Legends of the Space Marines: Twelve Wolves by Ben Counter

Space Wolves fans are rather spoiled when it comes to stories. The Wolves of Fenris are quite a narrative chapter and most of the stories reflect this.

I tend to divide Space Wolves stories into two types: “old” and “new”. The old stories are those by Bill King which are big, bouncy and larger than life and great fun. The new stories are those in the Horus Heresy: Wolf at the Door, Thousand Sons (technically) and Prospero Burns, Runes and Battle for the Fang. I’m also going to include Lone Wolves in the “new” category, although it’s a bit older, because it fits better here than with the Bill King books. There’s also Battle for the Abyss, but I can barely remember the book or the plot and I only remembered that there was a Space Wolf in it when I thought hard. Admittedly it was one of the earlier Horus Heresy books but I still remember much of the plot of the others! Anyway, I’m sort of digressing, as although Battle for the Abyss is also by Ben Counter, I’m reviewing Twelve Wolves.

Twelve Wolves falls into the “old” category, sort of. It’s definitely lost in the “new” category. To be honest, I find it quite a weak story.

The story is a story (sorry) told by a mortal Skjald to a bunch of Space Wolves and is a morality tale of sorts about the wolves of Fenris and how these twelve allegorical beasts signify desirable traits in a Space Wolf, by telling a story about a Blood Claw and a Long Fang during the Second Battle for the Fang.

The thing is, I want to like this story. I play Space Wolves because of their rich back story. I just don’t find Twelve Wolves that interesting. It’s not particularly well written and the idea, though potentially very good, isn’t strong enough to hold it all together. It also suffers from the same problem as Hell Night and Cover of Darkness in that its ending is poor.

If you want Space Wolves I’d recommend reading Battle for the Fang (again) or the Ragnar Blackmane books, I’d give Twelve Wolves a miss.

Power Axe Painting Effect

Just a quick aside, there should be a longer post later, but I was quite pleased with this guy’s power axe. I’m not entirely happy with the model as he’s a bit wobbly in places and something went badly wrong with the wash but the axe looks quite ok. I wanted to give the effect of a glowing power axe. Maybe blue would be more appropriate for a frost blade, but as this guy’s a Blood Claw he can’t take one anyway, so it shouldn’t cause confusion. The axe is painted using Boltgun metal, highlighted with Chainmail and Mithril Silver (I don’t know the new paint names yet). I used the new Citadel Guilliman Blue glaze for the effect, which, although I can’t get it to work in the photo, does change intensity as the light direction changes.

Science and Technology and the 41st Millennium

In real life I work in Applied Physics and it tends to colour the way I look at things and what I read. The other day there was an article in New Scientist on a new type of exoskeleton. When I got home I mentioned this to my boyfriend (also a scientist) and stated that we could probably make power armour with current technology. He shot this down but it got me thinking. Yes, we probably could make some sort of power armour, if nowhere near as powerful as that of M41. Actually we’re at the cusp of developing, or already have quite a bit of 40K tech (giant faster than light space ships that utilise interdimensional travel not withstanding).

The real life reason why 40K tech is not quite as futuristic as it might be, is probably to do with how things have changed since the days of Rogue Trader. Take computers for instance, I’m a little bit older than Rogue Trader and I can remember my first computer an, admittedly second hand, Amstrad portable that filled a desk. At the time, being able to type something and then print it on a dot matrix printer was pretty nice. Actually, I have a feeling that I may have used a BBC Micro before then (I loved those machines). Today I’m typing this on my laptop, having also used two desktops and a phone with considerably more memory than my first computer (I don’t even want to try calculating it- the Amstrad worked using a series of floppy disks!). Even something as seemingly basic as lighting has changed considerably, today’s LEDs would have been unthinkable twenty five years ago.

However it’s a mistake to directly try and compare today’s technology with that of M41, and this is where Games Workshop scores Brownie Points for designing a background that is independent of real life technological advances.

