Sunday, 25 August 2013

Darklands Kickstarter Ysian Starter Set (plus extras) review.

So in another of my Kickstarter escapades I backed the Darklands World at War Kickstarter after seeing the incredible quality of the miniatures on offer and Mr Lol Cravens article on the intriguing new system . I plumped for the Ysians (which are like Chaos Warriors but 10 x better) and have been impatiently waiting for them ever since.

Well they finally tuned up a few week ago so I guess I can submit my thoughts on them now I have finally had a chance to have a look and get them (mostly) assembled. A crushing disappointment or everything I’d hoped for? Read on to find out.

Incidentally here I will talk just about the models, to find out more about Darklands and Mierce Miniatures see my article on the subject on the Conclave of Har website.

So first off, miniature quality: on the whole very good, a few bubbles here and there but nothing too bad. The most serious is on Beorns axe hand which has a collapsed finger but that is easily fixable with a spot of greenstuff, there aren’t great big bits of detail missing like Citadels finecast. And what detail there is!! These models are for the most part phenomenal. A real tour de force in miniature design. With that obvious hand sculpted touch these are a far cry from GW's CAD models that seem to make up so much of their output these days. And unlike some Kickstarters the figures have matched or in some cases surpassed the concept art.

The miniatures are actually made from different types of resin as you can see by the different colours on show. Whether this is a batch issue or there is some other reason for it I am unsure but there is definitley a difference in the properties of the material. The resin is really very well cast, there is flash aplenty which can be easily removed without any problems and any mould lines are minimal. Where there are mould lines or a slight slip in the mould however you can have a real problem cleaning it up as there is so much detail on the models. I found a sharp craft knife worked best. This said however, I think I found no more than half a dozen mould lines out of 25 or so figures which is a rather good ratio.

So ill break down what I got and give a mini (lol) review for each one.


Ax Drune Commander

Ax Drune Musician

Ax Drune Warrior 
Ax Drune Standard Bearer

Ax Drune Warrior

These are GREAT, possibly the best miniatures in the whole set, no issues with moulding other than a tiny bit missing on one axe. They make GW Chaos Marauders look like a juvenile mess. JUST LOOK AT THEM. They look amazing, the horns were a little fiddly to get on the helmets but that’s about it as far as quibbles go. 2 of the figures did require a very minor bit of bending to the arms to get them to fit. They also fit on the bases nicely, really couldn't be happier with these...


Dude with a huge banner. A somewhat fiddly assembly, (the banner alone is in 5 pieces) and there are a few gaps that will need greenstuffing, there are also some RIDICULOUSLY small horns that need to be attached to the model that will test your dexterity and patience. Overall very nice although I feel the banner may be unneseccarily complicated. It does look mightily impressive though. An ambitous miniature superbly executed.

Urbad the Giant

One of the standard freebie stretch goals for Kickstarter backers, it’s an ok model and a big chunk of resin, you can see why they gave it away as a freebie, has some nice details but is most certainly the weaker of the miniatures in design.


There is a head inside that skull with some exquisite detail. 

Shaman dude, (I think - will need to wait for the musters to be released) the same great detail as the other models. The wrist snapped but was easily repaired with a spot of superglue. Cracking model, great detail.

Ulric The Defiler

Really going to enjoy painting this 

Perfect, no mould lines crisp detail, went together like a dream. Looks fantastic. Canot wait to get some paint on this lad. If everything had been to this quality I would have been astounded. Might have something to do with the white/cream resin used

Rose of Ker - Ys

The Grey resin also seems to be one of the better formula

Another nice and easy assembly aside from a confusing piece of detail that I just removed as it was pissing me off. It was fine, a couple of fine mould lines easily removed. A dark grey resin, more like hard plastic. a beautiful figure.

Sword Melusines

Stunning model, i think this is the balance just right.

That sword snapped, hopefully the repair job holds. 

This seems a bit gratuitous if im being honest, both feet snapped.

Again sword snapped, will have to be careful when used in games.

again, a bit in your face but a nice sculpt. 

ARRGH THE HORROR!!! Absolute nightmares all round here im afraid. Lovely models but oh so fragile, many of them had their feet break off as I clipped bits off the sprue, lots of the sword handles snapped and had to be reglued. There are a few air bubbles in the hair that can easily be fixed, and overall no issues with anything else. That said they are very nice models and I look forward to painting them immensely, no mould lines. The banner was a little bent so I tried to straighten it whereby it snapped off and needed fixing, it also had a lot of flash but that was very easy to remove. These models are only suitable for mature and advanced modellers for reasons other than just their anatomical correctness.

Bow drunes

For basic models these are very very nicely designed. 

Bow Drune Commander

That arrow is GUARANTEED to break at some point in this models life 

Arrows are very fragile and break. No hope of repairing them at all im afraid. A bad mould slip on one model may be beyond my skill to repair so that might be the one figure I get replaced. Over all though no bad mouldlines and although lots of easily repairable flash not too bad to assemble. The arrows are never going to last and may have to be replaced with wire. Considering these are the rank and file models they are excellent although not quite as nice as their ax wielding brethren

Small Head, big Ax

Another stunning centerpiece.

