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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Battle Report: Black Legion vs. Khorne Bezerkers

Hey there Chaos lunatics. It is indeed exciting times for us Chaos players in 40K. We had the release of the Chaos Space Marine Codex a few months back, along with some great models (now that they are painted, I love the Maulerfiend and the Heldrake. The Obliterator ripoffs- not so much). In a few days, Chaos Daemons will also be getting a new Codex and some new models (Love the Plague Drones and the Heralds. I have to get a better look at the chariots before I pass judgement). Rumor has it that there will be a second Daemon wave in the summer- complete with new Greater Daemons to boot! Oh yeah, color me excited!

At any rate, I have been painting a ton- I just finished a Khorne Land Raider and a squad of 10 Warp Talons. I am now working on a squad of possessed, and I have some Havocs in the pipeline. Whew! However, I have had a problem lately. I recognize that I haven't played all that much recently. As a matter of fact, I have only a handful of games under my belt with the 6th edition rules. I know that I must rectify this, but it is tough. I have a lot going on at work, and I am still recovering from my surgery (yes, it will take me a year to be 100%, if all goes well). I feel almost embarrassed about going into a local store looking for a battle if I still don't know all the intricacies of 6th edition, let alone the Chaos Marines and Chaos Daemons books! I don't want to be "that guy" who doesn't know all the rules. Not that I want to win, I just don't want to look like a complete fool (Not a complete fool? Which part of me is missing? Nyuk Nyuk).

Luckily, my brother obliged me by playing a game with me last week. Not only that, but he decided to use his Black Legion army! Holy Cow! I haven't seen them in years (as he has played Guard and Grey Knights). We decided to go really crazy with this scenario:

"On the planet, Chaos reigned, literally. Abaddon The Despoiler had rallied many traitors to his cause, including warbands of Khorne Bezerkers. Thus, with such overwhelming strength, the forces of Chaos had laid waste to the planet, killing all in their path. The fires of battle turned the once peaceful world into a desert wasteland, foul shrines to the Dark Gods were built on the ashes of Imperial cities, and blasphemies were carried out on the last remaining innocents. At the moment of triumph, the unexpected happened. The Khornate warband called The Scions of Gorechild had just finished their slaughter of the last remaining vestiges of the planet's defenders at the behest of Abaddon. Out of the smoke, a warrior appeared- it was Kharn. The Betrayer was worshiped by the Scions of Gorechild and his appearance here was a sign from Khorne himself. Kharn looked at these warriors (many he had known since the Great Crusade) and shouted "Khorne demands blood"!! With that he pointed his axe down the hillside, and the "Scions of Gorechild" followed the sweep- they could see plainly that Kharn was pointing at Abaddon himself, who was advancing toward their position. The Scions of Gorechild knew just what Kharn wanted and what Khorne demanded- blood!  With howls of approval, the Scions of Gorechild raced down the hill- the blood of the Black Legion would spill this day, or perhaps the blood of the Scions of Gorechild would fill the valley. They ran after Kharn, not caring from whence the blood flowed. So long as it flowed".

Pretty good introduction, huh? I expanded it a bit for the blog here, but this was basically the scenario, or hook, that we used to set up the battle between 2 forces of Chaos. Just the idea of this was both a bit amusing and totally in keeping with the character of both armies. A 2100 point battle pitting Kharn against Abaddon. This would be an epic battle, that is for sure.

We put some final Imperial defenses on the table, as well as the big Chaos Shrine and a huge skull (bought during Halloween on the cheap). We didn't want too much terrain, as this was a wasteland after a much bigger conflict. With the terrain set, we rolled for mission and got The Scouring, and Hammer and Anvil for deployment. That meant my Bezerkers would have to run a huge up-field distance, while being hit with Havoc and Obliterator fire.

 We placed the objectives before rolling for deployment, thus we didn't know who would get which side- as a result, the objectives were placed quite fairly. We rolled, and I got the pick. Now, I could have had the Bastion (it was put on as terrain, my bro didn't "buy it"). I could have taken it (and the Quad Gun on the roof) but I decided against it. The Scions of Gorechild were going to take the fight to their enemies- not sit on that Bastion (especially since no objective was placed there). Thus, I picked the other side. My brother did put his Black Legion squad on the roof though- I liked this, as it meant that the unit would be of little threat to most of my troops (though they would be able to get my Heldrake if I wasn't careful). After deployment, we determined the point values for each objective. I was sitting on 4 and 2 already. The Black Legion had a 1 and a 3. The other 3 was in a bunker on the side, and the 2 dab in the middle (one on the Shrine itself).

