Why I’m Keeping My Old Codices

Tomorrow poor Mister Postie will be lugging an awful lot of very heavy boxes to the front doors of a lot very over excited geeks.

I am, of course, referring to the release of the much-anticipated and much debated 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000.

In addition to crippling postal workers across the globe (Dark Imperium weighs a stonking 2.5kg), the new edition of 40k is about to change the game and the background in some very dramatic ways.

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Anyone who follows the Warhammer Community page on the Facebooks will no doubt have seen the rule changes, the new – erection inducing – Primaris Space Marines and the galaxy map showing how royally fucked the Imperium is.

In the same way that Age of Sigmar rewrote (read erased) the Warhammer Fantasy universe, 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 is about to do something similar to the canon we know and love.

For new gamers this is no big deal. Total novices will enter Warhammer 40,000 with the galaxy already looking like someone spilt ink on a picture from Hubble. Or they’re new enough that the universe doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to more experienced gamers.

For us venerable old war dogs who have invested countless hours learning about the background – and 7 previous rule sets – we’re about to feel more like old dogs given new tricks.

That’s not to the say that the changes aren’t exciting (I actually knew about a lot of this for some time but more on that another day). I’m really pleased that the story is finally moving on and the freedom that can bring for narrative game play as well as future novels.

However, the background that I’ve spent the last 28 years learning is amazing and really rather precious to me so it seems a shame to cast out my old codices and supplements just because the rules aren’t relevant any more.

For me the background serves as a prologue for everything that comes next. Games Workshop have already stated that the previous books are still relevant from a background perspective.

The Gathering Storm books are especially worth hanging on to as they detail a lot of what’s referenced in the new book. Reading those before diving into the new edition will no doubt answer a lot of questions for the veterans gamers taking the leap from 7th to 8th.

I’m a little late to that party if I’m honest so let’s just acknowledge the fact that I turned up at all.

But there’s a few really simple reasons why the old codices and other books are worth keeping:

The Background is (in most cases) Really Good

The background has always been what made 40k and so walking away from that just seems crazy to me.

Change is good (you may as well embrace it because you’ve got no choice) but so is the journey so keeping a record is well worth it.

They give 8th Edition Context

The old source materials – particularly books like The Wrath of Magnus of the Gathering Storm trilogy – help to ground the new fluff so being able to refer back to that will be helpful.

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Plus according to a few sources there’s some easter eggs in the background that allude to all the mental shit that goes down. Finding them is proper nerdy fun.

The Books were Expensive

Let’s not kid ourselves, the rules, codices and supplements represent a significant investment.

I don’t begrudge that investment because a codex, per use, works out as one of the best value books you can own but that doesn’t mean you should just bin them every 5 years.

7th Edition isn’t Dead

As far as I can tell, the Horus Heresy will still be using the 7th Edition mechanic so there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t throw in some Orks or Eldar into your HH games.

We know the Imperium tussles with the other races of the galaxy before everything goes tits. To be honest, I’d love to see some games along those lines but I appreciate it would rather dilute the concept.

 

I cannot wait for my copy of 8th edition, or for the new Indexes or the new models. I’m excited to see where this is all headed and how many Primarchs will be returning to the fold.

But I’m also going to be looking back and marvelling at how far it’s all come and just how much fun it was getting there.

Why You Should Set Deadlines

Anyone who follows me on Twitter would have seen pictures going up of my House Terryn Imperial Knights army as it slowly progressed to completion.

Some of The Chaps and I were heading up to Warhammer World at the start of May and I wanted to take a fully painted army with me.

Something of an encore to getting the 5th Company of my Ultramarines done the year before.

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However, having learned my lesson from last year, I gave myself a little longer than 6 weeks to paint a 3,000 point army. This is old 7th edition points you understand. Fuck knows what the armies will cost out now.

This time round, having already decided back in January to make a return pilgrimage to Warhammer World, I gave myself 12 weeks.

12 weeks to build and paint 7 (because one was already painted) Imperial Knights ready for May.

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If I’m honest, I barely finished in time.

But the point is this: setting deadlines focuses your mind.

