Saturday, 26 July 2014

Warhammer 40k: Revenge of the Sixth or Seventh Heaven? Part Three

First of all, apologies to all concerned that this third part of the 7th edition review has taken so long to arrive, unfortunately I have been somewhat incapacitated in these last few months so have actually been unable to play any 7th at all! Mind you it was always the plan to make this a joint effort as the rules part of the hobby have never been as important to me as the background and models themselves and the rules are an undeniably huge part of the whole shebang. 

Therefore it is fortunate that my erstwhile co-author of this review Matt Clarke, has gone far and beyond what was required and submitted such a comprehensive overview of the new ruleset and changes within that there is really very little need for me to add anything further! Tempered by the fact that Matt actually has a few games under his belt it seems to make sense to give him the centre stage before I return at the end for a few missed bits and summary of the rules and the release as a whole. So without further ado I bid ye adieu and hand you over to Matt! See you in a bit. 

So, the seventh edition of Warhammer 40,000 has plonked out of the GW chute and a whole two years earlier than expected. Sly attempt to bump up sales figures before the end of the financial year, or just straight-up rules update to fix niggling issues?

I don't really care; the newer ruleset has a slew of updates, some fixes and a  new phase to expand psykers' shenanigans to a whole new level, and most welcome a fair few of the changes are too. The allies matrix has been made more restrictive, and the FOC has been pwnt wide open: the old 6th ed. primary detachments are now known as a Combined Arms Detachment, with no limit to the number of detachments a player can take. The standard core requirement of 1 HQ + 2 Troops choices are still there, but with the new template you can build a legal list of equal numbers of HQs to Troops, over a number of CADs if you wished. Sounds a bit off, spamming HQs with the minimum Troop requirement, right? The flipside is that focusing on HQs usually costs a fair few points, the minimum Troop units end up being minimum sized to compensate and thus more vulnerable to breaking when taking losses. Details for Lord Of War are also in with rules and FOC choices. Oh, and all CAD units are now scoring; not just Troops, all models, Swarms, vehicles, everything. 

Allied detachments are pretty much untouched from the previous book and slightly more funky detachments like Knights now get a mention as part of a legal force. A force with these standard detachments is now known as a Battle-forged army) which comes with a few bonuses which allow you to re-roll an unwanted Warlord trait and control objectives even when contested by a unit from an Unbound list. What's an Unbound list? Well, if you want to bin the FOC completely you now can and field whatever you like in whatever numbers, points allowing. The new allies matrix still applies to these armies and, more importantly, it's stated in black and white that an Unbound list has to be agreed upon before the game starts so Cheesemongers beware; turning up with an exotic combo cheesefest army will likely net you zero games, but if you agree to field a thematic force like an all-Dreadnought army then you now have the framework to do so. 

The number of Battle Brothers in the matrix has taken a hit, which slaps Taudar combos a tad, but Battle Brothers now have a few more benefits than before. Come The Apocalypse allies can now actually take "allies" but there's significant deployment and proximity restrictions that can make some tactics impossible. The turn sequence has also changed with the addition of the psychic phase. Scootched in betwixt the movement and shooting phases this is now where the glowing-eyed kill-you-with-my-mind/eyes stuff happens. 

Before deployment psychic powers are still generated as normal, with the new bonus of obtaining the Primaris power for free of any discipline that your psyker dedicates to completely. Nice for the poor ol' Tyranids who only get to roll their own discipline, so all gribbly psykers get Dominion for free, including the Broodlord (giving him synapse). Once the psychic phase begins the controlling player rolls a D6 and adds the total mastery level of their psykers to the result to give the total number of warp charges for that turn for both players. Each charge equals a dice to use when casting powers, a roll of 4+ is needed for each warp charge listed on the power's description. No more Ld check. Perils Of The Warp is still a real danger, any pair of sixes results in a roll on the Perils table, the LD-based results of which can range from the psyker and any attached unit taking a serious hit, to taking wounds with gammy side-effects to unexpectedly powering up your caster. Statistically it's best to roll three dice to get the best chance when casting a WC1 power with Ld having no impact on the process, so lower Ld psykers are slightly better off than they were, roll too many dice and your chance of hitting the Perils table grows along with your chance of casting, which is where the lower Ld psykers can really suffer. 

