Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Old or New Format - Opinions Requested

So, this is just a very brief question which needs to be made before we head over into the next month. Over the past weeks I have been going back and forth experimenting with styles and presentation to make life easier, to divide up reviews into different formats. 

The first of these is your usual, more free-flowing style of just a single text, while the other more recent style is more evenly divided up between the synopsis, positives, negatives and a conclusion. While I was tempted to ask this before now, it seemed best to hold off until there were relatively recent examples of both, which you can find here and here respectively. 

If you wish to favour one over the other please speak up, as I honestly do want to know what my audience prefers in this case. Not to mention what you might want it to be used in beyond books as well.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Resident Evil 7 (Video Game Review)


There’s a specific cycle which seems to have afflicted Resident Evil since the very beginning. You know the exact one - Where the series will suffer an abrupt identity crisis, produce a few bad games and then revive itself once more. We last saw this with the rapid decline in quality following Resident Evil 4’s revamp, which ended with 6 almost killing the franchise. However, the years since that game’s release have been well spent, and 7 proves to be a new high point for the entire series.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Fabius Bile: Primogenitor by Josh Reynolds (Book Review)


Primogenitor is an oddity among Black Library's various series. While you can usually fit one novel or another into a certain category, even when it does come to the often over-saturated astartes books, this one manages to somehow escape this curse. That's neither praise nor a damnation of the work, but the moment you think it's leaning towards a certain typical trope, it immediately veers into something else. Then again, given the protagonists involved and the setting itself, that was likely the whole point.

Set far apart from The Howling Ship, this story ties into a key event within the canon: The Chaos raid upon the eldar craftworld of Lugganath. Having harried and confronted the servants of Chaos for some time, a band of Emperor's Children now seek to lay siege to the city and scour it in the name of She Who Thirsts. However, this is not easy task, as the many weapons of war at the disposal of the eldar can devastate every vessel they throw at it. To overcome this failing, one former Apothecary seeks out one with the dark genius to ensure their victory: Fabius Bile.

Now, let's get one thing clear before we get into the meat of things: This isn't Talon of Horus. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but it's an easy mindset to get stuck into while reading this thanks to the similar plot structure, varied legionaries and direction. However, if you try this you're likely to just end up disappointed. While both are explorations of what can become of the Long War's veterans, the nature of the Eye, daemons and a warrior hunting a single legendary figure capable of granting them victory, the book opts to follow a much darker and far more twisted path than Iskander and his comrades.

Given that Apothecaries are a dying breed among the traitor legions, the book follows their remnants as much as Bile himself. While Bile ultimately drives the story and often takes centre stage, his former apprentice Oleander Koh introduces the story and often has large chapters devoted to himself. It's an odd choice to be sure, but it works to give the story more variety thanks to the fact he's well written and visibly corrupted in a different manner. As with any of the characters present, the nature of his corruption and association with the Ruinous Powers affected him differently, and we more frequently see him taking joys in slight sensations over others. This contrasts him well against the Word Bearer, World Eater and Iron Warriors characters, each of who differs from their usual stereotype in a few ways. It honestly seems as if this book was planned to show as much of the Eye as possible, and a broader variety of the locals, while keeping the tale focused upon Bile itself.

The wandering nature of the book is best seen in its locations and the obstacles put in front of the protagonists. Many chapters are brief pauses as they visit worlds, damnable locations within the Eye or even converse with daemonic powers, turning them almost into a slice of life story at times. A horribly corrupted and twisted beyond recognition to be sure, but there is life here, and the book tries to express this fact. While it thankfully never goes far enough to remove the mystery of the Eye itself, or expresses the point that the entire Eye of Terror is this civilized or mapped network of worlds, what we get is a brief look into how civilization can endure here. The "marketplace" is the most obvious, and the most striking in terms of descriptions, and it manages to hit that exact balance between abstract weirdness and familiarity to make it work here.

More interestingly still, a minor running theme within the book is how the astartes have individually coped with life in the Eye. This is one of the books which seems to have realised best that no single legion is still whole, and many are effectively cultures unto themselves. So, when Bile and co, do arrive with the remnants of several companies, they're presented as having diversely altered and shifted away from even what the typical Slaaneshi cultist would view as typical of their kind. Combined with minor comments from the characters themselves - which ranges from a surprising revelation that Bile is effectively an atheist despite all he has seen, and even a few oddities surrounding his creations - it grants more insight than almost any other book in Black Library.

What is perhaps most surprising, however, is that Primogenitor manages to also be one of the funnier releases of late. Please don't misread that, the humour here is often quite dark and barely registers on the Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) scale, but there are some genuinely funny moments to offset the darker points. Perhaps two of the best which arise quite early on range from a creation of Fabius repeatedly demanding a Keeper of Secrets leave the their ship, to the death of one slave via their daemon possessed gunship. It manages to strike that careful balance between quirky jokes and serious moments which is rarely found beyond a Discworld book, and it definitely helps make a very dark tale far more manageable as a result.

Still, many of you are likely wondering about Bile himself. Well, the honest truth is that his depiction here is almost as strong as the one from The Howling Ship. He retains the same detached mentality as there, the same polite pragmatism and lack of care for anything beyond his own work, with a few new expressions attached. We see in him what Abaddon would have likely become had he not succeeded in his grand vision; a powerful and very talented man with far too many enemies and too few allies within and beyond the Eye. When dealing with anyone beyond his close knit group of allies - a few of who are even then quite reluctant to follow him - it is almost guaranteed he'll bump into someone who desires his death. While the idea of a renegade among their own kind is admittedly one we have seen before, this take is less Snake Plissken and more John Constantine. Bile is often staying ahead of his foes via a mixture of personal genius, tenacity and his own sharp tongue over unrelenting badassery or unparalleled skill at arms. It's entertaining to read to be sure, but some of you likely paused at the "almost" mentioned above.

While Bile is still an engaging character here, he has lost some of the initial impact of this depiction. It's more stretched out and overexposed at points, and his story does meander a few times too often. This is particularly evident with his introduction, which is brilliant when it comes to its atmosphere, scope and ability to outline the secondary characters; however, when it introduces Bile himself it's oddly toned down. It expresses what he is, and shows his great skill, but it's not quite the stark impression you might want. In trying to express more about him, to shed more light on the character, it unfortunately seemed to stretch the idea, resulting in the story meandering in a few places. So, even when it is well written, certain scenes almost seem as if they're dragging out the tale.

