Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: The First Heretic

Recently finished the most recent release for the Horus Heresy series, so decided I'd write a review of it.

The First Heretic is the 14th book in the series, and is written by Aaron Dembski-Bowden ('easily the coolest name' according to a clip from the DLT podcasts).  He's written a few other books for Black Library, but I don't believe I've read any of them yet.

The novel covers Lorgar and his legion, the Word Bearers.  There are three phases to the book, which are actually divided to help the reader out:
Grey, the Word Bearers fall from grace, and their punishment by the Emperor.
Pilgrimage, their voyage to discover Gods worthy of their worship and go to the place where 'gods and man meet' or some such, and
Crimson, their first steps as a legion of Chaos.

I'll highlight the good/bad things about the book, and what I think of it overall- I don't think there is much in the way of spoilers, since the basic story (the Word Bearers turn to Chaos) is not surprising to fans of the universe.

First, the overall progression of the story is fantastic.  Covering some 43 years of Word Bearers history is pretty significant given the end result of the period.  As you read, you get to see how a very very loyal (and faithful legion) gets on the Emperor's 'bad side', and how it is hinted to be very close to receiving the same treatment two of the other legions (the expunged legions).  You also get the whole story as to the journey of discovery the legion undertook to search for the gods of the Old Faith- who they are convinced exist, since so many different worlds in very different parts of the galaxy have stories related to them.  Upon finding the gods, we get to experience the legion's transformation into the new Word Bearers, as well as read about the first Possessed.  The story moved along pretty well throughout.  There was plenty of dialogue, which is important for fleshing out the background of the Horus Heresy, but there was no shortage of action (including another perspective of Isstvan V) to help break up the 'slower' parts.

To me, the focus of the Horus Heresy series is (or largely should be) on the Primarchs, and this book does a great job of that.  Lorgar features heavily and there are interactions with Guilliman, Magnus, and Corax (briefly), as well as appearances by Perturabo, Konrad Curze, and Alpharius.  Corax, Guilliman, and Perturabo really haven't been in the series thus far, so their inclusion was a nice bonus (at least for me).  Curze has only been in the Audiobooks, so again, I loved the fact he was in it.  Of course, the focus of the book is on Lorgar, and the book does a fantastic job filling in details of his personality and skills (largely as an orator).  It also makes a point to show that he is VERY different than his brothers when it comes to combat skills.  Lorgar laments several times throughout the book on this, early on saying "I will never understand tactics and logistics with the effortless ease of Guilliman or the Lion.  I will never possess the skill with a blade shown by Fulgrim or the Khan," as he struggles with his role in the galaxy.  As the book progresses, he struggles with his role and beliefs, finally deciding to worship gods that WANT to be worshipped, and provide gifts to those that do. 

This book, like the first few in the series, I think does a GREAT job of really giving the reader a view into the mind of a genetically engineered superhuman- something I think makes these books the best in the series.  You get to know Lorgar, his goals, his feelings on faith and the universe (and his place in it), and also you sympathize somewhat with the reasons for his turning traitor.  Dembski-Bowden does a fantastic job of getting you inside Lorgar's head, as well as any of the authors in the series have done so far.

I love the new perspective on the battle of Isstvan V.  Sure, we read about the battle somewhat in Fulgrim, but here we read about the roles of some of the various traitor legions who came towards the end of the fight, as well as how the massacre at the end unfolded.  Lorgar's role in the battle was an interesting read, as well as the interactions between him and two of his brothers.

Overall, I'd say this is a great addition to the series- indeed I think it's one of the stronger books in the series, and although it hasn't moved the story on past Isstvan, knowing the background behind another legion's fall and the brief lead-up to the battle on Calth (where the Word Bearers fight the Ultramarines, delaying their movement to defend Terra) is fascinating.  If you love the series, you'll read it anyway.  If you have interest in the Word Bearers, there are plenty of background bits to warrant reading it on its own.

