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Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit

 Happy New Year everybody! I'm back with my promised review of The Hobbit. This has been a difficult task for me. It was tough for me to write this, so let's just go to it:

 I have always been a fan of sci-fi and fantasy movies. Since I was a kid, my parents (who were also sci-fi fans) instilled in me a love of sci-fi and fantasy. In particular, my parents both loved the original Star Trek (they were both around for the first run in the 1960s) and Star Wars. Naturally, there was a ton of this in the 1980s- and due to their influence I watched 'em with them: Star Trek, Star Wars, Conan, Krull, Dragonslayer, Legend, Alien, etc. I have always been partial to those movies, and my love for this genre has only grown over time.

In 2001, I fell in love with a "new" mythology, that of the Lord of the Rings. I was only familiar with it via the old "The Hobbit" cartoon. When I saw Fellowship of the Ring- well, that was it for me. The movie was simply amazing- I immediately got the books and read them. The movie did a wonderful job of making a fantasy world come to life. Great actors giving the proceedings everything they've got. A fantastic, fully realized world, with a creative mix of practical and CGI, which combined to make you feel like "you are there". A wonderful musical score, terrific action sequences, and a cliffhanger ending. When the movie ended, I wanted to see it again. That moment, as a matter of fact. I felt that way upon seeing The Two Towers and Return of The King (for the record, I love the "endings"of RotK- this isn't wrapping up a movie, but a huge trilogy and the "endings befit this).

The most successful element in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, however, was not the epic action scenes or great special effects, or even the fully realized fantasy setting, though. For me, the movies "got me"with it's characters. Fellowship of the Ring takes its time introducing its characters- the warm moments between Gandalf and the Baggins' family is just wonderful, and sets up so much for later. The friendship between the 4 Hobbits is totally relatable, and each character gets a moment or two to shine. Then, as the other Fellowship members are introduced- I mean, Aragorn is so incredibly complex, even from his first scenes. Gimli is typically humorous for a Dwarf, but again. he's so brave, and he obviously wants to protect the Hobbits. You get regal performances from the Elves that, even if they are not fully drawn (yet), you just "get them". And, of course, you have some real villainy from the treacherous Saruman. Though the movie doesn't really dwell on WHY he switches sides, you just know that this is a terrible blow to the heroes, even before they've started. As for the action- well, that's the thing. The action ALWAYS has our group of heroes as the focus. No matter what happens, from goblins to Balrog to Urak Hai- the fights/action are always done in the service of our main characters. The action is in a fantasy setting, but it is always done realistically- swords and arrows and even frying pans clash in desperate combat. The characters are in danger, and you worry about them- they get hurt, they bleed. The action scenes also change the characters- you learn they have courage, or fears, or connections to the others... Well, all the action in the world isn't worth a damn if the characters aren't at the fore.

In the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, these characters are front and center. Throughout the din of armies clashing, giant spiders attacking, and a primordial evil returning to the world to wreck havoc, it is always our heroes that you are concerned about. You identify with them, root for them, feel for them. As the stakes get higher in The Two Towers an Return of the King, with bigger and more complex battles / action sequences, it is still (and always) character above spectacle. See- that's the secret- compelling or relatable characters trump every single time. You love Star Wars because you love Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie. In the recent Batman trilogy, you feel for Bruce in a way you never have before (in movies that is), and his allies like Alfred and Gordon are made into human beings (rather than just mere exposition pieces), which you sympathize with. Look carefully, and you'll see that The Matrix starts with strong characters, but that loses out to the special effects in the next two movies, sadly. The SW prequel trilogy also does that, and you can see the poor results for yourself (though it almost recovers by Episode III, but it's too late).

Well, that brings us to The Hobbit. It has been over 10 years since Peter Jackson and company first produced the FotR. Now, everyone was saying that The Hobbit as a book is more lighthearted, not as epic, not as action packed, etc. I wasn't concerned about any of that. I wanted Jackson to bring these characters to life. I wanted to see young Bilbo setting out on his "adventure". I wanted to see how Bilbo formed his bond with Gandalf the Grey. I wanted to see him match wits against Gollum in the darkest cave, despite his fear. I wanted to see Bilbo become a hero, seen as worthy by his Dwarven compatriots. I wanted to laugh, smile, feel some chills and thrills, and feel connected to our characters.