What also doesn't help is how the core story almost seems like an arbitrary addition at times. It's a key event within the legion's history and a long established moment of conflict against the eldar, but all too often it can seem like an excuse to string things along. In fact, it's only mentioned a scant few times throughout the first half of the book, with every other moment focusing more upon weird and wonderful sights of the gigantic Warp storm. Now, while other stories also have the habit of doing this as well, it's usually better worked into a core plot point. Talon of Horus did carry out a similarly loosely linked series of scenes, but many points served to tie into Abaddon's argument and reinforce the book's exploration of the Black Legion's rise. Here it tries to do the same, and somewhat succeeds, but it lacks the more cohesive and strong ties to hold it all together.

However, the final point here might seem as if it's going against the praise offered above: The scenery. What we get is wonderfully weird and warped (or Warped if you want to be pedantic) but it doesn't work it into the story as well as you might hope. Often, there seems to be a divide between the moments where it explores and outlines the setting, and the bits where the story moves forwards. Now, this can work brilliantly with some authors - Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett both come to mind - but it almost seems truncated here somehow. As if, once again, the details weren't being so richly outlined and described as somewhat stretched out for a few paragraphs, before pressing ahead with the story and never using them again. This makes the market have something of a strong start, but the rest of the chapter doesn't quite do enough to really follow up on it. At least perhaps not as well as one would hope.

While there is no denying that The Howling Ship was the stronger story thanks to its tighter focus and surprising twists, Primogenitor is nevertheless a stand-out success. It overcomes many of the expectations you might have for such a narrative and finds a way to make Chaos' followers sympathetic without crossing the line into turning them into borderline heroic figures. You might root for them, you might want them to succeed and even find reasons to be saddened by their deaths. With all that said though, Reynolds isn't ashamed to present many of them as complete bastards or wholesale monsters, and there are still enough villainous moments to make the book seem unashamed of its source material.

If you're a fan of the Night Lords or Word Bearers trilogies, this one is definitely well worth adding to your bookshelf. Or, if you're someone who joined for the Horus Heresy saga and wants to see a book with strong links to that era, but feels like more than just a few years have passed between then and M34, this is also worth picking up. Either way it's a great novel for any 40,000 fan with an investment in Chaos.

Also, as a final note, if you are interested in buying this one, I personally highly recommend the special edition version. It's the one depicted at the start of this article, the thing which looks as if Ash Williams should be trying to destroy it. Even as someone who isn't fond of this stuff, the quality of the cover, extended intro and the additional short story we previously covered makes it well worth the extra cash. Those interested can find it here.


Verdict: 7.5 out of 10

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Howling Ship by Josh Reynolds (Warhammer 40,000 Short Story Review)


Fabius Bile is a character infamous in Warhammer 40,000 for being written in every way possible. While the setting is truly malleable and almost any figure can be shown in a different light, this is often taken to extremes with Bile. Graham McNeill took his mad scientist ways to an absolute extreme in the Horus Heresy, James Swallow turned him into a brilliantly scheming maniac on par with Victor Von Doom himself, and Nick Kyme created a monstrous but tortured man driven to the brink of insanity. This is hardly a bad thing as it allows for more freedom on the author's part and some true gems of creativity to emerge just as the setting seems to have settled on a single idea. With this said, The Howling Ship follows an unusual take on the character, and one few would expect.

The story here follows the events on board an Inquisitorial Black Ship as it transports a cargo hold full of rogue telepaths back to Terra among them are two unique passengers, in the form of Inquisitor Borja and his captive psyker Suhl Osman, also known as the Howling Man. However, Osman is no simple heretic or untrained psyker, but one crafted by another mind. Specifically by someone who desires the return of their creation long before the vessel reaches Terra...

Due to its brief length and focus, it shouldn't surprise you that this is very much a character piece. While there are sparks of action and bursts of gunfire, it doesn't delve into the usual high calibre bolter porn fans usually expect from these books. This definitely serves the story better as a result though, working through its ominous atmosphere and characters to deliver a brief but memorable tale. Much of this is conveyed through the descriptions of the environments or the people involved, hinging upon certain aspects which emphasise a darker, grimier and far more archaic depiction of the Imperium than most are used to. While the book doesn't spend paragraphs at a time to emphasise this, fleeting mentions of the state of the ship's equipment or the features of certain secondary characters are enough to keep the reader on edge. Well, that and Borja's impending death.

Rather than trying to hide the fact the Imperium will fail, the story makes this clear from the start. Sticking to a non-linear format, it switches back and forth between the initial stages of boarding the vessel, slowly seeing things going wrong, and then being confronted by Bile himself. When Borja is introduced, he is face down against the deck plates, all but crippled and with his pistol out of his reach. This works to keep the reader hooked because almost anyone could guess that Bile would proceed to meeting the Inquisitor face to face and overpower him in their confrontation. By removing this false suspense and focusing instead upon how the story reached that point, it become more intriguing to watch how things went to hell and how it reflects upon the figures involved. Even a few minor comments upon the world the ship is leaving have greater meaning by the story's end, and serve to further enhance the power behind Bile's ambition.

It should be no surprise to know that Borja is something of a typical Inquisitor with a slight twist to him. While a red blooded heretic-head-shooting man of the Emperor's faith, he's more stoically resolved and personally driven than screaming fire and brimstone. What little we get expresses the fact he's a veteran who has dealt with heretics throughout his life, to the point where he's familiar with most of their usual expressions. In effect, he's jaded and experienced enough to know what to expect from them, and be certain of his place in the universe, but hasn't gone Redemptionist on everyone. This certainly makes him an interesting enough of a character to follow, but also a perfect one for this take on Bile.

You see, the Bile we have here isn't so much the cackling madman we know as he is Jack Lint. The man is clearly a monster, but as he speaks with Borja he is openly civil - practically cordial - with the man. In fact, despite poisoning him he is quite complimentary to the Inquisitor and makes it evident that he just wants his personal lab rat and that's it. The way the entire sequence is written is unnerving as it perfectly balances a man who will flay a man alive in the name of science with a surprising level of reason. In fact, if anything, Bile here manages to be more direct and reasonable than the heroes in a lot of Black Library's books, and his politeness is disarming. 

The fact that each individual is far from a typical example of their kind makes the short story all the more engaging, as the meeting of a hunter of heretics and arch fiend is what makes this so truly engaging. It doesn't merely sidestep or subvert the usual tropes of "Blargh! Imperium wrong! Blargh" and "Burn heretic!" It instead opts to maintain a completely different starting point and subverts them entirely, until it's hard to fully tell just what to think of either individual by the end. 