Personally I like this take this approach to drawing on the power of the warp to bend to your will, but drawing too much can be seriously detrimental. This also makes WC3 powers, not that there are many, appropriately a lot harder (and more risky) to cast than previously. Any successful cast can be countered with a Deny The Witch roll from the opponent using dice from their own charge pool, with the chance increasing if the target is an opponent's unit containing a psyker, and further bonuses for a higher level psyker and Adamantium Will. Psychic powers themselves have been overhauled in most cases; most Witchfire powers have a 20-33% increase in range, Puppet Master has been shown the door, one or two powers have changed discipine and a few like Endurance and Haemorrhage have gone up in cost. 

The addition of the two new Daemonology disciplines have upset the apple cart somewhat: while Santic powers offer some utility via Gate Of Infinity, Sanctuary & Banishment they do also offer several offensive powers, but it's mainly Malefic powers that have gobs flapping and sweet panicky tears falling. While some Malefic powers are offensive, or increase a daemon's save, the main concerns are the half of the discipline that tweaks the dangly parts of decency and make us 40k geeks weep. From dropping in a unit of lesser daemons to trading your psyker for a greater daemon, players are concerned that this discipline is prone to unbalancing a game by spawning several hundred to even over a thousand points of models into play. Both Daemonology halves are inherently more dangerous to cast given that they will imperil the caster on any doubles rather than just sixes, but two forces are more adept with Grey Knights blocked from Malefic and only getting a Perils on sixes, and daemons are the opposite. I've seen a few battle reports where grossly imbalanced daemon armies summon sufficient numbers of additional daemons to raise eyebrows, but when you can build a Tzeentch army where 80-90% are psykers then what do people expect? 

Charges used on summoning can't be spent on ranged attacks or empowering units so there's a bit of give there. Highly mobile opponents and those with plenty of barrages will be able to bypass LOS blocking terrain and hassle the summoners for two potential counters and it's a bit too early to tell if summoning will be a general issue or not. In my game vs daemons today we had two psykers per side and my opponent didn't manage a single successful summoning.

Shooting has a fairly significant change with firing now being done per weapon type in the firing unit. Instead of all hits being resolved at the same time now a unit with a missile launcher and bolters, for example, can now fire a frag missile to get the best effect against a bunched-up target, remove the models from those wounds and then fire with bolters after to hit the models around the sides of the blast. Wounds can no longer be passed along to models that are out of sight (unless using a blast or template) or out of range, with models at the back of a firing unit being unable to contribute if lacking the range. This can make some engagements slightly more complex with rapid-fire weapons but really it will just be the difference of a dice or two where the further firers just fire one shot if over half-range. 

Vehicles became more survivable; armour can now only be one-hit and explode via a roll of 7+ on the vehicle damage chart. A penetrating hit needs to be AP1, AP2 or hit an open-topped vehicle to destroy it from new with a single shot. Jink saw a bump up to a 4+ save, but now has to be taken between shots hitting and rolling for damage and forces the jinker to fire snap shots in the following turn. Passengers embarked on/in a transport can ignore shaken/stunned results via a Ld test (but the crew cannot). Chariots got fixed to within an inch of their lives so the rider can fire without penalty and they are still gits in assault. Flyers & FMCs can now start the game deployed on the table as hovering/gliding or can still deep strike from reserves as zooming/swooping. Ramming is no longer speed-based, just armour, type & dozer blades help. Medium to light vehicles are still best dealt with by glancing hull points off them, but these changes go some way to helping armour making it's way back into games. A whole bunch of USRs have also been updated, rejoice! Templates now do D6 hits against passengers on an open-topped transport. Marines no longer get their lil' bonus 3" move when regrouping. Defensive grenades still deny attacks from charging but now can be used as 8" blind grenades instead of conferring an 8" stealth bubble. Charging through cover is now a flat -2" from 2D6. Walkers now get Hammer Of Wrath. Poison now only re-rolls when the target's toughness is lower than the attacking strength, not equal. Excess wounds from a challenge now spill over into the loser's attached unit. Characters no longer have precision attacks. There's a load more but a fair few things have changed to make the game mechanics more logical. 

