Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Battle for the abysmal – A Horus Heresy Review

 a.k.a. Battle for the Abscess. 

Warning, the following blog post contains much more swearing than normal. Thank you for your indulgence. 


Spoilers abound in these posts, if you haven’t read the books and will get upset by finding out what happens just stop.

This is also not a recap, if you want a recap go to Lexicanium.

What The Black Library says about the book

Horus sends the World Bearer space marines to the planet Calth, where they are to ambush the loyalist Ultramarines. In addition to the main fleet, Horus sends a new doomsday battleship for use againsy the Ultramarines home world of Ultramar. A small strike force travels space and the warp to delay or destroy the doomsday ship to save the Ultramarines.

Subtle, Like a knife for a nazi

What the book is really about?

Um….. well it’s not a book as such, that’s to say, it looks like a novel when you pick it up, but really, it’s a full length commando comic but with more two dimensional characters.

Another way to describe the book is that the sailors from Gi Joe, The Dinobots, that dude from mummies alive and Rambo team up to defeat Skeletor on his super star destroyer.

Come to think of it, I’d rather read that horrible mishmash of fandoms in a bad work of fan fiction than this. At least that has the potential to be so bad that its good.

Put in simple terms, this is a bad book and Ben Counter should feel bad for writing it.

It adds NOTHING to the mythos of the 30k universe, and it takes a lot away from it.

The characters are flat, the villains are shockingly cliché, and the events in the book are pretty irrelevant to the whole heresy. The sole plot point from this book is that the massive evil ship of doom (The Furious Abyss) blows up before it can smash the Ultramarines. It essence, this book is about a master plan that was foiled and therefore had no impact on the story later on.

Worst of all, it reads like bad fan fiction written by a teen. I had issues with his first book (Galaxy in Flames) but they pale compared to this pile of shit.

My proposed alternative cover art

Introducing the Hero-Protagonist – um…. Cestus?

Ok, so you know how I have said that the Hero Protagonists of these books have a tendency towards being honest, humble, dedicated soldiers. Cestus dials this up to 11.

He is an Ultramarine, in the most boring horribly clichéd way. I’ll mention a later book, the Mark of Calth now because it made me like the ultramarines, it gave them character.

Cestus is bland and so are his mates. I can only see you rooting for these guys if you are the most ardent 40k and Ultramarines fan out there….. and you’re a bit thick…. And you don’t know good writing if you fall over it while dancing around the house in your ultramarine undies. 

Why are their humans in my book about super-powered Space Marines?

I seem to recall a fleet captain…. But if that character did anything worthwhile I can’t honestly remember. 

MVP – none, well, Skraal perhaps

I’ve seen a few people say that the highlight of this book is the portrayal of the World Eater and the Thousand Son marine.

They are correct, they are the best parts of a terrible book.

But, there characters are only interesting because we haven’t been exposed to those chapters before, for the most part. Mhotep, (not to be confused with the guy from the mummy with a bloody similar name) is kind of interesting, but only because we hadn’t seen a thousand son before. He is still an archetype rather than a character.

The same holds true for Skraal, he’s just a world eater, nothing more. It’s just that World eaters are cool when they go feral and Rambo and stuff. 

Worst Character – The Space Wolves

Holy shit, are these guys cliché. WE first encounter them in a bar room brawl, where the noble ultramarine and the feral Space Wolf have a fight and then a man-love moment. It was painful.





Oh…. The Space wolves vs the Thousand sons. Fuck me.

It’s like the author got a note to play up the friction between the two legions as foreshadowing to “A Thousand Sons” and “Prospero Burns” (Both quite good books). He took that to mean, HAVE THE SPACE WOLVES BE FUCKING IDIOTS ALL THE TIME.

Moustache twirling evil-bastard award - Zadkiel

Wow, Zadkiel.

Holy cow, what a ham. I don’t even think Jeremy Irons could act as hammy as Zadkiel does in the book. I can see Tim Curry also looking at the role and going “look, no one can obtain this level of ham without turning into a giant pork sausage”.

You have to wonder at the Word Bearers chain of command when someone this hammy gets promoted. I can see it now.

