makes you WANT to see what happens next. But it is Batman's character arc (compared/contrasted with Lex's) that make the heart and soul of the film.

I left a ton out, but that's OK. I think the film is a good, but not great one. It's flaws detract from what could have been a great movie. I give it 3 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. Subsequent viewings may change the rating, but that's what I'm thinking right now.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Wulfen Have Awoken My Daemons

Hey there folks! Welcome back to the Corners of Chaos. I'm still thinking about last week's Tournament. That was a lot of fun. There's supposed to be another in April- hopefully that weekend will be clear so that I can go.

I just finished the Curse of the Wulfen book. I love the story- a saga of heroes, misguided heroes, and some villains too, in the form of Chaos daemons. I also love the friggin' cliffhanger of an ending too. Wow. I am really looking forward to the conclusion (assuming they are following the format of the previous campaign book releases).

Of course, my eye was immediately drawn to the Daemons part of the rules. I am slightly disappointed with the Daemonic Incursion "Decurion". The number of models (and points) required to take these formations make it fairly impractical. You simply don't have the points in most 1800-2000 point games to fill out the Incursion and have the flexibility that the Daemons codex actually provides. I mean, you can possibly have both a Tallyband the Tzeentch formation (9 units!!). It blows.

However, if you take ONE of the formations AND instead use CAD... well, then it is possible to build a decent army around a solid core of the Formations. I could well take a Tallyband, and then take a standard detachment with a few other daemon types. That, I think, would work really well. I could (thanks to my numerous Daemonkin) also do the same with a Murderhost. Tzeentch and Slaanesh- well, I don't have enough models for those, and I doubt I ever will.

I am appreciative of the god-specific psychic powers, artifacts, and warlord traits. Several of the warlord traits are actually useful, and some of those artifacts can be nasty. I am pleased they expanded this after the rather too narrow scope of the original Daemon codex. Oh- another bonus- you can now take the new Bloodthirster and give him Lesser,  Greater, and Exalted Gifts. That ain't too shabby.

Of course, all this talk of Daemons really got me thinking. I told you before, the lure of Chaos is very strong, and I can only be away for so long before I get sucked back in. Well, thanks to the Wulfen book- I'm doing Chaos again. Now, don't get me wrong- I still have Mechanicus I'm working on. I'm enjoying that army so I will continue to build on it. However.... must... paint... Daemons! LOL

After reading Wulfen and dreaming of a Tallyband, I counted my Plaguebearers and Nurglings. I had 6 between the two unit types (provided I use the minimum sizes for each). So... you know what I had to do. I decided to buy one more box of the plastic Plaguebearers of course! Now I have 7 units (and of course, I already have a Herald of Nurgle).

I love this "new" plastic kit. Don't get me wrong- the metal ones from 4th (I think) edition are really nice. At the time, they were the best. I enjoyed painting those (I think it was in 2002 or so). Those metal models inspired me greatly, impacting my modeling work in many ways. I had already been doing Plague Marines, but doing the Daemons pushed my painting techniques further, thus influencing my painting of subsequent Plague Marines. Indeed, painting these metal Plaguebearers made me a much better painter- I only started seriously painting in 2000- and my Dark Eldar were quite plain. Using the old White Dwarf articles, I learned about new techniques and applied them to the Plaguebearers. I really upped my painting with them. (Truly, that is something I truly miss with White Dwarf magazine as it is now. It is merely a sales brochure- I loved the old WD that had hobby and story articles that INSPIRED).

Anyways, as I assembled my Plaguebearers I decided I would do something totally different. I decided I would spray them white and then do their flesh ONLY using washes. It is a technique that I have NEVER used before. Naturally, I have used washes (recesses, to alter a hue), but never have I used washes to primarily paint a model. I have read about the technique (WD had a few articles when the new paints were released, but mostly I read about it online).

So, I used different wash combos on different Plaguebearers. For some, I used Cammoshade to make the sickly, pale green that has been the trademark of my Plague stuff since day 1. However, the washes allowed me to get a nice color much more quickly.

For others, I used alternating coats of Fleshshade and Sepia. This gave them a more fleshy, yet still sickly appearance. Though my original Plague stuff was NOT this color, I had since painted Nurgle stuff in all kinds of colors, as long as they were disgusting (though I still primarily do that pale and sickly green, I have enough colors interspersed that they still form a coherent looking army).

On one, I used Fleshade and Earthshade. That guy looks the most different. However, he still looks like part of the same Daemonic force. I think I may paint future Nurgle stuff with that color combo, as I like how dirty it looks.

