Chaos Worshippers Anonymous

I got the demons codex recently, and whilst I toy with writing a review for it (it’s coming, trust me), it’s given me time to think back on Chaos in its myriad forms. From first reading about the pantheon of Chaos in Warhammer & 40k, it’s been by far the most fascinating concept of the two universes to me. As as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best thing Games Workshop have developed (originally created but not copyrighted by Michael Moorecock – numpty) and released to the world. It’s close to perfection as an idea. To poorly mangle a famous saying, if Games Workshop hadn’t invented Chaos, someone would have had to invent it anyway*. The concept of Chaos is so intrinsic to both settings: so key to how they work, that without them I truly believe that Games Workshop would not have half the success or fan base it does now.

But what makes the concept of the Chaos Gods so appealing or compelling? Beyond simple lustings for power, eternal life at the head of Empires, fantasies, wish fulfilment and golden toilet seats that is? I believe it’s that there is a complexity to them. Admittedly there’s always been a section of the fandom that like to pigeon-hole each of the gods into something simple like Khorne = close combat, Nurgle = disease. Etcetera etcetera. And I can understand why and that’s fine, the hobby is broad and inclusive and not everyone needs to delve into the lore to enjoy it.

Since third edition 40k, Games Workshop have always tried to keep things simple in the main army books. Its only been the introduction of books like the Libre Chaotica and the original Realms of Chaos books that came close to truly describing the eldritch terror of the Chaos Gods.

More than that I think what makes people identify with them so much is because of how, deep down, we recognise how easy it would be to become a disciple of the Ruinous Powers. Because to truly understand nature of chaos, you have to understand that all the gods are intrinsically linked to the underlying theme of addiction.

“insert joke about quitting smoking here”

Now am I saying that all addicts are potential Chaos worshippers? Or that to truly understand the nature of them you have to be an addict yourself? Of course not. For a start, that completely denigrate anyone involved in the argument and is a disingenuous one at best, that undercuts the real world horror of substance misuse and dependency. It’s just acknowledging that to me at least, that the two groups share some similarities and that it may be why a lot of people have trouble grasping that nature of Chaos. As a society we’re all fairly egocentric and struggle to empathise unless we have gone through or know people in such situations. There’s also a lot bad information, opinions, misconceptions and good old fashion bollocks out there.

Being an addict is not something you just ‘give up’. You often just replace it with something else**. I remember reading the origin of Haargroth the Blooded One when the idea of Chaos first properly ‘clicked’ with me. The story of a young man abused by society who finally snaps and gains fulfilment and acceptance in mindless anger. It really struck a chord with a younger me. I realised how in reality he wasn’t much different from how I felt at that age and just how seductive that could be to a person who had had no power before. That’s what Chaos is at its core. It’s a way of seeking refuge from a world you can’t quite gel with, be it elevating yourself above it via Tzeentch or Nurgle, or succumbing to crazed desire via Khorne or Slannesh. But what all their followers have in common is obsession. That’s the key driving point of addiction and dependency.

To give it a frame of reference: The film ‘Get him to the Greek’ starred Russell Brand as a washed up rockstar and Jonah Hill of Superbad fame. It’s ok, if not brilliant. But something Brand (and if anyone has experience of addiction and dependency) said struck a chord with me:

“You know I used to be sober. When I was sober I was worried about: ‘Aw, is this the twilight of my career?’ ‘Is the mother of my child a cruel, evil, brilliant, savant, idiot genius?’ ‘Am I bringing up my kid the right way?’ Now, I just worry about drugs. Your life’s to-do list must be a baffling document. You’re worried about so many things, Aaron. You’re worried about: ‘Will we get to the show?’ ‘Will I perform well?’ ‘Will you get the credit that you deserve?’ Mine has on it but one word. Do you know what that word is?”

Now, go and approach everything you have ever thought about Chaos and its worshippers from that perspective.  See how that changes everything?

To be a worshipper of Chaos is to start from a point where every addict starts. It’s one where the tempted dip their toe in and get a taste for something. Then they slowly take more and more until the effect generated compared to the side effects is no longer an equal balance. That’s what makes the Emperor’s Children chasers of excess in any form. Their addiction has rewired their entire brain and body chemistry until they can only experience the world properly via an ever-increasing excess. Of course they can still rationalise. Of course they can still operate as functional beings. But to those Chaos worshippers who are so far down the path as to be almost unreachable, the world is a grey to them unless they are experiencing that high.

I mean sure, real world addictions don’t end up with you growing an extra arm or becoming a writhing ball of mutation. But the path taken to that end is very similar.

It’s a reminder that we aren’t so far removed from desperation and just how great fiction of any sort can be exploring the parts of humanity that we would rather not dwell on. It’s what makes the Chaos Gods so scary to me, because I know, that if the Chaos Gods existed I would have already joined them.

Forget super powered marines of death. Forget daemons that want to feast on your soul. The Chaos Gods would have a lot of us within seconds and it would have been something we would have willingly offered. Now that’s terrifying.

*I’ve been told the sentence should really read  “If Games Workshop hadn’t plagiarised and then stolen ownership of the idea of Chaos from Micheal Moorecock, they would have had to hire someone to do it for them anyway”, but its diverting attention away from the main topic of this post and I’ve found it doesn’t really trip off the tongue that easily ;). Still, perhaps something for a future column. 
**I could talk for thousands of words about this, but it’s not the time or place. As it is though I’m so far left field from most normal topics covering wargaming that I don’t want to invite even more Editorial wrath 😛
All Images in this article are Copyright of Games Workshop.