Word bearers promotion board meeting

“So, who is up for promotion this time Erebus”

“My lord Lorgar, Zadkiel is due a promotion, I highly recommend his work, see, here is his record”

“Right, let’s see….. oh yes, ranting…. Good good, paranoia, nice touch, oh…… he makes terrible command decisions and has delusions of grandeur! Fantastic, GIVE THAT MAN A DEATH STAR”

Get to know your Legion – The Ultramarines, Thousand Sons, World Eaters, Space Wolves, Word Bearers.

The legions are presented as caricatures. So, I’m gonna have fun with how I think they were presented in the book.

After reading this book I know that, when encountering a vending machine:

An Ultramarine will observe the machine, report in to command and wait for orders, then put a dollar in the machine, press the buttons in the correct sequence, wait for the can to deploy, then store the can for later use as drinking carbonated beverages sounds like too much fun

A Space Wolf will look at the vending machine, sniff it, watch someone else use the machine, accuse them of witchcraft, get into a fight, and chew that persons arm off so that the can rolls away to where the blood claws can fight over it.

A Thousand son will walk up to a vending machine, invoke the sacred runes of thoth to magically force the machine to dispense cola (despite being ordered not to). They will then store the cola in a secret fridge and not answer any questions about the mysterious origins of carbonated beverages.

A World Eater will stalk the vending machine for days and then put an axe into the vending machine and anyone using it.

A Word Bearer, upon encountering the machine will worship it, building a shrine in its name and carving the instructions for using the machine into his skin. He will encourage others to worship the machine, right up to the point he thinks the machine loves someone else more than him. In which case he will nuke the city the machine is in and cry about it for 10000 years.

By n924 from Deviant art (http://n924.deviantart.com/)

Why the Emperor is a giant douche

A giant, planet killing space ship was built right under his nose, and given to an ego maniac that one of his sons appointed to leadership. No direct doucheness, but another example of the Emperor being an oblivious douche.

The writing – technical review and evaluation

I hope Ben Counter never does another Horus Heresy book ever again. I really struggle to see how this one got published, I have no idea what it was attempting to do, but it really undermined the series.

In fact, I got into this series and read the first 7 books in quick fashion. I stopped reading the Heresy series for nearly two years after Battle for the Abyss. If the Megapope hadn’t lent me “Know no Fear” and highly endorsed it, I would never have continued with the series.

This is the worst book so far, and it will take considerable effort to get it off the bottom of the heap.

This book gets a “No, just no” rating. 

Boo this man.... BOO HIM

Book Rankings

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Meg Maples Masterclass - Wellington (Guest post)

One thing i wanted to do more this year was get other people in my gaming groups involved in some guest posts. Our local PP Press Ganger Pelarel posted this originally on the NZ Warmachine blog, Thrallblacks.

Original post is here, http://www.thrallblacks.com/2014/02/meg-maples-masterclass-wellington.html

Or "I've been doing it all wrong!" ;)

No, Meg didn't actually say it but we all quickly realised that we had :)

Saturday started with a lot of sunshine (as usual, Metservice had predicted rain) and 16 painters turned up to learn from the awesome Meg Maples.

Meg supplied the minis, though we did have a choice as to which mini. Bearing in mind this is a class and we'd be learning techniques that we'd never used before we chose...

Steampunk Dorothy from the Guild of Harmony

Boy, did we make our lives difficult for ourselves! Awesome mini, beautifully detailed and posed.. perhaps a little too detailed to learn on, but hey! why make life easy for ourselves :)

After everyone had found their seats and gotten the pre-coffee banter out of the way, we settled down to business and Meg showed us how to prime our minis - yes, we'd been doing it wrong!

With priming, less is more apparently, who'd have thought!

Once we'd all gotten that sorted, we were into base coats. pay attention to the skirt on my mini..

Skin and clothes base colour in place, and apparently sanguine base is a little dark to easily learn the two brush blending technique that Meg was going to wow us with - seriously, we were all wowed!

OMG!!! this was an awesome effect that Meg managed to impart clearly and with plenty of commentary as she worked. Great artist, great teacher what more can i say? The gasps and "holy sh!t"s floating around the room were testament to this, people got it and it was mind blowing! Though, the "holy sh!ts" from those using GW paints may have had a slight edge of frustration to them, eh Charlie? ;). For the 2 brush blending technique Meg uses you need a paint with a longer working time, something that GW paints are not noted for.... Those with PP paints in their collection became very popular..

Through all of the tutorials Meg made great use of discussion on colour theory to tie the steps together. Having the discussion approach gave the colour theory much more context and made it understandable for everyone. Also having a selection of her minis available for reference was a great aid to discussion, allowing topics to wander over to "how did you do this colour", "what technique did you use to achieve this?"..