There's a bunch of new Maelstrom Of War missions added to the original Eternal War missions from the old book. They involve tactical objectives that are drawn from a deck, to a maximum of three cards per player. One can be replaced per turn to rid yourself of any undesirable or unobtainable tasks. These should serve to counter the static objective-taking of the original six missions, as units mobilise to move from parts of the battlefield to others with the aim of fulfilling the objectives on the cards. I've not yet played any of these missions so I can't comment beyond that but they look like fun as long as the objectives picked up are within a player's remit to achieve. In finishing, I'd say that most of the changes in this new edition are mostly positive. I thoroughly enjoyed my game today; the new psychic phase probably added a minute or two to each turn with my Tyrant & Zoanthropes vs my mate's Great Unclean One and Heralds. Shooting was fine, assault was pretty much unchanged. 

While the 7th edition of 40k is an overall improvement, it isn't perfect. Rule for specific buildings have been removed and are now found in Stronghold Assault or some of the fortifications boxes. While models can charge into assault from building disembarkation points models still can't charge into assault from a stationary transport. Blasts are still worked out from the firer instead of the centre of the blast as an explosion should be. Also, some of the codices need a bit of FAQing, even some of the more recent releases: the Tyranid's Shadow In The Warp which traditionally disrupts casting no longer disrupts casting. Beasts Of Nurgle have defensive grenades but no BS characteristic to throw them with. The Dark Angels' Nephilim flyer has Missile Lock in the codex which now actually works with non-blast missiles but the Dark Angels FAQ still has that rule removed. Just stuff like that which is bound to creep in when any complex core system is changed. We've seen some FAQs already, we just need a few more. All in all, I think that Games Workshop have done good work with this new edition but I could do without shelling out for a new rulebook every two years.

Wow, that pretty much says it all. Cheers Matt!

Ill echo the could do without an update every two years sentiment. BUT I feel that there is just enough here changes wise to warrant a new edition. After all this essentially is the reintroduction of the Psychic Phase after a 4 edition absence and lets not forget that when that last happened the Dark Millennium was a whole new expansion! Overall this is not a seismic shift for the game although it is a shake up of sorts. Unfortunately I see this as a stop gap to still further updates as GW continue to experiment with the meta. As Matt said vehicles are back in and psykers will be a big part of the game from now on but I wonder if we will ever see anything like an orthodox army again? 

I remember the days of yore when an army would be reasonably formulaic and it would be the wargear and weapons that would dictate the tactics. Thus spam lists were not often seen and it was evil combinations of wargear and special characters that would win the day. That and strategy cards and the like. Chance would either deal you a kindness or knee you in the balls when you least expected (and needed) it. This is something that I feel has been lost with each successive iteration of Warhammer 40,000 and it has been in danger or becoming a case of victory will go to he (or she) whom can afford the best toys. Thankfully with 7th I feel we have taken a step in the right direction. For sure this is the most like 2E the game has ever been. Certainly it has given myself and Lee pause for thought in our ongoing Second Editition Revival Project. 

The variable objective cards are definitely an interesting idea to mix up the tactics a little. Flexible and fluid objectives should mean the static nature of take and hold is nullified a little, already partly achieved due to variable objective points in sixth. The major rejigging of the FOC is another point of contention that many have thrown up in yet another ‘the sky is falling’ proclamation. The way I see it, TFG has always existed, the win at all costs player that some will identify with and others will abhor. By introducing unbound lists GW has given this type of player free reign. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. Now they are labelled as such. Should you agree (and as Matt said you do need permission to field Unbound lists) then you will fully understand and expect the levels of cheese that may be levelled at your force. Likewise, if two like minded players wish to go at it with the most outrageous and broken combos they can devise in an effort to out powergame each other then they now have that capability. What the Unbound DOES deliver however is a way for all those players who desire to use their fluffy bespoke forces but have previously not had the framework to do to play their games too. Games workshop have delivered us great power with 7th Edition, but remember with great power comes great responsibility. 

