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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Movie Reviews In Brief: Argo and Silent Hill 2

Well, well, well... look who's here: my fellow Chaotic brethren! Welcome to another edition of the Chaos Corner! I just bought the newest White Dwarf, and it continues the changes that have been put in place with the last issue. It's really solid, though it has more fantasy than 40K (to be expected, but I'm only a 40K player). There's a few painting and conversion articles, a section about terrain, two interviews with Black Library authors, and a lot more. All they have to do is have some small fluff/fiction, and it'll be perfect.

Anyways, I haven't had a chance to go to the movies, due to my illness. The last movie I saw was The Dark Knight Rises. I will review that after I get it on Blu Ray, as I was getting sick when I saw it, and I was just too tired to do the review. Besides, seeing it on Blu before review will give me a chance to really dissect the themes, as well as it's flaws. At any rate, I've only just now been able to go back to the movies again (though I missed some good ones like Looper). So, I've seen 2 movies now: Argo and Silent Hill 2. I'm going to briefly review both. One is excellent, the other... hehe, not so much.

So let's take a look:


I saw this one with my wife. I have never been a big fan of Ben Affleck (he was the bomb in Phantoms... ;-). His performances have ranged from just OK to truly, truly awful (Pearl Harbor, anyone?). However, his acting and direction of The Town was just great- a solid, suspenseful crime drama. Well, he's back with Argo, which takes place during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The movie is based on an actual event, and the movie only takes a few "artistic liberties" with the events, which is even more amazing. Basically, a few Americans escaped the Iranians who attacked the US embassy, but their still stuck in Tehran. If they are discovered, they will be executed as spies. With the clock ticking, one CIA operative comes up with a plan: he's going to disguise himself as a Hollywood producer, go in with fake papers, get the Americans and pass them off as his movie crew, and then escape. To make it convincing, he enlists Hollywood guys to really sell a fake movie to the press, the "science fiction epic-- Argo".

Sound far fetched? Haha! That's the point- its a scheme that's just crazy enough to work. It is a true story. The CIA actually did this, in 1980. This isn't Hollywood- this is an intersection of entertainment and real life. That's what makes this story so fascinating. Even better, Affleck does a great job of making this a thrilling, energized, suspenseful, and even humorous movie. The movie simply sizzles every second- the stakes are high, and you can't help but be on the edge of your seat- can they pull of this crazy rescue? Affleck makes sure that the tension is ever-present, but he's not afraid to let the absurdity of the plan shine through- the humor that occurs as these guys put together this fake movie is just great. Alan Arkin, as a Hollywood mogul, in particular, is a blast ("Argo fuck yourself" is something I now say, its such a great line).

Since this is a review in brief, I don't want to give it all away. I will say that the movie works on so many levels, it is a bit of a wonder. There's a lot of Oscar talk about this movie (IF that's important to you), but its easy to see why. This is an great suspense/thriller, but with a sense of humor AND it is historically "accurate"- it mixes together such disparate parts and makes them into a hugely effective combination, and you can't get better than that. I give it 4 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.

Silent Hill 2: Revelations

I have played Silent Hill games before (The videogame Silent Hill 2 is one of my favorite games of all time- this movie is NOT based on it though). I have also seen the first Silent Hill movie. That movie is perhaps the best video game adaptation ever put to film (not saying much when you see movie like Doom and Super Mario Brothers as the competition). That movie was a solid horror movie in its own right, but it happened to be based on the game. The images were right out of the game, as were its themes of religious persecution and hysteria. The actors all did a great job, and the effects were top notch.  Best of all, the movie had some scares, and it had a foreboding and nightmare like quality. It was even occasionally unsettling. It had flaws, but it was an entertaining horror movie.

Unfortunately, Silent Hill 2 has none of those things going for it, really. I saw this with my brother yesterday (he's a die-hard fan of the games), and I was very disappointed. I wanted to like this movie, and there were MOMENTS where I thought it was going to get its act together, but it never quite did. Basically, in my mind, it seemed as if the creative team LOVE the games, but didn't know what to do with it. They didn't know how to make a movie out of the games. It is basically the plot of the 3rd game, with several key differences. However, the core problems were the poor writing and lack of tension.

The movie lacks all the things that made the first one good (or indeed, anything that makes for a horror movie). There is no sense of dread, fear, or horror. The movie lacks any tension whatsoever. The script is filled with bad dialogue and double talk about cults that really go nowhere (and don't make much sense). However, the chief sin is that you're never afraid for the characters- you never feel like any of the characters are in danger. You simply can't have a horror movie where there is no sense of threat to the heroes. In this movie, that just never happens- the suspense is never built up. If you fail to have that, the movie must fail, and this one does.