The Shell Case visits Colours 2013

Or rather, I, the dopey, head-in-the-clouds member of the Shellcase did*. Due to an invite to help demo a game of a buddy of mine**, I ended up at the Colours Wargaming Convention in Newbury.  I managed to grab a few pics with my camera phone, due to me forgetting to charge my actual camera before the event so they will be spotted throughout this post.

Cards on the table, I’m not really a con person. Being an awkward social misfit the idea of paying lots of money to walk around a large area and be sold things, all the while being surrounded by strangers, never quite gelled. My past experiences at the UK Games Day and Destination Star Trek London never really changed that opinion.

My usual reaction to cons

Yet, coming out of Colours, I want to go to other cons and I feel really refreshed in my enthusiasm of the wargaming hobby in a way I’ve never quite experienced before. So what makes Colours different?

The location for a start I guess. Colours is based at Newbury Racecourse. An odd location for sure, but one that works well, as it splits the event over 3 floors. The bottom floor is Traders alone. The middle floor is a mixture of demos games and a few traders and the top floor is an explosion of demo games and a small historical tournament.

The layout of the place means that it’s a large event, but it feels very inmate. People stop to chat and just talk. Traders run back and forth between competitors tables and compliment them on their banners or displays. It’s a very different feel to Games Day, where there’s always a feeling of separation between you and the people running it.

Colours is quite different to a lot of the other events in the UK, in that its dominated by historical gaming. Not that it stopped a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction based wargames from popping up. But the absence of any GW or PP games did feel odd. In a very good, healthy way though. All the people who visited (make no mistake, A LOT of people came to Colours) were looking to expand the borders of their wargaming experience and knowledge.

So day one, I arrived nice and early and helped Marcin set up his demo table, whist checking out everyone around us. Between munching on bacon butties, to watch a slowly evolving tapestry change and grow from its foundations each day was something very enjoyable to my eyes.***

Whilst on breaks I got a chance to pop upstairs and see what was happening there. It was quite phenomenal really. Dominating one corner was Crucible, which must have been spread out on at least a 16 foot table, not to mention other games like the large-scale Napoleonic game.

Thats not me zooming it with the camera, thats real size!

I managed to play a game of Dead Mans Hand by Great Escape Games too. They had a great board set out for it and I marveled at the terrain by 4Ground and models that was all made by them, including dead horses, dogs and even a chicken!

A gang of desperadoes face down a sheriffs posse.

Thats just to give you a small idea of the variety there. I saw card games being played, a large-scale Indian warfare scenario and this beautiful table.

If you think thats impressive…
…check out the details!

There was a bring and buy over the weekend which let me grab some cheap stuff (Some Sov City Judges, a Dark Eldar Razorwing and the Hoards Rulebook for under £30 total). There was a charity raffle as well, which raised over £1000!

All in all, it just such a freeing experience, to know there was a large section of the community out there that were quite happy doing their own thing, free from larger companies machinations. It was a good weekend, where I experienced the wealth of gaming that’s out there outside the GW sphere, chatted with like-minded people and met an online friend for the first time. Then I introduced him to cider…

Oh and I met a cat.

Yes. Really.

I dunno about you, but I’ll be at Colours next year.

*I’m listening to a mixture of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie and Atari Teenage riot whilst typing this. You may start throwing insults of ‘Fucking Poser’ now.

**That will be another article all together, but for now, check out PMC 2640, it’s a good 15mm game.

***As I said, fucking poser.

A Thousand Sons – Review

Cast your mind back. It’s 2002 and Games Workshop are preparing for the Eye of Terror campaign. A fledgling Black Library released Storm of Iron, a book by Graham McNeill, who at the time was perhaps best known for his work on the Games Workshop Design Team. It was good. Like, really good. The community’s reaction was pretty positive. Yet since then, it feels like that same community seems to have soured on him, if only for the crime of liking Ultramarines. [Fuckers! – Ed.]

A-Thousand-Sons

For my own part, I’ve not always enjoyed everything Graham has written, but he’s one of the few writers that seems to be experimenting and testing his limits with each new book he writes. His books often don’t quite work for me, but his ability to mix of 40k battles and more nuanced exploration of the universe wins me over more often than not.

My pre ramble is important, because if there was a way of describing my gut feeling of A Thousand Sons, it’s “Mostly works, if not quite as much as it should”. It’s going to take the rest of this review to explain why.

Now, how go best go about it? If you are familiar with the history of the 40k universe at all, you will know the Fall of Prospero is one of the defining moments of the Horus Heresy. A Thousand Sons starts sometime before that and allows us to get to know the legion, as it explores the galaxy trying to increase mankind’s knowledge, which they see as the real purpose of the Great Crusade.  Censured at the Council of Nikaea for treading a dangerous path, events soon spiral out of control and the Imperium will never be the same again.

The main drive and focus of the book is secrets. Everyone has them, from our humble Remembrancers, the human element of the book, to Magnus, Primarch of the Thousand Sons himself. Even the Space Wolves, usually portrayed as being as subtle as an axe to the face, are keeping back something, which suits a book about a Legion that one day will become the servants of the trickster god Tzeentch.