I love this model, with his tiny head and big axe to compensate, there was a nasty mould line that needed fixing on one of his legs but other than that, all good, a minor bit of repositioning on the arms needed and a few very minor bubbles but otherwise no problems.

Carrowek on horse

Poor horse, Carrowek is a big lad...

Very tasty, my one was missing his cloak but Mierce have sent a replacement.  Goes together quite well with a little filling needed at waist and round horses legs. Mould lines on horses flanks needed removing. I havent quite finished assembling mine so this is a stock photo.


Nice models but some issues with bubbles on the bear form. Beorn human axe snapped off after a relatively short drop. Beorn bear (not pictured) has horrible bubble damage to one hand that I might be able to fix. Great sculpt on both figures however. This picture shows just how good these models are.

So overall lovely figures but I would definitely label these as an advanced kit (and not just because the Melusine are naked) as they are quite a pain assemble,. Of course this is the only way to not compromise the design of the figures and here Mierce excel. Just as good or better than the proposed concepts and superbly executed considering the ambitous nature of the design. So much better than anything GW have produced of late and detail so fine that it almost tricks the eye, (I almost removed some as excess mould) They are not exempt from air bubbles however and I will need to fill a few gaps with Greenstuff  before I am happy with them. They are also very fragile, the Melusines particularly so and some pieces would break just from the touque of being removed from the sprue with clippers. I would probablty recommend using a dremel saw or something to remove those pieces (although they do reglue just fine). In addition if you drop these models they WILL break, just transporting them is going to be a nightmare. I actually hesitate to say they are suitable as gaming models such is the fraility of the pieces. Have superglue handy at all times.

Overall I am very pleased with the Ysians and the Kickstarter in general. Some of the models are better than others but all of them are at least ‘nice’ with most of them being ‘excellent’ I not sure I would have got the Sworld Melusines in retrospect as this material is ironically enough just not suited to the female form and their slenderness (although the dark resin used for the Rose seems a lot better). The bow drunes are another weak link but overall they are fantastic figures that I am going to have a great deal of fun painting. Something else that needs to be factored in was the price that I paid. I paid well under RRP for these models as the Kickstarter price was heavily discounted. At RRP I would be a great deal less forgiving of the few flaws present. All in all however these ARE premium figures for a premium price and the quality is very very high. I look forward the the next Kickstarter with great anticipation!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Space Hulk PC Game Guest Review by Matt Clarke

OK, so. Space Hulk. As the original board game is what got me into Games Workshop in the first place you could say that I have a slight attachment to this game. I spent hours paying the old game with those atrocious plastic Terminators and countless shoebox-wielding helpless Astartes 'veterans' perished at my teenage paws. Well, the Deathwing expansion rolled around and I grabbed that m0f0 with both hands and got stuck into the psykers, rubble, assault cannons, multi-level maps, power fist-mounted grenade launchers (oh I miss those, the Terminator Captain model was magnificent), chain fists, lightning claws, thunder hammers...oh, you get the drift. Along with this was the revelation of metal Terminators! Rejoice; no more hunched slopey plastic atrocities for now I had detailed metal chaps to send to their doom instead! And the Deathwing story was excellent. Following that there was the Genestealer expansion with hybrids, conversion beamers, autocannons, missile launchers, 'Stealer psykers...but we don't care about them so much...aaand theeeen was the Space Hulk Campaigns book with rules for Marines in power armour and all sorts of excellent stuff. I still couldn't really justify making up rules for using my thudd gun in there though...

ANYWAY, after the board games were the old Amiga & PC computer games versions of Space Hulk and man, the first of these damn things was a beautifully presented exercise in frustration that could only be the infernal spoor of some wretched sadist. It was great, but had a bit of a shelf life as there were only so many times that you could see your squad's camera feeds fill up with Genestealer faces followed by claws and static. Unforgiving ain't the word and the second one I vaguely remember being pretty similar. Roll on the last half of 2013...

Today saw the release of the third digital incarnation of Troll Hulk, courtesy of the Danes over at Full Control. Straight up: I've never heard of them! Checking them out reveals that they focus on pick-up strategy games for the older gamer who may not have hours to sink into the latest FPS or MMO which makes them sound like they're perfect to develop the mission-based Space Hulk without an insane budget. And to be fair, I think they've done a pretty top-notch job. The game is clearly based on the most recent 2009 limited edition version of the board game with the Terminators at your...disposal...lifted straight from the miniatures from that game, complete with the same names. The game kicks off with a menu screen which was displayed in my TFT's native HD 1920x1080 full-screen res with no graphics faffery on my part at all, which was refreshing. From there you can check out the three gameplay types of single-player Campaign, Hot Seat multiplayer and online Multiplayer, faff with graphical, audio & gameplay options and check your eDong Steam achievements.