It does have a few things going for it, though, which only made the disappointment worse. The creature effects were still top notch. There were some unsettling glimpses at these hell spawn (the spider made out of child doll parts was a particular standout, while Pyramid Head still is great looking) but again, without tension, the creatures just don't scare. The actors TRY to do their job, with the actress playing Heather, in particular trying her best, but the script and direction manage to ruin her conviction. Solid actors like Sean Bean, Malcolm McDowell, and Carrie Ann Moss are wasted, relegated to cameos, and again saddled with bad lines.

Again, if the movie had scares, a lot could be forgiven. Since this is a horror movie, the fact that there are no scares, no dread, no tension... well, that makes this movie a failure. Its a shame, as the first one was good, and there was potential here for a solid sequel. Unfortunately, the filmmakers squandered all those positives, making a mess and, quite probably, killing the franchise. Silent Hill could have been an anthology series, but now, if there is a sequel, it will be of the Direct to DVD bargain bin. That is a real shame. I give this 1 and a half out of four Marks of Chaos.

So, if you want to see a great movie, see Argo, as you won't be disappointed. As for Silent Hill 2- if you MUST see it, wait till DVD or Netflix. My brother liked it, but even he as a huge fan of the series could see it's flaws.

Until next time everybody!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: Treacheries of the Space Marines

Welcome back to another edition of Chaos Corner. Old Man Chaos is back in action! Ready to rumble! Er... Yes, well then. I am posting another entry, this time its a book review. I just finished Treacheries of the Space Marines, edited by Christian Dunn. So, was this a strong anthology of Chaos stories, or was it a lackluster attempt to cash-in on the Chaos codex? Let's take a look then, shall we?

 Anthologies are difficult to rate and review, in my opinion. I have the opinion that anthologies are *usually* a mixed bag. Unless they are short stories by the same author, the stories of the average anthology tend to rate from fair to poor, with many different styles, voices, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Treacheries of the Space Marines certainly suffers from that. The works contained here run the spectrum: some are great little reads, while others are totally lacking. To facilitate a review, I'll briefly give my thoughts on each short story:

The Masters, Bidding: The author has a very strange, stilted style of writing, but that only seemed to set the mood of this piece, which sees 4 Chaos Marines attempting to "bid" for a boon from an Iron Warriors lord. It's an unusual story, with each Marine telling stories of the long war. There's no final twist at the end or anything, just a solid story of ego, power, and betrayal. The best part of the read though is the author's description of an Emperor's Children champion. The rendering of this character is so weird, creepy, and actually unsettling, that the reader can't help but be fascinated. I'd love to see the author do more with the Emperor's Children in the future.

Carrion Anthem: As a Nurgle fan, I was hoping for more from this Guard versus Plague Marine tale. The story was written in an easy style, but the plot was downright bizarre. In fact, the premise of a song destroying people sounds more like a Slaneesh device than a Nurgle one. That made me disappointed with the tale, as it didn't feel like Typhus at all. The final charge of the Guard commander at the end was nicely done, but the story overall was weak and didn't seem to "get" Nurgle's ways.

Liberator: This may have been the most unexpected surprise in the whole book. It is a great story about how a group of Marines, fighting a long, bloody war against the Tyranids end up becoming slowly embittered by neglectful superiors and an ungrateful populace. Once that happens, their slide toward Chaos is unavoidable. This neat tale shows how current Marines can go bad, and how a single sergeant can become a warlord of Chaos, bringing death to a dozen worlds. I really liked this one.

The Long War: This is solid "bolter porn", with no frills or anything special. It is the story of Warsmith Ironclaw and his warband, attacking a fortress held by Guardsmen. There's big explosions and all, but there's little else. Yes, the author tries to show how time has passed for the Iron Warriors so differently from everybody else, but again, nothing special is done with it. Enjoyable, but forgettable.

Throne of Lies: This story from Aaron Dembski Boden has been around as an audio book, now its been printed. A strong entry for the Night Lords, this story sees Talos looking to claim a relic that might galvanize his Legion (if such a thing is possible). There's a bit of intrigue, and assassin, and the relic itself will raise some eyebrows, IF you haven't read the Night Lords trilogy already ('cause then you'd already know what happens).

Bitter End: This was a fun, breezy tale featuring the Red Corsairs and their impresario, Huron Blackheart. Again, this is "bolter porn", but a good read. I may have to check out The Gildar Rift, written by the same author, and also features the Red Corsairs, as I did like this short tale.

We Are One: While this premise is interesting, following an Inquisitor as he fights the nefarious Alpha Legion over the course of a century, the execution of it is lacking, as the writing is choppy and the action is disjointed. The final twist is also interesting, but I'm not quite sure how the Alpha Legion actually pulled it off- was it a clone? A plant? Copious amounts of plastic surgery? I'm confused, and that's not a way to end a short story.