Now, sadly no story is without its faults and that does remain true here. The biggest among these stems from the characters involved, as while Bile and Borja stand out well, many of the additional figures thrown in for good measure don't hold up. The Howling Man himself offers little beyond spite and terror in his words, and a segment with the vessel's commander, Captain Helgic, is largely unnecessary beyond offering a fleeting glimpse of the void battle. Offering either more characterisation than a fairly baseline concept would be difficult admittedly, at least given the story's short length, but this limitation is allthe more obvious when compared with the far more fleshed out central figures.

In addition to this, the setting is oddly lacking. We get some nice atmospheric descriptions to be sure, and a few references to their service, but the Black Ship could almost be any vessel here. Despite being one of the few (perhaps the only) look into one of these vessels in the modern age of the Imperium, little is really done to make it truly stand out as a distinct setting. Even considering this was a short story, it just seemed that so much more could have been done at various points to help the ship seem all the more ominous, alien or even just to reflect upon its nature as a ship of the damned.

Still, those are minor issues for what is otherwise an absolutely excellent tale. Is it the best one of these to feature Bile? Perhaps, as it's certainly at least on par with Nick Kyme's Chirurgeon in terms of shedding light upon this enigmatic figure. It's certainly one of the most outstanding examples of a fantastic short story at any rate, and a great introduction to this author's take upon the character.

Still, a few of you might be wondering why it's not on the Black Library website. Well, there's a reason for that - This was exclusive to the special edition of Fabius Bile: Primogenitor. From that you can guess what we'll be looking into next. Join us then when we delve into a deeper tale woven about this dark remnant of the Legio III.

Veridict: 8.5/10

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Mysterium (Video Game Review)


The second of their games to be released onto Steam, Asmodee Digital has shifted gears away from the wild west and towards a more horrific genre: An occult murder mystery. Guided by the ghost of a butchered victim, you play as one of a group of psychics trying to pinpoint the murderer, weapon and location of the old crime.

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Changing Face of the Eldar - New Aeldari Models Revealed, Thoughts on the Future



A few days ago an article on here speculated about a trailer Games Workshop had released. In effect it discussed the potential meanings behind the cryptic quotes, new symbol and how it might relate to a few changes brought about by the events of Death Masque. Well, the company has released a few minatures to reflect these changes and our first look is both extremely good, and insanely bad.

The follow-up trailer released for the second book of the Gathering Storm series, Fracture of Biel-Tan, reflects this perfectly-


So, to start with the obvious: Yes, Ynnead's fractured remnant did survive. It seems to be so weak that it is effectively an Avatar of that form akin to how Khaine survived through his Avatars. This will be the crux of the new story, and from the sounds of things it will focus upon a major conflict, split or breaking point on the craftworld of Biel-Tan. An interesting choice to be sure given Ulthw√©'s closer proximity to the Eye of Terror and the major battle being waged about Cadia, so this might be a side event. It could be the start of something to help cover the galaxy as a whole rather than sticking purely to one location, untying the Gordian Knot of narrative threads writers have built up over the last three Editions.

Furthermore, and this needs to be made absolutely clear, this models are spectacular. Really, much as people might complain when something like the Centurion is produced, this is a clear sign that the design department is capable of churning out wonders for Warhammer 40,000, just as they can with Age of Sigmar. Each is clearly distinct, unique and with a few solid shout-outs to past creations, and is a perfect mix of beauty, menace and disturbing lethality.

Now, with that said however, there are a few very big warning lights showing up looking at these models alone. Why, when I praised them so highly just a moment ago? Well, ask yourself this question: Could you see any of these working with a Craftworld Eldar army? The menacing edges, gaudy designs, exaggerated non-human traits and Slaaneshi qualities are all something far more in line with the Dark Eldar than anyone else. Some already suspect that the figure with the exaggerated headdress, Yvraine, is in fact  Lady Malys from the Codex: Dark Eldar books. Something which would make sense given her history and relationship with the Harlequins. 

Personally, I would even go so far as to argue little to nothing of the Craftworld Eldar designs actually remain here at all. Given that this is supposed to be a new set of heroes devoted to this faction, it makes the previously discussed idea of a forced unity between the armies all the more likely. We have a similar situation as the start there, royally screwing over the less-evil race and depowering them until they are in a severely weakened state. Combined with the name, it wouldn't surprise me if we start to see the destruction of the Craftworlds and Commorragh as well. Given how forced, nonsensical and downright rushed the whole Elf storyline was in Warhammer: End Times even without the retcons, this seems like it could be a recipe for disaster. Just another "WHAM! Now you're one race again, no problems and you all work together fine!" whilst sweeping the old problems under the rug.

Now, some will likely argue that his is more easily pulled off here as a comment left in the previous article brought up the idea that there is less of a divide between the species. This is entirely wrong right from their societies upwards. You have one race taught to fight Slaanesh through focus, self control, constant discipline and constant use of their psychic powers. The other, meanwhile, is taught to embrace excess, use emotion as a constant drive, and to perpetually feed Slaanesh and gain fresh souls to extend their lives. One is taught to follow order, obey a strict hierarchy and become attuned to the will of their elders. The other is taught to kill those elders, consume their souls, back-stab everyone in sight and keep bumping people off so they remain at the top.

Even without getting into that however, the Dark Eldar have been doing a damn good job of making themselves the enemies of every other sub-sect of their race over the years. The few times they have allied with others have been rare exceptions or performed out of a twisted sense of spite. As for the rest, well, see for yourself - 

- Ishareq, an Exodite World, repels an attack by the Dark Eldar who value them as slaves. In response, the Kabalite Warriors poison the World Spirit before leaving. This leads to the death of the world and its entire populace.

- Biel-tan and several Kabals wage a decades long war in the Webway to rob the other of its control, killing thousands on either side. This only ends when it becomes clear it will lead to mutual annihilation, but even then the Dark Eldar make a point to provoke and attack the craftworld following this.

- Upon discovering a small Craftworld trapped in the Webway from the days of the Fall itself, the Dark Eldar enter it, greet their lost kin, and then slaughter them all. Shattering spirit stones and stealing anything of worth (including the wraithbone so precious to them) they commit an act of massed genocide in the name of power. The Harlequins are forced to perform the Masque of Vyle and hunt down the perpetrators of this attack, keeping the event hidden from the Craftworlds to avoid all out war.

- The Dark Eldar trick the Tau Empire into launching a retaliatory strike against an Exodite world following their own raids. This leads to it being stripped of all life by the Empire, and even a brief war with Iyanden while they retreat into the Webway.