Don’t Stagnate

I’ve been doing the hobby a very long time and in that time I have collected, for Warhammer 40,000 alone (in no particular order):

  • Dark Angels
  • Eldar (thrice)
  • Space Wolves
  • Tyranids (twice)
  • Chaos Space Marines (twice)
  • Necrons
  • Imperial Guard Armoured Company
  • Imperial Guard Deathworld Veterans
  • Tau (twice)
  • Grey Knights (sort of)
  • Orks
  • Ultramarines (1st & 5th)
  • Imperial Knights
  • Deathwatch
  • Dark Eldar (new project)

Of that list none but the Ultramarines, Knights, Deathwatch and Dark Eldar survived. The latter three are all new in fairness so hardly count.

The other armies, however, were all sold or given away as the projects ground to a halt either because I didn’t like the way they played or I just lost momentum with collecting the army.

That is a lot of abandoned projects. Although one or two were sold because I was flat broke and it was that or starve.

But I did what a lot of gamers do: buy too much, too quickly and then not paint any of it. Eventually the prospect of painting that much grey would become overwhelming and then my head would be turned by the latest army and that would be that.

So what changed?

In short…nothing.

I still get new army syndrome like I did what I was a kid.

I still buy too much, too quickly. You just need to ask The Chaps to verify that one.

But now I’m setting myself targets. Last year I gave myself 6 weeks to paint an army.

This year I gave myself 12 weeks to paint an army.

Starting mid June, having taken a couple of months off to defrazzle my brain, I’m planning to paint my Dark Eldar by November for the next Black Library event. So that’s around 24 weeks.

Why so long?

The reasons are very simple:

  1. Setting reasonable deadlines keeps you focused but avoids burnout
  2. It allows you to plan your project and allow time for doing cool stuff like bases
  3. It accommodates having a life outside of the hobby
  4. It allows for time off to do something else of any evening
  5. You don’t rush

Whilst, all are important, the last two points are really important. Painting a battle company in 6 weeks is hard. The churn was roughly a 10 man (Marine) squad every 3.5 days from undercoat to done. Obviously there were some tanks in there as well but that was the average.

It meant no time off and no doing anything else. I was writing a novel that I had to put on hold because I simple couldn’t do both.

Each Knight averaged 12 days which included building, painting (including hand painting the heraldry from the Codex) and building scenic bases. The reality was slightly less but the real life regularly encroached.

And that’s why you need to give yourself 5-6 months to paint an army. Because it’s allows for you to power up the Xbox one evening or actually leave the house.

It allows you to go to bed at a reasonable hour or not feel guilty because you turned the desk lamp off at 11 rather than when your eyes start to sting.

Most importantly it stops the hobby from feeling like a chore.

Setting deadlines absolutely works. Probably because we’re all used to working to them in our day jobs. Regardless, it gives you the motivation you need to progress your armies at a steady pace, seeing regular improvements – which of itself spurs you on – and at the end you get to play with a fully painted army.

Who doesn’t want that?

Deathwatch: The Space Marine army we’ve all been waiting for

Followers on Twitter will know that I’ve started collecting Deathwatch.

It wasn’t entirely planned. When I picked up a copy of Deathwatch: Overkill it was to have a natty boxed game that could be whipped out of a games night and  to collect Genestealer Cultists.

The plan was to collect a small Deathwatch army afterwards to compliment my unnecessarily big Ultramarines army. Made more unnecessary by my Forge World purchases last year… #sorrynotsorry

Then I read the codex.

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For the novice or the oblivious, the Deathwatch are a dedicated chapter of alien hunters made up from all the other Space Marine chapters. Yes, all.

They deviate from standard Space Marines in a number of ways – how they’re recruited being the most notable. But more than that, they have specialist equipment that flies in the face of Adeptus Mechanicus doctrine which would be enough to brand them heretics in the eyes of many.

The amazing Corvus Blackstar and the highly effective Frag Cannon being just two examples of this particular brand of non-conformity.

They don’t follow the Codex Astartes in any meaningful way in so much as they don’t use Battle company formations and they’re squads not only have diverse armaments but they also attach members from other unit types to their standard Killteams to bolster their strength.

This lends them extra punch either at range or up close (or both) allowing you to make some very focussed, very powerful units. The other very that should go with that is expensive.

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It does, however, make them interesting.

Anyone who has read the multitude of Black Library novels about Space Marines (which is a lot of them) will no doubt have experienced a degree of disappointment over the comparative blandness of the models and rules to how they are portrayed in the books.

Depending on the chapter the novel is about, there’s all sorts of subtle armour variations, minor modifications and other distinguishing features that make the armies feel markedly different from their brothers that can’t always be reflected in the army.