The novel is certainly very effective at allowing you to empathise with the 15th Legion, as by allowing you to see their triumphs through to their lows, you gain a real sense of the tragedy of the situation, as two Primarchs refuse to back down from one another until it’s too late. Getting to see the glorious paradise of Prospero and how the Space Wolves appear as alien invaders allows for a great contrast to A Thousand Sons sister book Prospero Burns. It really makes you root for a legion that could otherwise come off as more arrogant and monstrous than the Emperor’s Children.

McNeill is good at penning an action scene and the description of the fall of Prospero as one continuous piece in the latter half of the book manages to capture both a personal scale of Magnus’ folly and the larger more epic of the war around him, that an event like the Horus Heresy demands. The only real failing of the book is its human characters. Whilst fairly prominent at the start of the novel, the Remembrancers seem to be lost and forgotten by the second half, until suddenly they become prominent characters at a time that is disruptive to the more interesting narrative of Magnus and his son’s discovery of Horus’ plans. By the time of the invasion the characters have any further involvement cut off, in a sentence that seems to hint they make it back to Prospero, without any follow-up. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but it’s an odd ending to characters that have been written to make us care about them, only to have them dropped as any hint of a future absent once the big fighting scenes kick in. [I think the point was that fate can call upon even the lowliest soul to change the galaxy, but be just as quick to discard them. But that’s just me. -Ed.]

All in all, apart from the odd bit of clunky dialogue, I really have no actual complaints about the book. It flows well, and Graham manages his usual trick of making each battle about more than just cool explosions and bolter porn. A real blast from start to finish and a nice counterpart to Dan Annett’s  Prospero Burns. It’s probably the best work I’ve read of Graham’s yet and I look forward to reading his further contributions to both the 30k and 40k universe.

A Thousand Sons is available via The Black Library as an E-book or physical copy, or is available from all good high street booksellers. And Waterstones.

Unboxing the Ramshackle Games Kickstarter

Beware, this will be pic heavy.

A while ago, Curtis Fell, head of Ramshackle Games and all round decent bloke all told, ran a kickstarter project to fund printing for an expansion to his game ‘Nuclear Reconnaissance’ and sculpt a few more models for the line to go with it.

Though it was successfully funded and finished a while ago, it took me a while to get hold of all my pledge rewards due to some Royal Mail shenanigans. Now that it’s all here I thought I would do one of those unboxing things that’s all the rage with kids these days.

So, to start with, my rewards were 2 vehicles, 10 models and copies of both the main rulebook and its expansion The Tome of Tridlins. As Nuclear Renaissance is a skirmish game, this is a great start to getting two small warbands going and something I may even manage to paint (be still my beating heart)!

Everything was very well packed and secured safety so it all arrived in once piece and without any damage which was nice.

The books themselves are lovely. The main rulebook covers the creation of the world and has some nice artwork and fluff pieces that establish the setting, which is post apocalyptic Mad Max style setting crossed with British humour.
The main rule book photo DSCF7290.jpgMore shots photo DSCF7293.jpgMore artwork. Very nice stuff photo DSCF7292.jpg

Tome of Tridlins is almost twice a thick as the original book and quite an impressive step up in terms of presentation, formatting and the general rules. It has some errata for the main game, a fully detailed campaign system, additional skills and weapons for gangs to take and rules on how to create and make different types of gangs than those featured in the main rulebook.

The expansion Tome of Tridlens photo DSCF7294.jpgGreat artwork photo DSCF7296.jpgA shot of the new ways of making a gang photo DSCF7298.jpg

Now for the Minis themselves. Though mostly single part resin models, the amount of detail on them is very impressive for a small manufacturer and a testament to those who sculpted the models. Though I saw a bit of a bubble on one of the bigger models (that was dreadnought sized and easily half the price!) otherwise, to me, they were all produced to a higher standard than competitors like GW’s Finecast or PP’s resin/plastic mix, regardless of the size of the models.

Techpriest by way of digger! photo DSCF7268.jpgGhoulish things. Creepy photo DSCF7269.jpgMutant with crab claws photo DSCF7271.jpgThis guy will find use in my IG army photo DSCF7270.jpg

The large models in particular were very impressive in their detail and robust enough so they don’t feel like they will shatter if I drop them, having an almost rubbery feel to them. They also came with a few options for weapons on the “RoboTron”.

A big dude. Seriously, dreadnought sized. Lots of detail. Gun is a seperate attatchment photo DSCF7274.jpgLegs of the MetaTron. Friggin huge model photo DSCF7275.jpgThe MetaTron parts all lain out photo DSCF7277.jpgA shot of the moulded bases photo DSCF7279.jpg

I suppose my only complaint was the amount of flash attached to the models. There was little to none on the character models, but any of the flatter pieces of kits I was sent had quite a lot on them, in particular the vehicle. Also, all of the untextured surfaces were slightly sticky and had this weird effect where they seemed to had a small layer or harder resin sound the outside of the piece. Thanks to advice from Godzooky and Inquisitor Samos of Warseer though, I’ve been told this is a common occurrence of small “cottage” companies who cast their own models and just needs a bit of filing work done to clean it up. So that all said, I can’t really say a overpoweringly poor thing, especially when the detailed bases and models more than make up for having to do a small amount of work to finish them off.

All in all, I’m glad I backed the Kickstarter and I will try to get you some pictures as soon as I’ve assembled and painted some of them! If you liked any of the pictures, then you can buy the rules and models (and download the main rulebook free as a PDF) on the Ramshackle Games website. From the look of their latest Kickstarter which ended today, the quality of sculpts is only improving over time and costs seem to be going down!