**** SPOILERS? ****

You know, there's a point where Ingethel is showing 'truths' to members of the Word Bearers legion, including Argel Tal, and implies/states flat out that the Emperor only learned of the science needed to create the Primarchs (and the Adeptus Astartes and Custodes) by interaction with the Chaos gods.  I wonder how true that is.  It could be a trick of the Chaos gods, but if it's true... that really throws the Imperium in a new light, and especially changes how I'd view the Emperor.  That's just a crazy insinuation.  That whole scene is just filled with a lot of revelations about the universe, assuming they are all true.

I LOVE the references to the missing legions.  To me, one of the more interesting parts is a member of the Word Bearers implying that they may have had to fight one of those legions at one point, that it was indeed a heartbreaking moment in history, and that the loss of one (or both) of the legions is what gave the Ultramarines their recruiting numbers, helping them to become the most populous of the legions.  We may never know what the truth behind those legions were (story-wise, I understand their role from Games Workshop's standpoint), but it is fun to read hints about them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can't seem to protect my warcaster! (Cryx vs Trollbloods, 25pts, 11/16/10)

Ben and I played another game during our lunch break.

My list:
Iron Lich Asphyxious
- Nightwretch
- Deathjack
- Slayer
Bane Thralls (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Bane Lord Tartarus
Ben had expressed a lack of fear over the Cryx jacks, aside from Arc Nodes.  I wanted to try to run more jacks, and hope to inspire some terror.

Ben's list:
Captain Gunnbjorn
* Troll Impaler
* Troll Impaler
* Dire Troll Bomber
Pyg Burrowers (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Trollkin Sluggers (Leader and 4 Grunts)

This is actually 26 points, but I doubt the single point mattered ;).  Ben has loved Gunnbjorn ever since seeing the concept art for him, so he's been eager to get him on the board.

Our terrain was our normal lunch-time setup.  3 walls, two rough patches, and a column (a salt shaker) in the middle.

I deployed first, and put Asphyxious and the jacks near the middle (the Deathjack was in the middle, just further up due to Advance Deployment), and my Bane models to my right.

Ben deployed Gunnbjorn in the center, an Impaler and his Sluggers off to my left, his Burrowers to my right, and everything else fairly near Gunnbjorn.

I advanced everything forward, but hid Asphyxious and my jacks behind a wall, so they wouldn't take much shooting.  I sent my Nightwretch forward, but it turned out to be out of range for arcing spells.  Ben responded by taking a few shots at my Bane Thralls, but didn't do any damage.  His Burrowers crept on up near the Bane Thralls, however.  Shooting from the Impaler and Gunnbjorn killed the poor bonejack.

I moved my jacks out of cover- the Deathjack ran towards the Sluggers, the Slayer and Asphyxious moved towards the middle, and Asphyxious camped his focus.  My Bane Thralls kept advancing (through a patch of rough terrain), and Bane Lord Tartarus tried to run around a long wall on my right.

One of Ben's Impalers started the turn off by Frenzying, rushing towards his Sluggers, but not quite reaching them.  His Burrowers popped up, and killed 4 of the 6 Bane Thralls.  The Sluggers opened fire on my Death jack, at d3 shots apiece, but ended up doing about 10 damage.  His Bomber attempted to assist, but found himself out of range.  Not quite the effective turn he wanted.

I went aggressive at this point.  The Deathjack charged into the previously frenzied Impaler, killing it, and healing 5 points of damage.  Next turn, I was going to have it start eating through the Sluggers.  Bane Lord Tartarus moved up behind the Burrowers, killing 3 (and replenishing some Bane Thralls) before the Bane Thralls activated, killing the Burrower unit.

Asphyxious charged the Bomber, dealing a ton of damage... then Teleported away.  As we'll see, that was a huge mistake.

Ben was pretty excited at this point, cast Guided Fire, and fired with Gunnbjorn, getting a Critical Devastation, knocking Asphyxious down and back, and dealing a LOT of damage to him.  The Impaler next to him stepped up and finished the job.  Loss for Cryx.