A view from the naughty table

The afternoon was interspersed with the discussion and eyes and faces.

6 step eyes... yes SIX steps to 28mm eyes!!! oh, and you do the eyes BEFORE you shade and highlight the face... no, seriously, you do cos Meg says and she really is right! (See the continuation of the 'I've been doing it wrong' theme?) the faces continued the 2 brush blending theme and a discussion on skin tones and how to work them through. this was pretty much the rest of the afternoon with lots of "oh my god"s and other exclamations as people got it.

see, lipstick, eyes, eyebrows and a beauty spot! I could not have painted like this on Friday!

Day 2 came along with more sunshine and plenty of light. I have to say a huge thanks to Sue and Heretaunga College for the venue - we couldn't have asked for better!

Metallics, hair, free hand and glow effects were the order of the day for day 2.. with more colour theory!! :)

and, guess what - metallics with 2 brush blending. The choice of shading tones has a real impact on the final effect. annoyingly I feel I did better on the back of the rifle stock than I did on the front but didn't take a pic :(

the hair went a bit better:

I managed to bring out the filigree on the stock and a bit more detail on Tonto.. I couldn't bring myself to tackle the basket of flowers.....

I didn't get around to applying Megs free hand and glow effects tutorials to my mini but I definitely have a much better idea of how to approach them for future projects.

All in all, I was really happy with how the mini had turned out and the techniques that Meg somehow managed to get into my head will definitely stay with me for later work, there is NO way I'm not using 2 brush blending at every opportunity!!

All 16 people at the class had a great mini to show off at the end with everyone learning so much!

For anyone considering asking Meg to run a class you should stop thinking about it and just do it! Organise your fellow painters and get a date and venue sorted, you will not be disappointed. Meg manages to impart so much of her passion and enthusiasm for painting whilst still giving a technically excellent lesson that suits all abilities - you don't have to be a top painter to really step up your game with Meg but already great painters will learn a lot too! Go into the lesson with a willingness to learn, with the odd fun sidetrack and you'll have great time and come out the other end a much better painter for it.

I will be working to coax Meg back to continue her great work sometime in the future - I'll definitely be keeping in touch! (until she un-friends me on Facebook and blocks my email address anyway! ;o) )


PG Palarel

Friday, 14 February 2014

Legion - A Horus Heresy Book Review


Spoilers abound in these posts, if you haven’t read the books and will get upset by finding out what happens just stop.

This is also not a recap, if you want a recap go to Lexicanium.

What The Black Library says about the book

A Great War is coming, and it will engulf the Imperium of Man. The Space Marines of the Alpha Legion, the last and most secretive of all the Astartes brotherhoods, arrive on a heathen world to support the Imperial Army in a pacification campaign against strange and uncanny forces. But what drives the Alpha Legion? Can they be trusted, and what side will they choose when the Great War begins? Loyalties are put to the test, and the cunning schemes of an alien intelligence revealed in this latest installment of the ground-breaking SF series by Dan Abnett, as the fate of mankind hangs in the balance.

What the book is really about?

Legion is a very different book from the others in the series so far. The best way to describe it is that it is a spy thriller. The whole book is about conspiracies and plots, with different groups spying on each other for different reasons. There are no less than five factions involved in this intrigue and it makes for great reading.

First of all, there is the local “deviant human race” (the Nurth) that the imperials are trying to subjugate. They specialise in guerrilla warfare and lightning raids (as well as “air magic”….. basically warp magic). They are defending their world from “compliance” (Such a spin doctor for an invasion) because they are chaos worshipping nutjobs armed with spears and black magic.

Then, there is the geno-regiment. The main human protagonists are part of this fascinating group. The regiment is ruled over by a cabal of low level psychic women whose eggs are harvested when they mature and vat grown into soldiers. These “uxors” use their psychic abilities for command and control of the vat grown soldiers. They are supported by “Hetmen”, non-genetically modified veteran officers who provide direct leadership and command on the field. It’s an interesting model, solid dependable grunts, veteran grizzled sergeants, and psychic female officers. I like it a lot and the dynamic between the three groups is believable, and more importantly, would be combat effective.

