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Friday, September 26, 2014

Two For One Book Review: Vengeful Spirit and Stormcaller

Hey there everyone. It continues to be busy times for us 40K fans. The Dark Eldar are imminent, and I am both hopeful and nervous. I want the strengths of the 2010 book to continue, but all these rumors seem to scream "NERF"... we shall see. At any rate, I'm back with a pair of book reviews. Now, I haven't done this in a while, so I may be rusty at my book reporting skills. Beware of minor SPOILERS, please. So, away we go...

Vengeful Spirit by Graham McNeil

I have mixed feelings on this book. I am glad to see Horus back and center stage- it is his Heresy, after all. McNeil makes Horus as charismatic and strong as he should be- the reason so many would follow him. His "charm" has been missing from most of his appearances lately, so it's nice to see that aspect of this character return. I also continue to get a hoot out of Abaddon (such a curmudgeon) and "Little Horus". At any rate, Horus is looking to "walk the path" that the Emperor walked in the early days- a path that could take Horus to godhood. Horus just has to lay waste to a planet or two to get there. His Daddy issues come to the fore here as well, in interesting ways. My only complaint is that just as Horus is about to take his first steps into the Warp... the book pulls away from it. The coolest part is thus consigned to our imaginations, for good or ill.

The other parts of the book is where I have real issues with the author. The rest of the elements never seem to come together. There's yet another perpetual (I guess the immortal Emperor has the time to be this prolific, huh?), but she is not as interesting as the ones that have come before (Grammaticus and Oll Persson come to mind). There's some Imperial Knight house intrigue- I'll admit, it did a great twist turn I didn't expect, but- it felt shoehorned in there- cobbled in just because GW has this hot new model. The Ultramarine and Blood Angel contingents are forgettable and their impact is negligible. Finally, there's Malcador's "proto-Grey Knights". Now, I like the idea of this strike team, but I wish that Loken had not been brought back. I loved Loken, but I think he should have stayed dead. Their mission is interesting, but they get into trouble--- and get out of it fairly easily. I wonder if Horus is a warmaster or a ringmaster, barely controlling his 3-ring circus, as the Knights Errant slip through his fingers very quickly.

The battles really shine- the planet of Molech becomes a charnel house once the Sons of Horus arrives, and McNeil does well with the action scenes. Its just that the elements never quite gel (unlike say Betrayer or Unremembered Empire, which took tons of dangling  plot strings and tied them together so well). I liked the book, but I didn't love it, as I was hoping.

Stormcaller by Chris Wright

I reviewed his first book in what appears to be a trilogy, Blood of Asaheim HERE. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and this one is just as good, if not better.

The story begins shortly after the first one ends. The rout of Jarnhamar is moping up operations on the shrine world Ras Shakkeh when two arrivals herald even bigger challenges- a vicious Cardinal and, of course, Njal Stormcaller, Rune Priest of the Space Wolves. All parties want to take the fight to the Death Guard- who have their own space hulk spreading contagion throughout the sector. Naturally, the cardinal has a rather extreme view of how to deal with the hulk (destroy the populated planets in its wake- not too extreme), while Njal wants to board the hulk and take it out from within. What ensues is a crackerjack action story, complete with a ticking time bomb, betrayals, and naturally tensions between the Wolves and the Ecclasiarchy. Whereas the last book felt like a siege from Lord of the Rings, this book is like Empire Strikes Back: the band of heroes is split up, dark truths are learned, and it ends on an ambiguous cliffhanger.  I mean that as a compliment; the book is a fun ride.

The action, though pulse pounding, takes a back seat to the characters. I love the chemistry between Gunnlaugur and Ingvar. Ingvar in particular is intriguing, the former Deathwatch veteran still trying to find his place in his pack. While tensions between the two have improved, it threatens to bubble to the surface at the worst moments. Olegir is given a fascinating, almost "political" mission which sees the big guy NOT fight. Jorundur is his usual grumpy self (and the least developed of the characters). Hafloi is still hot-headed but he is learning that blood lust is not enough and the Grey Hunters have their merits as "cooler" warriors. Then there's Baldr. Poor Baldr. I can reveal nothing more here, but oh boy... It is interesting to note that they briefly remember the slain Valtyr, which I think is appropriate. The Wolves aren't sentimental. Death is part of the work and life of a Space Marine. They acknowledge it and move on. It's that simple.

Njal is a big presence, though he is not drawn nearly as well as our friends in Jarnhamar. However, Njal makes some decisions (and mistakes) that may have huge repercussions on both Jarnhamar and the galaxy at large. But he does tie into the larger themes of "knowing your place" in the scheme of things- he is the ultimate authority, he knows the rules, but even he is unsure. Its great stuff.