Really, I had this game, but I was a little stupid with Asphyxious.  I keep neglecting to pop his feat when he's in danger, wanting to use the extra focus for his turn offensively.  Had I kept smacking the Bomber (probably killing it) with the last two focus instead of Teleporting, and popped my feat for the 7 focus, I probably would've survived.  At that point, I probably could've won the game, since I had already dealt so much damage to the Troll forces.

I'm really going to have to work to remembering that.  Twice now, I've had this happen.  Going to try harder to make sure there's not a third.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I haven't been idle, I swear!

This past weekend, I finished clipping the counters for Nations at War: White Star Rising, and read the rules.  I'm planning to get the first solo play done tonight or Friday night, so look for a battle report soon!  Hopefully a few more games later, I'll get my first game review up.

Two Quick Battle Reports

Played two games last week, and although I didn't take pictures, I'll write brief reports up just for my own memory, and the enjoyment of whoever will bother reading them.

Game 1:
First game was last Wednesday, at 25 points.  My Cryx vs. BK's Menoth.

My list:
Iron Lich Asphyxious
- Nightwretch
- Deathjack
- Skarlock Thrall
Bane Thralls (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Mechanithralls (Leader and 9 Grunts)
Pistol Wraith

Fairly standard stuff, I think.  I was trying to take a decent variety of things to show BK different things about Cryx.  I thought the Deathjack would be fun, since I knew he would be taking the Avatar, and having the two on the table could be a pretty great battle.

BK's list:
Harbinger of Menoth
- Crusader
- Hierophant
Avatar of Menoth
Choir of Menoth (Leader and 5 Grunts)
High Paladin Dartan Vilmon
Paladin of the Order of the Wall
Paladin of the Order of the Wall
Vassal Mechanik

BK took a Tier 3 Harbinger list, which has been the primary focus of his Warmachine purchases from the very beginning.  I think he just loves him some Paladins.

The table was very basic, flat terrain, with a lot of small patches of rough terrain.  Not many interesting terrain features, although BK's theme list puts out some Wall Templates which really screwed with me.

BK got the first turn, chose to go first, and deployed all of his guys near the middle of his deployment zone, fairly close together.

I did my usual 'fill the board' deployment, with Bane Thralls on the right, Mechanithralls in the middle, jacks, the Pistol Wraith, and my warcaster on the right.

For the first turn, we basically pushed everything forward.  BK used the walls to gain a defensive position while advancing the Avatar towards my line.  I set up my guys for a potential charge on his Paladins or the Avatar next turn should he move forward.

BK took the bait somewhat, charging Vilmon into my Nightwretch, killing it, then using the Avatar's Gaze to lock some of my models in place (the Mechanithralls mainly).  The Harbinger slowly advanced, primarily to ensure that Vilmon was in her control area.

Turns out... I was taking the bait ;).  Asphyxious gets into position a few inches away from Vilmon, and drops some spells on him, which the Harbinger Martyrdoms away.  My Bane Thralls then charge, killing him twice more, meaning 3 more damage on the Harbinger.  My Pistol Wraith attempts to shoot at the Vassal Mechanik, hidden next to one of the wall obstacles, but fails to hit.

BK has the Avatar charge the Bane Thralls, killing the 4 who were around Vilmon.  Vilmon then charges Asphyxious, who was left pretty much in the open, because I didn't see the danger.  Ugh.  Well, he has a lot of health, I'm sure I can survive.  4 dice, dice-1 for damage... BK rolls a 20.  Game over.

BK played very well for not having much experience, and I was a little disappointed I didn't give him more of a game.  I had him use some of his other models to beat on me, just so he could see their relative power.  I'm sure our next game will be a lot closer.  At least I hope so!

Game 2:
Game 2 was a 35 point game, played on Thursday, against Rob's Karchev list.  I chose to try out Epic Asphyxious.

Rob did take pictures of this game, but it does take him a bit to upload them ;).

My list:
Lich Lord Asphyxious
- Cankerworm
- Nightwretch
- Nightwretch
- Skarlock Thrall
Bane Knights (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Bane Thralls (Leader and 5 Grunts)
The Withershadow Combine
Bane Lord Tartarus
Pistol Wraith
Pistol Wraith

Really, I had no idea what was best to take with him, so I went for my usual things, expecting the Bane models to be what I use for his feat.  I haven't tried using the Cankerworm prior to this either, but sadly, I don't think I got a good handle on him from this game.  Maybe next one.