The game began, and in the first turn, I raced most of my units straight up the table. I kept my Cultists to babysit the one objective, and one unit of Khorne Bezerkers to safeguard the other and back up the Cultists if need be. I also kept my Warp Talons back. I did not deepstrike them, as I feel that is too unpredictable. I originally intended to throw them right into the thick of it- but since the mission was Scouring, this meant that they were a scoring unit. I did not want them to be shot or wasted in close combat now- their speed made them a crucial factor- I could swoop in and kill quickly to claim an objective at the last minute if need be. Thus, I kept them close to cover.

My erstwhile opponent moved forwards also, and opened fire with his Oblits and Havocs. The Havocs got a glance on the Maulerfiend, draining 1 HP. The Oblits did likewise with the Land Raider. His Raptors and 3rd Legion squad moved toward the bunker objective. His 1st squad claimed the 1 objective in the ruin.

 In the second turn, I immediately got the Terminators and Kharn out of the Land Raider and marched them toward the ruins. As the LR has the assault vehicle rule, that meant that the squad could charge. Further, my Maulerfiend was in range to charge a 5 man Raptor squad. Lastly, my Heldrake arrived that turn (thankfully). My Vindicator shot at the third 10 man squad, but it drifted wide. In assault, Kharn needed to roll a 7 charge, and he rolled a 10! The Maulerfiend did likewise. Kharn and the Termies cleaved through the Black Legion marines, killing 7. They had the Icon of Vengeance, so they stuck (but would not live for long). The Maulerfiend killed 3 Raptors (am I using this guy right or what?).

In his turn, my brother advanced his Land Raider and fired at mine, causing me to lose yet another HP. His sorcerer moved forward on his disc, and tried to use a spell on my Daemon Prince. He failed his Ld test amazingly! His Oblits also fired at it, to no avail (armor saves worked this time). In combat, his Raptors got killed, and Kharn and the terminators finished off the remaining Black Legionaries (though 2 of my termies died in the process). Thus, I scored First Blood.

In turn 3, Kharn moved toward the enemy Land Raider, as did the Daemon Prince. The Maulerfiend moved toward Abaddon, with Bezerkers right behind him. Further, I moved the Warp Talons closer to the Shrine to seize the 2 points (I kept them behind it, as I knew that if I put them on top of it they would be shot from all sides. So they waited, ready to move at a moments notice. My Heldreake flew in and used its Baleflamer, killing half of the the third squad.

In his turn, his Heldrake arrived (too late perhaps?). Further, my opponent focused all fire at Kharn. The Quad Gun, the Oblits, the Land Raider, and his 4 Terminators who got out- thus both of my Terminators got killed, and Kharn lost a wound. His sorcerer used his powers on Kharn, but his 2+ Deny The Witch roll saved him (and pissed off my brother to no end). He then charged with the Terminators- and Kharn killed them all! My brother failed all invulnerable saves. Yikes!

In Turn 4, Khran was a sitting duck, but what else could I do- my brother had wisely kept everything else at arms length. Believing that this was the moment (and maybe take some heat off Kharn, I moved the Talons to the 3 point objective on the Shrine. My Land Raider shot at the Oblits, but only caused 1 wound. My Maulerfiend charged Abaddon, and my Heldrake tried to burn out the guys on the Bastion, killing 2 (due to their cover save). My Vindicator fired at the 3rd squad, killing the rest in a dead on hit. My Daemon Prince charged the Sorcerer. Sadly, Abaddon destroyed the Maulerfiend with a 6 (ugh), and my Daemon Prince took a wound from the sorcerer. In his half of turn 4, my brother again focused all fire on Kharn. It was too much, and the Obliterators killed him. Score a point for Killing the Warlord. He fired the Quad Gun at the Heldrake, but to no avail. My Daemon Prince killed his Sorcerer, and was now ready to put the hurt on the Oblits in turn 5. Abaddon was now menacing my Bezerker squad, though he refused to actually commit him to combat. His Heldrake attacked mine via the Meteoric Descent, and cost me a HP.

At this point, my brother looked and said there was no way that he could win. His two troops were vanquished, and his last unit in the Bastion would not last long against the Heldrake. Thus, adding it up, he had 1 for Slay the Warlord. I had 4 plus 2 plus 2, as well as 1 for First Blood and 1 for Linebreaker (my Heldrake was IN his deployment zone). Thus, it was 1 to 10

In Khornate tradition, this match was a slaughter. The blood indeed flowed. My brother had some truly awful rolls, while it seemed that Kharn couldn't miss. Now, my brother can be a tough, tenacious, and oft lucky opponent (most of the time, he can roll 6s just when he needs to, miraculously at times). This day was just not his day. Next time, he'll put me down in 2 turns. That's the way it goes sometimes.