- Eldar slaves, victims and technology is prized beyond all else. As such, even the likes of Vect have been known to align himself purely to spite them. During the Gothic War he briefly sided with Abaddon the Despoiler to destroy a possible Imperial-Eldar alliance against the Twelfth Black Crusade following the promise of eldar slaves. Furthermore, he retains a personal force of Wraithguard tortured to the point of insanity and imprisoned beneath his fortress, to be used as a hidden army when needed. 

Yeah, these aren't the sorts of people who would agree to suddenly stop fighting and permanently ally. They would be trying to use one another as cannon fodder in place of their own troops at the best of times, and likely murder one another shortly after any actual victory. As such, while I personally think the models themselves are certainly fantastically designed and expertly made, I am worried just what kind of future story they might be heralding for this army.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Rise & Shine (Video Game Review)


Rise & Shine is another of those experiences which might as well be called a game about games. With a story which intentionally mashes together a dozen old hero stories, and shout outs to everything from Duck Hunt to Gears of War, it could have easily been a nostalgia cash in. Yet, Super Mega Team's creativity, art direction and the uncanny ability to blend bullet hell, puzzle platforming and arcade shooter mechanics results in a single game.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Gathering Storm: Fall of Cadia Part 3 - Formations & Detachments (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)


Like last time, this is going to be a relatively short piece as there are only a few formations left, and that's it. True, there are the mission objectives and a battlezone, but these reviews tend to stick to the meat of the work asking "how well does it tell this story, and how well does it reflect the army?" Plus, given we tried to cover those with the Supplements only to be frustrated at their shortcomings a good six or seven times in a row, it seemed like the sort of thing best left to the other reviewers. Probably the ones who say "The lore is good, moving onto the rules" when it comes to the story.

So, let's finish up this section of the book and get ready for what happens next.


Formations


Triumvirate of the Imperium

This is really what people were predicting from the start, and another of the classic tropes which keeps arising. Mashing together three of the big characters from the book into one formation, they gain a few special rules to give them a bit more of an edge against their foes. This one is certainly far tamer than usual and, while obscenely expensive, does have a few more benefits in coordinating their attacks than the average trio formation.

Usually when a book mashes together three HQ choices like this, they tend to interfere with one another. We have seen this repeatedly where codices will place Librarians, Chaplains and Techmarines together as a single formation, only for their individual abilities to screw with the effectiveness of the other two. This time however, it honestly seems like they're covering one another's bases. Cawl can provide something of a shield for the other two, absorbing hits and attacks, and serving as both crowd control and ranged killer when needed. Celestine and her perpetually re-spawning angels provide further wounds for them to shrug off attacks - assuming Cawl can actually be hurt enough for that to be needed - and deal with characters, vehicles or anyone who might be stupid enough to get without melee range. Greyfax, benefiting from the extra security, is then free to lob about her psychic powers with impunity, soften up targets for their assault and generally limit the enemy's ability to counter them.

Each can work either at range or in combat, and the only serious concern stems mostly from volcano cannons or similar Strength D template weapons. Yes, it's powerful as all hell, but you are seriously paying the price for that.

As for the special rules, we have Exemplars of the Imperium (which allows one model here to be the Warlord, and pass on all their benefits to the others of this formation) and Inspiring Presence AKA the interesting one. Well, somewhat interesting anyway. It basically allows all friendly units (as in any you're allied with at all) to gain Fearless if they're within range of all three, or Stubborn and the ability to immediately pass pinning tests if they're within range of two. It's odd that this doesn't stack but there we go.

Really, it's nothing all that remarkable here, but the sheer power of throwing three such characters together is enough to justify this one alone. Anything more and it would be registering on the Draigo scale of insanity.


Conclave Acquisitorius

At this point the book branches off into a few two distinct forces, starting with the Mechanicus. This one consists of the following:

Cawl.
1-2 Battle Maniples or 1 War Cohort
1 Holy Requisitioner
0-1 Cohort Cybernetica
0-1 Numinorus Conclave
1-3 Imperial Knights

So, yes, it's exceptionally bloody big. The sheer numbers of Mechanicus troops makes fielding this one somewhat questionable to be sure, and the requirement to have three other codices on hand to make it work. There's a reason people think Warhammer 40,000's rules have become a bit unwieldy, and needing several codices just to use a formation in yet another book is a perfect example of just why.

The odd thing is that, for all this firepower, the actual benefits are oddly tame. If anything they're downright generic in all honesty. Armoury of the Archmagos is a simple and straight forwards upgrade, permitting each character to upgrade one weapon to master-crafted for free. Not bad admittedly, but not all that inventive either. Meanwhile, Synchronized Data Network allows for units to use a rule normally exclusive to Codex: Skitarii, specifically Doctrina Imperatives. The problem is that this only works if the squad contains the maximum number of units. This isn't clear if this just counts points or the casualties taken thanks to the working, so if it's the latter then you lose a major benefit thanks to one casualty. If that is the case, it is remarkably dumb. Even if it's not, it's really not all that interesting or helpful to something of this scale.


Wrathful Crusade

Now we get to the faith side of things. Well, faith and torture, there is an Inquisitor among them after all. The formation this time blends together the Space Marine (specifically Black Templar) and Scions units, without even bothering to add a single Sister of Battle besides Celestine's posse. Feel free to make the joke, I imagine you know the exact one right now. So, this one consists of the following:

Celestine
Greyfax
1 Space MarineCaptain
0-1 Sternguard Veteran Squad
2-4 Crusader Squads
1-2 Assault Squads
1 Militarum Tempestus Platoon

There's obviously a heavy assault focus here with plenty of close combat efforts, with the Scions offering a little variety and the ability to perform some ranged fire support. It's a decent combination admittedly, and the sort of one which fans have been working with quite a few times since the allies rules were released. Well, when they can't use something like the Tyrant's Legion anyway. Some heavy weapons teams or a bit more bite when it comes to anti-tank measures would have definitely been welcome here though, as the Sternguard marines themselves cannot take drop pods to pull off their favoured tactics.

That said, we do have some special rules again, this time automatically giving each unit Crusader as standard and with two unique bonuses. The first of these is Collective Fanaticism, which is again a "maximum number of units" special rule, which simply gives them Zealot. So, it could be very beneficial, or utterly useless depending upon how this is meant to be taken. The second of these though, Unbridled Fury, offers the ability for all units to re-roll their charge rolls. This is always something exceptionally welcome even if it is a bit simple, but comes with one added bonus: If you end up with an overall result of 10 or more, the unit gains Furious Charge for that turn. Not too bad at all really.