Combined with a good rules system and Curtis being a  very approachable and friendly person (who bent over backwards to try to find out where the Royal Mail had sent my items) and I shall be keeping my eye on Ramshackle Games. You probably should too.

A Tribute to Inquisitor

inquisitor-logo copy

Looking back on Inquisitor, there was a lot wrong with it when it came out. The models, whilst beautiful, were far too big compared to anything similar of the same type of gaming, which made getting into it quite hard and conversions harder. It also required a completely different painting style that only a handful of GW staffers were trained in at launch. The rules were this sort of weird hybrid of loosely defined gameplay mechanics with a smattering of RPG elements. The inclusion of Space Marines pretty much broke the game system, with long-term players having to adopt a no space marine policy except on special occasions.

Yet some of my fondest memories of wargaming are from playing Inquisitor. So what gives? I think it’s because Inquisitor, at its heart, encouraged creativity and experimentation. By having rules that were detailed, but not too thorough, it encouraged players to be a bit looser with the rules themselves, all in the aid of fun and the cinematic. I’ll never forget the trials of my friend’s Priest character with one cybernetic testicle that stopped him from running, (he had to take a toughness test if he did, due to the poorly made bionic smashing against his other gentleman plum) or the Elder Ranger that somehow always managed to miss every shot he took. Or the one time a group of us had nearly escaped a planet via shuttle, until a rogue Techpriest crashed a digger into it, causing much laughter from us all.

What I’m trying to get at is that, despite a slightly dodgy rule system, Inquisitor was all about having fun. I think in a way it wasn’t as successful because it required a bit of a shift of perspective from Games Workshop’s usual approach to wargaming. Whilst 40k or Necromunda may have narrative elements as a part of them, the underlying goal is still all about winning. Whereas Inquisitor was more about entering into a contract with other players, to have as fun a time a possible and create a fun story in the 40k universe. In that way, it was more akin to something like Dungeons and Dragons or other roleplaying games. It’s the only Games Workshop game I can remember that suggested you have a GM or ‘games master’, to help direct players actions and game flow.

adrian_smith_eisenhorn

But there’s a bigger factor to Inquisitor than the gameplay side of things. It’s a fun game, but Inquisitor is more than that. The game has a legacy that fundamentally reshaped the approach people took to the 40k universe and its background. Inquisitor offered us a view of the Imperium away from the battlefield and expanded upon just how things worked on a local and sector wide scale in more detail than ever before. It let the Imperium of Man become a place people lived in, rather than a series of clichés and, more to the point, planetary punch ups. In many ways, though it’s a horrible place, the new direction to the background humanised the Imperium and made me actually care for it.

That was the joy of all the Specialist Games I suppose. They provided an outlet for their creators to truly experiment and play with the 40k universe and it came out the richer for it. Every small bit of artwork, every supposedly superfluous bit of detail fleshed out a universe that, whist epic in scale, never bothered much to explain exactly who, after all the world ending epic conflict, would wash the dishes*.

I certainly don’t think there would be half the current background on the Inquisition, nay the Imperium itself, that there is today without it. It explored this prior untapped resource, shadowy figures who toil unceasingly to protect the Imperium by whatever means necessary. It also introduced us to Radicals and in doing so, allowed 40k’s concept of a morally grey universe to finally take centre stage once more. We see this reflected in novels by the Black Library, in Fantasy Flights’ wonderful RPG games (in many ways spiritual successors to Inquisitor). Let us not forget that Inquisitor gave rise to the Eisenhorn trilogy which was vital to the success of the Black Library and the ever-expanding 40k universe found in their huge range of novels.

Though the 40k codices tend deal a bit more with absolutes these days, Inquisitors’ legacy is still in there, nipping at the heels of every ‘definitive’ statement and every ‘fact’. It makes me question everything I’m told about the Imperium of Man. Very apt for a game that starts with the phrase “Everything you have been told is a lie”. It really is a staggeringly good book to read.

I’m not sure how the rumored box set revival will change things up, but I bet it won’t allow for a priest with a bionic testicle. I’ll be watching from the shadows though, just in case.

*That phrase comes from a line that I remember a comedian saying on a late night show when I was younger, “If there were a new popular film to come out about an alien attack or a worldwide event, British people would be more interested in finding out about who cleans up afterwards and does the dishes”. It struck me as pretty apt and ever since I’ve referred to our cultural obsession with the small details and the underdog by that phrase.

Short Tau Tactica: Pathfinders

Tau Pathfinder conversion by Douglas Furen

These past few tacticas I’ve talked quite a bit about the synergies of units and how the Tau army works better as a series of units aiding another rather than in isolation. So its time to start covering just how Tau armies can do that. The best place to start? Well, it’s not called Short Tau Tactica: Pathfinders for nothing!

One thing. The unit can do a lot of things and to truly get the best out of them you will have to pick one, because choosing several impedes the units ability to do the others well. When you consider the cost of the unit, compared to others in the list, and just how fragile it is, you will only get a few turns worth of use out of them before they are blown away in a hail of fire from your opponent.

That’s because, if they aren’t already considered a deadly unit, they soon will be. They are that good.

