7th Heaven?

So, 7th ed has been out a few weeks now and I suppose that this is a bit late for a review but I wanted to give it a few weeks for the FAQs to come out and for me to get a game in. Well, the first of those happened very quickly, but the second took rather longer. However, having got a 1K game in with my Space Wolves against my boyfriend’s Orks, I now think that a review is possible.

First up the books themselves. I like the new three volume set, it makes it far easier to use the rules when you don’t have to flick through a 600+ page tome and breaking it down into three books meant that, as we share our rules, my boyfriend and I didn’t have to argue over who got to read the whole lot first! I actually found that I read the rules more carefully this time round, the lighter weight makes it easier to hold and because it’s shorter it makes it easier to cross reference stuff in different parts of the book.

5th, 6th and 7th Ed

5th, 6th and 7th Ed

The books themselves seemed perfectly fine. The contents of the “Dark Millennium” book are not much changed from the previous edition although the layout is different. There’s a massive copy-paste error in the timeline, a couple of millennia of history seems to have been redacted. Perhaps it should have been noticed before publication, but that depends a lot on how good the proof readers are on Imperial history. It’s very easy for mistakes to propagate and it’s an easy place to lose the plot a little. If it had happened in the rules it would have been a bit of a disaster but in the fluff, it’s rather annoying and possibly a little embarrassing for GW, but it isn’t a game spoiler.

The changes from 6th to 7th are quite big but they feel really subtle, maybe because none of them are very counter-intuitive and some, like the psychic phase make the game a little smoother, at least for forgetful idiots like me (more on that bit later). Even Unbound, which has been causing somewhat of a furore on the internet, is just GW codifying that we can actually play with our toys the way that we want to. I don’t get a lot of the “Unbound is evil and GW is the devil who wants to squish competitive play” talk, if they really wanted to do that then they could have just got rid of the force org chart altogether, rather than giving bonuses for playing sensibly. There seems to be some attempt to clarify things and, of course, a whole bunch of new things for people to argue over. 7th is a much more modular game than 6th edition was, letting us choose what extras that we want to add so that we play the kind of games that we want to play. This might be a problem in pick-up games, as there will always be someone who doesn’t want to play nicely and spoils everyone else’s fun, but for planned games and tournaments it’ll probably be business as usual as people select the kind of game they want to play. Once we get over the initial panic then it’ll be interesting to see how the game settles down.

I haven’t played with the Maelstrom of War missions yet, but the change in scoring rules to allow (almost) any unit to score objectives has had a subtle effect on the Eternal War missions, as there are no “positives” to having say, a heavy support heavy army in “Big Guns Never Tire”, or a fast army for “The Scouring” any more. I think that, until I get used to the changes in rules, I’m going to stick to Eternal War missions as I think that too many changes all at once will just confuse me! However, I look forward to trying out the Maelstrom of War missions in a few games time.

I quite like the addition of the psychic phase as it adds a little order to the game, reminding me to actually cast those damned powers and helping plan what my Rune Priest does more easily. I need to learn the phase a little better still (I made a couple of very stupid mistakes in my game this week) but I like it.

For my Space Wolves the advent of 7th has been somewhat of a mixed blessing, the codex is beginning to show its age a little and its probably lucky for me that the Ork codex is (for a little while longer at least) even more venerable. Still, counter attack is back to the way it was in 5th, which makes the decision not to charge something a little bit easier. Regarding the FAQ, I’m going to miss Living Lightning but the Rune Priest is far from useless. I used Divination in my first game of 7th and it was very, very nice. The Rune Priest is probably a little expensive now compared to the Space Marine Librarian but that’s a problem throughout the ‘dex, with some units still being fairly cheap for what they can do (Grey Hunters, Long Fangs) and others being a little too expensive (anything with the word “claw” in it especially). There’s still a lot that can be done with the ‘dex though and the change in the Rune Priest has made me think about what I bring. A little goody that is still there is the Wolf Tail Talisman which was not FAQ’d and so can currently nullify the effects of a psychic power cast on a unit on a 5+. I imagine that we won’t get to keep it for too long but as a 5 point upgrade to Wolf Guard you could build an army with a little bit more psychic defence on a unit by unit basis, which with the new psychic rules might be rather useful.