Especially when the practicalities of model making dictate that the more generic a model the broader the commercial appeal. Obviously there are always exceptions to this – Blood Angels and Space Wolves most notably – but those ranges are justified through a significant divergence in game play and a large enough customer base to justify it.

But more than that, in the books the Space Marines are absolutely devastating.

Whilst Space Marine armies are hardly limp wristed in the fisticuffs department, they are also hugely watered down to allow for (a) Marine players to take more than a squad and (b) to give other players a chance.

A few years ago White Dwarf published, for bants presumably, the movie marine rules. Essentially a fairly tongue in cheek set of rules to demonstrate how tough a Space Marine should be in a game of 40k.

They started at 100 points a model, had multiple wounds, a 3+ invulnerable save with a re-roll and their profile had lots of 5s and 6s in it.

A bit of fun for some, an eye-rolling annoyance for those who feel Space Marines get too much of the attention already, it’s a reminder that Space Marines are absurdly tough. They were, after all, originally intended as a single squad ally for Imperial Guard armies. But Space Marines are cool and only an idiot wouldn’t want capitalise on that opportunity.

The Deathwatch provides the faithful marine nerd with the variety and customisation options we’ve all craved. The fact that the entire army is made up of Veterans gives the army that super elite, against all odds, feel. A base level model is an eye watering 22 points, plus upgrades.

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Moreover the mixed squads of Killteams, terminators, vanguard veterans and characters fits really nicely with some of the more dramatic moments in the books. Especially where the fighting is at its most desperate and the heroes of the Imperium are moving through the lines to support where they’re needed most.

I had the opportunity to play a 1500 point game with a standard Codex Space Marines army. Whereas I took a fully kitted out army which, excluding the Corvus Blackstar and the Dreadnought, was made up of 25 models.

My opponent, on the other hand took a captain, 30 Tactical Marines, 10 scouts, 10 assault marines, 5 devastators, 5 terminators, a predator, a rhino and two dreadnoughts.

Whilst there were very few (almost no) upgrades in the army, that was still 61 infantry models and 4 models with armour values. Considering the average cost of my models were weighing in at 37 points a model, being out numbered over 2:1 was about right.

However, despite my early apprehension that I was going to get absolutely slaughtered, I actually went on to win the game by a very narrow margin. The butcher’s bill was high but considering how I thought it was going to go I was content that the tithes would replenish the losses in good order.

The formations, because who takes an army without formations these days, actively encourage you to take the Space Marine army of your boyhood dreams, complete with re-rolls to wound differing units types depending on the formation.

Throw in Killteam Cassius and an absurdly good Watch Master (who is mental for the points) and you have the hardened, individualistic, monsters of war I’ve certainly always imagined space marines to be.

Seeing that translated onto the board is really quite something. The Deathwatch look and feel like the super elite army many (if not all) of us have always imagined taking. The models are imposing and the load-outs diverse. The heavy thunder hammer is hilarious.

The rules make them a small but highly effective team when used correctly (and sparingly). But more than that, the additions of things like the Corvus and the Infernus Heavy Bolter also make them elite because no one gets to play with their toys. Much like Grey Knights.

The background is also rich, interesting and tells of a force relentlessly committed to the cause unto death. They are the hero’s hero. They are the bending, but unbreakable line that pushes back against the alien.

They are the Deathwatch.

Undercoating for Beginners

Whilst feverishly undercoating my Deathwatch army the other day two things struck me. The first was I was using a method taught to me by a bloke called Andy when I first began working for Games Workshop back in 2000.

The other was that occurred to me that not everyone necessarily knew how to properly undercoat their models.

As a couple of my friends are relatively new to the hobby and have only just begun painting their armies I thought it a good opportunity to pass on some long earned wisdom.

Whilst, arguably, there’s no right or wrong way to undercoat your models there is definitely prep and ‘best practise’ to help the unwary hobbyists along the way.

This guide is based around undercoating models black but the considerations are broadly the same whatever colour you’re using.

Step 1. Preparation

Be under no illusions, undercoating does not hide all sins. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mould lines are far more prominent once the model has been undercoated than before so make sure you’ve been thorough when building your toys.

If mould lines don’t bother you chances are they will because they’re also a pain in the arse to paint over as well. Do yourself a favour, invest in some decent files and clean them off. It’s a couple of extra minutes per average size model and it’s well worth it.

