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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?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Movie Review (In Brief): Lincoln

Hey there Chaos fans! I know I've been away for a bit, but its because I've had a lot going on... I need a vacation! Haha! Anyways, I'll be posting this week with some pics from my emerging Khorne Bezerker force, and maybe a book review (I'm nearly done with Deliverance Lost too). However, I have a movie review for you, so without further ado:

It may or may not be a secret to longtime readers of this blog, but I am a history nut (that's what my wife calls me, at any rate). I love United States history, and I have admired Lincoln for sure. The truth is, I have been dying to see this movie, but I was also afraid. The cast sounded top notch (Lewis? Jones? Straithirn? What a cast!), and I was hoping that this movie would be smart and powerful, but I was afraid because Spielberg was the man behind the camera. At one point, Spielberg would have been a no brainer- giving us Indiana Jones trilogy, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Close Encounters, and of course, Jaws. However, he has been on a bit of a rough patch in the 21st century- I mean, he nearly ruined Indy with Crystal Skull, for heaven's sake! The war machines of War of the Worlds were fantastic, but the human element was all over the map (the audience I saw it with cheered- yes cheered- when Dakota Fanning was taken by the martians- that's how annoying she was). Minority Report was just OK, and AI was just a mess. Yes, so I had reason to fear with this- which Spielberg was going to show up?

Thankfully, there was nothing to fear here, as old Spielberg showed up and simply told a story. It is not a simple story by any stretch, but it was simply told, without schmaltz, fancy tech, or explosive action, or trickery. No, this story didn't need any of that- it just needed someone with courage to do the story justice, allowing it to develop at its own pace, and using the actors to their fullest. And thankfully, Spielberg and company did just that with "Lincoln". In fact, the movie is beautiful, elegant, meaningful, and even occasionally  humorous, while the acting is top notch all around.

The true success of the movie is its choice of scope. The movie is wise to focus in on one fight that Lincoln had to go through during the last days of the Civil War- a wider biopic would have diluted the proceedings. Just about everyone knows Lincoln as the the young "rail splitter", the Illinois lawyer, the "Great Emancipator" and as the president who put the Union back together; he is also tragically known as the first president to be assassinated. His whole life could be fodder for a movie, and I'm sure the temptation to do a sweeping biopic of his life would be there for any filmmaker. Instead of looking at Lincoln's whole life or even his actions in the four year Civil War, the movie focuses in on one particular legislative battle- the passage of the 13th Amendment, which would officially abolish slavery forever in all the United States. However bloody the Civil War was, it was this debate which would really decide the fate of the nation.

In history classes, students learn the basic cause of the Civil War is the conflict about slavery. This is both true but also misleading. The Civil War had many, many causes, with slavery as the underlying root. For some, the Civil War was a conflict between two different cultures (Industrial North versus Agrarian South), for others it was about the power of federal government as opposed to the states. For others still, it was seen as a war for "southern independence", while Northers felt the South had committed treason. Ultimately, not everyone was fighting over slavery, indeed at one point early in the conflict Lincoln had even gone so far as to say: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." That doesn't sound like the scourge of slavery, does it?

But, time changes things. Lincoln's views had evolved over the course of the war, and by the start of the movie (the last few moths of the war) he has come to see slavery for what it truly is: a cancer, a malignant growth that is killing our country- it has split us apart, and is anathema to our values as a republic. Lincoln can't "win" the Civil War unless slavery is destroyed. Bringing the union back together without ending slavery will only delay the inevitable- slavery again infecting our country and ruining/degrading our notions of freedom. With that in mind, Lincoln wants to create the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which would ban slavery officially and forever in all the states, and he wants the House of Representatives to pass it BEFORE the war is over, as Lincoln knows that once the war is over and the southern states re-admitted, it will be virtually impossible to pass the amendment.

But even here, with all Northerners in Congress and a lot of anger with the South, Lincoln still faces stiff opposition. There are many in the Congress that don't support the amendment. There's Copperhead Democrats, who oppose everything Lincoln does. There's conservative Republicans who don't want to change things too much- they just want win the war and that's all. Then there's the Radical Republicans, led by Thadeus Stevens, who feel that the 13th Amendment doesn't go far enough- they want total racial equality immediately, and they think that Lincoln's is just a half measure. There's also congressmen who are racists, and there are some too scared to make such a change, or are more worried about being re-elected than doing the right thing. Basically, getting the required 2/3 vote to Amend the Constitution should be impossible.

The movie focuses on Lincoln's efforts to get the needed votes. The movie shows Lincoln making impassioned speeches, telling stories, using his personal charm to get the congressmen to vote yes. But, when those personal moves don't fly, Lincoln resorts to rather "questionable" tactics- including dolling out patronage jobs, bribes, lying to Congress, and even something that is basically blackmail. You know- just the usual horse trading and "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" mentality that has always been present in our democratic republic. And it is thrilling to watch. Watching Lincoln (and his supporters, and his opponents, by the way) use every trick in the book is astonishing to see. The cajoling, threats, arm twisting, and near begging makes for great cinema as presented here- with so much at stake, you want Lincoln to pull it through, and every wavering Congressman matters. It is suspenseful, and it is a sign of a great movie that can make something so edge of your seat-worthy even though you already know the ending. Spielberg should get a ton of credit for letting the story develop naturally- there's no flashy editing, no rabbit pulled out of the hat tricks- he just lets the story breathe, and the tension increases as the drama winds its way toward the final voting date. You must admire the skill on display here, as so many movies might go in for the quick rush or the "Hollywood ending".