And that's the problem. There are moments where this happens. When the Dwarves first come to Bag End, you can totally sympathize with Bilbo, while still laughing at the antics of his "guests". When Gandalf is trying to convince Bilbo to join their quest, you get where both men are coming from. Radaghast the Brown, for all his weirdness, is interesting and funny all at the same time. The White Council is brilliantly realized, and you get the impression that they are good people (even Saruman!), but they are divided as to what the best course of action is. The Dwarves get a few moments to bond with Bilbo (the Troll scene). And yes, the Riddles in the Dark scene is great fun and thrilling.

However, add that up, and its about an hour. The rest is--- oh no. What have they done? It's all crazy action scenes, filled with POINTLESS fighting and STUPID physical feats. Jackson and company nearly totally forget why they were successful the first time around- the characters are not at all developed, and hence you don't care about them. The Dwarves are, for the most part, just bodies- you don't really get to know them at all. Yes, Thorin is tough, but he's SO damn one-note ("I want to get my home back and I have nothing else to say"). Balin is well played, but he's mostly just exposition. The rest of them are just forgettable arrow fodder. Jackson should have cut them down to a more manageable number (purists be damned! If Jackson could get rid of Tom Bombidil, meld characters, re-arrange events, and still make LotR kick ass, then he could have cut 5 Dwarves and nobody would have noticed). As it is, the audience doesn't really know them, and hence, doesn't care.

The most unforgivable sin, though, is how they handle Bilbo. Now, don't get me wrong, Martin Freedman is really good at the role. It's not the performance, its the writing. For huge swathes of the film, Bilbo is silent, a bystander at best. If he is "us"- how the average person might fare thrust into such an adventure- well, he isn't developed enough. The 4 Hobbits are developed more carefully in FotR than Bilbo is in this entire film- and he's the only Hobbit and the main character. We don't get to know him, and it hurts the film. Ian McKellan is again stately as Gandalf, but he is given less to do (the White Council scene not withstanding). When Gandalf's biggest laugh is him COUNTING the # of dwarves he has with him after an action sequence, well... it may be humorous, but it is also a sad commentary on how little Gandalf is developed or used here.

Then, there's the staging of the action itself. So much of it is CGI. Now, I wouldn't care IF I had strong characters, but, since I don't, the endless sweeping CGI shots quickly become pointless. When Radagst takes to his sled to drive the Orcs away- it is so frantic, without any sense of geography or any sense of menace or dread, it just looks stupid (to compare, look at the scene where Arwen is trying to escape the Wraiths with Frodo- it is a strong chase scene. Radagast's chase is similar in idea, but horrible in execution). When the Dwarves are fighting the Goblin King and his warriors on the wooden bridges- half of it is the dwarves running wildly in all too obvious CG. Then, when their bridge collapses and they kind of glide on it and hit rock bottom... an obvious disregard for physics and common sense (again- its instructive- look to FotR, at the Bridge of Khazad Dum scene. It is filled with peril, as the wrong move would cause them to fall to their deaths- there is tension in the scene, as the goblins shoot arrows and the bridge begins to crumble- you don't want these characters to fall, and it just feels like that could happen at any moment). This bit is laughable in The Hobbit. By the time the last action scene comes, you're exhausted, because you've seen enough action, but really because you just don't care as much as you know you should.

That is the sad part of this movie- you just don't connect to it as much as you did to LotR. Now look, the LotR trilogy isn't perfect (whatever is, anyways?), but whatever weaknesses it has become inconsequential compared to what the movies accomplished. With The Hobbit, the characters are never developed enough for you to latch onto- you don't know them, so you don't care. That fatal flaw derails the whole movie. The maddening thing is- there are moments that show this COULD have been excellent. The scenes at Bag End, the White Council, the Riddles in the Dark... all are great bits that had energy, momentum, humor, and SOME character beats. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is just a mess of rapidly sweeping camera shots, overuse of CGI, and stupid action moments that undermine the "fantasy reality" that LotR established. I'm giving this 2 Marks of Chaos, and I'm saddened that I have to.

Now, all is not lost here. There is a huge possibility that recovery can be made. There are 2 more movies here- and the damage can be fixed. Here's what I'd like to see happen, and I hope it does:

1. Bilbo becomes the focus of the next 2. Here, he's the main character, buy he's a cipher for a good chunk of it. Give him some time, show how he grows. Let us see through his eyes, as we saw through Frodo's.  Make him the CENTER of the movie, and that will go a long way to make the audience feel invested.

2. Same for the dwarves. Now, you can't possibly develop them all. But, for heaven's sake, let the audience get to know a few of them. Give them close ups. Heroic moments. Small moments with each other. Moments with Bilbo. Kill a few- just to show that there is real danger here. The audience will bond with them if they feel for them being in constant danger.