As anybody who has read more than just the rules section of the 40K rulebook knows, science and technology in the 41st millennium has stagnated. Most of the technology is archeotech, technology from previous societies, which has been preserved, stored, dug up or recreated and may or may not be fully understood.

Now, a problem with lab equipment is that the device itself, a spectrometer, or deposition system etc., is often designed to last for a very long time- years or even decades. A lot of these bits of equipment come with software which is required to operate them and this software either is unable to be upgraded, or is too cripplingly expensive to replace. This leads to old PCs being used well past their use-by dates. I’ve actually seen a stockpile of old machines in a lab that was moving, because they were expecting at least one to fail in the move.

Now imagine this problem on a planetary or even a galactic scale. The more fragile, probably the more complicated and advanced, devices will become extinct over time. The remaining technology will be robust, but it might easily be quite primitive.

It may also be that a large proportion of the preserved technology was that which was less successful or obsolescent in its own time. Think of the things that clutter up an attic or basement or even the garden shed. Some technology gets used until it breaks, things like kettles, toasters washing machines or dishwashers don’t end up in the loft. Other things get used for a while and then becomes superseded by a newer model, things like an old PC, or a CRT TV or an old radio. Sometimes such devices are recycled, at least partially, especially peripherals such as cables, sometimes they just gather dust. Other things, particularly gadgets are less attractive over time and are replaced by a new toy, often these are the less successful gadgets, something that looked like a good idea at the time, or were not the winning format, things like the Betamax or the minidisc player. Eventually the more successful replacements might make it to the attic, if they haven’t been worn out, but they will be in far poorer condition.

Imagine such an attic being re-opened after five years, ten years, fifty years. Imagine trying to set up a piece of equipment from 2000 or 1994 or 1985. Imagine that you’re from 2112 and you’re trying to do this without the manuals. You might not know that a CD is different to a DVD, or that a dot matrix printer is incompatible with an ultrabook. You might not have the manuals or you might not even be able to understand it. You would have to try and figure it out by trial and error. I imagine that this is the situation Tech Priests are in when they find “new” technology.

Of course all the constant fighting does not help with the preservation and development of technology. Historically war has been a catalyst for new developments, particularly in medicine, a recent example being the surge in the development of bionics, but also in areas such as chemistry and physics with things such as the Manhattan project.

The thing is that war in M41 is constant and unrelenting, it is a war of attrition.. Resources have long since been allocated to getting more or more soldiers armed and armoured rather than pure research and development.

Power armour is a good example of this. In M31, during the Wars of Unification, the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, there were seven marks of power armour: the mk.I Thunder Armour, the mk.II Crusade Armour, the mk.III Iron Armour, the mk.IV Imperial Maximus Armour, the mk V Heresy Armour, the mk VI Corvus Armour and the mk.VII Aquilla Armour. After the Heresy any modifications were made on a suit by suit basis (Artificer Armour). The Lexicanum mentions a mkVIII armour, but that only appears to appear in a Deathwatch book, and there is also Grey Knight Aegis Armour, but that is only utilised by a single chapter.

The trouble with Artificer Armour is that it is unique, if anything happens to the suit or the chapter, then the knowledge how to make the improvement is lost. Also knowledge is not going to be freely shared. Can you imagine the Dark Angels sharing information with the Space Wolves, for instance?

The artificers themselves could also be lost, a promising techmarine could be lost in battle and his half-developed method to stop plasma guns overheating would be lost with him. A real life parallel can be drawn here with Henry Moseley, who figured out why the periodic table was in the order it was before being killed aged 27 at Gallipoli during World War I.

Another cause of tech stagnation is fear. The Imperial Citizens of M41 are scared of technology, a legacy of the Age of Strife and the Dark Age of Technology. Clarke’s Third Law states that:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

For Imperial citizens technology is magic, a view promulgated by the Adeptus Mechanicus who treat technology as a religion, complete with prayers and heresy. I’m not sure whether prayers to the Machine God are instructional i.e. “Press Ctrl Alt Del, press Ctrl Alt Del. Have you switched it on?” or more like the cursing that occurs when trying to deal with a piece of recalcitrant equipment i.e. “Work damn you!” “Please don’t break, please don’t break, please don’t break!”but by treating technology as a religion they’re not encouraging science, just compliance with their views.