The Cabal is introduced in this book and they are a fascinating concept. A group of alien races that have been working against chaos since humans were grunting apes (So at least before 1977). The Cabal have deployed one of their human agents to negotiate with the Alpha legion and to get their help in the war against chaos. To this end they have sent a man whose sole role in life seems to be to eat scenery, and that is John Grammaticus. I’ll take more about John later, but he is essentially the 40k universes James Bond.

The Alpha Legion are the fourth faction at play here. Summoned to the warzone by the machinations of the Cabal they are conducting a shadow war against the Nurth and not really telling the imperial command exactly what they are up too. The Alpha Legion use a combination of hit and run tactics, covert operations and their own non-astartes spy network to cause trouble. 

Finally there is the imperial commander and his retinue of “Lucifer blacks”. The commander is suspicious of everyone and is pretty pissed that the Legion is just conducting operations in his warzone and keeping him in the dark.

The story builds into one giant cluster f** of suspicion, spying, intrigue and deceit. It’s all good.

Why are there humans in my book about super powered Space Marines?

This is a human centric book, something Dan Abnett seems to excel at. If your idea of a great 40k book is one about wooden space marine stereotypes being heroic and killing stuff with the power of AWESOME, then this is not the book for you. (Battle for the abyss is the book for you, read it while you sit in your mom’s basement cuddling your Marneus Calgar pillow case)

The human characters are all relatively well fleshed out. I really like the buddy duo of the curmudgeonly pragmatic Hetman Bronzi and his maudlin friend Hetman Soneka. These two veteran soldiers are portrayed well, as guys who have been around a warzone for most of their lives and are willing to do practically anything to survive.

The Uxors are interesting as well as young ladies in command positions. Abnett does a fine job of presenting their mixture of youth and the responsibility that comes from being able to perceive and control thousands of soldiers. I really liked the concept of the geno units.

Even the imperial commander and his bodyguards are presented in an interesting light. It would have been easy to make the commander into a bit of a fool being outplayed by the Alpha Legion, and while he ultimately ends up on the losing side, its after he’s figured out exactly what is going on. Unfortunately for him, he ends up figuring it all out just a bit too late.    

MVP – John Grammaticus

John is an interesting character. On one hand he is a wish fulfilment character, he’s immortal, he has super powers, he’s boning a hot woman, and he’s a super spy. I normally hate these sort of characters, but John is written with such charm that you end up rooting for him. His story arc is good, and it reveals him as a flawed human far more than the uber awesome super spy he initially comes across as.

 John Grammaticus an immortal super spy........

Worst Character – Um……?

No character in this book truly sucks. I’m serious, there was not a single character that made me want to scrape my eyes out: Perhaps the elder douche who keeps calling humans monkeys, but that was pretty minor.

Blue/Purple? Who knows?

Get to know your Legion – The Alpha Legion

If I was designing the Space Marines, they would have ended up like the Alpha Legion: Smart, dirty, clinically efficient and without the steaming piles of hubris the mar the other legions.

Instead of dropping head first into the first combat target that appears, the Alpha Legions tactics involve gathering intelligence, using infiltrators and spies, and generally only attack important targets at the most opportune times.

Most legions battle plans so far seem to be as follows.

“Right men, the enemy is here….. we think…. It certainly looks like they are there and one of them called me a knob. How about we all load up and drop pod onto the first thing we see and beat it to death with our hands. Alright, last marine to the drop pods is a poof”

An actual strategy seems sorely lacking, mostly it comes down to applying brute force and winning because your soldiers are 8 foot tall genetically engineered supermen in power armour who eat lead and shit bullets.

The Alpha Legion are different and I totally love them for it.

Oh, I really love the scene where an Alpha Legion warrior waltzes through a laser security grid without setting off the systems and is all “yeah, we know you have security, we took precautions, we are the Alpha Legion, your silly little security system is no match for us dude.”

Get to know your Primarch – Alpharius Omegon

Right, if you really don’t want spoilers stop reading…..



Ok, if you’ve read this far you either know what the reveal is, you don’t care, or you are functionally illiterate.

There are two Primarchs of the Alpha Legion, twins called Alpharius and Omegon.

What I really like is that they are a wee bit smaller and less MAGNIFICENT than the other Primarchs, and that they have surgically altered their men to look like them. I really like the “I AM SPARTACUS” routine they have going with each and every legionnaire identifying themselves as Alpharius.