Torturer's Thirst: This story had a similar problem- great premise, lackluster execution. This story sees a Flesh Tearer's' Chaplain taken prisoner by Chaos forces. The Chaos Lord plans to interrogate the Chaplain for vital battle plans, while the Chaplain vows to resist and escape. What could have been a great battle of wits between Torturer and Prisoner ends rather abruptly, and the result just wasn't interesting. Perhaps the weakest entry.

Vox Dominus:  I am familiar with Marduk, Kol Badar, and the warriors of the 34th Word Bearers, having read the first book of the Dark Apostle Trilogy. Unfortunately, I haven't read the other two (I should rectify that, as I enjoyed the first). This story sees Marduk scheming against another Apostle and a Lord of the Death Guard, Nargalax. The Death Guard were really nicely handled here, and I wouldn't mind seeing Anthony Reynolds tackle a Death Guard centric book, as he really seems to "get" what the followers of Nurgle are. The action was great, and seeing Marduk plot was fun. The ending, however, was ambiguous. I can't be sure if this is in between one of the other books, or is it going to kick off another round of Word Bearers books? Yep- I'll have to get to those last two sooner
or later.

Rating an anthology is tough- as you have now seen, some of the stories were great, others were fairly poor. Average that together, and I'd say you'd get 2 1/2 Marks of Chaos out of 4. If you're a die hard Chaos fan (like me) then it is worth checking out. If not, I'd say skip it in favor of better works. For my own part, I have just begun Abnett's Know No Fear, which I have heard is phenomenal (it's good so far). I would have read it sooner, but I've been backlogged in my reading since my illness. I'll be sure to review it when I'm finished.

Until next time, my friends...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Plague Zombie Dilemma and other debates

Hey there Chaos fans, hope you are all doing well! Old man Chaos is back for a quick update. Now, I normally don't wade into the controversies surrounding 40K on the web. I love modelling, the fluff, the excitement of waiting for new codecies and models, and naturally playing a good game of 40K with friends. I enjoy the hobby, and I think my blog reflects my enjoyment, as I look to share that with others. I've said before, if something on my blog makes players and enthusiasts smile, or inspire them to do a modelling project, that's all I can ask for.

Just added these for fun...

Unfortunately, there's some rough aspects to our hobby. If you were to look on say Bell of Lost Souls, or DakkaDakka, you'll see a ton of griping about several issues. Now, there's a difference between some honest concerns and out and out whining. I'd like to take a look at just a few of these:

First, the recent Plague Zombie controversy. There has been a lot of arguments over how many zombies can be fielded in a unit- the wording is "slightly unclear"- is buying more zombies an "option"? As I read it, I felt that you could buy more zombies, but that they couldn't have guns or buy marks or anything like that. However, others felt that buying more zombies was an option, and therefore couldn't be done based on that reading of the rules. While I could see their point, it seemed pretty obvious that 10 zombies was not a zombie horde- if GW was really limiting it to 10 per squad, no one would bother to take them, and surely that was not GW's intent.

And it certainly wasn't. GW issued an FAQ this weekend, clarifying the issue by stating that you can purchase more zombies but no other options. Nurgle fans rejoiced- so many of us Death Guard players have wanted to use our Plague Zombies again in regular games, and now we can, free and clear (I have like 70+ zombie models myself, and I plan on making more now). But, there could be no time for rejoicing, as the haters started complaining that zombies were "overpowered", and now GW made them unfair. Now, having played a game with the zombies last week, I can tell you that they are certainly killable. With a +6 save, there's a great chance that they won't get Feel No Pain from shooting. Yes, they are a pain in close combat, but since 6th is more shooting anyways, that should be OK. In other words, the Plague Zombies can be tough, but they can be dealt with. In my last game, the Grey Knights killed a whole 30-zombie squad, and they broke squad coherency of another squad at a critical moment. Yes, Virginia, the Plague Zombies are quite re-killable. So why the complaints? It just brings people down needlessly.

The second controversy lately is the whole Allies issue. Frankly, I love the idea of Allies. The idea that I can now use my Death Guard and Nurgle Daemons is great. I can also use my Forgeworld Traitor Guardsmen with the Plague Marines too. I think that Eldar and Dark Eldar grudgingly teaming up is fun, even though I will never buy any Eldar myself. I think it is great that a Space Marine player can now use Imperial Guard, or Sisters of Battle, or even Grey Knights as Allies.