I've not tried any of the multiplayer stuff yet so I can't report back on that, but spending an hour on the three pre-boarding missions and the first two main Campaign missions quickly cuts to the quick of things. The game itself is displayed in fully rotate-able (is that even a word?) certainly-adequate-and-fairly-pretty isometric 3D with a very good depth of zoom that allows up close viewing of the carnage and a far more useful zoomed-out view for tactical planning (and weeping a single man-tear as you assess just how buggered your remaining lone Terminator is). Scattered around the main screen are the items that allow you to play the game: the objectives list dwells up in the top-left corner, the currently selected Terminator's shoulder cam nestles in the top-right, the info log lives in the bottom-right corner along with several buttons for an overview map, moving the display around and game options. The squad panel is bottom-middle and it's here that you view remaining Action Points/APs for each unit, their weapon load-out, assign orders and change squads if you've got more than five guys in the deep space meat grinder. The bottom-left corner houses the squad summary where you can see at a glance who’s still breathing, what their main weapon is, their remaining APs and your remaining Command Points/CPs for that turn.

Missions are introduced by a written and verbal briefing (by someone doing their best Mark Strong impression which is fitting). There's no music as such in-game; it's all slow clomping Terminator steps, gunfire, and 'Stealer hisses echoing down metal corridors with some ambient sounds filling the gaps. There's a comms response to every order, jam, kill and death. The shoulder cams are a good touch with the unit's weapon weaving into view as they lumber about and fight with the occasional fuzz and interference ghosting the feed. For every death the camera zooms in for a closeup of the brutality, be it by melee or ranged weapons. There's twelve Sin Of Damnation missions in total that have to be played as a campaign to be unlocked. I started the second one this morning and the map looks bigger than the first so it'll be interesting.

To the uninitiated the game unfolds as thus (and if you’ve played any version of the board game then you’ll already know what to expect so can skip this paragraph): you are given 2-10 guys, depending on the mission at hand, to complete your objectives; a full squad of five Terminators are generally kitted out as three standard fellows with double-barrel storm bolters + power fists, one Sergeant with a storm bolter + power sword & one heavier weapon chap with a heavy flamer (or assault cannon) and power fist. Power fists are big chunky energised gauntlets that are slow but very effective at bludgeoning doors/skulls, following on from this a power sword is fairly self-explanatory, storm bolters are a capable ranged weapon with unlimited ammo but prone to jamming and heavy flamers can impede movement and incinerate multiple targets at once by setting sections of the map ablaze but this can hinder your troops as well as keep hostiles off your back…and they only have six shots. From these five victims you choose who teleports in where in the deployment area when presented with the mission area’s map of rooms and interlinking corridors, they appear in a blaze of teleportation flare and the game is afoot. Genestealer blips enter the area from set points around the map and here is one of the main mechanics that make Space Hulk such a blast: a blip can be 1-3 ‘Stealers and you’ll only find out when one of your Terminators claps eyes on it. That room with three blips in…are you dealing with three ‘Stealers who can probably be dealt with by one or two of your guys at range or are you about to suddenly be charged by nine of these bad boys which may be a complete game-changer for your plan. You had a plan, right? Missions generally involve moving your alien-fodder from the starting area A to objective unit/room B and sometimes then on to point C to teleport out, the success of meeting your mission objectives will almost always depend on Your Plan. Just setting off without a plan in mind is a good way to have a quick game, just not usually a victorious one. Some scenarios depend on you burning a certain area of the map, which requires the heavy flamer, which requires that particular Terminator to survive long enough to get to the objective with enough ammo to do what’s needed.

Performing actions in Space Hulk costs lives…er…sorry, ‘points’, be it Action Points or Command Points. Each Terminator starts your turn with 4 APs; moving forward one square costs 1 AP, turning on the spot 90 degrees costs 1 AP, firing a storm bolter costs 1 AP, opening/closing doors costs 1 AP, passing a mission-critical item from one unit to another costs 1 AP, clearing a bolter jam (heh) costs 1 AP and more significant tasks like setting overwatch with a storm bolter model or firing a heavy flamer cost 2 APs…so you can quickly see that your chaps aren’t going to be mowing down hordes or winning marathons each turn. This is compounded by the fact that the Marine player has two minutes to complete their turn in and as if that didn’t make the novice’s eye twitch enough, Genestealers have 6 APs each with which to get in your face and take it off. The aliens don’t have ranged weapons, which is a blessing, but some of the Hulk’s corridors are pretty short or have closed doors which unless opened or blown away can provide an unknown quantity of hostiles to close in unseen and therefore unmolested. Terminators may be double-‘ard m0f0s on the battlefield, but in the confines of a Space Hulk they don’t have a great deal of room to manoeuvre and, compared to Genestealers, are damn slow, two facts which conspire against your chaps when you find them in the loving rending embrace of a ‘Stealer who certainly has the advantage when up close. In short, you want to be killing at a distance and keeping the wretched things away from your guys at all costs; I’ve not seen thunder hammers or lightning claws in action yet but even though your Sarge has a nifty power sword it only makes him marginally more survivable than the rest of your chaps – don’t rely on it to carry the melee. Losing your Sergeant also bins your ability to re-roll your turn’s allocation of 1-6 Command Points so if you start a turn and are unlucky enough to just get allocated a single CP then you’re stuck with that result.