So on to our first game of 7th. We took 1000 points apiece (Battleforged of course, I don’t think that Unbound is a particularly sensible idea for relearning the game). I took Space Wolves and my boyfriend took his Orks.

My list was:

HQ: Rune Priest with runic armour (warlord)
HQ: Wolf Priest: bike, Saga of the Beastslayer
Elites: 6x Wolf Scouts: 1x missile launcher, 4x sniper rifle and 1x boltgun (I made a mistake when writing my list and forgot to add another sniper rifle)
Troops: 10x Grey Hunters: meltagun, flamer
Troops:10x Grey Hunters: meltagun, plasma pistol (for the fun of it)
Troops: 5x Grey Hunters
Fast Attack: 4x Swiftclaws
Heavy Support: 6x Long Fangs: 3x heavy bolter, 2x missile launcher
=1002 points

His list was:

HQ: Warboss with Mega-armour, Cybork body, Bosspole
HQ: Big Mek with Kustom Force Field, ‘Eavy Armour, Bosspole
Elites: 7x Lootas + Mek
Troops: 20x Ork Boyz: 2x Big Shoota
Troops: 20x Ork Boyz: 2x Big Shoota
Troops: 10x Grots + Runtherd
Fast Attack: Dakkajet with Supa-shoota
Fast Attack: 3x Deffkoptas: rokkitlaunchers
Fast Attack: 2x warbiker +1x Nob warbiker with Bosspole, Power Klaw
=1000 points

The game took a while to set up, I think it took us a couple of hours to get to the end of turn 1, just because we were checking what had or hadn’t changed. The game sped up considerably as we moved on and got the hang of it. We used Eternal War and rolled Big Guns Never Tire and this was when I discovered that the change in scoring now meant that, for me, rolling Big Guns Never Tire was a serious disadvantage as my Boyfriend could get an extra victory point for killing my Long Fangs, which as his long distance heavy shooting was all down to the Elite Lootas, I couldn’t benefit from at all. It’s a pity that these missions are a little bit more one sided now as it did kind of spoil my fun to have a mission which I could do nothing at all with. My bad luck with the set up dice did not end there. At the start of the game we both had units that were next to the four mysterious objectives. My boyfriend rolled 2 and 5, meaning that one objective was just that, but the other gave him +1 to his save, so that his Ork Boyz sitting in a ruin ended up with a 3+ save- all game! I rolled a 1 and a 6. The 6, while ostensibly a very good roll, giving a 2” reduction in charge length, was on the quiet side of the board, while the 1, the sabotaged objective, was right next to my Long Fangs, who now were the main target of the Orks and busy setting off the objective! These two sets of “bad” rolls did spoil my game a little. I have no problem with losing units because I did something stupid, but starting a game with two disadvantages that weren’t my fault did make things a bit miserable! I’ve decided that I should give all the important rolls to my boyfriend in future as I only seem to get the worst results. The same thing happened at the end of the game when I rolled to end the game on turn 5, when I needed another turn or two to salvage a draw (although there was a stupid tactical error there too). Gameplay itself was pretty much business as usual, save for the psychic phase, which I found a nice addition, meaning that I a) remembered to cast powers and b) should have been able to play more tactically, except that in all the excitement I forgot that I could “run”.

Bad rolls aside, the game was good. I lost by three victory points in the end (that damned sabotaged objective) but I learned enough so that at least some of my more stupid actions are less likely to occur in future. I have to play more tactically with my army, I just have to remember that movie tactics aren’t going to work on a flat piece of green cloth.