Use one is to load up on either Ion or Rail rifles (Ion for light infantry and tank killing, Rail for heavy infantry), hunker down in cover and then shoot the hell out of whatever target is needed. If you go for Ion Rifles, its worth perhaps shelling out a pulse accelerator, so as your opponents units get closer, you get an extra turn or two of shooting with a higher weight of firepower from the pulse rifles which are now range 24″. It’s not much, but at the same time, don’t turn your nose up at another 2-14 shots at strength 5 (dependent on unit size).

The other, far superior use of the unit (to me at least), is to use those markerlights. Wonderful little things, they can increase your units BS, strip cover from enemy units or help guide seeker missiles. A unit or two of pathfinders will easily be racking up 4 or more markers a turn, which will equally delight you as much as it

annoys your opponent! Though they can’t be relied upon, taking a unit of 6-8 will produce a decent number of hits a turn, keep them alive long enough to be useful and greatly increase what your units are capable of doing each turn.

However you use them, to keep the unit hanging around longer, it’s probably worth spending a few points to buy a Shas’ui (+1Ld and the ability to buy a black sun filter- yes please!) and, if you have the points left over, springing for the bonding knife ritual so they can regroup regardless of size.

Now the big conundrum to me is if you should bother taking a Devilfish. Whilst they have their uses, being able to scout means you will probably be able to set the squad up in a good position before the game anyway and each turn they spend in a transport is one less turn they are capable of being useful. The option of taking a Recon Drone seems ok, but for the cost (and the rules being a bit unclear as to if it can stay a part of the Devilfish after the Pathfinders have disembarked), I’m not too sure if it’s a good use for the unit, unless you have a strategy that relies upon a part of your army being able to deep strike or appear on the flanks reliably.

All in all, Pathfinders make a great addition to a Tau force. Though forced to be static in nature, in an army that can be otherwise be flexible and on the move at all times, they make up for it by providing such a valuable commodity synchronicity. Also, no need to take markerlights in other units now either, so those units can focus on killing enemy units or securing objectives.

An example of the different approach the Tau Empire take to warfare, Pathfinders will probably make their way into your list at some point. Once used, I’m not sure if they will ever be removed from it.

Just a quick question to the community, how are people finding the Farsight supplement? I’ve yet to read it as I like my hardcover books, but has it affected how people play their armies? Or is it another nice addition that doesn’t add too much unless you like a certain type of list, ala the Iyanden supplement? I’m interested to hear peoples opinions on this, so post in the comments section your experiences.

Anyway, see you soon for another Short Tau Tactica.

Tau pathfinders painted by Kevin Auld

Pluralism in Wargaming

As many of us do (and I almost guarantee you do if you are browsing The Shell Case) I read too much and this sparks off questions in my mind. Far too much when it comes down to it, so I’m going to be shooting off a few opinionated pieces in the next few months and I may as well start somewhere. One such post, on the The Back 40k entitled Why I look for Failure really caught my eye in this regard. In that it reveals a fundamental flaw of the internet age when it comes to wargaming.

Now before I start all this, just let me just post a disclaimer. This post has gone through quite a few stages. It started as a reactionary rant and then I junked it after advice, because I realised that that sort of post solves nothing because it just perpetuates the argument rather than starting a discussion. [Super Editor to the rescue! Ed.]

So this post comes not out of malice or the need to ‘score points’ against the The Back 4ok blog. I love most of their output, so seriously, before you read this, go check out their blog again. The writers make lots of good points to chew over and in many ways, have inspired me quite a bit when it comes to mature thoughts and discussion about our hobby. But there are some topics facing the wargaming industry today that are very important, that need to be discussed to gain a wider perspective on things and I don’t think they are given the attention they deserve.

Also, people may disagree with to do with my post and that’s fine too. That’s great, because at no point do I believe I’m right in all these points and if someone in the comments can make a decent argument as to why I’m wrong, I’ll happily change my mind.

I just want it so people are actually thinking and discussing these problems today, so the industry doesn’t make the same mistakes it did yesterday. One of the big ones is how much effect the internet thinks it has on the wargaming industry compared to mow much it actually does and how this plays into the collective unconscious of our thinking on this hobby of ours*.

So now that introduction is out-of-the-way, let’s delve into this topic properly:

1. Internet attitudes towards 40k as a game and Conformation Bias.

I think we can all agree that the internet is a great place. It allows us access to cheap things, the entire of humanities’ combined knowledge, cute pictures of kittens and porn.

Sometimes all at the same time!

Theres also this great little thing called communication, which allows people to establish communities, discuss topics and make friends (it’s all the rage with the kids I hear). Now forums and blogs are great ways to do this and each have their own positives and negatives to them. But regardless, I’m sure you have come across specific parts of the community that seem a little odd to you. I don’t just mean small club forums that revolve around lots of in jokes and memes.

But rather forums which have in place rules that forbid positive comments about certain companies, or where you get subjected to post after post attacking you if you mention that you play wargames with women, which is then allowed by the Mod team.

Which brings up the biggest problem with the internet to me. These days, thanks to search engine algorithms, it becomes too easy to find people who agree with our views whilst at the same time screening out differing views. This can create communities or pockets of wargaming that get sucked into a sort of feedback loop, that rewards those who think the same way whilst driving away those of dissenting opinion. This is called Conformation Bias.

Its killing our community.