However, some players are using Allies simply to make killer lists. Bell of Lost Souls recently ran an article suggesting the strength of allying Grey Knights with Necron air units. Now, I find it hard to believe that Grey Knights would EVER ally with Necrons. A corrupt Inquisitor? Sure. An Imperial Guard force that has been fooled, or corrupted? Yes. But Grey Knights? Yes, the Codex suggests that there might (might) be some connection in terms of tech that they have shared- but really, this sounds like a stretch. It just stinks of putting these two together simply to win and not because of the armies stories or even a campaign plot. It is a list built to win and that's it. I can't imagine seeing both forces on the same side on the table, either fluff wise or even just the look of the army. It just feels... wrong.

Unless... the person does a good job of MAKING their forces look like a cohesive whole. There's few things worse than facing an army that looks like a bunch of random colors on the same models (unless your a Noise Marine player). I've seen people pay Space Marines in messy colors at random- no coherency, as if a child painted them with crayons. My Death Guard and Traitor Guard share certain characteristics that make it clear, beyond all doubt, that they are on the same force, both in terms of colors and modeling techniques (conversions, etc.). Now, if the GK/Necron player took the time to make these guys go together somehow, then I could accept it. Otherwise, you're just throwing random models together. Even Tyranids should be allowed to Ally, IF the player shows that their ally has been taken over by the Genestealers (would be awesome to see). In other words, IF you are going to do WEIRD alliances, then take the time to make it look good, rather than just a WAAC list.

Which brings me to controversy three- Tournaments and Win At All Costs (WAAC). I have played tournies before. I've had wins and losses. I've played fun, jovial opponents, tough but fair opponents, fluff-minded opponents. I faced one guy that rolled and picked up his dice so damn fast that I swear to this day that he cheated. I had another guy actually STEAL my templates (and had the nerve to claim they were his). Once, I played against a new player at a store, when one of the regs came in to give the guy pointers- and ended up playing the game FOR him (even rolling the guy's dice). Ugh.

I enjoy the game. I have had times where I've been totally relaxed, and I've had times of being waaaaayyy too serious. That's OK, as it happens to us all. We all like to win, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, the worst thing that can happen is that we become so obsessed with Tournaments and WAAC that it kills our enjoyment. Warhammer 40K is more than just about winning. It's about creating your own army (modeling, painting, etc); its also about cool story-lines, epic confrontations, Apoclyptic warfare, campaigns, and much more. If we focus too much on WAAC, then we lose sight of the other parts of the hobby which are so much more important than winning.

That's why here at Chaos Corner I have never posted an army list. I have never sought to discuss all the ways to win with whatever flavor of the month army. I have had articles about painting, terrain making, battle reports, Black Library book reviews and speculating on future releases. You will never see me write a blog posting about making a "killer list". When I play, I like to try new combos: will I play my next game with Zombies? Or will I try 7 man Plague Marine squads? A Lord and a Sorcerer or a Lord and a Daemon Prince? Should I go all cultists? Man heavy or more mechanized? Should I buy that new Heldrake? The possibilities are wide and varied, and I want to try them all- not just build one "killer list" and that's it. That's not the type of player I am.

This has been a longer blog than I thought, but that's OK- I needed to get this off my chest so that I can then take a breath and get back to the hobby that I love so much. I know not everyone will agree with me, and that's OK too. Feel free to leave posts at the bottom if you'd like, agree or disagree. For my own part, I will continue to post the same kinds of posts that I have been (hobby articles, book and movie reviews), plus maybe a few surprises. I would love to get a campaign going with my friends again (after the holidays, perhaps) and bring you updates on that. I may also try my hand at writing some short stories based on 40K and posting them here.

At any rate, I hope you'll continue to check out Chaos Corner for some fun stuff. Until next time...

Monday, October 15, 2012

History of a Gaming Table Part II

Hey there Chaos worshipers! Glad you could all come around to this neck of the woods again. I'm a bit of a happy Chaos camper these days- I'm feeling a lot better health-wise, and I've gotten back on track with my 40K modelling addiction. I just played a game (see my previous post for the Battle Report), and it was a close one but a fun one (just how I like it... except against Joe... then I just want to win immediately and crush his hopes). The new Codex is looking really good so far, and I'm getting the hang of 6th edition now.

A few months ago, I put on this blog how I had to give up my gaming table. I simply no longer had room for this behemoth which had been designed by my friend Pete, put together by several friends, and painted by yours truly. But now, I simply can't let it take up so much room, so I gave it to Joe. It is now in his garage (more on that in another post). However, I still wanted my own gaming board of some kind- after all, what would I do with all my urban-themed terrain?

So, after considering several options, I decided to go with wooden boards from Home Depot. These boards are sized 4' x 2'. I figured that they would be sturdy enough for the job, but also very storage-able, so that they don't take up much space (which is why I needed to get rid of my table to begin with). Best of all, they are two sided- I could very easily paint up both sides, thus doubling my battle surfaces.