And that just about wraps it up for the rules. After the disappointment that the other two books have been it is pleasing to see that the heart of the game at least has received some attention. With just enough content to justify a new edition it still feels like a stop gap to another version of the game, almost like a beta or something similar. Will we see 40k progress to living rulebook status or will GW push their luck and unleash 8th in 2016? One feels that they weren’t ready or were unwilling to redo Fantasy this year and went with a guaranteed money spinner instead. We will probably never know if 7th edition was rushed out of the gates to this end. Overall although the three book format is a welcome move and the quality of the product is high, as a set it doesn’t really warrant a purchase. Even to a newcomer it fails to provide as much of an insight to the hobby as it should and all the material of worth can be gleaned from just the rules section. Certainly as a verteran hobbyist I feel quite aggrieved by the £50 set and overall I’d say just wait for the mini rulebook which should be arriving in the updated Dark Vengeance any week now. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

X-wing the Miniatures Game: Tantive IV Expansion Review

The Force is strong in this one. Since its release a few years back X-wing the Miniatures Game has been something of a runaway success, selling in such numbers that Fantasy Flight Games can seemingly not keep up with demand with lengthy delays in waiting for stock as the manufacturers struggle to meet orders. Stock issues aside however (the core game was unavailable for an age) the game goes from strength to strength. Wave V (The Empire Strikes Back – Seriously check out that Decimator!) was recently announced and they are already mining the Expanded Universe (recently made non canon by overlord Disney) to come up with new ship ideas, surely by now FFG are running out of ideas they can use? Well one would think so but with Wave IV (A New Hope) they made the jump to lightspeed with Epic Play. And Epic Play means epic ships. We already have small vessels and large vessels which fit in with the current rule set but with the introduction of Huge vessels things needed to be changed about a bit. Therefore the Expansion packs for the Rebel Transport and Tantive IV Corellian Corvette Blockade Runner are the most ambitious yet released for X-wing in both size and complexity.

That's no moon, it's an expansion!

And with massive size comes a somewhat substantial price tag. The Rebel Transport is £50 but comes with an X wing with a few unique pilot cards offsetting the price a little, but the Tantive IV weighs in at an eye watering £75 making it one hell of an expensive prepaint. Now X-wing is by no means the cheapest game to play, especially if you want to play larger scale games but with this kind of price point it has gone to another level entirely. Certainly im not sure I would have ever picked one up at its normal pricetag. Thankfully then, it was Wayland Games Deal of the Day recently and with a whopping 40% discount it only cost me £44.99. Much more easily justifiable as part of my hobby budget. So, now I finally have my mitts on one (and it is a 2 hander!) I can finally give my opinions on this mould breaking (in more ways than one) addition to the Star Wars space combat behemoth. 

First thing I noticed is the thing is smegging huge. When I ordered it I was a little disgruntled that it was exempt from the free shipping promotion that Wayland Games are currently offering (only deliverable by courier) but having now seen it I totally understand. Thankfully Wayland is somewhat local to me so it wasn’t a major problem. So it’s a huge box and all, but what about is inside? Well, first I turned my attention to the cards and rules (very unlike me – I normally dive straight into the model itself)_ to get an idea of how the Blockade Runner will work in the game and familiarize myself with the rules. BUT before I discuss the rules (which I have digested at length along with the various upgrades available) I will actually discuss the model.

It's a nice looking model for a mass production prepaint. 

So after negotiating a couple of Ties (twist ties that is) I freed the CR90 Corellian Corvette Blockade Runner from its clear plastic shell, and the first thing that strikes you is it looks GREAT. Now I must stress that this is by no means a high end replica. What you are purchasing is an accurate (Fox/Lucasfilm insisted all ships are true to source material) and detailed model with the kind of quality that you would expect from Fantasy Flight. The paint on the model is also of a reasonable quality, again, very much in line with the existing ships. Im sure that those that repaint their ships will be able to produce some truly epic results however. Its nicely weighty without being overly heavy for play and comes with an extra large footprint template and flying stands (yes it needs TWO). All of which is necessary given the special rules it adopts.