"The Scions of Gorechild witnessed their hero shot down into the dust, and thus fought all the harder to avenge their fallen comrade. Abaddon realized it was over, and retreated from the field.After all, he had ruined this Imperial world, this fight was only an annoyance and unnecessary. He would never bring the Scions of Gorechild into his service again  (unless he really needed them; they would ally with him again IF he promised them blood, naturally). The Scions of Gorechild got the blood that they wanted this day. When the battle was over, the blood stained the ground and the dust settled, the Scions went to recover the body of Kharn. However, when they arrived, his body was gone. Once again, Khorne had shown why Kharn was so favored. The Scions of Gorechild bellowed in rage and  joy, and thus set off for more bloody adventure..."

Hope you liked this one. Until next time...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Brief Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Hey there Chaos nuts! Winter's chill has certainly been around lately, what with frigid temps, blizzards, and all that jazz. I usually get tired of winter at the start of February, and I'm sitting here hoping that spring is just around the corner. Anyways, I just went to the movie theater to check out the latest Die Hard. So, is it a continuation of the legacy of the Die Hard series? Or is it a disappointment that will end the franchise? And why am I asking you?

A Good Day to Die Hard

I first got into Die Hard in the mid 1990s. I wasn't even 10 years old one the first one came out in theaters. Obviously, there was little chance my parents would allow a precocious 9 year old to see a rated R actioner (of course, if it was Sci-Fi, Horror, or The Godfather, my parents had no objections, apparently). Eventually, in high school, I caught Die Hard: With a Vengeance on tape (1995 or 1996). I absolutely loved it- even if I didn't know the events of the 1st Die Hard, the movie did a great job of explaining all that you needed to know. DH3 was action packed, humorous, with a great chemistry between Willis and Jackson. This movie had it all- a run down cop fighting for all of NYC, with nothing but his wits and a semi-racist electrician named Zues to help him fight Jeremy Irons' terrorists. The car chases, suspense, and bloody shootouts just blew me away, and the character beats made me invested in these 2 guys.

Naturally, I tracked down the other two movies. Watching the first Die Hard for the first time was nothing short of amazing. Bruce Willis' John McClane was an absolutely terrific invention- an everyman who is stuck in the most terrible situation imaginable, fighting to save himself, his wife, and a hundred other innocent people from a group of German terrorists with a secret agenda. Holy Cow! And I thought DH3 was great... this was even better. Then I watched Die Hard: Die Harder. Meh. It was OK, with some decent action, but frankly was pretty weak compared to the other two. The main villain was quite lackluster, and it just felt really contrived. John's wife is trapped- again. There's a pain in the ass reporter- again. I appreecaited DH3 all the more, as it expanded upon the themes of DH while upping the stakes.

But DH3 was in 1995. In the past two years, we have seen the franchise return (that's a long running action series, then). Live Free or Die Hard was an odd animal. It was trying to bring Die Hard into the 21st century, with a high tech plot and state of the art CGI special effects.  Yes, this movie has its problems- too much of the movie is McClane driving around all over the place, and there are some convenient plot coincidences, and that scene with the fighter jet is way too over the top. Lots of fans hated the movie for those reasons. However, it is still a fun movie, in my opinion. Though it never reached the heights of DH or DH3, it was a decent action movie with a sense of humor. The bad guy was interesting (unlike DH2), as he pursues a plan which is, in reality, a bit too realistic (what if all of our tech went down?).  I like how the movie raised the stakes from DH3 (the whole country is in danger in this one). Further, Willis has continued making John a character to root for, even as he gets older and a bit more grizzled. His explanation of why he does heroic things is pretty damn compelling, and ties in nicely with the previous entries. I enjoyed it, even if it isn't in the same league as DH1 and 3.

So, that brings us to A Good Day to Die Hard. I must confess that I like the title, again an action series with a bit of humor. This one sees John McClane in a bad spot- his son has been arrested in Russia for murder. Naturally, John has a poor relationship with junior, but he decides to fly to Moscow to be there for his son. John unknowingly enters a huge conspiracy, replete with CIA operatives, Russian mercanaries, the neo-dictatorship politics and corruption of Vladimir Putin, and a cache of weapons grade uranium. Oh yes, John has put his foot in it this time.