3. Speaking of danger- stop the damn CGI sweeping action bits that are more at home in a video game than a movie. Give us close quarters combat. Show these dwarves being brave against Orcs or whatever. Show us some blood, some sweat, some fear (all of which were present in spades in LotR). The action scenes must have real stakes in order to be gripping. It was done for all three LotR movies- it can be done here.

4. Develop the antagonists. I didn't mention this earlier, but the "enemy" isn't developed here at all. LotR had a ton- Sauron, Orcs/Gobblins, Wraiths, Saruman, Grima, Gollum, Urak Hai, Easterlings, Haradrins, Shelob, etc. Here, the enemies are simply wave after wave of CGI sprites to be dispatched. Give them some personality. The Gobblin King had some, but it was too little too late. The Orc chasing Thorin (whose name I can't even remember at this point) is barely seen, and does little to stand out from other Orcs (metal claw not withstanding). In the next one, give us the bad guys- Smaug, the Necromancer, the Spiders. Make them evil, and cunning, and intelligent. Now, since they've casted Cumberbatch to be both Smaug and the Necromancer, there's a great chance of them being strong antagonists, which is sorely needed at this point.

5. Its the little moments. Yes, as I've been saying the whole time, develop characters by giving them time to breathe. The Hobbit seems to be so damned concerned with getting to the next "cool action bit" that a vital element is lost. The best part of the LotR trilogy are the quiet parts, the small moments for reflections, camaraderie, grieving, humor, frustration, quiet acts of bravery or personal sacrifice. Watch RotK and notice how Sam doesn't eat, so that Frodo has more food to keep going. Or when Aragorn looks back at his army, with all seeming lost, and says "For Frodo" so quietly, but with total conviction. Look at TTT and see how Theoden looks to his niece, and with a small look tells her that Aragorn is dead- look at their faces, and see pain and sadness. When Gimli begs Aragorn not to "tell the elf" about "tossing a dwarf"- so funny, but also a great character moment. Its these little scenes that add power and depth. And that is just a few! The Hobbit ignored most opportunities to do these things.

Sorry about the rant. It's just that I love what Jackson and company did with Lord of the Rings so much. I knew that The Hobbit wouldn't reach those levels, nor did I want it to, actually. I simply used LotR for comparison, since they are so closely related and all. The truth is, they left out vital elements which ANY movie needs. Since you never get drawn to the characters, there is little chance that you will get invested in the movie. Now, that's OK for a mindless action movie like Taken, but for The Hobbit, with its great literary and cinematic pedigree, it is almost tragic.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Grand Unvieling: The Heldrake

Hey there Chaos fanatics! How's your holiday week going? Was Santa good to you? Did you get some 40K goodies in your stocking? I sure did- I got 2 boxes of the new Raptors, Khorne Bezerkers, a Warpsmith, and a Dark Apostle. The new Raptors are fantastic models. I love the new jump packs, and the models can be posed very dynamically. I also love the Wapsmith- the pictures did not do this model justice at all- lots of detail that just didn't come through in the photos.

I did indeed see The Hobbit. I will be writing my review shortly. I must say that I had very mixed feelings about it. There were parts that were amazing- parts that made me remember why I fell in love with LotR, and filled me with hope about The Hobbit, and there were parts when I wanted to just yell at the screen and say "Is this the same Peter Jackson who made the brilliant LotR movie?". Mixed feelings indeed... not something I wanted with The Hobbit at all, unfortunately. I'll review that movie soon.

So- I have just finished my Heldrake. Would you like to take a look? Hehe! I thought you might after all...

Since I already had a Hell Talon painted in my Death Guard scheme, so I decided to make the Heldrake a part of my new Khorne Bezerker army. Initially, I had been ambivalent about the Heldrake model when they first showed it in White Dwarf. Indeed, I still don't know how I would go about "Nurglefying" it. However, the dragon look ended up being a perfect fit with my Khorne Bezerkers.

The model goes together really, really easily. Like a dream, as a matter of fact. Despite the sheer size and vast amount of detail, the model is actually a good kit to build. The directions are really clear and straightforward- even newcomers could tackle it if they carefully follow the pictures/numbers. Once assembled, it is hard to not to be impressed with the model, as looking at it in person is way better than any magazine shot. The wings can be posed in several ways, making the Heldrake look very dynamic. The detail work is extraordinary, with tons of Chaos symbols, baroque rims, a tail that is both metal and flesh, and a dragon head that looks vicious.