There was only one model I had a mishap with. I used Bel Tan Green on one- yikes. Waaaaaayy too green. I tried to put Cammoshade over, but to no avail. So, I had no choice but to re-coat him with Deathworld paint, followed by Cammo wash. Despite this error, he still came out looking like his festering brothers. (Note to self- don't use Bel Tan Green over white again. Ever.)

The rest of the details I painted with regular paints and the technical paints. The guts I did Khorne Red, then I brightened them up with lighter reds, finally adding pink to some of the intestines. Then I followed this by using Blood for the Blood god technical paint. Nice and goopy in some spots.

The swords I did with Leadbelcher, followed by Typhus Corrosion technical paint. This gave them a filthy look. As for the eyes, I used my old technique of painting the entire eye area white, followed by a Mephiston Red eye rim, and finally a slit of black for the iris.

For the sores and tumor looking stuff, I used various contrasting washes (yes, Bel Tan Green works for this stage, as does purple and yellow) and the Nurgle's Rot technical paint around/over the sores, then used white to highlight the top of the sores.

Finally, I put gobs of Nurgle's Rot on their swords, their sores, some of their mouths, and running down their legs and onto the bases. Once all of that was done, I used 'Ardcoat over the entire model- sword and all (EXCEPT the banner). This gloss varnish makes them look extra slimy and sickly.

Oh- forgot one thing. My Plague champion I put a zombie head on. The one think about the kit I don't like is that SOME of the poses are limited. The champion is posed so that his sword is sticking straight up. I decided that, since there was little I could do with the sword, I put a zombie head on the Plaguebearer, thus making him look different from the others. After all, according to the mythology, anyone killed by one of Nurgle's plagues becomes a Plaguebearer in the warp. So- why not look slightly "man-ish"?

Now- a confession. I enjoyed painting these guys so much that... at last week's Tourney, I bought a Start Collecting! Daemons of Nurgle box... That means I have more Nurgle stuff to keep me busy. I told you- Chaos will always have me in its grasp! Hehe! As for the ones I just finished, they match quite well with the rest of my Nurgle Daemons- as I mix and match them, they would form a very unified force- all the colors of filth and rot. I think I will paint my next batch of Nurgle stuff in the same manner with the washes, as I like the results of this technique.

I also wanted to show off some terrain I recently finished for my friend Joe. As you may recall, we recently finished his ice world table (it is beautiful for sure). Joe had the old wrecked ship terrain from an old 40K boxed set from the early 2000s. He asked if I would paint it for him.

So, I painted the ship to be Dark Angels, which is now is primary army that he's working on. I did it simply, Caliban Green with lighter green highlights. As for the snow, I started with Kantor Blue, then used brighter blues. Then, I followed with a liberal drybrush of Russ Grey, followed by brighter greys and whites, making sure to leave the blue beneath. It gives the whole thing an icy appearance. If you paint it just snow white, you lose a ton of detail and visually its rather dull. The blue under the white gives it the appearance of glacial ice or something.

These didn't take me long to do. I used Blood technical paint to give it a little something interesting. I also put on some Dark Angel transfers. With all the pieces together, they really make a nice set of terrain pieces, and the ice blue will go with Joe's table perfectly.

So- that's everything for now. I'll be back next time with undoubtedly more Daemons, but I will be getting back to Mechanicus as well very soon.

Until next time...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The February Tournament (2016)

Hey there Chaos followers and sycophants! Welcome to yet another (ugh) edition of Chaos Corner. It's been a busy hobby time for me these past few days- I have had a work break, allowing me to do more modelling, painting, and why yes, even gaming. The truth is I don't get to game as much as I'd like- but that's the way it goes. However, this weekend was a tournament at my local, and I had the opportunity to partake.

This tournament was different in a few ways. First, we were limited to 1,000 points- and then we were randomly assigned allies. In a strange twist, I was teamed up with my friend Brian. What?! The gentleman running the tournament swore that it was done randomly on his Excel program. I believe him- but seriously, what are the chances? LOL. So it was my Cult  Mechanicus with Oathsworn Knight alongside Brian's Ultramarines (which are MY Ultramarines, FYI).

Second, the tournament was set up for 3 rounds. The ranking was based on how many points your side could achieve. This was done in a very interesting way (inspired by one of the bigger tournaments whose name I can't remember). Basically, you could achieve the primary objective in one of two ways- you had to choose before setting up (and then announce it at the start of turn 1). There were also a set of 10 secondary objectives- you chose 3, and announced them at the start of turn 1. I have never played with this format before. It was a little confusing at first- but once we got going it got quite clear, and was a lot of fun.