The new lightweight book was nice to use, it got in the way far less than the old one, we just need a large handful of bookmarks to keep things in place. It was easier to navigate without the fluff and the photos interrupting the flow. I think when we get round to using Maelstrom of War we will invest in the cards so as to keep things clear and cut down on the dice.

Over all, I quite like the new edition. It came out a little too soon but with the explosive growth of the game, I guess in the long run it will be better to have a basic ruleset that fits the more modular style of new codices, dataslates and expansions. I’m wondering if the simplification of the allies matrix might mean that by splitting it into factions like “Imperial”, they’re making it easier to add new armies. Hopefully this will benefit other factions like Eldar or Tau (etc) as well as just Imperial players. The more modular style will hopefully make it easier to run the kind of games you want, by adding or removing the bits you don’t like. Of course, all of this was done before, but now its a deliberate part of the games mechanics.

I’m still waiting for FAQs for Killteam and the Inquisition Codex but everything else seems ok right now. I guess I will play a few more old fashioned games and then look at trying out tactical objectives and unbound games. It should be fun!


Wolf Hunt by Graham McNeill: A review

The thing with audiobooks is that you have to rely on somebody’s interpretation. With a classic book (whether it’s on paper or on a screen) it’s up to you to determine what the characters sound like and how they speak. With a book you only have the author’s descriptions to guide you but with an audiobook that decision is taken away from you and, depending on the acting, the story is either enhanced or spoiled. With Honour to the Dead by Gav Thorpe it was unfortunately the latter, the screeching and cackling spoil the production, which is a pity as parts of the story were obviously well written and would have been awesome if well acted. On the other hand I really enjoyed Butcher’s Nails, Censure and Deathwolf which were produced by the same company, Heavy Entertainment.

So, I was a bit worried when I saw that the cast for Wolf Hunt appeared to be the same as in Honour to the Dead. For the most part though I needn’t have worried. Wolf Hunt is a much better production with one glaring exception, which I’ll come to later.

Wolf Hunt is a sequel to McNeill’s Outcast Dead and deals with the last of that party, Severian the Luna Wolf, as he tries to make his escape from Terra to try and find out for himself what is going on. The story is good, it’s paced well and the characters are interesting and well written. Both the protagonist and the antagonist (and I’ll let you make up your own minds who is who) are likeable and the big reveal at the end is plausible.

So, the writing is good, how about the acting and direction? Well, there’s less screeching in this than there was in Honour to the Dead which is all to the good and overall the cast do better with one terrible and glaring exception, Nagasena’s accent. There is no excuse for playing the character with an accent last heard in The Talons of Weng Chiang! For some reason he’s been played with a fake Chinese/Japanese accent. He’s the only character in the audio drama to have a forced Asian accent and it really is unacceptable. I don’t know whether it is the fault of the director or the actor but not only is it unthinkingly racist (other Asian characters in the story are portrayed with neutral accents) it cheapens and spoils what would otherwise be an excellent character.

So, in conclusion, Wolf Hunt is a very good story and a fairly good production, spoiled by one very poor decision. It’s worth listening to for the story but if you are concerned at all, I’d recommend avoiding it until the prose/script version hopefully comes out.

Vulkan Lives by Nick Kyme: A review

I haven’t done many reviews recently but I felt that Vulkan Lives, the newest of the Horus Heresy novels, deserved one as I really enjoyed reading it. It won’t be a long review, it’s not a book that leads to easy reviewing (at least for me) as I have to be extra careful not to give away any spoilers as it’s a book where everything means something and so much is going on!

For all that’s going on, it’s all very clear, or at least as clear as the author wants it to be (and there’s a reason for that). There are at least four different plots from four different perspectives but Nick Kyme manages to keep everything clear and distinct. The separation of the two main plots into first and third person helps a lot here. What’s interesting is that the first person sections are from Vulkan’s perspective. He is the most human of the Primarchs and the book explores just what this means.

Of course, your average Necron looks human compared to Konrad Curze and in this book we see just how broken Curze is. You really can’t help but feel sorry for him, he’s so lost.