Also be sure that any filings or other detritus is removed from the model. This can include dust if your models have been sat out for a while, or basing materials if they’ve been sat in a figure case or cabinet with a completed models.

If you’re spraying models that have been ‘dipped and stripped’ make sure that the stripping agent has been thoroughly washed off and the model is fully dry. Spray paint does not like oil and water. At all.

Step 2. Looking after your Spray

I use Games Workshop’s undercoat but I’ve also used Army Painter and I’ve found this to be true of all spray paint, regardless of colour: store your cans at room temperature.

Storing your spray paint in the garage or the shed will only spell doom and misery because the when the cans get cold the paint and propellant don’t mix properly which causes ‘chalking’ to occur on the models. It’s relatively easy to put right but (a) it’s a waste of paint (b) it’s a waste of time and (c) you’re a twat for doing it in the first place.

Step 3. Where to Spray

Personally, I couldn’t give two shits where you spray as long as you’re not vandalising someone else’s property or gassing yourself.

Spray paint is not good stuff to breathe in so make sure it’s a very well ventilated area.

As I rule I always spray outside, on top of a bin so I’m not having to crouch down. Granted this means that I can be at the mercy of the elements but better that than shaving days off my life by spraying in a poorly ventilated garage.

Step 4. How to Spray

This is where it gets a little subjective but personally I lay the models down and spray them in halves.

Make sure whatever you lay your models on is sturdy, easily movable and untreated. A cardboard mail order box is perfect. A product box lid isn’t ideal because the paint sits on the treated cardboard rather than being absorbed.

This can mean the paint can pool slightly underneath the model making them stick and can cause the box to tear when you lift the models clear. If you only have a box lid to use I recommend giving it a light spray to take the sheen off.

Lay as many models as you can on the box because any paint that isn’t going on a model is paint that’s being wasted. That said, make sure none of the models are touching otherwise the models will stick and you won’t get an even covering.

 

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As you can probably tell, this box is more paint than cardboard.

 

Before you start, shake the can well. Different brands mix at different rates. Army Painter spray has a bonkers amount of pigment in relation to propellant so whilst it doesn’t need as much shaking as GW’s, take the time anyway. The last thing you want is a bad mix.

By using short, controlled bursts in a sweeping action this allows for a smooth and even layer of paint on the model.

Rotate the box (hence using something a little substantial) so you can apply an even coat of paint to the front, top, bottom and sides of the model.

This is where placing your models on something reasonably high, is advantageous because you have more control over where the paint goes.

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When spraying make sure you keep the can a reasonable distance from the model. Most instructions will say eight inches, I’d say eight inches gives better coverage without compromising quality and detail.

Unfortunately, trial and error plays a part when learning to spray. You’ll quickly learn what’s too close and what constitutes a smooth sweeping action and what doesn’t…

4.1 Wobbly Models

The best and worst thing about modern models is they’re all dynamically posed marvels of sculpting genius.

It’s brilliant because the models are awesome, but it can make spraying models a tricky because they don’t have an even purchase when laid down.

Keep any model you think is likely to roll over once you start spraying towards the inside of the box. Give it some extra space so if it does roll over it won’t hit (and stick to) any other models.

Ultimately though, you’re better off positioning the model for stability as whilst you may not get brilliant coverage on the first coat, you will on the reverse side.

4.2 Leaving Your Models to Dry

Whether you’re letting them dry after the first spray or the second, where you leave you’re models is as important as where you choose to spray them.

If you’re spraying on a warm sunny day then leaving them outside is an obvious decision. However, summer days can bring with them dust, pollen and other airborne objects that can stick to the wet paint on your models.

If you do leave them outside to dry, make sure they’re shielded from the elements.

At the other end of the spectrum, leaving your models anywhere that’s cold and damp is likely to cause chalking as if the can was too cold. This again makes sheds and garages a less than ideal place.

A moderately insulated utility room works well and avoids pissing off wives, husbands, parents etc with the smell of the paint.

4.2 Finishing the Job

Once the paint is touch dry, flip the models and repeat the process.

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You won’t need to use as much paint on the reverse of the model so expect it to be finished in short order. Don’t worry about going over the sides of the model again. Providing you stick to short bursts all you’ll do is even up the coat and give you a smooth finish.

Give the models enough time to dry then you’re done.

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To Sand or Not to Sand

I’ve been asked by more than a few hobbyists over the years whether or not they should sand their models before they spray.