After buying 5 boards, I began the project on Memorial Day. I had bought tow shades of grey as well as black paint for the roads. I wanted it to look like my old table as much as possible (see: History of a Gaming Table Part 1 for a comparison). On the first two, I measured out the roads and the blocks. Now, I'm not the perfect with measurements like that, but I managed to have the roads be the same size and connect between the two boards. It was unbearably hot that day, but I finished the two boards by early evening. I was very pleased with the boards, I managed to make them look just like my old  table- or at least close enough to make me happy.

I got to the other three boards at the end of June. I decided to play with the roads a bit, leaving bigger blocks on one, more roads on the other, and finally one that was just block, no roads at all- if I wanted to make a very crowded section of buildings all together. Again, it all went together very well, and I was very pleased to have my "urban battle table" back, but in store-able form.

I began to plan for the other side of the boards. I had made my Dark Eldar with desert basing (Chaos was urban basing, natch), so I decided to make the other side into a desert/wasteland. I bought appropriate paints, and decided to try sand to add texture. Now, because I was ill, I didn't get to do it till this past week, however, I had a marathon session, and I painted 4 boards in the desert color (didn't do the 5th because I ran out of paint, and I figured 4 would be enough anyways). I dry brushed a lighter brown on the texture, and it turned out surprisingly good.

My brother and I decided to play our recent game on the desert side, since it looked so good. The board looked great during the battle. We used a few things that matched the table terrain-wise, and I now want to make a ton of desert terrain... My friend Pete is ready to help make hills and such. I am also re-painting my crashed Aquila ship for desert terrain (I had it urban/grey crash debris, easy enough to change and, frankly, I have more than enough urban terrain anyways).

So, by going the board route, I now have a double sided board system, and it takes up zero room when stored. That's exactly the solution I was working toward, and I'm thrilled that it worked the way I wanted it to. At any rate, I hope that "History of a Gaming Table" parts 1 and 2 will have inspired you, whether its about a gaming board, terrain ideas, modeling inspiration, or whatever. Hope you've enjoyed this.

Until next time...

Friday, October 12, 2012

1st Battle With The New Chaos Codex!!

Hey there everyone! It's certainly been exciting times at the old Chaos ponderosa- I've been reading and re-reading the new Chaos Codex, cross-referencing with the 6th edition book, writing down key rules, studying the new options, etc. Whew!

Ohhh!! Shinny!
Now, some people are already pronouncing the Chaos Codex to be a wonderful triumph or an unmitigated disaster. I am certainly leaning toward the former, in terms of the book's presentation. The artwork is simply amazing- full color, with lots of new art- all of which is stunning. The fluff is solid (though not spectacular- I wish there was a bit more here). The layout and format is excellent, plus there's good sample models and paint schemes, etc. It is a quality product , no doubt.

The real question for any Codex though is the rules- how will these guys play on the field? That is the million dollar question. But one can't just read the book and few times and Bam! pass judgement on the rules themselves- you need to play a few matches in order to even begin to have a basis to formulate such conclusions. Luckily for me, I managed to get in a game this week using the new book.

My new Desert/Wasteland gaming boards
 However, there is an additional wrinkle for me. As my readers are aware, I was very ill this summer, requiring surgery and a slow recovery. The fact is I haven't even played that many 6th edition games- three, as it turns out. So, not only am I learning the new Chaos rules, I am also still getting the hang of the 6th rules in general- yes, much of it is the same, but so much has been changed or even slightly altered. Flyers, Monstrous Creatures, Charge Rolls, and much more... Hehe! That's a lot to learn- but hey- that's part of the fun.

Another perspective on my board
We decided to use the new desert/wasteland battle surface that I created- I will post an article on how I made it after this article- I promise. I found something quick and easy, and I want to tell you about it, as I'm very excited over it. At any rate, though I have the new boards, I don't have much "desert style" terrain, so my brother and I decided to  keep the terrain sparse, quite befitting of a desert wasteland deal.

My old bone bridge- plus an objective marker
I used a couple of bunkers, my Chaos Shrine (which fits in with any style of terrain, it is Chaos after all), the Chaos ruins (painted a desert color, funny enough), and my old bone bridge. I also had two old pillars from armorcast that I painted a while ago. So, while there wasn't a ton of terrain, it actually made of a very interesting battle, while still looking like an empty desert.

They're baaaaaacck!!
 So, my brother and I played a 1900 point game- Grey Knights up against my Death Guard Plague Marine army. So, what did I take? Hahaha- I've been waiting ages to play with my Plague Zombies again- so of course I played with Typhus as my HQ- bringing with him 2 squads of 30 zombies apiece. I also had 2 squads of Plague Marines (1 Rhino, 1 Land Raider). I decided to go a bit more mechanized than usual (wanting to try out the vehicles rules)- the aforementioned Land Raider, a Vindicator, a Predator (Twin Las and two Heavy Bolters), and a Heldrake (for which I used my FW Hell Talon). I also took a "Hellbrute" (Dreadnought) with a Las and Missile Launcher (my Dreads never get into close combat). Finally, I took a Sorcerer at Mastery Level 2.