So, if the director is the first ace in the hole in this movie, choosing the right focus and allowing the events to play themselves out, the second ace is the acting. Indeed, every single actor brings their A game to this movie, and it boosts the whole proceeding from "great" to "awe-inspiring". First and foremost is Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. This performance is the closest we'll get to seeing Lincoln in motion, which is the highest praise I can give. Lewis' performance isn't caricature or impression- Lewis is doing his all to inhabit Lincoln, to make him a three dimensional human being- both a genius and a flawed human being, a fully rounded person that you feel that you know personally. Lewis makes Lincoln a hero, but not superman- he has great vision, but he makes mistakes. He is prone to depression (who wouldn't be if they were going through what Lincoln was going through). He loves to tell stories and jokes (often they have a point, but other times he's trying to cheer others or himself up). He loses his temper on more than one occasion. And Lewis gives everything he has to make it feel like Lincoln himself. If the concept of "Oscar worthy" matters to you, his performance IS of that level, and then some. He finds the perfect balance in that his Lincoln is the center of attention, but he never falls into the traps of scene-chewing or upstaging the other actors.

The whole cast is amazing. Each actor has, like Lewis, given their all to inhabit their character rather than simply act. Tommy Lee Jones gets the best laughs, but also the most complexity (besides Lincoln) as Thaddeus Stevens, a cranky Radical Republican who ironically holds the key for Lincoln's victory. Jones' portrayal allows us to see a bitter, cynical man who wants to do the right thing, but also can't help but rub people's faces in his own superiority- a brilliant politician, but also an ass. David Straitharin is William Seward, Lincoln's upright and straight laced Secretary of State who must get his hands dirty in Lincoln's stead to get the bill passed. Sally Field really makes us feel for Mary Todd Lincoln, who has great mental and personal troubles of her own, and lays them at her husband's door at the most difficult of moments. James Spader gets some great laughs as a "political operative" brought in to "change" the minds of some congressmen- his four letter word upon seeing Lincoln for the first time is a riot. Lee Pace provides the opposing views in the form of congressman Wood, a New York Democrat that vehemently fights against the Amendment. There's others, to be sure, as the whole cast is worthy, and all add to the incredible whole.

I'm going to stop here, as this is supposed to be a brief review. In summation, if you like history, you owe it to yourself to see this movie, which shines a provocative light on a great man and a great conflict. If you enjoy movies, you should see this, as it is really 1st rate film making (its great that we got Lincoln and Argo in one year). I give it 4 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.

Until next time...

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Shape of Things To Come

Hey there everybody! Welcome back to another edition of Chaos Corner. As I discussed in my last post, I have been busy modeling. Busy indeed. And, as promised, I wanted to give you a bit of a sneak preview of my latest labor of love. So, let us look at... The Shape of Things To Come <cue dramatic music>

Yes, I have decided to do a Khorne Bezerker army. Look, the Plague Marines will always be my true love, and in fact, thanks to the new Codex, I will be adding some things to my Death Guard army in the next few months (I need to get stuff for Christmas and all... hehe!). However, I really wanted to branch out and do something TOTALLY different, Chaos wise.

The Plague Marines represent a mixed type of army. They are great at mid-range fire fights, and they are immovable in close combat (toughness, FNP, etc), though they are a bit slow (I 3). I have a ton of armor for them (Defilers, a Land Raider, Vindicators, etc) too. I also have daemons, Blight Drones, and even a Titan. I have played the army for years, for the past few editions. One day, I promise to post pics of the ENTIRE army.

In any event, I wanted to try something different. To date, I have never had an entirely close combat force. No Nids or Blood Angels or anything like that. Playing a Khorne army would force me to play in a different way than I ever have before- it will be a challenge to run this army. It is also a very different paint style than I'm used to. The models look very different from either Plague Marines or even regular Chaos Marines. The models running give them a dynamic look, and the weapons are odd looking, compared to other Chaos Marines. Everything about this army is a bit different for me. I decided to do this army in August- before the codex came out. I put a bunch together before I became ill. AS I recovered, I put more together, and I've been slowly painting them.

I had done one unit of Khorne Bezerkers years earlier, for my brother's Black Legion (which I inherited). I tried to use a similar scheme, but a my painting is a bit more sophisticated now, plus using the new GW paints to match the old is a challenge too. It has come together very well now, and I am very happy with the look (the dark red, evocative of dried, old blood, rather than the bright red that is often used- too bright for my tastes). I will discuss my painting techniques in a future post, as this is meant to be an introduction of sorts.