Yes, it does sound like your squad is slow (they are), prone to be butchered in close combat (they will be) and doomed (they are relying on you to sort that out) but because they are the elite of Humanity’s Finest all is not lost! While each Marine has 4 APs per turn, these can be supplemented from your pool of CPs for that turn. If you’re desperate to get that flamer guy in position to stop your squad getting minced by filling a critical junction with ‘Stealer-blocking/incinerating flame then you can use 4 APs lumbering the chap into sight of the target and then, if you have enough, 2 CPs can then be used from the command pool to fire the flamer and save the day! Or get a storm bolter Marine into a long corridor with 3 of their APs and then use their remaining AP and one CP to set overwatch. But then that’s two less CPs for the rest of the guys to fall back on and use for that turn. Overwatch is a nifty thing; by sacrificing half the troop’s APs (or using CPs) to set them into overwatch that unit will then fire upon any hostile performing an action in his line of sight during the opponent’s turn. This is an absolute life-saver, overwatching storm bolters can fire as many times as actions are performed by an enemy unit that unit can clap eyes on: a Genestealer scoots around a corner into view, your guy opens fire, the ‘Stealer survives and moved forward a square, your guy opens fire, forward again, fires again, and so on until the hostile is dead, has reached the hapless Terminator and killed him (or killed in combat itself, trollolo), the line of sight is obstructed by a wall/door/unit or the storm bolter jams. Yes, jams. Elite veterans have gear trouble too, especially when their armour and weapons are hundreds or thousands of years old and rather grumpy. An AP/CP may be expended in your own turn to clear a jam or if in the opponent’s turn the Terminator will clear the jam himself…as long as there is a CP left over from your turn to do so. Did you really want to use that last CP in your turn? That click of a weapon jam may be fatal… But hey, storm bolters aren’t complete rubbish, they don’t run dry and if firing at the same target continuously a sustained fire bonus comes into play, increasing the chances of mullering the target.

Well, this has gone on for a bit longer than I expected and the girlf has wandered in and given me The Look several times over the last few hours and I’m not even playing the game! The crux (Terminatus, lawl, in-joke) of the matter is that Full Control have done a top-notch job of bringing every ounce of gameplay from the table-top to the small screen. The gameplay is completely faithful to the board-game, the graphics and sound, while not amazing, are pretty decent thus allowing the game to look pretty good while still being run on low-spec hardware (which pleases me when I open up my fairly-ungamey work laptop) which, IMO, is more important in a game of this type than making it astoundingly polished. 

The Genestealer AI, from my fairly limited exposure to it, seems decent enough; the aliens lurk around corners as blips and make some effort to remain hidden until the last moment and don’t seem to do daft things like mill about in confusion or run headlong into a blazing area to a firey death. The experience is everything I’d hoped for with the achievements and banner designing minor bonuses, but on normal difficulty there is a fairly steep learning curve. The three pre-boarding campaign missions take the player through the basis with two guys initially, then two guys introducing the heavy flamer followed by a whole squad needing to escape a small map and by that point you’re on your own but without the 2 minute turn timer. The Campaign proper carries on from there, timer an’ all, but you can lower the difficulty if you’re a new player or getting back into the game.

At this point I like it a lot and look forward to spending more time serving the Emperor and whatnot, uncovering psychic powers and the remaining melee/heavy weapons, possibly even with a mate joining in for some chuckles. I wouldn’t mind a Deathwing skin though…

As a fan I’d give the game a solid 8/10. Nice work, Full Control!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Brothers of the Snake review:

I must confess with some shame, that this is the first time I have read Brotherhood of the Snake. Although I have read most of his other Black Library novels (actually, maybe all of them) and some of his assorted Iron Snakes short stories, I have been remiss in getting round to this one. This is made all the more ironic by the fact that I have discussed Ithakas Asartes with the man himself and even suggested he team up with Graham McNeil to write a joint Astartes book! Nonetheless the reason for not getting round to this sooner is pure ‘ i just haven’t got round to it’ and there are no ulterior motives behind my hesitation.

So having finally picked the book up it was very comforting to instantly be absorbed by Abnetts descriptive style. This is Abnett at his prime, wonderfully depicting the minuatae of imperial life. As the denizens of Pythos (no one ever said Abnett was the most original at names) come under attack from the Dark Eldar. There is a fantastic sense of niavetey to the planets inhabitants. They are completely unprepared for these outside invaders and the arrival of the Astartes really drives home just how isoloated and backward the Pythosians are.