Also taking that theme is, once again, the Death Guard. The leader of the space hulk Festerax, the Death Guard sorcerer known as The Mycelite is a great character- he's quite melancholy, resigned to the fact that everything rots. The sooner we all acknowledge this and hasten the process of entropy, the better for the galaxy. That sums up the Death Guard (and Nurgle's) position pretty well. Again, it sets a great contrast for the Wolves- they truly are running ragged by the constant war, surely they feel the touch of decay? Wright continues to have fun comparing the two. Though most would say that the Thousand Sons are the "natural enemies" of the Wolves, I think the Death Guard make much better foils for them, at least in Wright's hands.

I truly enjoyed the book- once I got started I couldn't put it down. If you liked the first one this is a great addition to the saga. I can't wait till the next one (Typhus? The Inquisition? Eye of Terror?).

Well, that's all for now. Until next time... stay thirsty my friends.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Campaigning in 40K- A Personal Quest

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, to yet another glorious update to the Chaos Corner. I hope you will find this offering to be interesting, intriguing, and indispensable! I have to say I am very excited to see new Dark Eldar on the horizon (I love the Haemonculus and the Wracks- though I wish the Wracks were a bit cheaper- unless they have really strengthened them in the new Codex). The Dark Eldar was my first army back in the day (I started in 2000 with 3rd edition Dark Eldar), and I loved their update in 2010 (fantastic models, great codex with lots and lots of options). And while I don't play Fantasy, the Nagash stuff has been interesting, and rumors that Fantasy Chaos will be getting goodies may well translate into 40K Chaos players getting goodies too (one can hope- either new Daemon models or at the very leaset models and bitz for conversions).

I have always wanted to play a long term, story driven campaign complete with a campaign map, story background, and a lot more. I'm not interested in the tournament scene really, much preferring to play with friends or one-offs with people at my local store. However, I have always wanted a hard-hitting, twist-turning, and exciting campaign. The problem was getting people to invest the time and effort in such a campaign.

In July 2005, my friends and I managed to put together one campaign. It was called The Gryphonne Secondus Campaign: The Siege of Kronian. Basically, the famous Forgeworld of Gryphonne IV is under attack by Tyranids. It's lesser known neighbor, Gryphonne Secondus is also under attack- not just by Nids, but also by Chaos and Orks! The idea was that all of our friends could take part in the campaign.

 We wrote a storyline that featured a good-hearted but weak Planetary Governor, a divided populous rife with traitors, slavering Nids and Orks, as well as heroic Guradsmen and Space Marines. The campaign centered on the city of Kronian, capital of Gryphonne II. We created a whole "campaign pack", which included the background, rules, maps, pictures, charts, and even quotes from key leaders. Yes- our imaginations ran wild! This was exactly what we were talking about doing for years! The first batch of games were an absolute blast! I even made a newsletter (The Daily Inquisitor) at the end of every campaign turn to summarize the events of the turn in an exciting fashion- I printed it on "old parchment" looking paper to boot.

But, there were a few problems. Our imagination got the better of us. We made the darn thing way too complicated. The map system I devised was a mess- with limited avenues of attack on the city "tiles". Making it worse was that each "tile" had its own rules, missions, etc. Basically,  it was way more cumbersome than it should have been. It made preparation a nightmare. And, of course, it was hard to schedule everyone to get together. Before you knew it, people dropped out--- the whole thing pretty much collapsed.

We played 4 campaign turns, which saw several battles in each turn- so it turned out to be a lot of battles, but as everyone pulled out, the whole thing just came undone. In the end, it was just me and my brother (which was not at all what I expected to happen). We played a "final Apocalyspe" match to determine the winner. Ultimately, my brother's guardsmen won the day, saving the world from the forces of evil.

The collapse of the campaign saddened me. But, the flame would not quite die. For the next few years, I tinkered with campaign ideas, tearing down what was done with the Gryphonne II campaign pack and streamlining it. I painted up the map- tiles that Games Workshop produced. I began to create a new story (which would see several revisions). Most of all- I kept after the rules, making sure that it would be faster and playable.

The Victory Parade at the end of the Gryphonne II Campaign

Thus, after years of tinkering and revision, my new campaign was ready- the Judgement of Trovana Prime!! In my next blog update, I'll let you guys all know how that campaign has been going- if I have indeed learned from my mistakes, or if I am indeed a fool and have learned nothing...