This sucker is huge!!
My brother, meanwhile, took a Nemesis Dreadknight, Captain Stern, 3 squads of terminators, 2 squads of regular Grey Knight marines, and a Land Raider and dreadnought of his own. Now, he doesn't have enough Grey Knights, so he used some of my Ultramarines as stand-ins, which was fine by me. We were now ready to throw down...

Bwaiins!! Bwaiins!!
So, first we rolled for mission- we got the first one, Crusade, with a Dawn of War deployment. We rolled 5 random/unknown objectives and placed them. My Warlord trait was already a given with Typhus, while my brother rolled Master of Offense. For who goes first, I won that roll, so I decided to deploy first (thus going first). I placed my Death Guard out on the table, and then my brother placed his Grey Knights on the other end. Then, I rolled both for psychic powers and on the boon table (I had taken mutation for both my Plague Marine squad champions and Sorcerer. 30 points- wanted to see how it would happen). For psychic powers, Both Typhus and the Sorcerer rolled 6- this meant they had the Wind of Nurgle (large blast). For Typhus I chose the primaris power Flame Breath, and my Sorcerer chose the power Smite. As for the boons- hahahah!  Nurgle must be mad since I haven't played with the Death Guard in a bit- for my champions, both rolled a 16- no gift granted. Shucks!! My Sorcerer meanwhile rolled a 36- giving his power sword the fleshbane ability- that's not too shabby at all.

The forces of Nurgle, Lord of Decay!
So, to start with, I moved one group of zombies to claim the objective at the foot of the bone bridge- I figured my brother would try for that with his oncoming Dreadknight, but even he would be hard pressed to remove 30 zombies from there. The second objective near me was the one on the roof of the bunker- the second squad of zombies was near there- but 30 can't possibly fit in that bunker, so I sent them forwards instead. I moved the Rhino up 6", and I moved the Predator and Dreadnought up to the wall of the Chaos shrine for protection (the Pred could then have view through the open side as the GKs came through). Then, my Vindicator fired a blast at the Dreadknight, doing no damage- yep, the slap fight had begun there. Finally, my Land Raider shot and killed one terminator. In the GK half, the Grey Knights claimed their first objective. The Dreadknight fired at my Vindicator, the blast drifting off the table. His Land Raider shot my Rhino- immobilizing it. All his troops moved forward, though he let Stern hang back for an unknown reason.

"When there's no more room in the Warp, the dead will walk the galaxy"
So, turn 2, I rolled to have my Heldrake come in- I rolled a 1. Crap- I hoped I didn't waste points on that guy. My 2nd group of zombies continued their advance toward the third objective. My Death Guard squad and Sorcerer got out of the Rhino and moved to the bunker objective. My Dread climbed the rock side to stand on top of the Shrine. My Predator, Dreadnought, and Land Raider fired at the 2 advancing Terminator squads beginning to go through the narrow pass on the Shrine's side. The Vindicator moved toward the bone bridge, firing at the Dreadknight and causing a wound. In the Grey Knight half, his Dreadknight advanced along with a GK squad, and he again hit my Vindicator, but failed to get even a glance. His terminators took shots at my 2nd zombies- as did his Land Raider, and I lost a bunch, but 30 fearless is a lot to get through.

Typhus thought the battle would be decided on the flanks, not the Shrine. The Grey Knights begged to differ.
Now, turn 3- the game was going well, a slog match befitting the Death Guard, but I knew I'd need something to shake it up- and I thought that may happen as I rolled a 3 and the Heldrake came in. As I understand it- the flyer comes in as a reserve, unable to act- I think. If anyone wishes to clarify for me, I'd appreciate it. At any rate, I now had everything I needed to put on the full court press. My Plague Marines moved to the bunker, claiming the second objective. My vindicator moved onto the bone bridge, firing at the oncoming GK squad, causing a few casualties. My Land Raider  fired at his LR, causing 2 Hull Points of damage, while my Predator fired at the second Terminator squad, killing two more. My dreadnought began a slap-fight exchange with the oncoming GK dreadnought- no damage (bad rolls). Now, my 2nd zombies charged into the one terminator squad (rolling an 11 charge- whoa!!), killing them all (that many rolls means a few ones will be rolled- a matter of probability). First Blood went to me and my zombie horde, who could attack the other Termies and claim the nearby 3rd objective by then.