The model measures up at just under 14 inches, making it a few inches longer than the Rebel transport it was released alongside. It is of an imposing size in comparison to anything released thus far and looks truly  gigantic when compared to the fighters. It would also follow that it requires a little more size to manoeuvre and you may need to expand the size of the playing area to accommodate it. Indeed it comes with its very own ingenious movement template. It seems to be a fairly sturdy build but I imagine a fall would do serious damage to the turrets so caution is urged, though it will stand up to the normal rigours of a game just fine. Overall though it is stable enough once attatched to its base. As an aside make sure you get the stems the right way round or the ship will not sit on the flight stands!

The expansion comes with a sizeable amount of stuff, most of it new due to Huge ships. 

So having established that the ship itself is rather snazzy, how about the other stuff? Well as mentioned the much of the card stock is also bespoke. Along with the special footprint and movement template you get the usual assortment of tokens and counters and the stock is of the high quality you expect from FFG, a far cry from Whizz Kids Star Trek Attack Wing efforts. There are some new entries here and there with Energy tokens (we’ll get to these in a bit) and scope tokens amongst the various elements included. There is also a new (kind of) range ruler for the increased range of the CR90s primary weapons. Really it is actually just two normal sized rulers joined together (with the 3 overlapping to give a range of 1-5) but it looks mighty impressive nonetheless. So that’s the model and the tokens and so far so good. Let’s look at the cards!

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the CR90 has TWO ship cards one for each half of the ship, fore and aft. These are also double sided with one side representing the part of the ship crippled. To destroy the CR90 you have to cripple both parts of the ship. Crippled sections of the ship suffer a severe penalty to stats and upgrade capacity. In a rather cool move the cards actually line up with each other on both sides. (see pictures) You might notice also that despite a hefty hull and shield rating the CR90 has no evasive capability at all, so hitting it will be a piece of cake. Now I’m discussing the rules separately in a bit but you will also see that the CR90 has a few special actions which are different for each half of the ship. The CR90 has no pilot cards per se so the only other large card is the Hyperdrive card which is mission specific and ill again discuss a little later. 

I am particularly fond of the way the ship cards go together and flip when damaged. 

So, upgrade cards! No, actually the damage cards quickly. These are also unique to the CR90 and again there is a deck for each half. Other than that they are the same to be honest though it is another nice touch. Right, UPGRADE CARDS! Each section has potential for a LOT of upgrades, crew members (named characters) teams, weapons systems and energy systems. (I promise to cover Energy soon as it is one of the major rules changes) There are also three Title cards so you can make your ship the actual Tantive IV (which can take even MORE crew) or one of two other vessels. The characters include as you would expect, R2 D2, Leia Organa, C3PO, Captain Antilles and oddly enough Han Solo (must be something I missed there), oh and a targeting co-ordinator. In all honesty these cards are all pretty underpowered with Leias ability for friendly ships to ignore penalty for a red manoeuvre being the only one that stands out. Unfortunately it is a use and discard ability so not all that great even then. The teams fare better, the sensor team increasing lock on range, and the engineering team boosting Energy production (we are getting there I promise!) on straight manoeuvres. This leaves the ship system cards which are a mixed bag but work in various buffs and fleet support roles and usually require the expense of Energy. 

C3PO: authentically useless

Many of the CR90's abilities are designed for support
Raymus Antilles: More useful than C3PO

Right, let’s discuss Energy. Basically many of the CR90’s systems require energy to work. Energy is a whole new sub-phase of the game, although it only applies to huge ships. After revealing moves but before declaring actions the CR90 receives, allocates and uses Energy to power systems, recover shields and the like. The mechanic by which you earn energy is actually rather interesting. On top of everything else, the movement dial for the CR90 is also unique. For one thing, there are no red or green manoeuvres (the CR90 is immune to Stress tokens) secondly, the manoeuvre that you choose will determine the amount of Energy you receive, with smaller movements resulting in more gain. This sets up a very interesting dynamic. Do you try to manoeuvre yourself out of trouble or reduce speed and hope you can use the Energy gained to save yourself?

Even then Energy represents even more of a tactical mix up to the game. Do you allocate the Energy to shields or weapons or one of the upgrade card? Each card has an Energy limit so stockpiling is not really an option either. Add to this that Energy is only generated by the aft section and if that is crippled you are in all sorts of trouble. It’s nice that FFG went to this much effort to distinguish the Huge ships and in my opinion this mechanic has the potential to add a whole new level to the game. 