I like the Salamanders trilogy and I really enjoyed Promethean Sun but Kyme has really upped his game for Vulkan Lives, all the intertwining plots and strong characterisation used in the Salamanders trilogy has been pulled together in a dark and intriguing tale that asks more questions than it answers and still manages to move the Heresy along. I’m really interested to see where the story goes next and I’m wishing that I’d ordered Scorched Earth. Oh well, I’m sure that there will be plenty of Horus Heresy to fill my time until it’s finally released for those of us who forgot to order it but it’s a pity that it was up to order last week rather than this, as I doubt that I’d have dithered for a moment over ordering it if I’d have known just how good Kyme’s Salamanders were going to get!

Anyway, enough about books that I can’t read. I suppose that I should summarise this post by saying that Vulkan Lives is as epic as its cover and really, really worth a read.


New Project: Exodite Eldar

This is the test model for a New Project. I picked up the Eldar codex when it came out and I thought that I might like to build a force as a side project. Of course, being me, I didn’t just go for a nice safe Craftworld army, I decided that I’d like to build Exodites… on dinosaurs!

No dinosaurs in this post, I only picked up the relevant kits on the weekend, but I decided that, as I’m building an Exodite force, that Rangers would probably be the best troops unit to start with and the best models for testing out my colour scheme. I’m using an autumnal theme based round reds and greens and browns. For the green on the coat I started with Caliban Green, before washing it with a blend of Biel-tan Green and Nuln Oil. I then highlighted it with a 50:50 blend of Caliban Green and Warpstone Glow, Warpstone Glow, and finally Scorpion Green (Moot Green). For the red areas I started with Wazdakka Red, washed it with Baal Red (Carroburg Crimson) before highlighting with a 50:50 blend of Wazdakka Red and Blood Red (Evil Sunz Scarlet), Blood Red, a 50:50 Blend of Blood Red and Trollslayer Orange and then Trollslayer Orange. For the cloth areas and the gems I used two further highlights: 50:50 Trollslayer Orange and Yriel Yellow and finally Yriel Yellow.

Ranger front

For the wraithbone I used Bleached Bone (Ushbati Bone), washed it with Gryphonne Sepia (Seraphim Sepia), then highlighted it with Bleached Bone and a spot of Skull White (White Scar). The wood effect on the rifle was created by starting with a layer of Scorched Brown (Rinox Hide), washing the area with Nuln oil then highlighting it with a 50:50 blend of Scorched Brown and Snakebite Leather (Balor Brown) followed by Snakebite Leather and a touch of Tausept Ochre (GW says Balor Brown is its replacement but I think it’s more likely to be something like XV-88 or Tau Light Ochre but I’m not sure). I used a similar method for the backpack.

Ranger back

Maybe purple hair is a bit loud for an Exodite but I like it! I started with Xereus Purple which I washed with Nuln Oil before highlighting with more Xereus Purple, a 50:50 blend of Xereus Purple and Emperor’s Children, Emperor’s Children, a 50:50 blend of Emperor’s Children and Skull White and finally a touch of Skull White.

I need to paint the other four of these, but I think that I am pretty happy with the results and I want to go with this colour scheme.

My next job is to finish painting Captain Tycho for my boyfriend and a few Space Wolves for myself. Then I can get back to painting and modelling Eldar. I’m not building Eldar as an army to play, at least not initially, that’s what my Space Wolves are for, but I want another painting challenge and I think that the Exodites will fulfil this.

On a related note, I’ve just finished Promethean Sun, which I bought partly for the very relevant cover! I really enjoyed it. Nick Kyme is very good at writing Salamanders and he’s even better at writing about Vulkan himself. The story belongs with Feat of Iron which was published in The Primarchs anthology. It’s very short but it’s crammed full of information about Vulkan and Exodite Eldar (much more than the Eldar codex in the last case). It’s nice to see the limited edition books starting to be released at last and it looks like Promethean Sun has been released just in time for Vulkan to get his own book in the Horus Heresy series. I’m really looking forward to the release of Vulkan Lives, whenever that will be. If it’s at all like Promethean Sun, it will be very, very good.


Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden: A review

Betrayer is awesome! I thought that I’d better start this review as I mean to go on. There are certain things that I have grown to expect from any book by Dembski-Bowden: a good plot, strong, incredibly compelling characters and a rollercoaster of emotions. Betrayer delivers all three.

While you don’t have to read Angel Exterminatus to read this book it makes sense that they were released so close together as they share some themes. The audio book Butcher’s Nails is a direct prologue to Betrayer and I’d recommend listening to it first.

Betrayer follows the World Eaters, largely through the point of view of Khârn (not yet The Betrayer) as they, along with the Word Bearers, prosecute the Shadow Crusade. It takes the closest look yet at the World Eaters and Angron, particularly at the debilitating effect of the Butcher’s Nails implants that the World Eaters use. By using a comparison with the Space Wolves and Leman Russ, and a historical, Great Crusade era scrap between the two legions, Dembski-Bowden highlights the uncontrollable berserker nature of the World Eaters and Angron’s blindness to the dangers of this behaviour. Further contrast is given by using the perspective of a World Eater dreadnought who has been in suspended animation since before the discovery of Angron. The book highlights just how far the legion has fallen and how it will eventually end up.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden is very strong at characterisation, he manages to make you feel sympathy for the most dark and twisted characters. This really comes to fore in his Night Lords Trilogy, but it also works very well in Betrayer. It comes to something when you find yourself feeling sorry for a daemon! Erebus however, is still a complete and utter bastard. The range and depth of characters in the book really makes it something special.

So, if you haven’t read Betrayer yet, I really recommend that you do, as not only is it an excellent book and a portion of the money you pay goes to charity, it’s probably the only time that you’ll ever read about a dreadnought playing cards!


Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeil: A review

So I caved and bought the hardback of Angel Exterminatus. I was in two minds whether I wanted to or not, but I’m glad that I did (my back was not after I’d lugged it, Betrayer and my copy of the 6th Ed. Rulebook back from my local GW and round the supermarket). Perturabo turned out to be far more interesting than I expected, and he has a unique reason for rebelling, both of which make him a compelling and strangely sympathetic protagonist.

Perturabo is definitely far more interesting as a protagonist than an antagonist. In The Crimson Fist he was The Bad Guy and only the negative side of his personality was revealed. In Angel Exterminatus he is one of the “heroes” and we have more reason to feel sympathetic to him, even when he’s throwing a tantrum.

What was nice, and surprising, is that McNeil has written Perturabo as a creative rather than a warlike (tactical or plain psychotic) Primarch. There is a broad streak of Leonardo da Vinci in the character and there is the impression that, like Lorgar and Magnus and even Corax (see Deliverance Lost), he would much rather be studying and building than laying waste to the galaxy. I’m beginning to think that the Primarch Project and the Great Crusade would have been very different if the Primarchs hadn’t been scattered. Magnus’s final role has been revealed, but the behaviour of Perturabo suggests to me that he was meant to be an Empire builder in a literal as well as a figurative way. It makes me wonder what the roles of Angron and Curze would have been had they had a kinder upbringing.

Anyway, back to the book. The Iron Warriors themselves are a mixed bunch, and you can see the scheming that will ultimately split the Chaos Legions into Warbands. I like the unique take on the lodges. The Iron Warriors are renegades rather than Chaos followers and it shows in their behaviour and their attitudes, something that is shown into sharp relief by the actions of the book’s antagonists, The Emperor’s Children, who have fallen almost as far as it is possible to go. The third party in the story are a group of survivors from Isstvaan V, mostly Iron Hands. Two of them, Wayland of the Iron Hands (where else) and Sharrowkyn of the Raven Guard turned up in the short story Kryptos (which you should read if you haven’t yet!), but Angel Exteriminatus introduces more of the group including  Frater Thamatica, a mad Iron Father (think Tesla in power armour), Captain Branthan, the dying captain held in stasis, Tarsa, the Salamander’s apothecary caring for him and Branthan’s Equerry, Cadmus Tyro, who is actually running things. The Iron Hands in this book are more human than in other books, but they work really well. I really, really hope that we see a lot more of these guys in future.