Few do Space Marines quite as well as Abnett, somewhat ironic seeing as they are by no means his forte. At once noble yet powerful, commanding yet human Dan really knows how to portray the Astartes. He bestows upon them personalities without them becoming charactitures (something many of his peers would do well to learn from) and makes them unique without diffusing their sense of being apart a breed apart from humans. (Something else I have discussed with Dan). Always a master of character writing, Priad is well rounded and feels like a real person.

The action is also well portrayed, with plaudit ‘he makes war so real that you want to duck’ well justified. Abnetts style is both action packed and descriptive and effortless to read. As with many of the BL books produced at the time the book is partly short stories setting the scene before a novella length final entry. This book does that better than most however and although there are an number of large engagements the main focus of the book is upon Priad and his rise to become sergeant of Squad Damocles and beyond. Abnett brings so many great ideas to the book as he always does and although his Iron Snakes may take some artistic liberites they are totally compelling and I really would like him to revisit the Marines of Ithaka at some point. He also manages to tie all the included narratives into one cohesive whole much more than most of these style of books have accomplished. This is a truly great read and it’s a shame that Black Library's releases these days aren’t more like it.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Horus Heresy Review: Angel Exterminatus

Emperor’s mercy, it’s been a long and painful wait for the mass market paperback or ‘Legacy Edition’ as Black Library like to call it of Angel Exterminatus. A 9 month wait avoiding all spoilers and reviews (fear not, this review is spoiler free, if by some chance you haven’t read the book) in which I have lost interest in the Horus Heresy series and to some extent Black Library’s publications in general, such is the extent of their seemingly consumer base destroying marketing decisions recently (ltd edition exclusive Novellas that cost more than a full length paperback I’m looking at YOU) It’s actually been a hard time being a black library reader recently. 

So having finally got my hands on (for me) the latest Heresy novel I was both delighted and outraged to discover that it is one of the very best books in the entire series. Delighted, as it has been some time since a book has matched ‘Fulgrim’ ‘Legion’ or ‘The First Heretic and outraged that such a literary experience has been denied me so long. I know I could have easily picked up one of the earlier editions or borrowed the book from someone but this far into the series I am not disrupting the uniformity of my collection for anyone. Thankfully the long gap that the addition of formats has caused has passed and I can now look forward to the release of HH titles at the semi regular pace I was previously accustomed to with Betrayer and Mark of Calth both due in the next few months.
Another stonking cover from Neil Roberts.
So what makes Angel Exterminatus so good? One thing would be the class of Graham McNeil’s writing, his iron warriors may have Warsmiths but McNeil here proves himself a true wordsmith. An expansive vocabulary and intelligent writing combined with a compelling narrative meant I devoured this book like Slaanesh devours Eldar souls. Another thing is that the story functions as a sequel of sorts to The Crimson Fist from Shadows Of Treachery, the last book in the series, picking up immediately after the failed attack on Perturabo’s flagship. This and a number of other references to events in previous books mean that Angel Exterminatus feels less like a standalone book and more like the continuation of an ongoing narrative more than any book since the opening trilogy so very long ago. 

Graham sticks with what he knows here, calling upon his previous experience and indeed previous works on The Emperors Children and Iron Warriors. They are the two major players in this book and he also uses his work in Mechanicum to flesh out the Iron Hands more than ever before, rendering them and their brave struggle in a truly compelling fashion. First however, let us look at the traitor legions and their respective Primarchs.
The Emperors Children assume their true form in this book.
Fans of the Emperors Children REJOICE!!! This is the book you have been waiting for, here Fulgrim’s legion and their depravities are laid bare. By this stage in the Heresy the Emperors children have completely given themselves over to Slaanesh and there are multiple passages that tell of the lengths the fallen legion will go to in their quest for excess and sensual fulfilment. Noise Marines, Lucius the Eternal, the pleasure cults, all laid bare here and at times rendered in such stark and repellent detail that it can leave a bad taste in your mouth as you read. Also completely abhorrent is Fabius Bile (here referred to simply as Apothecary Fabius) as his grotesque experiments and subsequent genetic abominations are bought to light. Fabius is superbly bought to life here and some of his evil and ruthless actions will shock even the most hardened reader. On top of all this you also have Fulgrim and although in many ways this is not Fulgrim’s story (that has been told already in the aptly named ‘Fulgrim’) he is certainly the fulcrum about which the plot pivots. Written almost perfectly it is a fantastic portrayal of the fallen Primarch and his dialogue with Perturabo is a joy to read. McNeil understands perfectly that a truly evil character is defined by their actions not by the cartoon villain dialogue that they spout. There are a few writers out there that I would hope would take note. 

And Fulgrim is far from the tragic figure featured in his self titled novel. 
The Iron Warriors, are if anything, given even more attention that the Emperors Children. Perturabo is excellent and takes his place as one of my favourite Primarchs. The intricacies and subtleties of his personality are superbly portrayed and I doubt I have ever read such a well-rounded character in this series. Elsewhere the author draws heavily upon his previous Iron Warrior books, even to the extent of using the same cast. The nature of the Iron Warriors as siege masters is further explored and their personnel are well written even if they are personalities that many may already be familiar with. 