2. The WAAC vs Fluffy gamer argument

Prime example number one is this debate, older than the internet itself. It’s a pretty benign and when it comes to how to build our armies, the simple answer is, ‘whatever you feel like’. Yet every time I pop onto any forum, another half a dozen debates have arisen over what is completely a personal issue. Yet it’s rare to see this opinion voiced in most communities. People seem to have gotten locked into the cycle of believing their own opinions are so valid, then when they meet dissenting ones, the only option in their minds is to fight back, instead of taking a moment to think about it.

Mix this in a community famed for its members with poor social skills and you have a potential powder keg on your hands, as offense is taken and grudges spill out over multiple blogs and forums.

But what people always tend to forget on the internet, is that every opinion of the wargaming scene (hell every opinion really) should automatically assume it has the following addendum added:

‘well, at least in my opinion’

I doesn’t matter if that scene is a town, or an entire tournament circuit. Every persons play experiences are different, even if two people experience the exact same scene; it’s unlikely their opinions will be identical down to the last detail. Because everything in life is ultimately subjective. Especially when we talk about something like wargaming, which relies on a huge amount of luck.

Yet the rise of net listing and group think on forums has managed to convince people their views are the only way to play. Yet even a cursory look at even something like tournament gaming shows that the wisdom of net listing isn’t true. People forget that the reason net lists work is because the people using them also happen to be really good players.

Take the 2012 winner of the UK 40k throne of skulls. It was a Demon player. By all rights it should be an Imperial Guard player or a Necron player. They of the ‘broken flyer armies’ variety. Nids are rocking 4th place, despite them apparently ‘being nerfed beyond repair’. Both of these results are a slap in the face for all those players and their established ‘wisdom’ created online.

Yes, I can hear the arguments already: “Throne of Skulls doesn’t count since they changed the rules.” “Throne of Skulls is a rubbish tournament which isn’t competitive enough.” By whose benchmark though? There’s a glaringly, embarrassingly and inescapable obvious truth that we’re all becoming narcissists.

Perhaps it’s that there may be some differences between how different tournaments are run? Perhaps it’s a different view on what makes ‘a good gamer’?

Now that, tortuously, brings me round to my next point.

3. US and UK wargaming have fundamentally different design philosophies.

I’m generalising when I say this, but from where I stand in the UK, I see the two countries have different outlooks on wargaming. The UK has always held its focus on the story, and the mechanic reflecting that over tournament gaming. The US-based games developers, like the good folk behind Magic: The Gathering and Warmachine, seem to be more of a mindset that is about being the best, most brutal gamer possible within the rules. There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches either. I love both games and the ideologies they carry. It’s just when you try to make either game fit the opposing countries ideas, they don’t come off looking the best because it’s not how they were designed to play.

So when I see people making definitive statements about a game and how ‘it needs to be this way’ it makes me sad. Of course 40k can be competitively played. Just don’t go expecting a game, made by a bunch of geeks in the 80s to facilitate narrative stories with their mates, to be quite as sound, rules wise, as a game built from the ground up to be a lean mean, powergaming machine.

Accept the differences. Embrace them. House rule things you don’t like within your own group if they will let you by all means. Just don’t expect people everywhere to agree to your opinions just because it’s what you believe and what you want.

It’s all a part of diversity, of growing up and becoming a bit more of an adult to accept that perhaps you don’t know everything and that’s okay.

Perhaps that should be the new addendum to what everyone types. It would sure make things a bit easier on everyone.

Well, at least in my opinion.

You can find the author Reece on Twitter. He’s lonely and self-aware enough to write his bios in the third person, so let him know what you think of his writing. Preferably in a way that shatters his fragile ego.

*Oooh, look who did A level psychology!

Man of Steel- A Review


So, Man of Steel eh? It’s been out a few weeks now, but it’s taken that long for me to fully get my thoughts down on it. I’ve never done a film review before either, which probably doesn’t help. I know these things are used mostly as buyers guides as to how to spend your money so I will give a brief summary for those who want that, then go on to talk about the interesting spoilery stuff.

So Man of Steel: Ambitious, slightly flawed, far too indulgent. However a great popcorn action film with aspirations to something higher you can go and see if you are able to turn your brain off that long.

Ok… are those lot gone? Now lets talk about the juicy, interesting SPOILER filled stuff.

I’m even going to put it behind a link so you won’t accidently read details whilst you scroll down the page looking for other posts

One last time HERE BE SPOILERS!

Are the next lot gone too? *Whew*, dodged a bullet there. Anyway, lets get on with this. Because of all the thoughts and moods I’ve experienced and gone through with Man of Steel, the most prevalent one is frustration. How can frustration be an emotion you ask? I dunno, Ask Geoff Johns*.

This how I feel every time no one gets that joke.

Man of Steel is, on the face of it, a really, really conflicted film. It wants to be an origin film, but not really, so it fudges it with a few half assed flashbacks of Pa Kent telling Clark he should never reveal his secret, yet hes going to change the world when he grows up to be a good man who saves the world. It wants Superman to be dark and troubled and refusing the Call of the Superhero, but then a guy gives him his suit and away he goes. He doesn’t want a family of 4 to die so badly he kills the bad guy, yet he’s happy to kill thousands whilst fighting same guy less than 5 minutes previously. The film tries to show Superman is all about caring for humanity, yet MoS has scenes where, as Redletter Media puts it “Superman now has uncomfortable associations with 9/11”.