I will post more of my Khorne Bezerkers as I get them done. A special shout out to my friend Pete, who gave me a TON of Chaos bits, which, when combined with mine, became more than enough to make this Khorne Army. Don't get me wrong, I plan on playing a ton with all of my "regular" armies- Dark Eldar, Daemons, and naturally Plague Marines. However, I am very excited to paint the rest of my Khorne Army and get it onto the tabletop.

Hope you like the pics- I have a few more pics below too, so enjoy. Until next time...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Book Review: Know No Fear

Hey there Chaos fans! I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I've been doing plenty of modeling work (more on that in an upcoming post), as well as a bit of reading. In fact, I just completed Know No Fear by Dan Abnett. So, was it a hit or miss for the most prolific of the Black Library writers? Let's take a look...

I had bought this book when it first came out several months ago, and I was very excited to read it. The Battle of Calth is one of those legendary events in the Warhammer 40K mythos, and I could not wait to see how it would be expanded upon as a Horus Heresy book. Furthermore, First Heretic (by Aaron Dembski-Bowden) did a great job of setting up the Word Bearers and what events led to the Battle of Calth, so Know No Fear was the sequel or continuation, which was exciting. However, I had a huge stack of books, so I had originally decided to wait until I had time to read it and enjoy. Then, I became ill, and my reading was thrown off for months as a result. Slowly, as I was able to read again, I read The Emperor's Gift and Treacheries of the Space Marines. Now, I'm back to full capacity, and I decided to finally read this one.

Now, Dan Abnett is worshiped by some, and reviled by others. As for me, I think he's really, really good, but he does write clunkers. I absolutely loved the Eisenhorn Trilogy, but thought that the Raevnor Trilogy was lackluster. Prospero Burns was solid (if offbeat). I was anxious to see where Know No Fear would fall on the Abnett spectrum. Making it more complicated, this book would be following the lead of First Heretic, which is simply one of the best Horus Heresy books yet- could it possibly compare?

The answer is- absolutely!! Know No Fear is a fantastic read- it has it all, so many ideas, so many action beats, great characters, and it concludes some Heresy threads while continuing others (John Grammaticus, for example). It has suspense, a bit of humor, a great sense of scope, and relentless pacing.

The set up is this (no spoliers, as any 40K fan knows the basics about the "Muster at Calth"): Warmaster Horus has ordered that the Ultramarines link up with the Word Bearers on the Ultramar world of Calth and unite their forces to crusade against nearby Orks. Of course, the Ultramarines and Word Bearers don't quite get along, but the Ultramarine Primarch, Roubute Guilliman (well written by Abnett) figures this is just Horus' way of getting the two legions on the same page. Little does Guilliman know that Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers, has embraced the gods of Chaos, converted Horus to the same gods,  and is planning to tear the galaxy asunder. However, for that to be achieved, Lorgar needs to decimate the Ultramarines, and the gathering on Calth becomes the method to betray and destroy the Ultramarines.

The book is expertly placed, with the opening chapters reading like a thriller- you know bad stuff is about to go down, and it's great at making it suspenseful. Once the Word Bearers make their move, it becomes hugely tragic- the scale of the destruction is vast, and the Ultramarines are so slow to react, since they don't even know what's happening. The second half of the book deals with how Guilliman and his legion try to fight back- the battles evoke everything from Lord of the Rings sieges to a Star Trek: First Contact style spacewalk battle (wait till you read it- and that cover... wow!). Even if Guilliman can triumph, what will be left of Calth? And the galaxy itself?

Though the Ultramarines are the heroes, if you've read First Heretic, you know that it's much more complicated than that. What the Ultramarines did on Monarchia (under the Emperor's orders) to the Word Bearers- is it really all that different to what the Word Bearers want to do to Calth? Abnett plays that very cleverly- he does a great job of comparing and contrasting Lorgar and Guilliman. One writes constantly about "faith", while the other writes about "strategy". Both are more than simply warriors; they are philosophers, father figures to their legions, etc. They are also the sons of the most powerful, if seemingly flawed, man in the galaxy- a difficult legacy for both Primarchs to live up to- Guilliman tries to be prefect, while Lorgar has given up. There are a ton of comparisons to make, and by doing so Abnett really goes beyond simple "good" and "evil". Does "an eye for an eye" make the galaxy go blind? The Horus Heresy has become even more complex, and that's a good thing.

I don't want to give too much away- the battles are so vivid, and the strategies developed by the Ultramarines (the practical and the theoretical) are so well done by the author. The game of 40K really comes to life in these pages, and the drama of these two legions fighting one another makes it a great story. My only complaints are that there are too many characters to keep track of (especially at first), and that some threads are kept hanging (though, like John Grammaticus, there are threads that will pop up in future books). That said, I can't recommend this book enough. Just know that you SHOULD read First Heretic beforehand, otherwise you're only getting half of a great one-two punch. I give this book 4 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. If you are a Heresy fan, an Ultramarine or Word Bearer (or just Chaos) fan, you must read this book, its that simple.