Detachments


Breaking things up again into the Mechanicus and everyone else camps, we have two here which are supposed to cover the entirety of the book's various rules. These are meant to be big, downright huge overall, and the sheer size of the maximum unit numbers on each one reflects this fact, with few real restrictions on offer.


Grand Convocation Detachment

Despite being the definite Mechanicus choice for this list, you're not merely limited to the Cult Mechanicus, Imperial Knights and Skitarii options here. No, you can also take the Engineseer from the Imperial Guard book as well. Yay.

Consisting of two to four HQ choices, four or more Troops choices, up to six Elites choices, up to six Fast Attack, up to six Heavy Support choices, and three Lords of War, you have plenty to work with. Again, yeah, this is supposed to be big and you're practically encouraged to take as much firepower as you can. Well, at least as many vehicles as you can anyway, as the Agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus rule means they all have It Will Not Die and any within 6" of an HQ choice have Power of the Machine Spirit. The other two special rules are sadly not quite so interesting however, as Chosen of the Omnissiah is the usual required "re-roll Warlord traits" rule and Noospheric Choir just means they all have Canticles of the Omnissiah if you take lots of them. Something almost all of them have anyway, so that's pretty damn useless as well.


Castellans of the Imperium Detachment

Now we move onto the second one which might as well be defined as "Every single other thing in the Imperium" with the rules listed citing books from Mont'Ka to Angels of Death. The unit choices are exactly the same as last time, two to four HQ choices, four or more Troops choices, up to six Elites choices, up to six Fast Attack, up to six Heavy Support choices, and three Lords of War, with no restrictions beyond this.

As for special rules, they're again sadly quite pedestrian with the Lord Castellan rule just being the usual "re-roll Warlord trait" stunt we keep seeing over and over again. Equally, Zealous Defenders is the same as Noospheric Choir, just switch out Canticles with Zealot. Something which is definitely much, much more useful by comparison and is welcome with the sheer variety of units you can take with this one. The most inventive one is sadly also just another rehashed concept we have seen quite a few times before. Flock to the Front Line permits destroyed Troops choices to be resurrected on the roll of a 5+ on a D6 at the beginning of each turn, and arrive on the table edge. 

Been there, done that, bought the cuirass.


Verdict


This is actually quite disappointing overall, really. There's honestly nothing special here besides the size of the formations involved, and almost all the rules present are just concepts we have seen so many times before. Yes, okay, it's fine to repeat an idea on occasion and to even to use them as a baseline concept for something, but there's little to nothing original here at all. In fact, most of this stuff seems to be falling back on the old issue we cited with the Supplements so many times before. They seem less like something crafted for an army and more like something churned off of a production line. This only adds to the sense of the book being rushed others have cited in the comments section, and really robs it of the importance this event deserves.

Overall, it's a lackluster note to end on here. We have a decent if deeply flawed story, a few very fun characters, but with the formations and detachments remaining so unremarkable, there's little to nothing here to really support a proper army. Here's hoping the next stage of the Gathering Storm will reflect upon these flaws and improve, because with a little more time and effort something of this length could be truly great.

Still, we're not entirely done with this book just yet. In a few days time we will be returning to this one with a few thoughts on the execution and what could be done to improve all that is to come.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Craftworld Eldar to be Renamed, Ynnead Coming? - Update on the Gathering Storm


It seems that we are losing more than just Cadia in the Gathering Storm. Despite the first book in the series only being a few days old, Games Workshop are apparently pushing full steam ahead with this storyline. On Monday, a trailer was released via the company's Youtube channel hinting at the conflict to come, and offering a few odd bits of news.



As you might have guessed from the iconography and mention of souls, this next book in the series will heavily involve the Craftworld Eldar. It's not that big of a surprise really given the ending featured a massed Warhost arriving to reinforce the Imperium's badly beaten troops, but one word in there stands out as a bit odd. Specifically "Aeldari" in place of "Eldar". Yes, this is the whole Astra Militarum nonsense arising all over again, and it's likely for the same reason Elves, Dwarfs and Lizardmen have been replaced by more unique names in Age of Sigmar; It's easier to defend in courts of law if someone ends up using it without Games Workshop's permission.

This was further confirmed by writer Robbie MacNiven (AKA The guy who is thankfully forcing the spotlight back onto the Space Sharks) on his blog when a fan queried him over the question:

"Oh please tell me the Eldar are getting renamed to Aeldari. That's such a good name."

"They are indeed, and I know right? I was actually going to make a post about this. I’ve almost forgotten a dozen times since November not to call them Aeldari before the announcement. 
Also, for you traditionalists (or whiners), the name Eldar isn’t being removed from the canon either, they still are called/call themselves that, it’s just they can be called both in the same way the Imperial Guard are the Imperial Guard and the Astra Militarum. As a writer it sure is easier when there are multiple names you can use for things. "

Obviously, open trolling of traditionalists aside, this raises a few problematic points and suggestions. Oh, not due to the name itself of course, but mostly thanks to how it will be executed and the implication it offers.

The first and most obvious one can be found simply be looking at the Imperial Guard. Specifically, when was the last time you actually saw Imperial Guard written in a book? Really, sit back and think for a moment about this sort of thing and consider if you have seen it at all. Despite all comments to the contrary, it has completely supplanted the term in every form, and you'd be hard pressed to find anything beyond "Guardsmen" suggesting that it had ever existed at all. 

Now, even as a hobbyist who has followed this universe for over a decade, i'll not weep too many tears over the loss of Eldar as a name. That said, it is a part of their identity, one which has been about for more than thirty years and it's something fans recognise. Changing something so basic as that can hurt a faction for old and new fans, or even cause discontent within those who follow them. After all, if Superman's name was to be changed tomorrow, that would hardly go down well on either a marketing or fandom perspective. Klingons would be the same, in fact most well established things from science fiction settings. Ridiculous sounding as they often are, they're what people recognise, and old and new fans alike are often willing to accept the inherent silliness as part of a grandfather clause. Something which was acceptable in its time, but is so well ingrained into the franchise it would do more damage than good to change it.

However, the more pressing issue which might arise from this is what it might imply for the Craftworld Eldar themselves. Specifically, that it could be an indication of an Aelf situation here, where all Eldar are forced into being one people rather than the variety of factions we had before. The company pulled this with Age of Sigmar, and the repeated disasters they have piled upon the species of late does make it seem likely it could happen again here. In fact, it's somewhat supported by the final pages of Fall of Cadia.