The movie is, like LFDH, not in the same league as the classics, but still enjoyable. It has the same propensity for over the top action and slick CGI effects. Yes, John is virtually a superhero here- however, even the originals had that element (it just wasn't so CGI heavy). What? Heresy, you say? Hear me out. John escaping a huge explosion and firey helicopter crash by rappelling down a skyscraper -- with a fire hose? That isn't slightly unrealistic? Dropping a huge amount of C4 down an elevator shaft, and conveniently getting out of the way of the blast- AND the building is still standing? Hmmm. Using an emergency ejector seat to escape a firey air plane... Jumping off a large suspension bridge to land on a boat a hundred feet below? Surely you see my point- John has always been a bit of a superhero- this is fiction after all. What happens here is pushes it a bit further into that realm, but if you look at the DH series objectively, you'll see that it has been there all along. What really matters to DH is the plot, action, and Willis' performance.

Again, like the previous entry, it has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the action scenes are pretty darn cool (if over the top). The car chase in Moscow is quite visceral, and the shootouts are action packed (though lacking the blood of DH1 and 3). There's a bit of suspense, and there is a pretty interesting double cross (or even a triple cross), as well as "euro trash " bud guys, all in the DH tradition. Willis again does a great job with the character- he is older and even more grizzled, and he must deal with how he has influenced his son throughout the years. It isn't easy being the son of a cop, let alone a hero- a lot to live up to. Also, Willis isn't afraid to show that he will never win father of the year in how he treats his son. I could understand the temptation of good man/rebellious kid, but the movie wisely shies away from that, and John is actually not a great parent, equating working hard for being a good father, which isn't the case (a lesson he learns by the end).  Finally, the movie is very, very lean. LFDH seemed to have large bits were nothing was really happening, with John driving around or talking to the computer nerd. A Good Day wastes almost no time, moving from action sequence to even more action, with just enough time to take a breath in between. The movie moves fast, I'll give it that.

There are considerable negatives, most notably the actor who plays John Junior. Jai Courtney is rather bland and uncharismatic. Now, DH3 had the ultimate side-kick, while LFDH had John paired with a nerdy weakling, making for some comedic moments. Here, John is working with someone who is stronger and possibly even better-trained than him, and it is his estranged son to boot. However, the "kid" is never that interesting, and even unlikeable at times. It became tough to be invested in the father/son dynamic when half of that pair is so tough to feel connected to. Another weakness is the feeling of missed opportunities. With John in Moscow, this could have been a real fish out of water story. Imagine John growing frustrated with the language barrier, the cultural differences. There could have been some real humor, as well as suspense in having John trying to blend into Russia, and the movie basically ignores that. It would have been interesting to have John in the role of the Germans in DH1 and 3- like when they were trying to hide in America (the cigarettes, the "raining dogs and cats"), but the movie misses the chance. Finally, despite the interesting double cross, the plot just isn't as compelling. Yes, there is a lot at stake, but it happens so quickly that there is little time to appreciate the implications of the bad guys winning. In LFDH at least, the consequences of Gabriel's scheme are front and center (let alone DH1 and 3). Again, a bit of a missed opportunity.

So- what's the verdict? The movie never hits the highs of earlier entries, that is for sure. It is about on par with LFDH- it is a fun action movie with a likable lead, an everyman who we all could identify with. If you go in with lower expectations, you will find this to be an enjoyable action movie- just don't go in wanting it to be a classic, because it just isn't. I give it 2 1/2 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.

I think they should do one more Die Hard. The title could be something like say "Die Hardest" or something. You need to have Cristolph Waltz be the main villain (cerebral, but more smarmy than either Rickman or Irons), with McClane going against German terrorists one last time. Somebody like The Rock should be McClane's side-kick; somebody tough but also someone who could give Willis a run for his money in the charm department. There's still life in this franchise, and I think that if they do it right, it could be a worthy conclusion. Just my fanboy musing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review In Brief: Betrayer

Hey there Chaos fanatics! I'm sorry I've been away for quite so long- it has been very busy here at the Chaos estates, no doubt. However, I have been working on my Khorne Bezerker army- I'll have pics when I feel that I have more special models to show- my World Eaters are doing very well, and I am looking forward to taking to the field with them again soon.

Speaking of World Eaters, I finished Betrayer by Aaron Dembski Bowden a few weeks ago. I read it on my shiny new iPad- it really is an amazing device (see my review of Digital White Dwarf here ). At any rate, how was Betrayer, you may ask? Well, let's find out, shall we?