The only downside, to me at least, is that conversions would be difficult, to say the least. There seems to be little room for massive conversions, which I am used to as a Chaos player. The only difference is the 2 guns (minor at best). Converting is more difficult as you have so much detail that conversions won't look (or be placed) right. A small quibble, but for a longtime Chaos modeler its a bit of a bigger issue. I did add to icons and a skull chain from the Chaos vehicle sprue.

Painting-wise, I did it in my typical World Eaters color scheme- a deep, dark red with plenty of brass trim-work. I also used what I did with the Maulerfiend- I used blues to represent daemon-warp energy inside the metal shell. This ties the two big beasts together in a further way. Looking at both models, I really like the synergy between the two. I know that I was not a fan of the models when they first appeared in the pages of White Dwarf, but after assembling and painting them, I really do like them now. I do wish that you could convert them a bit more, but... I can see ways of doing it with a Maulerfiend (I have ideas for my next one), but less so with the Heldrake. However, that said, I do like these two now, and they are a worthy addition to the forces of Chaos. They also look nice with the new Helbrute (which will always be a Dreadnought to me).

The other day I happened to be in the city, and as often happens, I wandered by the Games Workshop store there. I decided to ask some of my rules questions to the guy there. He answered a lot of my questions about the Maulerfiend and flyers. After his suggestions, I realized I simply should not have charged a Wraithlord. He's just too damn powerful. If my Mauler went after the War Walkers or something, that would have been very effective. Oh well- live and learn. He also clarified that the Heldrake CAN do a vector strike over something he passes over and then fire his gun at a different unit. That makes the Heldrake even more effective than I initially thought. The GW guy was very helpful and patient with my questions, and I do appreciate it.

So, with these new models ready and new strategic ideas learned, I can't wait to play my next game. I don't know when that will be exactly, but I can't wait to try out my new models and ideas. With the Heldrake done, I'll be working on some of the other stuff- the Raptors are first up for me- I'm so excited for them! The models are absolutely first rate. I also have a Land Raider and Possessed to work on too. I'll let you know as I get done with 'em.

I hope you've enjoyed the pics. Until next time, my friends...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Taking a Look At The Maulerfiend

Hey there Chaos fanatics! The holidays are fast approaching, and I hope you all get some 40K as your holiday of choice presents. I've got a few 40K things on my list, so I hope Santa will remember how good I was this year. I am also planning on seeing The Hobbit this weekend, so I will certainly write a review on that too.

So, I have two things going on here. First, I finished painting the Maulerfiend last week. I really like the size of this model. It is absolutely huge. A real monstrous creature, no doubt.  I got the kit for my birthday, along with 2(!) Heldrakes. So, with the Maulerfiend, I debated if I would put it together as a Mauler or a Forgefiend. Seeing as I have been working non-stop on my new Khorne Bezerker army, I thought that a Maulerfiend would be more appropriate.

First off, I put both the Heldrake and the Maulerfiend together at the same time. The Heldrake was very easy, and the directions were clear and numbered. The Mauler, on the other hand, was very, very difficult. The instructions were just unclear pictures without numbers. It really sucked- I cursed like a sailor as I assembled it. The thing is heavy, and it doesn't want to stand, so you have to be really careful getting it to stand right. I ultimately gave it a dramatic pose, but it was a pain to do. Well, perhaps now that I've done one, I'll be able to do others later on with more ease. I gave it lasher tendrils for the dynamic look (whether they are better than the Magma Cutters or not I'm not so sure). I also used the Ectoplasma head because it looks more mechanical- the other head (with tongue sticking out) looks rather dumb to me. I didn't do much to convert this one, as I was apprehensive about putting it together and painting it (I will certainly do more conversions on the next one). However, I did put a Khorne symbol on the large Chaos icon on its main plate- it looks rather striking I think, despite its simplicity.

Paint-wise, I utilized the same scheme as the one I'm suing on all my Bezerkers. The effect is harder to do on vehicles because of their size and large flat surfaces, but the Mauler has all kinds of curves and plates, so the effect actually worked out well here. As for the exposed metal, I did Leadbealcher followed by a heavy wash of Nuln Oil, followed by successive light highlights of the brighter silvers.  silvers. The metal trim of the armor plates and tendrils was my usual Bronze-->Scorpion Brass-->Runelord Brass. Of course the blood was a bit of Mephiston and Wazdakka Red. I decided to use blues to show the internal warp energies- a great contrast to the

Overall, I was thrilled by the completed paint job. It really goes with the rest of my army. The dark red plates, the brass highlights, and the fresh blood all combine to make a nice and unique looking model, while still tying in to the overall.