While the sudden involvement of the Craftworld Eldar was something I was trying to keep  whilst reviewing Fall of Cadia, the final page revealed a vast army from multiple craftworlds arriving at once. Not just alone however, but with Harlequins and Dark Eldar among them, apparently fighting as a single force. 

The good news about this is that, unless someone in the photography department was handed the wrong memo, the vehicles belonging to this faction still work. We still have Aspect Warriors showing up among their number and their technology seems to be fine, so apparently only the Infinity Circuits were drained rather than all spirit stones. The bad news is that, well, it only supports the "one people" angle some players are dreading. You have two arch enemies lined up side by side, every single army from a very isolated and scattered people shunted together, and most of them forced to work thanks to the great disaster that had befallen them.

This point is only further implied by the symbol in the trailer. which seems to be combined together from a variety of Craftworld sigils. You can pick out several details of the symbol which seem to have been incorporated from the likes of Biel-Tan, Saim-Hann and Altansar among others. If it was to be a major change like this, the chances are that we would see various older details or icons being altered like this, or even the army's defining symbol being changed to reflect their altered state. 

Some have gone so far as to argue that this could be a symbol for Ynnead instead, an ascendant or diminished god rather than the old symbol, but that could lean towards this as well. After all, the Craftworlds were hedging  their bets on this god showing up and dealing with Chaos for centuries, and the subject of souls introduced in this trailer links in heavily to her. The god's active presence would be enough to unite them and, combined with Age of Sigmar's preference for big god characters leading their new armies, it still fits into the depiction mentioned.

Is this speculation? Yes. It might be based upon the narrative arcs of Games Workshop's existing properties and the words of an author, but it is still merely just a theory. We will only know more once the next book of the Gathering Storm is out, but one thing should be clear beyond anything else - Times are changing. Whatever we know of Warhammer now, the universe could be something utterly alien within just a few years. That will be the price of advancing the storyline.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Gathering Storm: Fall of Cadia Part 2 - Special Rules, Units and Relics (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)


So, with the story done we're onto the core rules. This time there's actually not much in the way of them, oddly enough. Oh there are certainly a few fun things to work with to be sure, and a few nice ideas here and there, but it's far more trimmed down than what we'd usually expect from a rulebook of this sort. A big part of this is down to the length of the lore describing the campaign, which took up the bulk of the tome and, speaking personally for a moment, that seems like a fair trade-off. 

As important as rules generally are, the universe needs a solid story at its core and the final Black Crusade was an event which could have been so easily screwed up. Personally, for all the complaints made here, it's a small miracle that Aaron Dembski-Bowden pulled off the story half as well as he did.

Plus, for those about to complain, we did get two brand new heroes and one vastly revamped one, all from relatively minor factions on the tabletop. So, it's not like this was completely weighted in favour of one faction.

So, without further delay, here's a look into the rules you can find in this particular book, starting with the aforementioned characters.

Units

It's fairly obvious looking at these that Games Workshop are attempting to mix and match elements as best they can. Each of the characters found here are capable of imbuing armies with the benefits usually reserved to their forces. This is extremely evident with the Archmagos and the Saint, while the Inquisitor provides more of a durable and extremely powerful psyker for other armies. The sort of thing which most Imperial armies outside of the astartes are usually unable to get their hands on. 

This seems more akin to an Age of Sigmar idea more than anything else, especially when you look at the buff heavy god tier characters and how they effectively symbolise every key benefit of the army in one model. That said, Age of Sigmar is still something of a different game, and the inclusion of such characters here is disconcerting to be sure. After all, we just had Celestine removed from her own army, only to show up here with the ability to grant Sisters exclusive benefits to any army she's attached to. 

Given their extremely limited support over the past decade, the fact the recent re-release fixed nothing and and the lack of new models, some could take this as bumping off the army and leaving only a figurehead to be passed about from force to force. Then again, you could argue that this equally might be a way of dragging attention back towards the Sisters and is an opportunity to test the waters to see how much attention she can garner. It's too early to do much more than speculate admittedly, so whether or not this is a positive thing or not will vary from person to person.

Still, we're here to judge the rules as much as the concepts behind their use, so let's start with the Embodiment of the Emperor's Will.


Saint Celestine



One known as the elite-troll-option for characters, at least in the days before super heavy choices and others, Celestine's development has been an odd rollercoaster ride of developments. As her use was shifted about from one Edition to the next thanks to a lack of updates, a nerf eventually left her weaker than before until it seemed the writers were desperately trying to push Confessor Jacobus as a better character choice for the army. That seems to have changed here however, as Celestine has undergone arguably one of the single biggest rules buffs ever seen in the game. 

Hiking her overall value up to a full two hundred points, the Saint is now capable of shrugging off the various one-shots which tended to bring her down during the Fifth and Sixth Editions. This is thanks to now having five (!) wounds, Eternal Warrior and a 2+ save as standard, meaning she's fully capable of going toe to toe with some of the more power mad marine characters. This does admittedly go hand in hand with the fact that she can now only resurrect herself once per game, but that in of itself is offset by her new bodyguards. The mysterious Geminae Superia act more or less as flying Seraphim with two wounds, WS 5, a 4+ Invulnerable save and power swords, but each can be continually resurrected by the Saint herself, over and over again. The end result? Perpetual "Look out, sir!" saves, meaning she can use these guys as easy extra wounds, Gun Drone style.

While she does still retain the Strength and Toughness of a standard human (three), her weapons more than make up for this limitation. The Strength 4 AP 5 flamer stands out for quick horde annihilation options, but more importantly her sword now confers +2 Strength and hits at AP 3, and comes with Armourbane to boot. Oh, and if that wasn't enough killing potential she now has an ability which is effectively the Orbital Strike blast usually reserved for Chapter Masters. This means that she has the ability to hack her way through enemy transports, entire squads of foes, and even give Abaddon a run for his money if the dice are right.

Finally, as mentioned previously, she can confer War Hyms and Acts of Faith onto other units, albeit only those within a "12 range. Well, sort of anyway. While she can only support and buff those who already have them within range (by using her Leadership 10 stat in stead of their own one) she has a number of Saintly Blessings which work in a similar way, but tend to be a lot more effective on the whole. These also have a 12" range to them, but, well, see for yourself what they can offer:

HQ Choices: The unit gains Zealot until the start of the next turn.
Troops Choices: Each gains Feel No Pain 6+ until the start of next turn, or a +1 buff if they already have the rule (You can see why Blood Angels players are suddenly very interested in her).
Elites Choices: Each gains both Counter-Attack and Furious Charge until start of next turn.
Fast Attack Choices: Each gains Crusader and Fleet until start of next turn.
Heavy Support Choices: Each gains Relentless until start of next turn.