The Terminator is overwhelmed by undead Imperail citizens- the very people he has sworn to protect!
I was now ahead, 3 to 1 in victory points. However, in his phase I was going to pay. He moved his Dreadknight to attack my Vindicator. All he managed to do was Immobilize, but that meant he would hammer me the next turn and I couldn't escape. His Dreadnought now moved with his GK squad toward the Shrine- he was certainly going to be able to claim that unless my own Dread could stop them. His other Termie squad moved away from the zombies toward the Land Raider and 3rd objective, firing at the zombies in futile defiance. My brother did something rash, firing his LR at my LR, blowing off a sponson Las. Yep- he wanted revenge.
The Heldrake takes aim
Turn 4- I moved my 2nd zombies within striking range of both the other terminator squad and the 3rd objective. My sorcerer left the bunker squad and moved alone toward the Shrine- those GKs were going to get there, and he'd be the one to stop them. Meanwhile, my other squad, along with Typhus, got out of the Land Raider and moved toward the Shrine and bone bridge- my plan was to destroy the GK with the PMs and Sorcerer, while Typhus would go and challenge the Dreadknight. That would be a combat. My Dread fired at the oncoming GK squad, killing one, while my LR and Pred exchanged shots with the GK LR, taking another Hull Point. As for my Heldrake, I made a less than 90 degree pivot, then moved it 24"- over the GK squad near the shrine, and facing the other GK squad sitting on the objective in his deployment zone. I did a Vector Strike on the one squad (killing 1), while shooting at the babysitters, killing 2- it was then that I realized that this flyer business was pretty cool after all. Hehe!! Finally, I moved my zombies to attack the other terminator squad, rolling a 7" charge- and again they killed the last of the termies. This left the zombies in control of the 3rd objective, but in front of the guns of the GK LR. Vengeance would be his...

The Grey Knights advance towards the accursed Shrine

Typhus prepares to meet the Dreadknight head-on
The Grey Knights countered hard. The GK arrived on top of the shrine, while their Dreadnought charged mine- and neither of us had close combat weapons, so now it was a close quarters slap fight. Ugh- Strength 6 against 12 Armor and no power fists- you do the math. His Dreadknight destroyed my vindicator, and now he could move past the bridge toward my 1st zombies and their objective. Finally, his LR fired at the 2nd zombie squad, taking out a bunch- but there was still more than 10 left.

Turn 5 was make or brake- I had more objectives (3 to 2, plus 1 VP for FB), but the GK were now in range to take two objectives away, if I wasn't careful. I needed to get the Shrine objective out of his hands. I advanced the Plague Marines away from Typhus and toward the shrine. Typhus began the climb to the bridge to confront the Dreadknight. Meanwhile, the LR and Pred fired at the GK LR, but I rolled lousy that time. As for my Heldrake, and this is my own fault- I flew him around and did nothing, as I had misread the rules and didn't realize that I could have had him hover. My own fault, but I won't repeat that mistake in the next game... Anyways, my Sorcerer was closing in on the Shrine, and i was getting ready to use his psychic powers.

The Plague Marines march around the Dreadnoughts' slap fight

My erstwhile brother continued his counterattack. His Dreadknight's blast torched a whole bunch of my 1st zombies, but there were still a ton left. The two dreads continued to duke it out, with on one landing a good blow- I got a HP out of him, and that's it. His LR continued to try to decimate the zombies- there were only a handful left, which he could kill off in the bottom of the 6th if he landed all his shots, and I'd lose that objective.

Now it was 6th- final round. I advanced Typhus on the bridge near the Dreadknight, while my Plague Marines and Sorcerer were in range to shoot the GK on the Shrine objective (but too damn far away to grab it in time). It was now or never- my sorcerer used his Plague Wind on the GK squad- it worked, killing them all, as a matter of fact. Excellent indeed. I got him off an objective. Then, Typhus was about to use the same power on the Dreadknight aaannnddd--- rolled a snake eyes!! What!?! That means he took a wound, and then he missed anyways! I can't believe he had that rotten luck.

Typhus was injured (and slightly embarrassed), but won the battle for the glory of Grandfather Nurgle
As for the last phase, the my brother actually resisted taking a shot at Typhus and instead fired with his Dreadkinght again at the zombies, actually breaking their squad coherency with his huge (and well placed) blast. Meanwhile, his LR killed off the last of the 2nd zombies (I knew he would), denying me the objective there too. At this point, the game concluded. As it stood, I had 1 objective (PMs at the bunker), and I had 1 VP for "First Blood". My brother had only 1 objective (in his deployment zone), thus, the Plague Marines won the game. It was a ton of fun, and it got gut-wrenchingly close at the end. There were good rolls, bad rolls, and Typhus whiffed, and I totally messed up on the flyer rules (I kept it moving fast, rather than put it in hover and still shoot), but it was a blast to play. I think, a few more games under my belt, and I'll be totally comfortable with 6th. Meanwhile, I am liking the new Chaos Codex, but there's still a lot to try out, and after this, I can't wait to do so!!