I’m beginning to think that in general the 41st Millennium is quite primitive, almost Fantasy Medieval. This is why it is a mistake to compare it with real life technology in the early 21st Century. There are some very cool developments out there at the moment, but the thing is, they are developments. The Imperium in the 41st Millennium is an empire in decline, the citizens are struggling for survival and so development has been sidelined. This combined with a lack of understanding as discussed above, probably means that the average Imperial Citizen is far less tech-savvy than an average citizen of a developed or developing world country today, and they probably own less of it.

I hope that I haven’t been too boring!


The best laid plans and all that jazz

So, I was planning to buy the Iron Hands kit for bits for my Long Fangs. Unfortunately it’s been pulled from the shelves/been sold off in anticipation of a new Finecast upgrade kit. This means that I’ll have to do some thinking, most of which will have to wait until the kit is officially announced and I know what’s on it. I’ve never used Finecast before and I’m worried by some of the reports I’ve heard.

There seems to be quite a glut of Space Marine bits on the way. Interestingly they are all in Finecast, which I am a little bit confused about. The Space Wolves bits frame is plastic, and surely it would make more sense to do other Space Marine ones the same way?

I’m curious to see what else goes the way of Finecast. There are still a few metal models out there and Sisters of Battle are still all metal apart from their vehicles. The poor Sisters do seem to be the poor cousin to everything else at the moment. The White Dwarf codex last summer was poor even to my untrained eyes and the models only come in metal- every other 40K army appears to have at least troop choices in plastic! It says something when the Forgeworld exorcist is considerably cheaper than the Games Workshop version. I’m not a Sisters of Battle player and although I have an idea for how I’d make a Sisters army of a sort, I’m not even going to consider building it at the moment.

I’ve unpacked my new old Devastators that I’m going to use for Long Fangs. I need to figure out how they go together. They’re going to have quite a mix of weaponry as they come with shoulder mounted weapons. I’m not sure how they’re going to work as I probably wouldn’t have given the squad leader a power fist, but it’s pretty firmly stuck on so it’ll have to stay.

I got my paints out for the first time in a week this evening in order to start highlighting my Blood Claws. Hopefully I can polish them off by the weekend as I have things planned painting-wise that I want to work on. I’m planning to do a detailed painting guide on how I paint Fenrisian Wolves as well as discussing using freehand on shoulder pads, all of which require me doing some painting! Unfortunately I have to bake cake tonight, so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow!


Salute Sum-up

I’m afraid I gave up even trying to write a post yesterday as I was travelling pretty much all day. I really need to learn to pack lightly. I was packing my stuff up on Saturday evening/ Sunday morning (actually, we got back so late on Saturday that I think it was already Sunday morning) and realising that I’d packed two jumpers, two shirts and a t-shirt too much stuff. It was probably a good thing that I didn’t buy too much at Salute. On the other hand I had a good opportunity to sit and read.

So, on Saturday my boyfriend and I went to Salute, which is a wargaming event run by the South London Warlords. It’s a whole hall full of gaming groups and shops. We turned up a little bit late and they’d run out of goody bags by the time that we got there which was a little bit annoying/frustrating. I don’t know what exactly was in the bags but we arrived before 1pm and the show didn’t shut until 5pm. I guess that if we go again we’ll have to turn up earlier, which, if we do what we did this time and stay outside of London, means an early start. The only trouble with getting there early is having enough energy to last the day.

I had a few things that I was looking for and I got one of them. I picked up two sets of pelts from MaxMini (large and small). I’d been thinking about buying some for a while, but as they were a small purchase I sidelined them as being too fiddly to bother with. I was going to pick up another Devastator squad for my Long Fang conversions, but only the most expensive of the stores that I was looking at had one left (and I forgot to check the pricing on the GW site before I left!).