Both have their merits.

Spraying a model before sanding helps the glue take better and gives you greater versatility in how you paint it. Un-sprayed (if that’s a thing) sand can be inked/washed/shaded. Sprayed sand can’t.

The big advantage of spraying sand is that it seals it making it way more durable which is no bad thing. Just remember, you’ll have to paint the sand which can affect the finish. So whichever option you choose, stick to it.

 

Why Princess Leia Matters

2016 has been an interesting year.

It’s been an interesting year for me personally and, having overcome some pretty huge challenges, it’s actually been a pretty good one all things considered. The fact that I’m putting fingers to keyboard again is indication of how different things are now to a year ago. Let alone 2 years ago.

For the rest of the world the year has racked up an astonishing butcher’s bill. In places like Aleppo and across Afghanistan, Iraq, Paris, Berlin and a host of other places. A string of shootings in the US which has inflamed already fraught race relations in the country. Regardless of the politics all these people mattered and is a tragedy of wasted life and potential.

We’ve also seen a rise in some of the most divisive and damaging politics since the 1930’s, when people on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the debate marched to the polls disillusioned, angry and (if we’re really honest with ourselves) ill-informed and mistrustful of the other side. The results have been troubling, potentially catastrophic and will take years to sort out and years more to understand the true ramifications.

And amongst it all, a steady stream of celebrities and geniuses have died. There are those that will gleefully point out how selfish and shallow we are, weeping over famous people we never met but sparing barely a thought for a war-torn city and its traumatised inhabitants.

To those people I say this: we care. We all care. Some care more than others but humanity is blessed with a near limitless reservoir for kindness that we pour out towards our friends, family, charitable causes, the homeless person on the street and towards the seemingly endless stream of victims of violence on the news. The victims of egomaniacal, power-hungry men and women who would rather see nations burn than give an inch. Who confuse compromise with weakness. And would happily blame everyone else for the oligarchical problems they themselves created.

Why should celebrities get all the attention?

It’s simple: from David Bowie to Prince to our very own and beloved princess, Carrie Fisher, they all moved us with their art.

Whether it’s a song that resonated with us or helped us through a break up. Or a movie that defined our childhood and our view of the world: their gifts connected with us in a way that gives us hope despite the wanton destruction both physically and politically that fills the news cycle. It also connects us in a profound and unbreakable way with those who feel the same.

This is why, for me, Carrie Fisher’s passing is all the more poignant.

One of the first movies I sat through as a young child – barely 4 years old – was Star Wars. I didn’t fully understand everything that went on. I thought the Stormtroopers were robots, Darth Vadar scared the living shit out of me and my tiny child mind had no clue at the colossal loss of life resulting from Alderaan and the Death Star being destroyed (bugger off about spoilers, it’s been 40 years!).

But what I did understand was heroism and sacrifice. I may not have had those labels for them but I knew what I was looking at and Luke, Leia, Han & Chewie all fit the bill. That and X-Wings are awesome.

Growing up I was enamoured with Leia not because she was beautiful, although she was, or because of the infamous Gold Bikini – partly because I was just too young when RotJ came out to know what to do with that image – but because she was remarkable.

She was the leader of a rebellion. She was strong, yet compassionate. Fearless yet afraid. Stubborn yet vulnerable. Strong willed but sensitive. She was all these things and more. She was a character as rich and as heroic as Luke or Han which, for the 70’s and early 80’s was really saying something.

Her character, albeit written, defied society. Leia, portrayed by the wonderful Carrie Fisher, dared the chauvinists to tell her to sit down and shut up. Dared educators to do more than just tell generations of young girls to aim for mediocre grades or not to waste their time with science and technology.

Carrie Fisher understood that character and what she represented to girls and women better than anyone.

In the Star Wars universe, women weren’t just politicians, they were soldiers, pilots, leaders and did so on their own merit, not because hubby or daddy had pulled some strings.

Star Wars, as a franchise, has always challenged ideas of race and gender. This is a universe in which humans of both genders and all colours cohabited, fought and died alongside aliens for their freedom. It’s important to note that the Empire heavily persecuted non-humans and the Rebellion was largely made up of humans, fighting against that oppression.

It teaches every generation who watches it how remarkably capable we are and how staggeringly short sighted and pointless nationalism and divisiveness is. Granted the theme of the movie is a violent rebellion but I think we all know the message I mean. And at its heart is a young woman, raised in privilege, who could have stayed home but instead chose to stand.