My second order of business here is to discuss my first attempt with my Khorne Bezerkers, a 1500 point battle against Eldar. Now, I only have a few things done- I never play with something that is unpainted. I just can't do it. One of the things I enjoy most about the whole hobby is placing my army out there- fully painted and ready to fight- I like seeing the fruits of my labor out on the field; plus, if I start playing with unpainted stuff, I may never FINISH a model again, which is not what I want.

So, my army list was very limited in options, since most of my stuff just ain't done. I took a Khorne Lord with a retinue of Terminators (5 with Lightning Claws, one with Heavy Flamer). I wanted to deep strike them in. I had 2 squads of 10 Bezerkers plus Rhinos- the Bezerkers had 2 Plasma Pistols and Chainaxes. I took a Helbrute with Twin Lascannon and Power Flail. I also took my Maulerfiend and a Vindicator. Coming up a bit short in points, I took 2 Spawn for 60 points. My opponent took a mix of Warwalkers, 2 Wraithlords, 3 squads of Dire Avengers and some wave serpents.

Needless to say, I didn't do too well at all. I did the stupidest thing in the world- I charged my Mauler right into the Wraithlord. I really thought that my Mauler stood a chance. But, the Wraithlord has a higher initiative, and is S10 (even though he had no Close Combat sword- is it the fact that the new rules don't jibe with the Eldar Codex or am I just dumb? I don't know). He cleaved the Mauler with ONE dice roll. Ugh.

The rest of my game went like that. Once my 1st squad of Bezerkers got to combat, they murdered the Dire Avengers. However, they were left exposed to ALL the Eldar fire, and were shot to hell. My Helbrute took two wounds out of the other Wraithlord, but couldn't finish the job and was destroyed. My vindicator destroyed one Wave Serpent, but that was about it. Finally, it took till turn 4 for the terminators to appear, and when they did they drifted 9 whole damn inches- away from any cover and right into his fire lines- they too were shot to pieces. At the top of turn 5 my friend had mercy and we called it a game- 5 to 2 victory points, though if the game continued he would have claimed more.

My friend played just fine. Joe is a tough, meticulous opponent, so I expected nothing less than a challenge. In fact, I fought him nearly every week 2 summers ago, and as I like to say, he "taught me how to hate"- the losses I suffered with my Dark Eldar against his Eldar taught me to look at and approach the codex differently- and when I did I became a tougher, better player. My friend Pete still blames Joe for making me a truly "evil" Dark Eldar player. You can check out that battle, if you are interested: Tyranids vs. Dark Eldar

This game was a rout though. I was disappointed that I lost so handily, and that my first time out with a new army was so bad right out of the gate. Now, I can see that I need cultists to hold objectives and run interference (I have zombies and renegades for my Plague Marines, but they don't look right for Khorne, so I'll need to start getting cultists). I also may have over-equipped my Bezerkers- they really don't need Chainaxes- they helped against the Eldar but weren't pivotal. My terminators were an out and out disaster though. Also, I can't figure if I used the Mauler totally wrong, or was it just the fact that the Wraithlord was so good rules-wise? I didn't use my Heldrake, as he's not finished yet. I'm also working on bikers, possessed, and eventually Havocs.

I'm basically trying to figure out where I went wrong.  If any of you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them! No, I don't want an "Internet List" or "Meta" or whatever. I have played a long time with Plague Marines, and Khorne Bezerkers are a different animal. It's not about winning (I'd wager that I don't have a good win record, if I tallied up all of my games over the years). I don't care about that, it's about being competitive- having a game that has some crazy rolls, or daring tactics, or incredible reversals- a game that has big moments and some laughs. A game like that anybody can (and should) enjoy, win or lose. Here, I was dead in the water almost immediately. That just isn't cool for anybody, as a one-sided game just doesn't have those highlights that make it so much fun for both players. So yes, I'm looking for ways to better my army, and better myself as a player. Win or lose, I just want some exciting games. So, like I said, if anybody has any ideas/advice, I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brief Review of Campaign of Fire and a Khorne Bezerker Army Update

Hey there Chaos fanatics! Old Man Chaos here, sitting in the depths of the Eye of Terror, plotting revenge against the false Emperor and his weakling armies! Well, perhaps I'm actually at home, blogging about casting down the Imperium instead hehe!! I have two ideas in mind today- first I'd like to do a mini-review of GW's surprise campaign book Crusade of Fire, and then I'd like to show off more of my recently finished Khorne Bezerker Terminators. So, away we go...

GW had this one under wraps for quite some time- a new campaign book in time for the holidays- Crusade of Fire. I instantly had visions of the Eye of Terror  book dancing before my eyes, though I knew that it would not be that good- there was just something special about that campaign, wasn't there?