First, I have to say that we had some nice battlefield terrain. My local had a terrain building session several weeks ago. I was unable to attend, but I donated some of the GW building sprues from the big box set that I still have. The terrain was a mix of old stuff and these newly built pieces. Overall, there were some really nice pieces on the tables. One that stood out was a set of pieces that had Tyranid spores consuming/dissolving things- built with foam and toothpicks for the "teeth". The other really nice piece (that we didn't get to play on sadly) had a huge sectional piece that had a large cliff and plateau - and a bunker at the bottom. Awesome piece. Finally, one of the guys had brought in their Fantasy Realm of Battle Board, painted up to be a desert wasteland. The glowing skulls were a really nice touch. This was to be the site of our first match.

Ultramarines and the Mechanicus prepare to wage war as allies to the Omnissiah

So, I was now teamed up with Brian, and we are about to square off against an unholy alliance of Necrons and Dark Angels (bike and terminator heavy). The game did not go well for me and Brian for several reasons. First, like I am sure all of you are aware, Necron Reanimation Protocols suck. Seriously. I don't know how many my Grav Cannons killed- but the Reanimation made it seem like NONE died at all. I have used the Mech army twice- and against that many gravs most things don't stand a chance (unless they are armor 5-6). Ugh.

Necrons and their Reanimation... UGH.

The Dark Angels also had some crazy invul saves, negating the usefulness of my Grav and the Imperial Knight's Gatling Avenger. Last, Brian and I did not cooperate as well as we could have. He deployed his Marines out of their Rhinos and ended up blocking my shots and giving cover saves for firing through our own men. Then, his Rhinos also caused a bit of a traffic jam, slowing down our movement (I guess the "free Rhino" thing has some limits then after all?).

This would ultimately become a huge traffic jam. Where's General Patton when you need him?

The most humiliating thing was when Necron Scarabs got in and charged my Knight. The truth is, this is only my second game USING a Knight, and I didn't know all the Super-Heavy rules. Should his swarms have been smashed or not? I wasn't sure. It took 2 turns of combat to get rid of them.

Shameful indeed for  Knight Vindicta
Hehe... You said "Cocked"...

However, it wasn't all bad. We all had a laugh when the Necon player rolled a dice and it got "cocked", standing on edge on the table- it was at such a great angle- even as we lost, we could chuckle at that sight. Further, Brain and I did manage to gain SOME of the secondary points. My Knight destroyed a Dark Angels Land Speeder, which we had nominated as a High Value Target. The DA player had kept him hidden, but grew too confident and brought him out to play (though, the rest of the game gave him lots of reason to be confident). My Gatling Avenger made short work of the Land Speeder- a slight triumph for us.

The Land Speeder that was our High Value Target
Ultimately, we got wrecked. And, sadly, the entire match felt like we didn't stand a chance. Between Reanimation, re-roll of invuls for DA bikes, and my team's lack of cooperation, I don't mind losing- but I want to feel that the battle was hard fought and close till the end. We didn't get that at all. On the flip side, I don't enjoy winning by tabling my opponent in turn 2 either- that may be a "victory", but not a fun game.

The Terminators mop up after the Necrons- HERESY!

As we broke for lunch (some tasty pizza), Brian and I regrouped. We discussed ways to improve our coordination. We decided that we would talk before we started moving models, making sure fire lanes were open, and that we could move without getting in each others way. Funny enough, since I introduced Brian to the hobby, we have ALWAYS been opponents. This was the first time we had to cooperate. And our first opponents presented a steep learning curve (he has never faced Necrons before, FYI).

Onto the second match. This was on the field that had Tyranid digestion pools, which I really liked. Our opponents were once again an Unholy Alliance of Chaos Daemons and Dark Angels (Ravenwing... are you sensing a pattern here). They were lead by Sammael and Fateweaver. The Dark Angels were nicely painted, and Fateweaver had a nice conversion- a "crystal ball" was placed in his hand.

We just couldn't get Fateweaver down
This time, Brian and I cooperated much better, combining our fire on targets to make sure they were DEAD. In our first round, we shot the heck out of a squad of Screamers, whom we nominated as the High Value Target (gaining us that second objective and First Blood). The DA bikes posed a problem initially, but as Brian and I combined our strength, even their re-roll invuls couldn't save them.

Dark Angel Ravenwing Column Advances
Our opponents got in their licks too though. Fateweaver was flying high, and my Icarus Cannon just couldn't tackle him. Fateweaver then proceeded to rain Psychic attacks down on our troops, destroying Rhinos and harassing the men (he also killed their High Value Targets, which were a group of my Kataphron Destroyers). The enemy Soul Grinder also did its thing, lobbing its Phlegm attacks onto exposed Marines. Lastly, arriving Dark Angel flyers did some damage as well.