Energy is an interesting mechanic. 

Cr90 also has a few other bespoke rules. For one thing it can declare two actions rather than one. (one for each section) and cannot take free actions, secondly it is immune to the effects of all tokens, (ion affecting Energy production instead.) In addition it also activates AFTER all smaller ships (though combat is normal) giving it a small edge when choosing actions. Talking about actions, the fore can choose between lock on and Co-ordinate (which gives a friendly ship within 2 range a free action). The aft can either recover or reinforce. Recover uses unallocated energy to restore shields and Reinforce gives the CR90 a free evade for one section against attacks which applies to ALL attacks that round. Pretty handy If you ask me. 

Another thing worth mentioning is the rules for collision, if you fly a small or large ship into a huge one then the results are much the same as if you collided with an asteroid. HOWEVER if you manage to fly the huge ship into any smaller vessel it is INSTANTLY DESTROYED. Yup, destroyed, no damage, no evading. Take it off. Not only does this mean you can really ruin an opponent’s day by ramming stuff with the Cr90 it also means you need to keep your own fighters at a safe distance! Of course the CR90 is neither the fastest or most agile of ships so it’s not going to be a frequent occurrence but still, very much worth bearing in mind. 

As with the Large ships you can buy titles for your vessel

The CR90 weighs in at 90pts Basic. Now as mentioned there are no different pilots so this IS the base cost but it does mean that with upgrade cards you can easily have 120pts of ship sitting there. Obviously this raises the issue of game size and balance and you will need a TIE swarm just to match the CR90 in points. A CR90 with The Falcon and a couple of fighters will easily run you 200 points which is a sizable game. Thankfully FFG have anticipated this and full epic play rules are available on their site. I do feel we have reached the limit on what can be fielded in X wing though, it is hard to imagine anything bigger, perhaps a small frigate of some kind. For one thing the Tantive IV expansion is prohibitively costly, costing nearly 3 times the cost of the core game, for another not many will have large enough fleets to field it ( I needed to get more imperials to balance it as it was!

An alternative to fielding it in Epic play is what FFG are calling Cinematic play, scenario driven gameplay which allows you to fit the CR90 in games which although are still balanced will not require you to field 20 ships a side. Many of these types of missions are included in the campaign which accompanies the expansion, 6 missions in all in a tree campaign where the mission you play next depends on who won the last battle. One thing to note for the campaigns though is that some of the missions (in fact most of them) will require you field specific units so to play through all the campaign you will require many of the wave one and wave 2 expansions. (clever marketing move there FFG, impressive. Most impressive) The branching nature of the campaign should add replay value though and a cursory glance through the missions shows a pleasing amount of variety and invention. One sees you trying to protect sensor buoys as you intercept an alliance transmission (we intercepted no transmissions, this is a diplomatic mission!) do you use your Energy to shield the buoys or rely on your fighters? Another mission sees you trying to spool up the hyperdrive by allocating energy to the engines to escape a burgeoning Imperial attack force. 

So, summary time! Well basically the Tantive IV expansion for X wing is one hell of an addition. Elevating the game to a whole new level, it has so many components that are new and brings a lot to the table. The model itself is nice but not amazing, essentially being a scaled up prepaint of a similar quality to its smaller counterparts. It maybe be the one that I actually take a paintbrush to as with a little attention I’m sure It could look much better. The detail on it is rather good though and it certainly looks impressive when put alongside the smaller ships. It’s a lot of plastic for your money and even ship aside there is a lot of added depth with the cards and tokens that you can utilise in other games. 

The narrative campaign is a nice touch and really adds something to the expansion, it has also inspired me to come up with my own scenarios. I envisage a situation where an imperial fleet and Rebel force are fighting over a damaged CR90 with control of the vessel changing hand between he sides during the game. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and the Energy system adds a whole new dynamic to play about with. Many of the upgrade cards seem to be a little underpowered but I have always believed that X wing is a game about Synergy and I’m sure there are some particularly effective combinations to be discovered with the CR90 acting effectively in a support role as much as direct buffs. 

Imperial reinforcements are on the way....