At any rate, I reserved my book (limited edition AT holiday time? That really blows, by the way) and got it this weekend. The book is a full color hardcover. First off I love that cover- and it goes so well with the Chaos Codex too! The book itself is divided into several sections- the campaign rules, a history of the Corvus system and the current crusade, the GW studio playing the crusade, and then special scenarios and rules including: dog fights, daemon worlds, and arena battles.

First, the positives: its great to see GW do this- a campaign book that inspires. It is not perfect by any stretch, but like EoT, it inspires the reader to want to do a campaign- I'd love to do one, and the truth is I have a campaign scenario set up, but after reading CoF I want to make some adjustments. CoF makes me want to be both a player and a games master. I want to get the creative juices flowing, and get my friends involved, despite our busy schedules. If that was the goal of CoF, then mission accomplished. The rules here are interesting, though some are slightly cumbersome (again- the key is inspire, not copy exactly). Additionally, I'd love to try all the special scenarios- the arena in particular sounds like a blast, as does the dogfight. The artwork is top notch (some new, some recycled, but all very pretty and appropriate), and the model pics are inspiring too.

Now, the negatives: the section on the GW studio was too damn long- it really should be in a WD or something. It should have been shortened at the very least, to make room for more fluff or alternate rules. Indeed, EoT and Armageddon both had substantial fluff- CoF just uses the bare minimum- the story could have been so much more, but instead they say just enough to get it going. I would have enjoyed more- make the Corvus system an intriguing area for future mentions in WD, Black Library books, and more (like Armageddon and EoT). As for the campaign rules, they range from great to solid to what the? I may be dense sometimes (so my wife tells me), but some of those rules just sound cumbersome or confusing. The daemon world rules in particular were rather blah- though it did inspire me to think about making my own!

Overall: I'm thrilled that they released CoF, even if it doesn't reach the lofty heights of EoT. I really like the point of the book, even if it left me wanting more or scratching my head. I could have done without the GW studio battles (for like 20 pages!), but it is great to see good looking models, and seeing Phil Kelly's Dark Eldar kick ass was a treat. The last thing is the price tag- 40 bucks is a bit steep, but the book and presentation were top notch. As a standalone book at that price I'd say 2 1/2 out of 4, but it is so inspiring (the real point of a book like this), I'll give it 3 out of 4...

As promised, I also have some pics from my newly finished Khorne Bezerker terminators. Now, while the Forge World ones are nice, I simply didn't want to spend the money on them. So, I decided to use my bits to make them Khorne looking.

Basically, I cut the nubs off the bottoms of the regular Khorne helms, and I put them in place on the terminators. I also used the world famous mutation sprue for the huge arm (what will I do when I use all those bits from that sprue? I have no idea).

As for the bases, I decided that I wanted to make them special. A few years ago I bought a ton of skull bases from some company (I can't remember now) for my Bloodletters, and I had some left over, so I used them for the terminators.

Hope you liked the pics and the review! Until we meet again...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Review (In Brief): Deliverance Lost

Hey there everybody! I've been busy doing a lot of painting for my new World Eaters- I will be posting an update this week, I do believe. However, I've also been doing some reading, and I just finished Deliverance Lost by Gav Thorpe. So where does this fit in regarding the Horus Heresy series? Let's find out in my brief review:

Deliverance Lost takes place at the tail end of the Istvaan drop site massacres. Corax and the last few remaining Raven Guard have been desperately holding out, but there is nowhere to go. They are being whittled down by the Traitor Legions. Corax and the Raven Guard resign themselves to their fate, prepared to make the Traitors pay dearly. However, Raven Guard ships arrive fresh from Deliverance (violating their orders to guard the home world) and rescue the remnants of the Raven Guard. Corax, severely strained and conflicted over the decimation of his Legion, decides to go to Terra and inform the Emperor about Istvaan. He also wants to rebuild his legion quickly, and he comes up with a plan: He wants to use the Emperor's techniques to replicate Marines more quickly- thereby replenishing his Legion and then taking the fight back to Horus.

It is an interesting proposition, but Corax faces some problems. First, the Emperor will need to be convinced to give Corax the secrets of Gene Seed creation (something that is so secret, so dangerous that no one can be trusted with that much power). Second, even if he does gain access- can Corax actually make it happen- the process will be difficult to master, it is that far advanced- and what are the moral implications of making this many Marines so quickly? However, there is a third (and even bigger) problem- members of the Alpha Legion have infiltrated the Raven Guard! Their mission is to steal the Emperor's "gene-tech" and consign the Raven Guard to extinction!