I’m immensely proud of my daughter. I’m proud of her humour, her sarcasm (at nearly 4 I really have made a rod for my own back), her precociousness, her curiosity, her intelligence, her bravery, her compassion and her emotional sensitivity.

I really want her to see Star Wars (well, the original 3, Episode VII and Rogue One) not just because it’s a brilliant and exciting story but because I want her to see wonderful, capable and powerful women making a difference. Being heroes. Whether it’s stood at a strategy table like Mon Mothma sending soldiers into harms way or with a blaster in their hand like Leia.

Princess Leia matters as a character because there had never been anyone quite like her or will be ever again. Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia, for me were one and the same. For all of her problems in the years following Star Wars, Carrie Fisher never gave up. She strove to do better and to enrich the lives of the people she came in to contact with.

And judging by the outpouring on Social Media within minutes of today’s sad announcement I’d say she achieved that end. Not to mention her effect on the millions of Star Wars fans around the world.

I can’t wait for my daughter to see Star Wars and for me to point to Princess Leia and say: ‘that’s Princess Leia, she leads the Rebellion’. And when my daughter turns to me and asks ‘is she a goody?’ I shall look at her, smile and say ‘yes, my love, she is a goody. Just about the best there ever was.’

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Rogue One – A Review

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Along long time ago a massive media company known for an animated mouse bought one of the most successful intellectual properties in history.

When Disney bought Lucasfilm for, quite literally, huge piles of cash there were a lot of very nervous fans. It didn’t matter that their purchase of Marvel a couple of years before had proved that they could be respectful of fans and intellectual property alike, it was a huge deal.

Shortly after the purchase they announced an aggressive schedule of new movies, effectively giving Star Wars the Marvel Cinematic Universe treatment. A new movie, every year, for the foreseeable future.

Fans, this one included, were apprehensive when Episode VII was announced. It needed to be brilliant. It needed to right so many wrongs. It needed…not to be shit.

For the most part, our prayers were answered. It was not shit. The new cast had a great chemistry in their own right and gelled brilliantly with characters of old.

But even before Episode VII was out, Rogue One was announced. A stand alone movie set between Episode’s III and IV.

As time wore on my scepticism gave way to delight. Historically Star Wars has always been a trilogy kind of franchise. Even the books tended to work in threes and the stand alone’s tended to be the weaker offerings.

However, as the first trailers began to drop I felt a new hope (geddit). Rogue One looked like an original Star Wars movie and had a plot that nestled it up against Episode IV rather than Episode III which immediately made me like it more.

For those that don’t know, Rogue One follows the exploits of a small Rebel band tasked with getting their hands on the Death Star plans in the hope of destroying it. Anyone that’s seen Episode IV will know how this pans out.

The movie focuses on Jyn Erso, daughter of the man behind the Death Star and reluctant hero played by the extraordinarily talented Felicity Jones.

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Unlike those around her, Jyn is not a solider. She’s a tear away with a traumatic past that keeps her awake at night. Much like Luke Skywalker and Rey, destiny (or the Force) chooses her to change the galaxy.

Whilst a female protagonist is becoming increasingly common I feel Jones’ efforts were a cut above. Jyn Erso as a character is so wonderfully flawed and vulnerable yet she’s strong and resolute. She’s incredibly brave and utterly determined not to give into fear and loss.

As a character she rises to every challenge despite her fear not because of it and whilst she’s opposite the Rebel intelligence officer, Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), at no point does she rely on his big manly manliness.

In a nice contrast to most movies, he plays the conscience and the voice in her ear not to give up rather than the other way around.

And unlike the reboot of Ghostbusters, at no point does the movie makers do anything to undermine her gender. At no point does the movie nudge you in the ribs and say ‘don’t worry, she’s only a girl’. Which is wonderful and refreshing.

Jones’ performance is captivating and enhanced by Alan Tudyk’s utterly brilliant delivery of K-2SO. A former Imperial strategy droid, it provides a delightfully matter of fact counter-point to Erso’s dogged determination without the camp contrariness of a 3PO clone.

K-2 is cynical, sarcastic, hilarious but steadfast and loyal, a natural complement to Erso’s reluctant and wounded hero. And he’s awesome. He gets some of the best scenes so between the three lead characters, the chemistry that exists is a joy to watch.