Of course there are also Loyalist forces present in the book and as explained previously the Iron Hands have never been handled better. Battered and bowed but not broken after their ordeals on Istvaan V the remnants of the legion, fuelled by their hatred of Perturabo, seek to continue taking action against their Primarchs killer by any means possible. Joining the shattered force are a few elements from other legions including a few Salamanders and a Raven Guard legionnaire called Sharrowkyn who is probably the coolest character in the entire book. The desperate, survivalist nature of these brave warriors is well portrayed and whenever McNeil stuck the knife in and cast them low I would wince as you really do root for these pluck and hopelessly outnumbered underdogs and revel in their triumphs. Although not as prominent as the Traitor legions, in a book so given over to Horus’s followers they make for great antagonists. 

The Superb plot aside, there are a great many memorable scenes in this book. Be it THAT sniper shot, the multiple clashes between the Traitor Primarchs, the Wargames simulating the attack upon The Imperial Palace, pretty much anything Sharrowkyn does, the many scenes of debauchery in the name of Slaanesh, the gripping battle on the edge of the Eye of Terror or the Jaw dropping and sensational climax to the book, there is always something to keep you reading and the 542 pages will simply fly by. 

Anyone who has read this will already be familiar with most of the Iron Warrior cast.

That said the book falls just short of being perfect in my opinion. It is very hard to find fault with Angel Exterminatus but if I had to pick one it would be the decision to include pretty much EVERY SINGLE character from the 40k Iron Warrior books in this Horus Heresy novel. Although it is nice to get a little history on the characters we have already read about a few of the inclusions feel somewhat shoehorned in and can lead to it all being a bit too familiar especially the twist at the end. This said they are all very well written and I cannot complain about any of them individually at all. The other small quibble would be the very minor role that the Eldar have in the book as they are very minimally featured but this is understandable given the level of detail explored with the Astartes elements.

The truth is that this book is so superbly written and full of excellent touches and scenes that it is unfair to give it anything but a full 5/5 score. More than just a great read, Angel Exterminatus has single handedly revived my interest in the Horus Heresy series and Black Library’s output in general. Utterly essential, if you haven’t read it go do so now. Bring on Betrayer!


Monday, 5 August 2013

Wargaming Tournaments Industrial Terrain Set Review

I love Necromunda, you love Necromunda, we all love Necromunda. Everybody loves to play Necromunda but it doesn’t really translate well with 40k scenery which is mostly ruins. Obviously the original game came with cardboard scenery with the legendary plastic bulkheads but those sets are few and far between these days and normally go for upwards of £40-£50. Many have used plasticard to create their scenery (with some spectacular results it must be said) but that’s just a little bit too much effort for my liking.

So when I was perusing one of the many hobby Facebook groups and came across a set of scenery looking like this:

Ill not lie, you get what you pay for, In this case everything you see here.... 

And at a discounted trial price no less, I ordered it straight away. Well a few days later it arrived so now I can let you all know what I think of it.

Immediately upon opening the box I was greeted by, well there’s no other way to say it, I was greeted by a very strong smell of burnt wood. Getting past that however I saw a box of walkways and struts and railings and floor sections. The detailing on the pieces is very nice all things considered and there is a decent amount of variation with cracks and other minor detailing breaking up the uniform look of the pieces. For the most part everything is very well cut and I only found one piece where I had to utilise a sharp knife to cut out the holes. Other than that everything just punches out with ease (and due to the detailed nature of the components there is a fair bit of punching to do) 

There is some minor pre assembly required, the walkway railings need attaching to the walkways but this is an absolute doddle. A little wood glue is all that is required and some card to mop up and excess glue. The Walkways went together in no time and look great. 

Thats a lot of Walkways

The struts need gluing to their bases, again an easy job, there are decent instructions included with the kit, and you should encounter no problems. Now, DON’T glue the railings to the floor sections of buildings. If you do then you won’t be able to place the walkways, I have had to order spares as I had to rip most of the railings back off again. Let my mistake not be yours. 

Everything does look absolutely fantastic and comes with bonus burnt wood smell!

Struts, struts everywhere, yet oddly not enough, not if you want to experiment with different building configurations.

The staircases are the last thing that need assembling and these are also simplicity themselves. You may notice that although the same pattern is present on the sides of the stair cases it is not cut out, even though the instructions indicate that they should be. I can only surmise that the design had to be changed as to have holes in those components would have made them very weak and likely to break, it’s a shame as they do look much cooler in the instructions but I feel overall that the designer made the right decision in compromising the design. 

Perfect for Necromunda.

So with all the subassembly complete its time to assemble the scenery, unfortunately this is where a few problems with the terrain set start to creep in. Firstly although overall as you can see from the picture you get a very decent amount of stuff (and there are still walkways I haven’t used) you are somewhat limited in layout options due to the number of struts provided. You can construct everything in the set but due to the different amounts of 1 2 and 3 level support struts you won’t be able to explore as many configurations as perhaps you would like. There simply are not enough support struts to go around with certain tower/building layouts. Its not short by a lot but you'll probably want a few extra. The amount of handrails also seems to be slightly lacking. 