I was a bit grumpy about the idea of moving to hardback but the book itself is not too clunky (and will therefore still sit on my Horus Heresy shelf) and Neil Robert’s cover artwork is great as always. My only niggle is that Karl Richardson’s internal artwork feels a bit out of place. The way the illustrations are scattered through the book feels a bit Young Adult and doesn’t really do the illustrations themselves justice. I wonder if they would have been better as a section on glossy paper like the maps in the Space Marine Battles series.

I’m not sure that I’ll go back and buy the hardback re-releases of the new books, even the possibility of pictures of Loken, Tarvitz, Garro etc. isn’t enough to negate the fact that we have perfectly good paperback copies at home already. I’ll certainly buy Mark of Calth in hardback when it’s released though, for sure.

Anyway, sorry for the delay in posting. If you haven’t read Angel Exterminatus yet, you should, and if you like e books you should really also read Kryptos too. Neither are placeholder stories and both are excellent reads.


On the eighth day of Christmas the hobby meant to me…

Eight books to look at…


Sorry that I missed yesterday’s post, but here it is now. I was thinking about what less usual books and websites and things might be of interest to 40k players. Here are eight assorted books, websites and poems, some directly 40k related, some not, that are possibly of interest. There’s no particular order to the items, but below each item, I’ve tried to explain why I think that they may be of use or interest.

 1) The first Horus Heresy trilogy: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames

I know, I know, they’re rather obvious, but the Horus Heresy books are a big part of how I got into the hobby and, if you haven’t read or listened to the audio versions of these, you’re missing out on some cracking fiction!

2) Deathwing

I know that I reviewed this the other week, but it does contrast well with the Horus Heresy books in that it’s some of the earliest 40k fiction out there. As somebody fairly new to the whole 40k universe it’s interesting to see how things have changed.

3) Dark Angel by Lionel Johnson

If you haven’t read the actual Dark Angel poem by Lionel Johnson, you should. I have to admit that it’s not really to my taste, but it gives you something to think about regarding the nature of the Dark Angels. Especially as despite Gav Thorpe managing to add some sort of personality to El’Jonson the primarch beyond a massive ego and and even bigger capacity for jealousy in The Lion, I still find it very hard to like the character!

4) The Hornblower books (CS Forester)

Long, long before I had ever heard about Games Workshop and 40k, I was reading the Hornblower books. CS Forester did create some rather odd characters, but the books are good and they’re certainly grim and dark in places.

 5) The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer

Wait a moment! This book is not what it looks like. Georgette Heyer is best known for Regency romances, yes, but this book is a meticulously researched account of the Napoleonic Wars, in particular the Peninsular War and Waterloo, from the point of view of an officer and his wife. The book is based on two real characters and it does not stint on describing all the horrors of war. If you are thinking about giving a Guard list some Napoleonic charm, I’d really consider reading this first.

 6) Celtic Design Coloring Book by Ed Sibbett Jr.

Another odd one I guess. However, I like to add freehand work to my Wolves and, while there are some differences between Insular art and Viking art, they are close enough that I happily use Insular, or Celtic, art such as that found in this book, as an inspiration.. I’ve had this book for years and I dug it out of my bookcase at home this Christmas and I’m taking it back with me when I return to The Netherlands this weekend. It’s a really good source of images, and as it’s a colouring book, the designs are clear and easy to follow.