Plus anyone who knows and loves Laputa (Castle in the Sky) will enjoy the nod to the design athetic of the robot protectors.

The film is orgiastically pretty. Whereas Episode I had special and visual effects thrown at the screen in an unwitting attempt to conceal the weak plot and terrible acting, Rogue One’s slice of the Star Wars universe is almost incidental. It enhances something that is already brilliantly executed.

Rogue One is epic yet personal. It’s a classic Star Wars tale of a small band of individuals becoming something greater than the sum of its parts. The formula is very similar to that of Episode IV. Which is no bad thing.

Each character hints at a life lived in the shadow of the Empire and it communicates how quickly society has decayed in the 20 years since the events of Episode III. The speed at which all evidence to the existence of the Jedi being one.Which is a really nice touch.

What’s really cool is the insight you get into the Rebellion. Episode IV conveys a merry band of liberals unified against the choking grip of an evil Empire. Rogue One hints at a far more fragmented structure, held together by a desperate few. Their tactics are dirty and distasteful and many of their soldiers are no better, if not worse, than the storm troopers they willingly hunt.

The engagements that go on in the film will have every hardcore Star Wars fan reaching for tissues because they’re fantastic. They have the gritty, brutality of recent sci-fi offerings like the new Star Trek movies and, of course, Episode VII.

Anyone who played any of the Star Wars video games over the last 20 years or read the books (particularly the X-Wing novels) will be struck by the fidelity of the action sequences.

Visually it all feels so right. So deliciously perfect. It’s the ultimate thank you present from Lucasfilm to the fans that hung on in there during the years of nothing then the disappointing prequels and all the inconsistent, rudderless bollocks that followed.

Every planet (including the beautifully realised Yavin 4) helps to communicate the story, the conflicts of the individuals and team, all the while exuding the grandeur of the Star Wars universe. It really is stunning.

Every single drop of love that could be crammed into the action scenes, both in space and on the various planets, was done so.

However (come on, you knew it was coming), for all of the love I felt watching X-Wings be awesome, I didn’t feel the story quite connected emotionally. And this is a bit of a problem because it’s meant to be a deeply emotional film. It’s about friendship, family, survival, defiance, victory, loss and sacrifice.

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They’re all right there on the screen but cramming all of those highly nuanced themes and the orgasm inducing visuals means it doesn’t quite pull it off.

Maybe it’s because, as with any prequel, you know how the story plays out but I think it’s more to do with the pace with which the film moves, it lacks subtlty. It doesn’t give you the chance to be moved. To reflect on events as they unfold. Until the very end which can leave you feeling a little cold.

It’s all a little bit lost.

Speaking of lost, the Imperial presence in the film is so muted that the storm troopers and starships consistently out perform the villains.

Director Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) comes off as little more than an egotistical child, who tantrums and stomps from one scene to another. Even the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin overshadows him.

Lord Vadar crops up but his scene is a fan pleaser and adds nothing to the plot. Even the performance lacked the slow grace and simmering menace of the original, he felt slightly wrong from start to finish.

Rogue One is a superb film It looks and feels like a Star Wars movie. In many ways more so than Episode VII. Everything just looks…right.

It is, of course, a genius mechanism to bridge the gap between Episode’s III & IV. It does an admirable job of dovetailing with Episode IV despite breaking part of the original movie (I’ll let you find it). References to the previous movies are so nicely done that fans will get a real kick out of it.

It’s a wonderful and deserving addition to the Star Wars canon that adds so much heart to an already rich universe that it is a shame it’s just a stand alone.

Criticisms aside, Rogue One has easily slipped into my top 3 Star Wars movies. It’s a very bold claim having only seen it the once but, honestly, it offers much of the same mix that makes The Empire Strikes Back the best of the bunch (shut up, yes it is!).

It’s not a perfect movie but then again neither are any of the Star Wars movies that preceded them. And that’s okay because what it is, is a proper Star Wars movie. And that is more than good enough.

 

Kill Team – A Review

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So in the spirit of getting back into the swing of things I thought I’d revert to type and do what I’m good at: being very opinionated about other people’s shit.

And what better way to kick off than a game I lost at the night before. What could possibly go wrong?

So, Kill Team – Warhammer 40k’s remedial little brother.

Kill Team is one of a growing number of ‘route to entry’ boxes that Games Workshop is churning out at a fairly prodigious rate.