(Minor Spoilers follow)

 This was a very good addition to the Horus Heresy series, though there were some issues with the book. So let's look at the good and the bad:

The Good:

First, the book feels like an epic. From the battlefields of Istvaan to the secrets of the Emperor's palace, to the intrigue of the Alpha Legion's infiltration, to the final battles- the book feels epic. Some stories like Nemesis and Flight of the Eisenstein are smaller in scale (one group or one particular battle), while others have this grander, more long term scope  (Know No Fear, First Heretic). Deliverance Lost handles the epic quite well. You always get the sense that these are huge events, and there's a lot at stake here. That makes it a page turner, which is good, particularly for a book this size (almost 500 pages!).

Second, it was great to get to know a legion that I was not entirely familiar with. Thorpe really gets into the methods, personalities, and history of the Raven Guard and their Primarch, Corax. The flashbacks to Corax's liberation of Deliverance and his victory over the corrupt tech-guilds were fascinating and added depth and meaning to the overall story- as events from the past contributed directly to the tribulations currently facing Corax and the legion. Also, Corax's desperation to rebuild and get back into the fight are both realistic and relatable. There is so much at stake for the galaxy, and Corax believes if he takes a big risk and breaks a few rules, he might be able to stun Horus with a shattering defeat. Noble aims, to be sure, but fraught with peril.

Finally, the Alpha Legion gets to continue their story from the superb Legion. For a good chunk of the book, it is (naturally) difficult to fathom the true goal of the Alpha Legion and its twin Primarchs (I always loved that twist in Legion). However, the methods by which several Alpha Legionaires infiltrate and blend in with the Raven Guard is a thrill to read- what is their plan? Will they be discovered? Can they pull off their "heist"?  Thorpe does a great job of obscuring just how many have infiltrated, and each one calls himself "Alpharius" (a great conceit, and another nod to Legion). Thorpe lays the seeds of how the Alpha Legion will function from here on out (causing a revolt just to steal something, making deals with the Dark Mechanicum/Chaos Cults/rebels). Thorpe also shows how the Alpha Legion's true goals will get "corrupted beyond all recognition"in the future, as Alpharius/Omegon don't share all their plans or knowledge with their soldiers- think on that, and you'll see just how far down they go on that slippery path- they want to save humanity, but... Haha! That's all I'll say about that.

The Bad:

First, the book sometimes drags. Now, that will happen with any epic sized book. However, there are too many dead spots, and sometimes I just wished the book would move faster. You always want to know what happens next, but there are pieces that I just wish had been shortened. The parts on Terra, in particular, slowed down the proceedings (though the Emperor's appearance was top notch). Also, the end seemed to drag (the assault on the Perfect Fortress), as the plot had really been resolved by then- this was more anti-climax than anything else. The book was at its best at being a thriller- can the Raven Guard discover the Alpha Legion's plot? If Thorpe kept that squarely in focus, the book would have been stronger.

Second, the "discoveries" of the gene-tech weren't as "wowing" as I hoped. Now, I know that they have to keep it obscure, as that is the allure for the Emperor. However, the book revealed next to nothing special about the Emperor's work (though his "museum" is amusing, and his "plans" for his Primarchs after the Crusade raise a lot of interesting questions). It seems that the Emperor used other DNA sources to augment the gene seed. An interesting revelation, but I also feel that there MUST be more to it- First Heretic hints at such.

Third, the book relies a lot on two outside stories- a short story from one of the anthologies and "Raven's Flight", an audio drama. If you are not familiar with those, there are parts of the book that will go over your head- Branne and his Therion Cohort (AKA- Imperial Guard regiments), which play important parts in this book. While I don't mind different books/media being interrelated (its fun, actually to make the connections), in the case of Deliverance Lost it isn't just a "connection", there are substantial plot points that the author doesn't catch you up on. Therefore, if you haven't read/heard them, you are out of luck, which sucks. Indeed, you don't really HAVE to have read Legion to get it- it helps, but you don't have to. All I would have asked is a little reminder...

Finally, Corax himself is an issue at times. I loved the character- he has been through hell and back, he is determined, stubborn, but dedicated to doing right. You can sympathize with him in a meaningful way that is sometimes lacking in other HH novels. However, I have always understood that Corax was always taciturn, quiet, and suspicious. According to the Index Astartes books, Corax didn't trust several of the Primarchs, and said so. He was wise, but not boastful. He read people well, but he himself did not relate well to others. He is cold and distant. Yet, here he is presented as being very, very passionate. He is also very, very verbose (not at all taciturn). Finally, though he is wise in figuring out the gene-tech, he is absolutely blind to the Alpha Legion's activities. For someone so perceptive and suspicious, he doesn't even actually "figure it out". Is that a credit to the Alpha Legion, or just a shame that the protagonist doesn't ever actually solve the mystery?