Those are mostly surface details though and I want to get deeper than that. Because at the end of the day, plot takes second place to characterisation and enjoyment. Think about all the films you have excused even though your know it has a wooden acting or dodgy dialogue or special effects and you know its true. That I can pick up those surface details so readily shows that the film has deep problems under its surface and ultimately, is boring me. As Mark Kermode best put it:

“If a film is entertaining me, I can overlook its faults. But if, in the middle of  a huge action scene, I’m thinking about the plot holes or what I’m having for dinner tonight, you have failed to grab my attention and engage me”

That’s the key problem with the film for me. Engaging me in any way whatsoever and making be believe Superman is someone I should care about. Now I get what they were going for here. Its clear this film is the first in an arc, meant to validate why Superman is relevant, when the current consensus is that Superman isn’t “cool” anymore. That grasping of cool, of having spectacle and reveling in it to try to wow the audience is the reason this film has so many problems though.

Let me try to explain.

As a society, we use the world cool far too much in everyday life. I know I do anyway. Much like the term awesome, it gets used so much by people that it has lost all meaning as a word. That has left the word being largely useless to convey any real meaning, so its usage becomes entirely subjective depending on the person. Which means that ultimately, you can’t chase an audience who thrive on “cool” because an iron clad, definitive audience like that doesn’t exist. What may be cool to some people may instead be a Poochie to others, or even worse, just completely fall flat and bore them. In chasing that ever elusive word, I think Goyer and Snyder forgot to do the basics.

In Man of Steel,  I never got a sense of why I should care for the world or the people who live in it. With a few exceptions, I never got why I should care, or even particularly like, Superman. They fucked up rule number one. Have a clear cause and effect in your film, with linked emotional states so we can empathize with and care for the characters. By generating empathy, stakes are automatically raised because by caring for those characters, you care for what happens to them and their effect on the world around them.

In fact, its fair enough to say that the small moments where we got to see Henry Cavil act, instead of moping, the film truly took off! I’m betting anyone who saw these scene where Supes learnt to fly and was whooping with joy resonated with most of you. Because in amongst a dour film that doesn’t throw any sort of characterization at us beyond brief surface detail told to us (he’s a good person, he will save us all, Zod is evil because etc), to actually feel and experience something Superman does through his eyes was a fucking revelation!

Then the film falls back on surface details again and decides it would rather just show you disaster porn. But when you have no connection to the characters, the fights have no weight to them and instead you have time to think about other things. Which is why people have been complaining about that last 40 minuet fight, how much of a slog it was and the cognitive dissonance involved to ignore the thousands dead due to Superman “saving the day”.

Ooops! Was that YOUR city I smashed to a pulp? Sorry!

That last dramatic act where Superman kills Zod to save a family has no heft to it, because I don’t empathize with his plight. I’ve just seen Superman kill loads more people, why should it matter if one more family dies?  The film never took the time to explain why I should care because it didn’t do the emotional groundwork I’ve been talking about. I felt more sorry for Zod, because at least the film provided him with consistent motivation and enough reasons to empathise with him, even if he was a mass murderer x1000.

Bitchin’ facial hair though.

Remember the first three Indiana Jones films? Sure, they aren’t high art, but 60% of those films are escalating action sequences. Yet not once was I bored. Because the film takes the time to let the audience develop an emotional connection with Indiana Jones so you care what happens to him. Those films never rushed things either.

By trying to squeeze too much into one film (MoS it’s really two or three films worth of story crammed into one here ‘Krypton civil war’, ‘Superman growing up and finding himself’ and ‘Superman fights the world ending threat’), the chance to pace themselves and organically develop a connection between the films characters and its audience is lost.

But you know, Superman Returns didn’t have enough things being punched by Superman, so now Man of Steel has to be all about punching things.

Which is sad when Marvel can make films where people punch ALL THE THINGS and frequently have massive plot holes yet, you have an emotional connection to those characters so it doesn’t matter.

In a world where Marvel can make Captain America or ‘the boring one’ the best Avenger, its sad to see Warner Brothers fail to do the same for a character with those same stereotypes. Hopefully Man of Steel 2 will be in not so much of a rush to get out the gate and will take its time to set up its premise, its characters and just why we should be invested in them. Then, when the bigger DC universe is introduced, we care about it. I don’t hold up hopes though.

But that’s the world we live in now.

Man of Steel is in cinemas now.

*this is a comic book joke than many of you will not get. I apologise. But look up the Green Lantern Corps and the Emotional Spectrum if your interest is piqued

Short Tau Tactica: Broadsides

Broadside Support Team O’ran by Wolfs16

So in my short series of Tacticas on Tau units, I’ve covered not only the bread and butter troops, but the rising stars of the new codex. Now let’s go to the other end of the spectrum: those who lost out. The head of this group? Broadside teams. Once a name to strike fear into mechanised armies and monstrous creatures everywhere, they took a bit of a hit this book, with the dreaded railgun being downgraded from S10 to “only” S8.

This, as with all things on the internet, has resulted in many a person calling them crap and useless. For these people I cry, because it’s not so much they are now useless, it’s just the unit have undergone refinement and now have a different use.  I’m here to show you how to get the best out of them. 

The Broadsides we know are dead and gone. Long live Broadsides!

So, first off. The heavy rail rifle. Admittedly not so much of a threat now to armour 14 vehicles. It’s still fine and dandy with just about everything else though and the gun has remained twin-linked and AP1 to help balance an otherwise average Ballistic Skill of 3. With a range of 60″ ignoring Nightfight, I think its fair to say the unit will still be popping vehicles and monstrous creatures with ease.