Until next time... 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review (In Brief): The Emperor's Gift

Hey there everybody! Old Man Chaos is back with another posting. Officially, there's only a few more days to go till the new Chaos Codex. I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on that. Speaking of, I did buy the Dark Vengeance boxed set finally, so I'll be reviewing that soon too (have to put the Chaos pieces together first). However, as a result of buying DV, I will have to wait on buying the big Chaos stuff, since the book alone is $50- of course, my birthday and Christmas are coming up (hint hint). Anyways, I will for sure rate the DV box and the Codex very soon.

However, right now, I just finished Aaron Dembski-Bowden's The Emperor's Gift. Now, you all know I think he may be the best Black Library writer out there- his Cadian Blood and Night Lords Trilogy are absolutely perfect works of 40K fiction. However, in this book he is focusing squarely on a Grey Knight brotherhood, which is far from his usual. So, did he knock it out of the park, or is it a swing and a miss? Let's find out:

 For sure, ADB is still the most fluid writer in the BL stable. His writing is concise, but still descriptive and occasionally poetic (for 40K, natch). ADB handles complex action scenes, emotions, and plots with ease. He gets the point across without beating you over the head with it, as some of the BL authors do. Nor is his writing "bolter porn" as it were- there's meaning in his action sequences, and his stories are about characters, not just action scenes staring the same character. Here, ADB primary focus is Hyperion, a new Grey Knight bonded to Castian squad. Hyperion is strong and brave, but he finds it difficult to coordinate his skills with his battle brothers, while at the same time trying to "re-figure" out human emotion from those mortals he serves with. However, trouble comes for Hyperion when word reaches his squad that the world of Armageddon is under attack from the forces of Chaos.

What follows is a very unusual story indeed- the book isn't about the First War of Armageddon- rather, it is how Hyperion becomes part of a task force sent to Armageddon, and then what happens after the wars. It is rather interesting conceit- the War itself is like two chapters long only. The war was longer, but the Grey Knights see battle only once- against Angron himself (very cool, by the way). The remainder of the book is about the moral conflict that follows: what should be done with the loyal soldiers and citizens of Armagedon who saw Daemons- standard Inquisitorial protocol says all must die for seeing "that which CANNOT exist". But the Space Wolves, who have fought for months on Armageddon, want to spare the innocents. Hyperion is torn- he wants to protect humanity, but allowing these people to live will only allow Chaos to spread, unwittingly perhaps, but spread nevertheless.

Therin lies the issue here, for both good and bad. The story has odd fits and starts- the War is truncated, and the first boarding action and subsequent mustering goes on for too damn long. Indeed, at one point I said "I get it- the ship is possessed- move on". And while the Armageddon scenes were cool, it was too brief, and relied on the fact that longtime fans knew the outcome already. On the other hand, the moral issues that Hyperion confronts are truly interesting and deep- we always know that the Inquisition will do such terrible things for the protection of humanity, but here it takes on a more realistic dimension as Hyperion wrestles with the moral implications of what the Inquisition must do. Since the story was told from Hyperion's perspective, it made for fascinating reading.

Even better, ADB has found a great "voice" for the good guys of the Adeptus Astartes , which can be tricky to write for(he can write Chaotic Marines quite well, as we already know). Hyperion is very sympathetic, a hero who wants to understand the humans that he fights to protect. To most humans, he seems cold and fearsome, but he is also capable of gentle warmth, which I thought was a great blend for the Grey Knights. Writing first person allows ADB do bring a great deal of depth here, and it makes up for the books flaws.

The other great thing that ADB does is he plants both feet firmly in the 40K lore. Not only is this about the First War of Armageddon, he also manages to tie this book to others, including The Battle of the Fang, Prospero Burns, and amazingly (and wonderfully, I might add) the Ravenor and Eisenhorn series. ADB did this with his Night Lords trilogy too, which makes his work feel like part of the mosaic of 40K, rather than just one author's take.

So, what to take away from this? ADB tries some risky things here- his first person Grey Knight narration, his willingness to forgo the battle that most would have expected going in, and his interest in the "clean-up", rather than the war itself, makes The Emperor's Gift very interesting and different from other BL tales. My only issue really was the pacing of the first third of the book, which takes too long. Perhaps if that had been trimmed, ADB could have done more with the Armageddon piece, which I think would have strengthened the weight of the moral questions  asked in the last third. Thus, I award this book 3 1/2 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. Its a good book in the chances it takes, but the pacing could have been better.

Until next time...