 7) Wikipedia

I know, this isn’t a book at all, it’s not even one thing, but, if you want cool names or help with a nice bit of fluff, there are worse places to go. I play Space Wolves, which have a wolfy, Vikingy feel and live on an Arctic like deathworld. If I want inspiration I search round these areas on Wikipedia. If I were playing Raven Guard I might look up ravens or other corvids. If I were playing WW2 themed guard I might look up Operation Market Garden, the Eastern Front or the Chindits. It’s a big place, so go and explore

 8) The blogosphere

There are many, many good 40K, Games Workshop and even more general hobby blogs out there and they are a brilliant source of inspiration. Just go and look!

I hope that this has inspired you!


…Seven days of hobbying…

… Learning sixth edition…

…Fifth Edition!…

…Four more excuses…

…Three things to think of…

Two different opinions

And a gift under the Christmas Tree

Home for the holidays

So, the last few weeks have been rather hectic for me, with all the chaos culminating in a trip home. All the fuss and the visitors (all of whom were very welcome) meant that I had no time to myself though, which meant no painting or modelling or even much reading. Actually, I had fifteen blissful minutes painting red onto my latest Swiftclaw, but it ended far too quickly.

I decided that I’d bring some painting home with me for the holidays as I’d really wanted to finish my latest project before Christmas and failed miserably. I’m always surprised just how many paints I need just to finish a project. I filled a litre ice cream tub with paints, and I still forgot one.

I’ve picked up a few of the Black Library Advent stories to read at home. I’ve just listened to Strike and Fade by Guy Haley, it’s only ten minutes long but it is excellent! I’m now listening to Warmaster by John French. I’m probably not going to buy all of the stories, but the ones that I have read/ listened to already have been top quality. I like the addition of audio stories to the flash fiction shorts. A thousand words/ ten minutes is very short, but it’s long enough to get a good atmosphere going and some character into the protagonists.

I still have a few to read and I guess that I’ll pick up some more once advent is over, so that I can read the ones that I’ve missed.

For now though I get to share the audiobooks with the dog, and I don’t think he’s a fan of Horus Lupercal!


Deathwing (1990 edition): A rather late review

When we went to the UK in April we stayed at my boyfriend’s Dad’s house. On the first evening my boyfriend disappeared upstairs and returned with a battered old ex-library paperback. This was 40K tie-in fiction, but unlike any that I had seen before. Long before there was the Horus Heresy series, or even Black Library, there was Deathwing.

© Games Workshop 1990

© Games Workshop 1990

Black Library have released an updated version of Deathwing, with three new stories and carefully edited to remove any mention of the “S” word. This review is about the 1993 edition though, so if you want to know about Pestilence, Suffer not the Unclean to Live, or Unforgiven, you’re out of luck this time.

The age of this book really shows itself with the cover, and the picture of the brooding Dark Angel is of its time. The stories inside have generally held up fairly well though, and you could probably slip a few of them into a modern Black Library anthology without much tweaking. There are however several major things that struck me as being different from modern Black Library fiction.

  1.  Space Marines have changed! They’re more like augmented humans than the post-humans that they are portrayed as these days (if that makes sense). They grow old for a start, which is a major plot point in Deathwing the short story.
  2.  There’s more “sensual” stuff. These days Black Library tends to leave it at vague suggestions and people caught in bed. It’s much more obvious in this book, and particularly in Warped Stars, which is uncomfortably squishy.
  3.  Tastes have changed. Again, Warped Stars is the best example of this. There are pea-green and lavender marines and an inquisitor who is dressed in a long silver furred kilt (what?) an iridescent cuirass and a red cloak (eep!) (page 61).

As the stories are all variable in quality and datedness it’s probably fair if I go over them one by one.

The first story in the book is Deathwing by Bryan Ansell and William King. The story is about the foundation of the Dark Angels’ elite Terminators. While the portrayal of the marines is a bit dated, the Dark Angels in question are old guys coming home for one last time, the story itself is a classic 40K based tale. It’s a really enjoyable, rereadable story.