Until next time!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Zombie Champion Challenge

Hey there, my fellow denizens of the Warp-Hell that we call the Internet! Welcome to yet another edition of Chaos Corner. Old Man Chaos is here to entertain you and hopefully inspire some conversion creativity in my readers. All the time, I look at other blogs, Facebook pages, etc. and get inspired by the great work I see there. I am not saying my work is "great", but I enjoy my hobby and if somebody sees my blog and says "Hey- that's not bad, but I could make that even better" and they do it- well, that's what this is all about folks.

I have been fascinated by zombies for quite some time. When I was a little kid (growing up in the 80s and 90s) my parents got me interested in sci-fi. I watched Alien at an early age for sure, as well as Star Trek, Star Wars. I was also exposed to horror films like Halloween, the Howling, Tales From The Darkside, etc. though my parents were more into the classics like the Universal Horror movies.

However, there were some movies that my parents refused to let me see. The Exorcist for one. Night of the Living Dead was another. I remember seeing part of it on TV till my mother changed the channel. She said that movie was "bad"- not bad as in poorly made- rather, bad as in evil. Wrong. Just too scary for all the wrong and evil reasons. I was forbidden to watch that film.

But, in 1996, I was a senior in high school when the situation changed. I bought a PSOne in 1995 when it first came out, and in 1996 a game came out for it that would alter the video game industry and my own movie/game interests forever- Resident Evil. In that game, you are a elite cop trapped in a mansion that has become a nightmare of experimentation gone wrong- mutants, viruses, and of course... zombies. My world was changed forever by that experience. I did get a copy of Night of the Living Dead on VHS and that was it. I was a zombie fan for life. I quickly discovered Dawn and Day, as well as Zombie! and a host of others (both good and lame).

Naturally, my enjoyment of the undead eventually found an outlet when I got into 40K. At first I played Dark Eldar, but soon the Plague Marines beckoned and that was it. It was so easy to make bloated, decayed Plague Marines. However, I soon got another zombie jolt for 40K with the Eye of Terror book (a hollowed classic that they have never been able to recapture), which featured Plague Zombies. With that little impetus and inspiration, I made 75 Plague Zombies. I used fantasy zombies, but I also used plastic Cadians and Catachans too- Imperial soldiers that fell to the zombie plague. I had a vast horde of Plague Marines and their victims- arisen to aid those that brought the plague in the first place (If you read Wright's Space Wolf series he describes this incredibly well, as does ADB in Cadian Blood). Great times as a Nurgle player.

However, subsequent editions came out, and there were no equivalent rules for Plague Zombies, and I was afraid they would be consigned to oblivion (or friendly, rules-loose games). But, then 6th edition came out- though the new Chaos Codex had issues, they allowed you to take Plague Zombies once more, by having Typhus as your warlord. My undead would walk again in the name of Nurgle!

It took me a while to "get it" that zombies had to have champions just like cultists. At first I thought that was an "upgrade", but really no- its required. So, when I fielded them I usually just said "this one" is the champion. But, I didn't like that... it felt like a cop out. Problem is, I didn't have an alternative. That changed this past summer, when inspiration hit me like a plague-ridden slap in the face.

The new Space Marine kit is a great one- lots of weapons, armor varieties, etc. Then Nurgle told me that such could be brought more in line with his ways of entropy... yes, I could convert them into Plague Zombie Champions! I took up my cutters, knife, and glue and... bam! Plague Zombie Champions!

Just imagine- an Ultramarine is fighting the forces of Nurgle when he is bitten by the zombies- now, he is in agony as his geneseed-enhanced body tries to fight off the infection. He fights on in the streets of a hive city, trying to save the uninfected as his own body begins to succumb to this virulent strain of Nurgle's Rot. Finally, even his superhuman body falls to the plague, and when it does he mindlessly attacks those he was trying to save.

When the end came, most of the planet's inhabitants had died and returned as plague zombies of Nurgle. As the Plague Marines stalked the streets of the dead, admiring their work and praising Nurgle, they stumbled upon the heroic Ultramarine- his armor corroded, his body wasted and oozing, and his mouth wet with the blood of human flesh recently feasted upon. The Death Guard captain laughs grimly, and orders his troops to bring the Ultramarine to their lander. The captain smiles with rotten teeth, knowing that on the next world they "visit", this Ultramarine will help spread the plague far and wide before he is lain low by his uninfected brethren. Imagine their horror to see a fellow Ultramarine with the taint of Nurgle... that would be foul. That would be glorious.