At any rate, I liked the book, though it is not in the ranks of my favorite Horus Heresy novels. It is a solid read (a big epic, with a spy thriller thrown in). There are some issues, but overall the book is fun- the shenanigans of the Alpha Legion alone make it worth the price of admission. I give this
book 3 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.

I have a few more HH books to read to be fully caught up (Fear to Tread, The Outcast Dead). I will get Angel Exterminatus when it is out in paperback ($30 is just too much to spend on the hardcover), and I am stoked to get my mitts on Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Betrayer.
Until we meet again...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Building my Khorne Bezerker Army Part I

Hey there Chaos fanatics! How's it hanging? I'm doing just fine- a bit busy with work, Warhammer, and all that other fun stuff. As I had promised previously, I was going to begin to show off my latest hobby mission, the Khornate World Eaters army for 40K.

I discussed earlier as to why I wanted to try my hand with the followers of the blood god, and I'd like to elaborate. I wanted an army that functioned quite differently than my Plague Marines. The Death Guard are solid at firefights while also being tough in close combat. With World Eaters, I'd have to rely most extensively on close combat. They are also different from my Chaos Daemons- the Daemons are close combat, but they can deep strike in fairly close and go from there. As for my Dark Eldar, well... they have a ton of speed to get up the battlefield. Thus, Khorne Bezerkers represent a far different challenge: they must get to close combat, but they have no fancy tricks in getting there. In this new edition where transports are fragile and there's overwatch when charging, a Khorne Bezerker force is actually quite a challenge, one that I am looking forward to getting to grips with.

Then, there's the look, which is, again, quite different from what I'm used to. I loved the Plague Marines because of the startling imagery- rotting, bloated marines looking all kinds of nasty. When GW released the metal box (2003/4-ish? I forget) I didn't care for the look- I liked the metal from 3rd, but that was a heck of a way to build the army. I decided instead to use the plastic as a base and went wild from there. I'll save it for a different article, but suffice to say I did a ton of conversions, putty work, and more. For this Khorne army, I love the plastics. They have such a range of motion, cool helms, and great, heavy looking chain weapons. Thus, I didn't' have to convert nearly as heavily as I did with the Plague Marines.

However, being a Chaos fan and a long time converter, I simply can't NOT convert or kit bash ANY, now can I? Of course I did some work in this regard. As I assembled the Bezerkers I mixed and matched a ton of parts from other kits. I've been collecting all things Chaos for so long, that I have a ton of useful bits. I used parts from Khorne Bezerkers (natch), Chaos Space Marines, the ye olde mutation sprue (I still love that sprue), Old Fantasy Chaos Warriors, Possessed, Spawn, and more. I decided to give many of them axes (chainaxes* or not- doesn't matter- Khorne Marines should have huge damn axes!!). I used fantasy axes to accomplish this, sometimes using the whole arm (patchwork armor taken from fallen warriors and welded together), or I just cut off the hands and swapped. I also used a few fantasy helms, just to shake things up. I used Possessed bits to make some of the Bezerkers stand out (I am working on dedicated Possessed, which will obviously be much more mutated).

Putting it all together, I have been very pleased with the results thus far. The Bezerkers look solid- they have motion, big ass axes, a bit of variation... Yep, I'm very, very happy. They look vicious, as the followers of the blood god should. I feel that (thus far) I have captured the Khorne look, as distinctively as I captured the Nurgle look.

So, you have been looking at pictures of my first squad. The squad has a Champion and two plasma pistols. They also have a Rhino to bring them to the fight. In a future article, I'll discuss my approach to the vehicles (why do they have those doors? Haha- a long story for another time). I'll also delve into my painting techniques (it was tough to get that type of red- I was being very picky). I will post again with shots from my second squad, as well as others as I finish them.

Hope you've enjoyed- comments and criticisms are welcome. Until next time, my friends...

*Note: I think Khorne Bezerkers should have big blades and axes. This whole chainaxe is an upgrade  thing sucks- each individual model may purchase? That's like saying some Plague Marines get Plague Knives, but other don't have to- what the? Whoa- that sucks for converters/modelers- plus, there aren't that many chainaxes in the box. How about this, all my Bezerkers buy it, or none do? No half measures- would that satisfy WYSIWIG?