The other basic armament, a smart missile system, seems a little mismatched with the rail rifle, so I think its worth swapping it for the plasma rifles to be able to knock off those extra wounds/hull points once an opponents units start to close (and they will, you don’t leave a Tau army to shoot you unless you are pretty sure you can out range or out shoot them). So that’s your basic layout. There are a few more loadouts I can see that will make it worth it.

For one, when choosing your support systems for Heavy Rail Rifle Broadsides, it’s a toss-up between Target Lock and a Velocity Tracker. What with Tau Heavy Support being a contested slot, you probably won’t want more than 1 unit, which means you need them to be flexible so they don’t run out of things to shoot midgame.

Probably best for now in such a target rich environment is to take Velocity Trackers for guaranteed flyer kills. After they go down, the unit can spend the rest of the game ganging up on vehicles that are still around.

There is different option to test out and that is the High yield Missile Pod/SMS combo. 9 shots a turn per broadside is nothing to sniff at and if kept close to the rest of the Tau Line with a Counterfire Defense System, should be able to cause a lot of damage from supporting fire.

Drone wise, I’m convinced it worth taking at least a missile drone or two and perhaps a trusty shield drone for protection from retaliatory fire. Just don’t expect the unit to be cheap after adding them.

So there you have it. Though not the must haves they used to be, Broadsides Teams are able to serve as vehicle/flyer killers as well as be the bane of infantry. An example of just how good the Tau codex is now, the unit can do pretty much anything you want them to, you just have to be careful not to spend too many points on them!

 

See you soon for another Short Tau Tactica

Legion A Review

Hi everyone. As my last book review went down so well I figured I will make a bit of a habit of these things. I’ve read quite a bit of 40k fiction in my time so at least I can make posts on a semi regular basis. They will also help keep my mind ticking over whilst I work on bigger topics (which are coming soon).

So, for a while I’m going to focus on the Horus Heresy series, with occasional breaks for regular 40k books (probably when I get round to reading something that catches my eye). No rules as such other than they must be worth reading because they add to the 40k universe in some way. Be it a different style, new expansions of the background or just a refinement of elements that work. I just don’t want to highlight mediocrity. After all, we all only have a finite time on this earth, so we don’t want to be stumbling across the next C.S. Goto and I certainly don’t want to be reading that kind of drek either. So no frigging bolter porn, unless it’s really, really good bolter porn.

HH wise, even though I’m reading the books as fast as I can I’m still about 2/3 years behind the publishing schedule. But thats ok. The first actually decent HH novel doesn’t start until about 7 books in anyway* [Thems fighting words. – Ed.]. The book in question? Legion by Dan Abnett.

The story itself concerns regular army grunts of the Imperial Army undergoing a rather unsuccessful Compliance Action on a planet called Nurth, where the occupants are using magic to aid their fight. Caught up in the machinations of the Alpha Legion, are Hurtado Bronzi, Peto Soneka and Rukhsana Saiid, who amidst all the devastation and betrayals are trying to find out just what exactly why the Alpha Legion are really on Nurth.

In turn, the Alpha Legion have been drawn to the planet by the enigmatic John Grammaticus, a being who has lived long enough to remember meeting the Emperor himself, and the Cabal, a shadowy network of races all conspiring to destroy the ‘Primordial Annihilator’ (Chaos is a much more catchy name don’t you think?) using humanity as its tool to do that.

It sounds very confusing and on my first read through it was. Subsequent readings have made given me a bit more clarity, but as benefits the shadowy 20th Legion, the truth of what is going on behind the scenes is only ever really inferred and is covered in many half-truths.

As is the case with a lot of the early Horus Heresy books, the action is mostly contextualized from the view of humans in the Imperial Army rather than from the view-point of the Astartes. Whilst I would normally complain about this, I think its fitting considering the legion being examined. It’s obvious a lot of thought has been put into this and that Abnett is trying to keep to the spirit of the universe, so even as we are reading the truth of what is now legend in the 41st millennium, the reader is finding there are still many unexplained mysteries and hidden depths to explore.

I did find most of the third act on Eolith a little redundant (beyond the reveal) and found myself a little puzzled as to why the Alpha Legion took an entire Imperial fleet with them other than the mechanical story element of needing access to certain characters later. But my quibbles are more with Abnett’s style of writing, which always seems quite detached and cold to me.

Still, those are minor quibbles. Legion explores the Horus Heresy and the Imperium from the perspective of outsiders to it, or else those who are starting to realise the Emperor’s claims about the universe aren’t quite as true as he may want them to think they are.

Dan Abnett as always delivers a solid, if not exactly gripping, tale with enough twists and reveals to keep you guessing until the next book on the Alpha Legion. In John Grammaticus I found a very likeable character, his world weary visage slowly peeling back to reveal someone, who, whilst not necessarily on our side, is still recognizably human and very relatable.

As a bonus, for those of us who want glimpses of the Rouge Trader and 2nd edition 40K background to appear again, John’s descriptions of the Emperor will bring welcome tidings indeed.

It’s a recommended read from me.

Legion is available from The Black Library, Amazon and most highstreet booksellers

*I’m going to pop back to Fulgrim one day as it has a kernel of a good idea about Slannesh, but I’ve heard it gets squandered later on in the series by sending Slannesh back to being the domain of just ‘naughty bum sex’, so I shall give it a pass until I can read those stories and decide for myself.