And that's what I did. I made Space Marines of several chapters into Zombie Champions. I put them in various stages of decay, and put the appropriate blood, slime, corrosion, and mutations (I figured that the enhanced geneseed of the Marines would make the Plague react in other ways, causing more advanced mutations- the more enhanced, the more mutation). Now, there can be no mistaking which zombies are the champions. I can't wait to use them in battle alongside my regular zombies.

So I hope you liked this look into the workings of a mad devotee of Nurgle. So, I ask my fellow Nurgle players out there- how do you handle your Plague Zombie Champions?

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Conversion Time: A New Nurgle Heldrake

Hey there everybody! Welcome back to another edition of Chaos Corner. Today I have a sequel of sorts to a previous article, which you may want to peruse first HERE. In any case, allow me to present... my second Nurgle Heldrake...

So, as you may have seen in my previous article- I love the Heldrake (having 2 for my Khorne Bezerkers), but I felt that the model just wasn't "Nurgl-y" if you well, and given the model it appeared (at first) to be difficult to make suitable conversions. Of course, as a Chaos player I always have my eyes to conversion. Thus, one day I was in my hobby shop and I said to some of the gaming group that it I was thinking of combining the Heldrake with the Fantasy Zombie Dragon. The gaming group was impressed, save one. One of the circle of gamers sighed, saying that there was no way to do such a conversion. Naturally, I could not resist such a challenge and thus began to work furiously at a conversion.

I loved how that turned out. However, once I was done I realized I had a ton of parts left over- certainly enough to do another 'drake? So, I envisioned what the second one would look like, and immediately began work. However, there were problems. With the parts available, this would be a trickier conversion to pull off- I'd need lots of putty and brass rods. I also wasn't sure if my "vision" would look right, even if I could pull it off. Finally, other projects kept vying for my attention- the Imperial Knight, Plague Drones, Dreadnoughts, etc.

Finally, in the midst of summer, I began work on a Nurgle Forgefiend- and I decided to work on the Heldrake simultaneously (Am I ambitious or what?). Thus, I was properly motivated by Grandfather Nurgle to get this bad boy done.

So, let's break it down piece by piece. I put the Heldrake neck/head on the zombie dragon body. This did not fit on nearly as well, so I had to do some putty work. Putty is easy for Nurgle- you can make it look like ridges or sickly growths or whatever. It hides a multitude of sins. I then put the wings on. I could only do the two, otherwise the model would pitch. Again, I had to putty the hell out of it to keep the wings in place. I wanted the wings up, to give it some motion (it's swooping quickly).

At the back end, I wanted to put the heldrake legs on. Here, I used brass rod and drove it straight through the model. Then I glued the legs to the rod. Finally, I used putty to cover the rod.

As I looked at the model, I saw that a few things felt missing. First, in the rib cage it looked awfully empty. Thus, I decided to make putty intestines dangling in there, as if Father Nurgle wants its guts to spill everywhere to infect his enemies. I also put putty intestines around the brass rod holding up the heldrake in order to give the rod more support.

But, something still was amiss. I didn't like how he looked suspended just by the rod. It just wasn't appealing. So, as I mulled it over I did something I rarely do- I made a scenic diorama base. I used some of the spare building pieces I had to make it appear he is flying over an Imperial city. And from the one side it hides the rod almost completely.

And yet... I wanted more from the scenic base, so I decided to literally make a scene. I put an Imperial Guardsmen (painted in my brother's scheme) on the outside, looking up fearfully- he is clearly desperate to avoid the heldrake's gaze. So why isn't he hiding inside the wrecked building--- hahaha! Take a look...

But that nod to Walking Dead still wasn't enough. So, I put a zombie inside the building. A victim of Nurgle's plague, the dead man now walks, seeking to spread the joy of Nurgle's Rot with others.

But... to really doom the Guardsman, I put this message...

Boy, is the grunt in trouble or what? If the zombie doesn't get him the heldrake will. I had a lot of fun visualizing that scenic base, and I love how it came out. The scene enhances the look of the Heldarke- he is banking around, looking for a victim.  He looks emaciated and the guts spilling out of him ties him into other elements of my army (Daemon Princes, Plague Marines,  and some vehicles have the guts spilling out).

I am happy that I was able to make two Heldrakes like this. They are really different and to me, they now look like they belong to the forces of the plague god. (And I think I saved some cash, as the zombie dragon is cheaper than a heldrake, thus I have Saved Money the Chaos Way once more).

Well, that's all for now. We have all heard the rumblings--- Dark Eldar are coming up sooner or later. I am hopeful that the new book will continue what the redo started... I really should ally Chaos with the DE at some point, shouldn't I...?

Until next time...