I also wanted to ask about getting a KR Multicase. I’ve now seen what the backpack looks like. I didn’t have space to carry one home unfortunately and talking to they guy at the stall, it was decided that it was probably best if I ordered online in euros (which I really have to do- I can’t carry on packing my guys in plastic boxes). I need to write up my list as is and what I’m planning to get.

I was looking at getting some bits at the Bring and Buy/ the bits stalls. The only trouble was that most things were a little bit overpriced for something that I’ll have to strip and clean up. For instance, I saw 5 bikes for ₤20. Now Space Marine bikes are ₤6 each new from Wayland Games or ₤7.50 from GW (they’re considerably more in euros it seems :(). ₤4 seems like quite a nice price but in order to use them I would have had to strip them using Dettol (they were painted yellow), prise off heads or add lots of bits and green stuff in order to make them all wolfy, and only then could I paint them. I’m just lazy I guess.

I did spend money on books though. I picked up a pile of books from the stall that aren’t out for a while, including Wrath of Iron and Butcher’s Nails, both of which are books that I’ve been looking forward to. We also bought Architect of Fate which we then got signed by Sarah Cawkwell and The Primarchs which we got signed by Graham McNeill. Both authors were really great to talk to, although I put my foot in it when I admitted that I played Space Wolves because of Prospero Burns. I love Thousand Sons (which is written by McNeill). To be honest you can’t have Prospero Burns without Thousand Sons and vice versa. Graham McNeill’s story in the Primarchs (The Reflection Crack’d) is brilliant! I’m on the last of the novellas now and I can say that the three I’ve read so far have all been up to scratch. The reason that I haven’t quite finished The Primarchs is that I read Architect of Fate first. It’s not the most hopeful book in the world but it is very good and that’s all the review you can expect from me for now (I’ll write more another time hopefully).

Finally I should say a really big thanks to Jim who gave me a Land Raider. That was absolutely awesome, thanks!


Warning post

So, when I’ve been posting the “Legends of the Space Marines” posts I’ve noticed that I almost instantly get “likes” from random blogs which I think are spam of some sort. The only trouble is that I can’t figure out how to stop them (beyond changing the titles of the posts). So, this is just a warning to be careful what you click. They seem to be automatic as no one looks at the blog between me posting and getting these “likes” so I’m thinking spam, but I’m still trying to figure it out (I managed to “like” myself by accident so far- WordPress is NOT helpful at the moment!)

So watch out if you click on likes and I’ll let you know if and when I figure this out!

Edit: I’ve managed to disable “Likes”. It seems to be all that I can do!

Legends of the Space Marines: The Relic by Jonathan Green

I really like this story, even if mostly because there are Dreadnoughts in it. Dreadnoughts, from what I’ve read so far, have faced it all, they’ve died and been reborn to a kind of half life. This seems, at least in the Black Library books that I’ve read, to make them seem almost a little more human than the average Astartes. There are those like Bjorn the Fell Handed who are absolutely awesome, they are venerable, wise and complete killing machines (read Battle for the Fang), and then there are those like Aldr (also from Battle of the Fang) and the young dreadnought in Know No Fear (Telemechrus I think) that are young, vulnerable, inexperienced and a little lost. Jarold, a Black Templar dreadnought and the lead character in The Relic definitely tends towards the former type, but the story starts with him confessing his guilt over the loss of the chapter Champion.

I’m not sure if this is another book linked story, Green has written about the Black Templars at Armageddon before, but if it is, I probably should find it and read it (I’m a sucker for Dreadnoughts it seems).

Without giving too much of the plot away, Jarold and his party have returned to Armageddon to deal with some unfinished business, namely that of finding their Champion, Asgar, and if necessary, recovering the related Chapter relics. However it turns out that there are lots of chapter relics on Armageddon and they suddenly have something bigger, literally bigger, to deal with.

I guess that this story is, to be honest, while good, largely of the same standard as most of the stories in this book. While it’s one of the better ones, it’s not the best. The ending however makes it stand out. It’s a beautiful ending, well written and with a nice twist. It means that you finish the story not exactly wanting more, it is a conclusion for at least one of the characters, but with a grin on your face.