Lord of War: It Will Not Die for the rest of the game.

Suffice to say, personally I think the devs went a bit overboard with this. Please don't get me wrong, this is bound to get the Sisters some long deserved attention (and it is definitely a very good thing the character still can be brought down via plasma guns or heavy weapons, and that her main benefit is that she works with another army) but some of these seem to be going a bit too far for her points cost. It only gets worse when you realise she gives the army access to most of the relics in this book, so overall it honestly seems like she should have been shunted up in points slightly more.

Still, given some of the things we have seen in this Edition, she's more on the extremely powerful and versatile end of things than the "I will win the entire battle on my lonesome!" scale of obscene characters.


Inquisitor Greyfax



Also known as the Eye of the Emperor (with the book getting in a welcome First Heretic reference with her title) this is the same character who was once trapped by Trazyn within a seemingly inescapable tesseract labyrinth. As such, despite being a new character she has some history to her within the setting and despite being branded a Radical by her superiors for her use of psychic powers, her beliefs align her more with the Monodominant secs of the Inquisition. It's an interesting contrast to be sure, and if handled correctly she could be an interesting character. Admittedly though, personally i'm not a fan of the armour (really, a literal breast plate and high heels? That's going five steps too far) even if the Van Helsing look is always a welcome addition to this sort of thing.

Moving onto her rules though, she's a definitely step down from Saint "Look what I can do now!" Celestine, but still has a fair bit of power behind her. With a standard but solid Inquisitor's stats line and a 3+ standard save, her cost of one hundred and fifty points will net you a master crafted power sword and boltgun, along with a few fun extras. The Psyocculum and Psyk-out grenades come equipped as standard with this character, giving her an edge against enemy psykers while responding with her own powers via a Psychic Mastery level of two and the Aura of Oppression. This is a malediction ability with a range of 12" and forces the target to immediately take a pinning test. No matter the result though, the enemy unit cannot Run, use Overwatch, Turbo-boost or performing Sweeping Advances. Plus, if this isn't enough, you can boost it to three Warp charges until it hits every foe within 12" 

There's also quite a unique Warlord Trait known as the Master of Interrogation, which prevents any enemy Infiltrators from emerging within 12" of her. As these things go, that one is pretty damn useful for sure. Combined with the aforementioned psychic power, it makes her a useful spearhead unit against gun-lines or fast moving armies, even if she is a bit on the fragile side.


Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl



It has to be said, of all the new models here this is definitely the most impressive of the bunch. It matches up almost perfectly with some of the most over-the-top and grandiose descriptions of powerful Magos seen in various black library books, especially the avarice driven maniac in Soul Drinker. Honestly, it's probably one of the single best character design seen in 40,000 in the last few years, and it manages to somehow balance out the complexity of the sheer details of the model with a singular distinct appearance. If the Wulfen are a Rob Liefeld creation spat out of a factory, this is a John Blanche sketch brought to life.

Given the sheer size of the model himself and the rather large base he occupies, we should be thankful that he has some pretty damn great rules to back him up, starting with an especially beefy stats line. In short:

WS5 BS5 S5 T6 W5 I3 A3 Ld10 Sv2+

Along with a Refractor Field to help him endure a bit more firepower, he has an Arc Scourge, a Master-crafted power axe, Scryerskull and a Mechadendrite Hive. That last one is rather useful, as it can unleash either 2D6 Strength 4 attacks or a single Haywire attack at Initiative 10. To add to the stonewall effect this guy can pull off, he can regenerate D3 wounds per turn and can even be repaired by a Dominus in his unit. This basically turns him into a staggeringly effective bullet sponge, capable of absorbing railgun rounds and remaining effectively immune to small arms fire. Most people have this habit of trying to overcome Terminators by lining up row upon row of lasguns until a few shots get through, but you can't bring this guy down through sheer attrition. Oh, he'll still die to a few Strength D hits or bad rolls, but it helps to justify his high cost of two hundred points.

Besides being a massive wall of armour, he naturally has a few rules to actually help the army overall. The power axe is one obvious one, and the Arc Sourge is a S+1 AP4 Master-crafted cudgel which has a re-rollable Haywire effect to screw over vehicles. So, if you can get him within range of things he's going to promptly chomp through vehicles and troops alike like there's no tomorrow. Just don't expect him to solo too many heroes any time soon, as he'll likely fall quickly in the face of Grimnar, Mephiston or Anrakyr. Even the Solar Atomiser - a raygun fanatic's wet dream - has a limited range of "12 and while obscenely effective (S 10 AP 1 Assault D3, Master-crafted) there are still ways he can be bogged down in combat until someone can come along to ruin his day. 

As a result, he should probably be regarded as a kind of armoured battering ram as much as anything else. You use him to keep fire away away from the rest of your army, keep him towards the front, and then use his variety of attacks to break the enemy's lines or bog down their best units.

The big bonus here is that, as mentioned previously, he can pass on a few fun bonuses in the form of his army scale buffs. He still has Canticles of the Omnissiah, but much like Celestine he now has the new and improved Canticles of the Archmagos which can affect Imperial vehicles. As in all of the Imperial vehicles, from Knights to Rhinos. They permit the following, and work in the same way as past options:

Harmony of Metalurgy
1-3 Units Within Range: Each unit gains It Will Not Die.
4-7 Units: It Will Not Die.  Make two ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only one.

8+ Units: It Will Not Die.  Make three ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only one.

Utterance of Neutralisation
1-3 Units Within Range: Each unit gains +1 Ballistic Skill.
4-7 Units: +2 Ballistic Skill.

8+ Units: +3 Ballistic Skill.

War Hymnal of Fortitude
1-3 Units Within Range: Each unit gains a 6+ Invulnerable Save.
4-7 Units: 5+ Invulnerable Save.

8+ Units: 4+ Invulnerable Save.

Personally speaking, I think this is where the book really, truly, jumped the shark and never looked back. Personal buffs via characters is nothing new, and they're usually a welcome addition to such books, but something like this is completely and utterly obscene. Even if you rule out the possibility of multiple Imperial Knights all suddenly gaining standard 4+ invulnerable saves, just consider what this could do for the average APC. Personally, I run an Iron Hands force with a great deal of assault cannon equipped Razorbacks. So, imagine for a moment if all of those suddenly gained three It Will Not Die rolls atop of their standard enhanced defences. It won't be unstoppable, but it'll need one hell of an opposing force to actually bring them down.