Whilst those without a bottomless hobby budget may well be struggling to find £100 every couple of months, Kill Team offers a genuinely affordable (by modern standards) route to entry into the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

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In the box you get a Space Marine tactical squad, a Tau Fire Warrior squad, a groovy tactical turret and everything you need to play, including a data sheet for both squads with points values and the mini rule book.

The models are as you would expect from the individual boxes rather than the okay (yet slightly disappointing) push-together’s we’ve seen in the past which really enhances both the value of the box and the gaming experience for those new to the hobby.

Games Workshop has finally remembered that short-changing new gamers is a great way to make them fuck off and never come back.

The truth is, for the money this is really quite good. The only things missing is some form of measure and a few dice but I guess you need some top-up sales somewhere.

But the fact that the rules are in there too means that novices are getting a proper introduction to the game rather than a bullshit stripped down version of the rules that means they’ll have to buy another version 3 months down the road.

Obviously for the seasoned gamers it represents a fairly hefty outlay when the only thing they’ll need to play Kill Team is the Kill Team rules booklet. For those of you who just want the booklet I suggest eBay or the fair trading group on Facebook.

The booklet itself is, for all intents and purposes the main event. Whilst the models are all good and groovy, they can (along with the rules) be purchased by other means.

Whilst far from the majesty of Mordheim or Necromunda, Kill Team does give you the merest taste of those long past glory days allowing you to take 200 points worth of your chosen army against your opponent.

There are certain restrictions of course. Such as no HQ choices, no vehicles with more than 4 hull points, nothing with a 2+ save (so no Terminators) and a smattering of others.

The idea is it encourages you to be incredibly careful with how you choose your force. For a season gamer and an Ultramarine player, I actually found this quite difficult as I’m so used to structuring my armies around the teachings of Guilliman.

Because, you know, nerd.

Whilst 200 points doesn’t seem all that much, depending on the army you can actually be pretty creative.

It’s a tooled up tactical squad, or a basic 5 man squad and a slightly tooled up Dreadnought.

Or 30 Ork boys plus a couple of upgrades.

Never before has the differences in points and unit composition been so starkly demonstrated as it is with Kill Team and it’s easily one of its best-selling points.

It so aptly highlights what an immensely diverse universe in which we game and how desperate even the smallest scale engagement can be.

Had I put my list together in plenty of time, rather than in a Burger King on my way over to Jezza’s I could have taken a small, but tooled up, unit of Sternguard which would have been hilarious. And short-lived.

Unlike Mordheim and Necromunda, beyond models being able to act independently of one another, the rules work more or less the same as standard 40k. Which means stuff dies just as easily as it always did. Or not.

This highlights Kill Team’s one glaring flaw. It is, essentially, 40k without unit coherency. Which means splitting up your models gets them killed. Which rather defeats the point.

You’re almost better off playing a 500 point game and have the freedom to take what you want.

However, what Kill Team does offer is specialists. In a nutshell, three of your models can be made specialists from a number of lists which gives them access to one of a variety of special rules.

Things like Feel No Pain, Armourbane, Infiltrate, Fear, Eternal Warrior and a host of others feature, all designed to give you a tactical edge if used correctly. There is undoubtedly some trial and error in selecting the right skills for your Kill Team.

It was very much more error on my part when I played Jezza but that was because I tried to be too clever and failed to consider how a lone Space Marine, whilst tough is still just a lone Space Marine and he’ll die just as easily when mobbed.

Looking at the skills on offer, the likes of Scouts and similar units can become hilarious broken, especially if you use them as a team. Which sort of defeats the purpose of Kill Team but there we are.

The scenarios in the book are broadly very good. They work well with the limitations of the both the size of army and lend themselves well to beginners.

But beyond the specialists and the scenarios, there’s not much more to Kill Team. There’s no progression to speak which is a real shame. Something that slow expands the engagement size as a way of scaling gamers up to a full game of 40k would have been really cool and a missed opportunity.

As a starter boxes go it’s not bad for the cash. For someone who wants to ease themselves into 40k without a huge outlay, this is pretty much on the nose. It has plenty of replay value for the beginners and lots of nuance for the veterans.

It’s also brilliant if you’re pressed for time or fancy dabbling in a spot of 40k in 40 minutes over a lunch break.

Kill Team suffers from being neither one thing or another which as a long-term investment makes it a bit of a waste but, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, Kill Team at its heart bloody good fun.