Ravenwing Bikers make their way down to the advancing Ultramarines
Ultimately, Brain and I were winning, whittling down their forces at a faster rate. The final decision came at the center of the table. The objective was worth 5 points- and Brian and I had selected the secondary objective that requires a Warlord to be near the center of the table. The Dark Angels swooped in with bikes and Sammael, hoping to clear the Ultramarine captain and his squad off. Unfortunately for the DA, their initial strength had been dwindled due to my Grav Cannons, so there were fewer of them.

"Rampaging Knight kills Sammael. Film at 11"

The DA player  rolled pretty badly in that combat, killing none of Brian's Marines. However, this could have been a long drawn out fight. So, I charged my Knight in. The Knight cut through the rest of the bikers. All that was left was Sammael. So, I rolled to stomp. I only rolled for 1 stomp. Would 1 be enough. I rolled on the Stomp chart- I got a 6!! Sammael had no chance and was basically stomped to death by a rampaging Imperial Knight. With him gone, we certainly had the center of the table- and with a Knight standing by, there was nothing else they could do.

Brain and I won. Points wise it was close, but it was clearly our win. The game was a lot of fun with lots of back and forth. Our opponents were very good sportsmen, laughing at our foibles as well as their own- such as when Fateweaver suffered Perils of the Warp. A great game with lots of laughs, and fought well till the end. For my team, it seemed that Brian and I had found our groove.

Saruman wasn't kidding when he said "Two Towers"...

So- now to our third match. This battlefield's distinguishing feature was the two towers on a hill in the middle of the battlefield. Our opponent had a problem. His partner had to leave, so he was on his own. To compensate, the TO jumped in with his (guess) ... Ravenwing Dark Angels. Wow- I guess I know what the Meta is at this place! Anyway, he had Ravenwing Bikes, 3 Land Speeders (each as a separate unit, one with Melta) and a Fire Raptor Gunship from Forgeworld (a beautiful model- and quite deadly). Our other opponent was just a vanilla Space Marine list.  Nothing fancy, but enough to be a challenge.

The Tech-Priest guards the objective
The game started off with Night Fight- this didn't hurt too  much, as we were deployed basically in table corners and too far away to hit anything turn 1. Starting turn 2, we began firing on the Space Marine player, again wiping out our HVT (A Rhino). We already had 3 objectives, and thought we could prevent the SM player from getting the Relic in the middle (which THEY chose to treat as a stationary obj for their victory requirement). However, bottom of turn 2, the Dark Angels made their appearance. Bikes and Land Speeders came in from the flanks. One squad (with the librarian) came on next to me- my Tech Priest and Destroyer unit were in trenches with the objective. Luckily, I knew this was a possibility, and I had selected the Canticles that ended up giving me Stealth and Shrouded (my warlord trait allowed the Tech Priest and his unit to enjoy the highest bonus on the Canticles). The bikers shot everything they had (plasma mostly), but thanks to the Canticles I was unharmed.

The Fire Raptor enters the field

Meanwhile, the Fire Raptor came in. I used my Knight's Icarus Cannon to intercept. I manged to take a Hull Point and Make him fire snap shots. He vowed revenge. His Land Speeders did just that, assailing my Knight from 2 directions. My Knight was down to 3 Hull Points. Meanwhile, try as we might, we just couldn't clear the Space Marines from the table center- it was happening, but not fast enough it seemed.

Trying to clear the Space Marines from the center objective
On turn 3 (the final turn, due to time constraints) Brian and I went all out. Ultramarines and Destroyers firing at the approaching bikers. Using Canticle that re rolls misses, my Grav managed to kill the librarian and final bikers, thus eliminating the threat. The TO recognized that this hurt them, as did the fact that Brian managed to get into the relic thus contesting (both Marine forces having obj secured). I also had my Knight charge the nearest Land Speeder (the Melta) and cleaved it in twain.

The Ravenwing Bikers were destroyed by mass Grav fire- despite their re-roll Invuls

In the final analysis, they won by 1 point. However, the TO noted that if the game had gone on another turn or 2, it would have been a different story. The Knight was still functioning and would have done lots of damage to the Space Marine units. Further, I still had 2 squads of Grav Destroyers that would ruin anybody's day. So, while we lost by 1, Brian and I felt good about the match nevertheless. The Space Marine player was friendly and laid back. The TO was in it to win, but he was also a lot of fun- bellowing (humorously) that he would get revenge on my Knight for his temerity in shooting his Fire Raptor. A great match, and a great way to end the Tournament.

A fun day was certainly had. On a side note, we had a contest for best painted model. With a tie breaking vote from one of the store employees, my Tech Priest Dominus won best painted model. I was very happy and honored. There were lots of good looking models on the tables though- and that was awesome.

Well, this has been a long blog, but I wanted to get in as many of the details as I could remember before I forgot them.

Until Next Time