These guys seem smart, level-headed and generally admirable warriors. They also seem to be absent the raging inferiority complex that all the other Primarchs seem to suffer from. When Horus is begging for praise and Lorgar is worshipping, the Alpha Legion duo are off blowing up stuff and not taking the credit for it.

Yeah, Primarchs that are not completely head over heels with promoting everything they do. Weird I know!

I really like how they swap who is Alpharius and who is Omegon, and that they even share the roles amongst their men while pretending to be random foot soldiers.

I can see how these guys felt alienated from their brother Primarchs though. Being the only level headed dudes in a room full of ego-maniacs would do that.

One of these things is just like another

Why the Emperor is a giant douche

Chaos and the warp….. again.  

It’s a big freaking deal that he never mentions this to his Primarchs. Yet again, a legion is tripped and falls because the Emperor thinks that the best policy with chaos is to ignore it and lie to his people.


Moustache twirling evil-bastard award – Soneka and Bronzi

I really enjoy these guys and their character arc, from grumpy old veteran soldiers, to hard bitten agents of the Alpha Legion. Soneka wins the award for his final betrayal at the end of the book, really nicely done.

The writing – technical review and evaluation

Good book, good human characters and an intriguing story that introduces new concepts, creates a believable alpha legion and shakes up the story quite a bit with its reveals.

This is one of the few Horus Heresy books that is a genuinely good book in its own right.

This book gets a “must read” rating. (5/5)

Book Rankings

This is a new Feature, where i will be ranking the books from my favorite, to least favorite so far. 

 In short, Abnett good, McNeill ok, Counter bad.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Cephalyx faction for Warmachine - Video and first thoughts

Click to watch Privateer press launch video

OK, I must admit to not being entirely excited at the idea of a Cephalyx faction. However, after watching this video and hearing what the faction will be like, I'm willing to admit that they sound pretty cool. 

For those of you who aren't aware the Cephalyx have been in Warmachine for a while. They have been mercenary allies that Cryx have been able to take. before this release they had two units. One, a small group of mind controlling chaps like the one below. And the other one mind controlling chap and a bunch of mooks called drudges. 

Am I evil? Yes I am. 

The Cephalyx are your classic subterranean mind controlling evil slave race, like Morlocks and Mind Flayers. The imagery is very much in line with evil nazi scientists combined with the dudes from Hellraiser. 

The faction is described as being one consisting of three major elements. 

Drudges - shock troops, meat walls and beatsticks there to be used an abused. 

Cephalyx - Manipulators and controllers, it sounds like there will be a lot of solos and UA's that can exploit your drudges to your advantage

Monstrosities - Big slabs of meat that take the place of warjacks. 

This combination sounds like it could be a lot of fun to play. 

It's also going to a merc contract, so I wonder how many of these guys will be usable in a cryx list? 

Not warbeasts at all, more like warjacks

So monstrosities are mostly like warjacks, they don't use fury and they don't frenzy. I'm curious to see how many abilities this nullifies on them, as I imagine its quite a few. (I see yet more things immune to disruption......

They note this in the video, but ill draw some more focus to it. They have low points costs, pretty ordinary stat's and a bucket load of hit boxes. 

These things will take a pounding, and at 6-7 odd points they are pretty respectable. I'd expect to see more than 1 or 2 in a list, that's for sure. 

They have only shown one caster, but hes a doozie.

8 focus, telekinesis, arc noding monstrosities and a feat that sounds like it could be "telekenetic" in nature. They also hint at influence and a morale breaking spell. 

Not only that, the figure is simply amazing. 

Anyways, considerably more excited for this now that i've seen the models and heard a little bit about the faction.

My next bet for PP is a hordes "compact" faction like Convergence of Cyriss was for Warmachine. My bets are on a faction for Blighterghasts Alliance. 

Yep, different spawn from different dragons. A lot of potential there i think, and the books keeps bringing blighterghast and the alliance into the story, a lot more than either the Cephalyx or Convergence have been.  

Monday, 3 February 2014

My muse has returned! - Ol Rowdy teaser

After nine months of not wanting to paint a single thing, the urge has returned

Today was spent assembling models and doing some prep work.

the highlight of today was assembling Ol'Rowdy, who has been sitting in a box for 9 months being neglected. I'm looking forward to painting this guy in my character warjack scheme (Gold Dominant) and getting him on the table.

Oh, i also ordered a bunch of minis today. 

Prepare for updates!

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