Can't wait to get this lot painted really does look the part.

This then leads to another problem. Although with a little patience the kit goes together pretty well it is not exactly what I would consider sturdy. Admittedly the staircases go some way to shoring up the buildings stability (unlike the struts and railings you get more than enough of these) overall the assembly is a little rickety and dependant in how it stands up to gameplay I may end up gluing the buildings together which would completely negate the modular potential of the set. A real shame as there is so much else about this kit to like

So in summary:

A great looking kit that makes a decent table worth and is well designed and constructed with lots of variation between the pieces and some nice cut outs rather than just illustrated detail. There are concerns about its stability and the amount of parts provided is insufficient to assemble the scenery in a great many different configurations. That said, Ed, the maker, is making spare and expansion parts available so this will unlock more configurations. Overall I would say if you are planning to glue the buildings together and just use it as industrial scenery then my recommendation is 100%. It looks great and you get a lot of product for your money. If you are intending to use it as modular terrain to be set up in a number of different ways then be aware that you may need to purchase a couple of extra bits to fully utilise it and its stability is a little suspect. One other thing I will mention is it comes with a great little instruction manual even including painting advice and it is clear that Ed really cares about people getting the most out of this product which he could have easily taken down the Kickstarter route like everybody else and their dog but has chosen to release at a (albeit temporary) discounted rate.

I havent used half the walkways here, you could easily do a sparse 4x4 table just with what you have here.

All in all I am very happy with my purchase and with the extra few bits I have bought I have enough scenery for all the games of Necromunda/Infinity I could ever wish to play. A great concept resulting in a great product with just one or two niggling flaws.

Should anyone wish to order one, here is the link:

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume 2 Review.

Right, last time I spoke at length about how much I liked Hammer and Bolter and it reminded me of the good old days of Inferno so im a bit gutted to discover that this is in fact the last volume. So no more nostalgic ramblings from me as it would be somewhat redundant seeing as BL have swiftly killed this format. Still,  that means this time I get more time to speak about the stories themselves so, (in no particular order)  here we go....

One of the highlights in this book for me were Josh Reynoldses Marienburg set Warhammer tales. He’s got his settings down, has created well rounded characters and writes compelling action that flows smoothly. It may seem a little fantastical at times but I found it entertaining in a very old school way and enjoyed them immensely. Be it opening tale ‘Dead Calm’, the Fimir laden ‘Lords of the Marsh’ or the absolutely hilarious comedic irreverence of ‘Dead Mans Party’, (probably my top pick of his offerings). I greatly look forward to further exploits of Dubnitz and Goodweather.

Another great contributor is Laurie Goulding, who offers up an enjoyable Gotrek and Felix murder mystery thriller, ‘The Oberwald Ripper’ the best by far of Gotrek and Felix stories here, David Guymers effort, 'The Tilean Talisman' in particular faring quite badly. Goulding also gives us ‘Shadow of the Beast’ an excellent precursor to what I hope will be a full book about the Emperors Scythes ruin at the hands of the Hive Fleet Kraken and what I would consider a return to form for the Space Marine Battles series. (IE actually dealing with major engagements in the Space Marines history and not just being a dumping ground for any old Astartes story.)

I also really liked ‘Leechlord’ by Frank Cavallo, a great Festus story that paces itself well and doesn’t overreach itself. An effortless read. Unfortunately his other effort is a largely forgettable Scylla Anfingrim story that is one of the poorer tales in the book.

Graham McNeill adds some effortless class to proceedings with a Sigmar 2 parter ‘Let the Great Axe Fall’ elsewhere there is a reprint of his ‘Iron without’ from the Iron Warriors Omnibus

Talking of reprints, they abound here, (and these are just the ones I know of for sure), ‘The Lion’, the best part of the Primarchs Horus Heresy book is reprinted here in three parts, now this I find doubly annoying. It would appear that it appeared in Hammer and Bolter first THEN was reprinted in the Primarchs, cheapening even further the value of what I consider to be the worst Heresy book thus far. (and yes I am including the Dark Angels books in that) Still it could be worse, had ‘Feat of Iron’ been the story used in The best of Hammer and Bolter vol 2 then my score probably would have been reduced by a further whole point. ‘The Lion’ is a decent story and solid work from Gav Thorpe who I would quite happily see take over the reins of the 1st Legion full time.

Also a reproduction if not a reprint is ‘Thunder from Fenris’, a Nick Kyme audiobook originally. Id not read/heard it before and hadn’t realised what an obvious advert for the Thunderwolves (released at the same time) it was. That said its not a bad tale and Kyme does the Space Puppies quite well as they hunt down one of their own turned Wulfen.

The Space Wolves are also featured in the story ‘In Hrondirs Tomb’ which again reads more like a murder mystery than anything else. Scooby and Scrappy doo Space Wolves are not needed but I am perhaps being a little harsh on Mark Claphams effort which is by no means the worst thing on display here and is actually quite enjoyable.