I’m not so keen on the second story, Warped Stars by Ian Watson. I’ve already mentioned two reasons. The characters all have very questionable taste. I know that the 41st Millennium is melodramatic, but some of it is pure pantomime (in the rather bad village pantomime Widow Twankey kind of way). Watson’s descriptions are also a bit… well… different. I’d say unique, but I’m sure that there’s plenty of similarly poorly written erotic fiction out there on the web.

Lacrymata, also involves sex in the story although in a far more subtle and less embarrassing way. The story is by Storm Constantine, who I don’t know much about, although she appears from Wikipedia, to be a fairly prolific science fiction writer. The story is from the perspective of a Navigator and narrates his relationship with a mysterious female astropath. I like this story, my boyfriend doesn’t. It’s a bit different, but I think that it works.

Almost the first thing I noticed when I first picked up this book was the author who wrote the next story, Monastery of Death. In fact, he’s one of my favourite authors and I’d just finished reading one of his books (Rule 34). Charles Stross doesn’t mention this story in his bibliography, but there surely can’t be two authors out there with that name and the style is undoubtedly his. It’s notcomparable (or as dark) as some of his more modern short fiction but it is a good story and if somebody were to put it in a modern 40K anthology it would fit in seamlessly. The story involves a newly rediscovered world, on which sits the titular monastery and the monks within, who are worried about the approaching Imperium and what they bring. Tweak it a bit and it would even fit in a Horus Heresy anthology!

Another story that would only require a little tweaking to be considered a “modern” story is Seed of Doubt by Neil McIntosh. The tweaking in question being the use of Squats in the story. The story involves a shipwrecked Inquisitorial band and a ghost town and is again pretty good.

It’s getting a bit repetitive this, but yes, The Devil’s Marauders is another good story that stands up well. This time The Guard take centre stage. It’s the second William King story in the anthology too.

The final story is the longest and is by Ian Watson again. Fortunately it’s a lot better than Warped Stars. The Alien Beast Within is not my favourite story in this book, and confirms that Watson’s style is just not for me, but it’s not bad and Meh’Lindi is a sympathetic protagonist.

Over all Deathwing is well worth reading if you can find a copy. Sometimes it feels a little bit dated and the quality is a little uneven, but the latter can be said about more modern 40K anthologies. It’s a little piece of Warhammer 40K related history and as a relative newcomer to the hobby it’s nice to get an idea of what the game (or at least the fictional universe) used to be like.


Of Nano, painting and dark nights

I’m struggling a bit at the moment. My thesis has to be sent to the printers next week (and no, it’s not ready) and I have a foreign trip coming up due to a friend’s wedding and then, after all that, I have to defend my thesis! All this means that I’m not doing much in my spare time except sleeping and reading.

I’ve just finished Helsreach, which is a very, very good read. The style is different, swapping between 1st and 3rd person, but it works very well. Aaron Dembski-Bowden is not above just killing characters off though!

Every year, in the build up to November, I think about doing Nanowrimo. Every November (but one) I have failed to finish. This year, in about June, July, I came up with a brilliant idea, by October I realised that I was far too busy to even contemplate adding yet another challenge to the pile that are standing between me and getting home in a more or less sane state of mind this Christmas. I like Nano in the same way as I like painting challenges and even deadlines. They focus me, stop me butterflying from one idea to the next. Unfortunately they focus me, to the extent that I can’t think about anything else. This week I’ve been totally focused on work and however relaxing half an hour’s painting is, yesterday was the first evening this week that I’ve managed to build up enough focus to do more than look at the bike that I’m working on and then my leg went to sleep…

Anyway, enough of my moaning! The bike only needs a few more hours work. I forgot to paint the handlebars. I just need to fix them, touch up a couple of wobbly bits and then it’s on to the washes and the highlighting. I’m having to use lamps while I paint in the evenings now, which is always “interesting”. I should be able to get in some solid daytime painting time in this weekend though, and hopefully I can focus on my task!