You will need to change the size of your games (and potentially your board) to accommodate huge ships. If you only have a couple of ships either side you will not be able to field the CR90 in a balanced game and it is also worth bearing in mind that you will need to have a sizable variation of ship to even play though the campaign with the majority of the first few waves utilised. Therefore I would recommend holding off on this particular expansion until you have amassed a moderate collection of models. That said if you really want to pick one up you can always flip the footprint template over and use it as an obstacle!

So is the Tantive IV Expansion worth its hefty price tag? Well, £75 is certainly a sizeable outlay for any system and when you consider the Tantive IV is three times the price of the Millennium Falcon some might balk a little. But in my opinion the Tantive IS worth its price. Model alone it is more than ten times the size of the small fighters and I’d rather have seen it at this price than cheaper and with compromises made to it. After all, this was the very first vessel to ever be seen in Star Wars! You are not just buying the ship you are also getting the campaign a whole new sub rule set and a great deal of bespoke components. The rules behind it seem to have been carefully thought out and it is not just a bolted on addition, it is clear some care has been put into its development. More than any other release for X-wing this actually FEELS like an expansion rather than just another ship. I’m not sure I’d ever have purchased it at its full price but I’m very glad I took advantage of Wayland’s deal of the Day. 

So remember to your ships! And may the Force be with you, always.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Warhammer 40,000: Carnage Mobile Game review.

Among the myriad of digital content that GW are throwing at us right now, electronic entertainment is still somewhat thin on the ground. Since THQs dissolution a couple of years back the few GW based game franchises we did have were cruelly snuffed out and fans pleas for Dawn of War 3 or Space Marine 2, or even a remake of Final Liberation have gone unheeded. Of course there is the Eternal Crusade MMO and Space Hulk on Steam (also coming to next gen consoles soon) but that aside it’s been desolate indeed.

Step unto the breach mobile gaming. Easy and quick to develop and get out there they fit very much in with the GW bite size DLC policy, plus lets face it, GW can just farm out the license and reap the rewards. The problem with this approach is more or less the same problem Nintendo encountered with the Wii a few years back. Shovelware. By not being closely involved in the development process they have little control over the final quality of the product. This means you can get some utter crud turned out. Such was the case with the last GW Mobile title Storm of Vengeance. Ostensibly a Plants Vs Zombies style tower defense game but without any of the charm or playability it was horrible, I only played 5 minutes of it on Lees phone but that was enough to convince me I wanted no more.

Thankfully Storm of Vengeance is not the only mobile phone game to grace our handsets and we have a few other options. One of these is Warhammer 40,000: Carnage from Roadhouse Interactive, a sidescrolling action shooter game. As some might know I’ve been off work recently after an traffic accident and in a moment of weakness I downloaded it. Now I have been plugging away at it for a little while and feel qualified to tell you all about it, is it another mess like Storm of Vengeance or is it actually a rather playable bit of action fun? Read on….

The game map, the little marine in the left hand corner is actually animated which is a nice touch. 

First of all lets look at the cost. Warhammer 40,000: Carnage is £4.99. Now this prices it towards the higher end of the Mobile game market but at the same time reassures you that its not a free to play but pay to win effort. Still, it might be a bit offputting to some and will deter some from the impulse buy that these games are clearly looking towards. It is also worth noting that the game will not run on all devices. My phone would run it but my Tablet (which is newer) would not. Worth checking before you buy….

Jumping into the game, one is greeted right from the off by a nice crunchy heavy metal soundtrack, not overly heavy and really just a few guitar riffs looped, think something along the lines of Dooms soundtrack at a higher bitrate and you are about there. Presentation on the game is minimal, a couple of pictures tell the bare bones plot (planet in trouble, sends for help, marines come) and away you go. You start off with a fully kitted and tooled up Ultramarines Captain and will settle into the basic concept very quickly. Buttons are forward, back (rarely used) melee, shoot, Block, jump and a couple of powerups. For the most part the controls are fairly responsive and you’ll be hacking and blasting Orks apart like there is no tomorrow. Jumping in the air with a jumppack and then hitting melee results in a hammer of Wrath attack which is loads of fun. Overall it is instant punchy simple action, run shoot, jump every now and again and generally enjoy killing stuff. Of course this is just the tutorial level and at the end the captain goes missing. Then the game starts proper with a basic marine, it feels like a bit of a fall to earth to suddenly lose all the prowess you had but as customization and leveling is a large part of the game it makes perfect sense.