Sarah Cawkwell unsurprisingly is featured and I actually enjoyed ‘The Pact’ as the Silver skulls form an unlikely alliance defending against a common enemy, its utterly predictable but well written and better than most of her other stories. ‘Born of blood’ is her other entry and functions as a prequel of sorts to her Valkia The Bloody novel. Competent but unexciting. I still find her writing a little stilted overall but she is growing on me.

A cynical mind might think that a fair few of these stories were included just to plug other series, Hence we get two Nick Kyme Salamander stories, one of which, ‘The Burning’ is rendered somewhat impenetrable without having first read his Tome of Fire Trilogy. Thankfully ‘Fireborn’ has no such requirements and I enjoyed it much more, being a straight up action story. Neither has me running out to buy his Salamander books but I do look forward to Vulkan Lives after reading Promeathean Sun (review is here for those who are interested.)  :

Likewise I have not read James Swallows Blood Angel books so cared little for ‘Redeemed’ and ‘Bloodline’, although the latter has a Horus Heresy hook that whilst utterly implausible is nonetheless engaging. ‘Torment’ by Anthony Reynolds also suffers from a lack of both familiarity and originality. Not a favourite here im afraid. Ive read the ‘voice in the head’ thing a hundred times or more now.

Of course the bulk of the stories are Astartes centric and out of the remainder, ‘Reparation’ sees two marines who may not be all they seem fighting for survival in Commaraghs gladiatorial pits, its safe and predictable but rattles along reasonable enough. Andy Smilies other entry is a 2 Parter Flesh Tearers story that leans a lkittle too much toward Bolter porn but does have some merit and is fittingly enough quite visceral. Ben Counter gives us a brace of unorthadox Imperial Fists tales, ‘Vermillion’ is a perplexing investigation story told though psychic means as a dead Inquisitors memories are probed for the answers to a xenos attack. ‘IRIXIA’ is a great little tale as Lysander educates some intitates on the tenets of honour and warfare by means of flashbacks from different characters perspectives. Its nice to get something a little different although it doesn’t work as well as it could. There has always been something about Counters writing that seems ever so slightly off to me. Still I enjoyed what he was trying to do and its not a total failure by any means. Rounding off the Power armoured entries is ‘Rite of Holos’, a Blood Drinkers story by Guy Haley. The author somewhat overlabours the point (we get it they’re vampires!) but its competent enough with some well described action scenes and a nice curveball thrown over the Marines nature as saviours.

So there are but a handful of entries left, ‘Shadow in the Glass’, by Steve Lyons is a refreshingly small scale story in which a girls dalliance with a mysterious mirror spells doom for her whole village. Elsewhere Carroburg Greatswords have to contend with both an attacking chaos beast and a typically psychotic Witch Hunter in Joran Ellingers rather neat ‘Butchers Beast’ Rob Sanders delivers ‘Necessary Evil’ as Inquisitor Czevak stumbles upon a colony in that may not be all it seems in a well written but somewhat telegraphed tale. Chris Dows misses the mark with ‘Mouth of Chaos’, a dull story revolving round an Elysian Drop Trooper assault, but fares slightly better with ‘Shadow of the Emperor’ as an Imperial Navy captain tries to lead a group of survivors to safety and reclaim family honour, all the time being hounded by a Commisar hellbent on his damnation and execution. The poor relations are ‘Lesser Evils’ by tom Foster an instantly forgettable and totally imbalanced assault on a Sisters of Battle Stronghold by unkown and improbably impervious forces, and Braden Campbell with ‘Hunters’, dealing with a Catachan insurgency against occupying Tau forces which has good characterisation but little else. Rounding off the contents of this book are three VERY short stories (about 3 pages each) which can be best described as pointless, (Mug of Recaff) pretentious and confusing, (The Hunter) and competent but misjudged (Death Stares Back)

So, that’s Best of Hammer and Bolter Vol 2, and indeed the last volume. Black Library have killed Hammer and Bolter, deciding it is much more lucrative to sell individual themed stories (adverts) instead. Thankfully it is stated in this book that there will be a ‘dead tree’ format of these new digital stories which is pleasing for the stubborn non e-book adopters like me.

Overall this second anthology of fiction doesn’t fare quite as well as the first. There are some great entries but the amount of material that practically requires that you have read previous series is disappointing. The presence of ‘The Lion’ is also a little galling as although it is a fine story it is yet another large chunk of the book that has already previously been available. There is also a marked lack of the more esoteric material in that all the stories are from the core universes and settings. All Marines and Empire there are no stories that do not feature at least some imperial force and the Eldar are omitted all together. The layout is at times a little odd, ‘themed’ stories being grouped together betraying their promotional nature. Still, all things considered it is still a fine collection of fiction and worth its price overall weighing in at just under 900 pages with 40 stories. A little more diversity and ambition in terms of setting would have been nice however and i still think its a shame they discontinued the monthly format to hawk flavour of the week E-books.