The most tame among these is that Utterance of Neutralisation, but even then if you just have a few tanks nearby it will turn them into squad shredders. So, six Leman Russ tanks? Yeah, welcome to BS5 Imperial Guard tanks. There's nothing wrong with being powerful of course, but there's something wrong with being borderline indestructible and having the capacity to do the same to anyone nearby.


Relics



There are two sets of relics this time around, the first being the Arcana Mechanicum with more technological abilities and benefits, and the second is simply listed as Ecclesiarchy Relics. Naturally these are limited to the involvement of certain characters or armies, but besides thematic qualities you won't find too many differences here. They seem to be written more to use certain special rules and fit into certain item categories more than anything else.

Arcana Mechanicum

Numinasta's Casket of Electromancy - Another in the long line of powerful-but-one-shot weapons, this one is rather surprising as it hits everything within range of it. Yes, everything, so once your character pulls the trigger all foes from flyers to monsterous creatures will instantly be hit by it. That said, don't expect it to do that much damage against the bigger, badder characters as it does have a fairly weedy Strength 3 hit despite having a range of 2d6", AP -, Assault 1 and Haywire.

Quantum Annihilator - Another ranged weapon, this one strikes at 18", S2d6 and AP2, but has Assault D3 shots. Obviously something which can hit at Strength 12 will have quite an impact, and thankfully the special rule actually accounts for this. In effect, if you roll that high after selecting the target unit, the suffer Instant Death with an automatic wound, or at least an automatic penetration if it's a vehicle you're shooting at.

Sacrifactum Autorepulsor - Much like some of the stuff seen in Wrath of Magnus, this one limits the charging range of enemy units. Anyone looking to hurl themselves headlong into the unit retaining this bearer suffer -2" from their overall result. It's useful to be sure, and fifteen points is an easy thing to help justify.

Memento-Morispex - ... Ignoring the terrible, terrible pun, this one is odd to be sure. In effect, the weapon conveys one of the following: Cognis Weapons (BS2 while using Snapfire, and Flamers have a standard three with Wall of Death in Overwatch), Monster Hunter, Skyfire or Tank Hunter. It's probably one of the best options on here as it allows for a bit more tailoring than usual, and can be changed at the beginning of each turn. So, if you want to shoot down a plane, blow up a tank and then butcher a squad before they charge, this is well worth the thirty point price tag.

Omnissiah's Grace - This instantly offers a 6+ Invulnerable save to the bearer, but it sadly doesn't cover the entire squad this person is with. However, it does stack with existing saves, to a maximum of 3+, so it can be a nice bonus for just ten points.

Saint Curia's Autopurger - Now, this is a very odd but very useful one to be sure. It doesn't directly harm the enemy in the conventional manner, but it hinders and limits squads locked in combat with them. For starters, anyone charging this unit do not gain their additional attack on the charge, and every time turn they remain in combat they are required to pass a Toughness test or they will lose a wound (with saves as per usual). Normally this is the sort of thing I would personally argue would still work well with close combat engagements as well, as it limits their ability to counter them.


Ecclesiarchy Relics

Skull of Petronella the Pious - Conferring a 6+ Invulnerable save, at first this one doesn't look like it's worth the thirty points the book charges you to take it. However, there's one key difference here a few people have overlooked: This isn't limited to just the wielder, but can be spread to the entire squad. So, your command squad or anyone with this character now has a permanent 6+ save, allowing them to benefit from a bit more added durability. Not too bad atall.

Blade of the Worthy - At the same price as the above choice, this is the killing weapon of the book. It's mostly just a hand-me-down version of Celestine's own blade, with an oddly unreliable nature to it. In its normal state, it hits at the users Strength and AP3, but if you pass a Leadership test before each combat, it benefits from a +2 Strength and AP3 boost. Honestly, this is a bit overpriced and over-engineered for its design, so while it can certainly deliver the goods (well, the heads of your foes) we have seen far better ideas in previous books.

Castigator - So, with the melee weapon done we now have the ranged one, specifically a pistol. Striking at 12" with Strength 4 and AP2, it doesn't look like anything truly special at first, until you get to the special rule: It ignores invulnerable saves. For fifteen points this is an almost essential grab, as even if you're loosing only a single round before entering combat with a character, knocking off that wound is well worth its cost. 

The Font of Fury - Another one-shot weapon again, this one is something you can use as a back-up ranged attack. With a very odd range of 8" and Strength 3, AP-, Assault 1, Poison 4+ and a Large blast template, it's designed largely as something to fire into squads before charging/being charged. We've seen this sort of thing quite a few times before, and it can be useful if a little temperamental and unpredictable. With such a massively short range though, you might want to think very carefully before taking this one, despite costing a cheap fifteen points.

Bane of Evil: Oddly enough this is a potent weapon, but one limited to a few specific foes. It allows the user's attacks to have Poison 2+ against units from Chaos Space Marine, Chaos Demon or Khorne Demonkin related books, not no one else. So, it's situational but it could be enough to have a major edge against certain foes. It will certainly give daemon princes one hell of a surprise though, that's for sure.

Shroud of the Anti-Martyr - For thirty-five points, the bearer now has Eternal Warrior. Yep, that's it, nothing more. Moving on.


Desvalle's Holy Circle - This one is a somewhat useful one actually as it confers a 4+ Invulnerable save against all attacks, but it also produces a 12" radius which enemy units simply cannot Deep Strike into. So, shove them onto an objective and the usual Terminator trick becomes much harder to pull off. Furthermore, if an enemy units scatters within that range, they suffer an immediate Deep Strike Mishap. Overall, not too shabby really.


Verdict



Overall, this is hit and miss to be sure and it does still delve into a few bad habits. Those ones should definitely be obvious here, but there is definitely still some good to be found. In particular, the fact many of the characters have been pushed to work more with armies despite their power and the originality of a few items stand out here. It does genuinely seem like the writers were aware of the old problems so many codices kept suffering from, but the sheer power suggests they wanted it to still be competitive against the more powerful books.

As a result, overall this is most definitely a very mixed book than a truly middling one, suffering from several extremes at once more than falling short on something completely. So, on the tabletop front it's still not entirely worthless and the abilities of a few characters are certainly worth it to be sure, but you might want to stick to this one for the story more than the tabletop mechanics.

So, that's two parts done, join us here as we move on to the formations.