Hammer of Wrath!

So demoted to battle brother you start all over again, in early levels you will encounter mostly Grots, these will offer no resistance and will fall before your warrior like wheat before the scythe. Fear not, as you progress you will encounter more stern opposition although in all honesty anything that attacks you in combat will cause you no problems, the Astartes far outclassing his greenskin foes. Boyz with shootas are definitely something that caused me issues though and careful use of the block button (a limited use shield of sorts) will be required, snapping off shots in between. There are also little items to collect here, codex entries and power ups and the like and some of these will not be reachable on your first playthrough adding to the replay value.

The ability for customization is one of the best things about the game. 

The game, by its very nature is fairly derivative though boss battles and the odd level where you are running away from a Megadread add a little variation. The levels themselves are fairly similar with only placement and type of enemy and maybe the jumps varying. Of course as more dangerous foes are introduced and you will need to start improving your marine. This is where the upgrade system comes in. At the end of each fight you will be rated up to 3 stars and earn loot. You are then taken to a screen where you can buy, upgrade and equip wargear. This includes weapons armour and accessories like purity seals or when you unlock it the jumppack. A few more slots would be handy to add to the customibility potential but overall you can tinker about to a reasonable degree. Some options also change the look of your marine too which is a nice touch though you are limited in chapter choice to ultramarine at least at first (You can unlock a Blood Angel later). Then after you have increased the lethality of your warrior its back into the fray.

There is a fair amount of content in the game, I have not finished it yet but have already played through around 30 levels maybe more. Of course as I have said it can get a bit repetitive and in all honesty this is a game designed to be played in short bursts with the occasional replaying of levels to try to maximize your stars. Earning 3 stars on each level seems to unlock firefight mode for that level which appears to be some kind of co-op mode though I have not tried it so cannot pass comment. Stars also unlock rewards so as you get 30, 50 stars you will get loot or some other reward. Further adding replayability are the difficulty levels. One you have completed a sector on normally difficulty 2 additional levels will be unlocked, each of these has modifiers attached to make the level harder so the enemies might have increased health or do more damage or even regenerating health. It helps mix things up a little bit and definitely adds more challenge to the levels. You will need greatly upgraded equipment and skills to tackle the highest difficulty.

For the Emperor!! Die Xeno filth!! etc etc....

In the inevitable event of your death you can either restart the level or respawn from where you are at the cost of gold. Now gold can also be used in lieu of loot to buy items so be careful how you spend it. Of course you can always buy more gold (this is Carnage's only concession to the microtransaction model) from the store if you want to. Personally after dropping a fiver on the base game I don’t feel like forking out extra so I am being frugal with my respawns! Overall I am having rather a lot of fun with the game, the levels being rather short means that restarting or replaying them rarely feels like a chore and only the Megadread level presented a major stumbling bock. It also feels nice and authentic with everything looking as it should although it is definitely thin on the ground from a narrative sense.

In summary Warhammer 40,000: Carnage is a brash shallow bit of action fun. Don’t expect any kind of plot or strategy, this is straight up arcade action. There is a pleasing sense of authenticity to proceedings and it is evident that a degree of care has been employed in its design and construction. Everything functions more or less as you would expect although there are a couple of jarring inconsistencies that the Die hard fan might pick up. Now admittedly the game does come in at a premium price but there is rather a lot of content for your buck with the multiple sectors and difficulty levels and enhanced kit to get. Also replaying the mission to get the codex entries and improve your score will eat up a fair few hours im sure. So far I am quite happy with the value for money I have received from the game. Roadhouse are to be applauded for creating something immediate and loud and heavy, celebrating 40ks rock/metal roots and serving up bite size bouts of mindless violent platforming fun. Were it 2.99 I would be able to recommend it without reserve but as it is I would certainly urge you to pick it up if you are just hankering for a bit of blasting and hacking Greenskins to pieces along to a loud soundtrack.