"Aye. Piss on Angron's grave when he finally lies dead" - Gharte of the World Eaters

I have said it before, and I will say it again right now- ADB may well be the best writer at Black Library right now. It always seems to be a toss up between him and Abnett, and this book has only added to that- especially since this book is, in so many ways, a continuation of Abnett's fantastic Know No Fear. Indeed, it as a worthy follow-up to that story, as well as a story that expands on the entire Horus Heresy line in so many ways (though I'm contemplating calling it Lorgar's Heresy, considering the events of these books).

Basically, Betrayer continues the story of Know No Fear: a secondary group of Word Bearers has teamed up with the World Eaters to continue the assault on the Ultramar region, engaging in Lorgar's "Shadow Crusade" to plunge the region into anarchy, thus cutting off Guilliman from the rest of the Imperium. However, as always with Lorgar, he has something else up his sleeve. He is planning to sacrifice all in order to... save Angron's life?! What the...?

Exactly. It's surprising twists and turns like this that make the book so damn exciting. It is a great conciet to put the Word Bearers with the World Eaters- seeing Angron and Lorgar together (with amazing character beats for each), at first I kept hearing the Odd Couple theme. However, while their interactions were often amusing, they quickly became full of portent (knowing how the Heresy ends up). Further, the two legions are not, how shall I say... well coordinated. They despise each other, with the exception of Kharn (surprisingly level-headed) and Argel Tal (great to see him again), who both can see that things aren't so good with the rebellion and their respective Primarchs, no matter how things may seem.

So- the real star of the book is Angron, and what a character he is. ADB does the incredible- again- he takes what was always a rather 2 dimensional Primarch and makes him a full person- a WOUNDED full person at that. More than any other Primarch's portrayal, this one felt raw, emotional, realistic (if that is possible in 40K). Without filling in all the blanks, ADB shows that Angron is the "broken Primarch", ruined by the world he landed on as an infant (which we now learn is called Nuceria, in the Ultima Segmentum of all places!). All he ever knew was violence, bloodshed, tragedy, and loss. He never had a chance to develop normally- literally, thanks to the Butcher's Nails surgically implanted in his head, a device that makes him crave violence. This has made him angry, twisted, and bitter. Even his own legion is frustrated by his unpredictability and the fact that he is "damaged goods". It has also given Angron a rather unique view- he feels that the Emperor is a sham, a con artist just like any other would-be tyrant. In the words of Angron during a flashback:

"We fight because the Emperor wants every world in his hands. All he knows is slavery, painted in the inoffensive cloak of compliance. The very notion of freedom is a horror to him... We offer them compliance, or we offer them death".

That is powerful stuff- Angron has put his finger on the very contradiction that brings down the Imperium of 30K. This is what causes Chaos to engulf half the legions and the Imperium. And Angron calls it before just about anybody. Simply amazing. Angron is very sympathetic throughout, and you can't help but root for him, even if you know how this will turn out. Quite a literary feat indeed.

I really, really don't want to spoil the details of the story, as if you are a HH fan, this book has it all. I really like how ADB is tying his story to so many others in the HH series- (and even from other things like The Emperor's Gift and Ravenor, believe it or not) it really is exciting to feel this momentum and how the HH is so very complex. ADB is a juggler in this story- he has so many balls in the air at once and you fear that he may just drop them- but he doesn't, with a climax that is exciting, while tying up some threads while creating whole new ones. Everyone gets their moments: Lorgar, Kharn, Argel Tal, Guilliman, Erebus. The action is frantic at points, always exciting but clear to follow. Plots are furthered: what's the deal between Erebus and Lorgar- just who is playing whom exactly? Who is John Grammaticus and his guys, exactly- the biological children of the Emperor, perhaps? And Kharn? And... well, there's so much more, but again, I don't want to spoil.

The ending is just fantastic- incredibly fitting and fulfilling. Indeed, there is a great symmetry about where things start and where they end up, with a degree of irony for Lorgar and Angron alike. I loved it, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Just a note of caution- you need to read several HH stories to get this one fully, including: Legion, The First Heretic, After D'eshea, Butcher's Nails, and of course Know No Fear (D'eshea in particular- a short story). I mean, you can follow it if you haven't, BUT you'll get more out of it if you have, that's all I'm saying.

So, I give this 4 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. I cannot recommend this one enough. If you are a 40K fan at all, this book is just essential reading. I know you will enjoy it immensely.

I'm currently in the middle of Ahriman: Exile, and its quite good, I must say. I'll let you know when I'm done with it. Until next time...