Rob's list:
Karchev the Terrible
- Beast-09
- Behemoth
- Berserker
Greylord Ternion (Leader and 2 Grunts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution
Koldun Lord
Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator

Rob's in love with Karchev lately, and he even wrote an article on him.

The tables had a few buildings on the right and left side, with some walls near the middle.  I went first.

I spread out, with Asphyxious, the jacks, and the Pistol Wraiths on my left, all of my Bane models on the right.

Most of his army was deployed on my right, aside from Eiryss who deployed in woods closer to the center of the table.

I basically started off the game advancing everything forward.

Rob advanced Karchev, using tow, and turned around to get his jacks close to the center of the board, prepared to fight me.  Everything else advanced, aside from Eiryss, who took a shot at a Nightwretch and disrupted it.

I sent the Pistol Wraiths through the forest to try to Death Chill some of his jacks, to give me the chance to send the Bane models in, prepared to cause a ton of damage.  First Pistol Wraith shot at the Behemoth, needing anything but snake-eyes to hit, and missed on the second shot.  The Second Pistol Wraith chose the same target... and then missed on the second shot.  Ugh.

The Banes all advanced up; close enough to be a threat to Rob's jacks next turn.  I manage to get a Parasite onto the Behemoth.

Rob hesitated a bit with his movement, and had his jacks mill about, although the Behemoth succeeded in killing both Pistol Wraiths.  Eiryss dealt some damage to Asphyxious.  The Greylords and Koldun Lord moved up, and killed 2 of the Bane Knights, due to poor rolling.

The Bane Knights made their Vengeance move, and killed the a few Greylords.  Bane Lord Tartarus charged into the Berserker, nearly destroying it, and a few Bane Knights came with him, nearly wrecking the jack.  I moved Asphyxious up to try to throw some damage onto the opposing jacks, but couldn't roll well for damage.  The Skarlock moved up and tried to cast a spell onto Eiryss, missed, and died for his efforts.

Karchev moved forward, and cast Unearthly Rage.  He followed this by charging Beast-09 into Asphyxious, dealing decent damage, but not serious.  The Behemoth, with nothing to get into combat with shot at the Withershadow Combine, dealing small amounts of damage off the scatter.  The Berserker failed to kill any of the Bane Knights assailing it.

Asphyxious laid into Beast-09, not dealing tremendous damage, but hurting it some, then Teleported away to safety.  The Cankerworm attempted to follow up, but didn't do much better on the damage rolls, even with the Armor Piercing attack.  Ugh.  Tartarus and the Bane Knights did succeed in killing off the last Greylord and the Berserker though. 

Karchev again advanced, dropped an Eruption template in front of him (killing a Bane Thrall, probably) to stop Asphyxious from feating and killing him (smart!).  Beast-09 tried to get into contact with Aspyxious, but couldn't. 

The game ended with Tartarus and all the Bane Knights charging into Karchev, and after some favorable damage rolls, ending him.

The game was, sadly, fairly one-sided towards the end, although he did manage to get some pressure on my warcaster which isn't common.  I think Rob needs to spend another turn towing his warjacks into position to ensure he gets the charge into my lines next time.  With that said, after some practice, this could be a much more difficult matchup!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Local Competition October Results

Painting: Well, the only one of us that did anything was Frans, who primed almost his entire army, as well as worked on painting some of the weapons for his army.

Construction: BK wins this one, although Frans was a VERY close second!

Blogging: I win here, since most of my friends didn't blog all last month.

Gaming: I finally wrest a point away from Frans here, but I'm sure this won't last ;).

So the totals:

Frans: 5 (3 Playing, 1 Construction, 1 Painting)
Ben: 4 (3 Painting, 1 Blogging)
Steve (me): 4 (3 Blogging, 1 Gaming)
BK: 2 (2 Construction)
Rob: 1 (1 Construction)
Nathan: 0

Frans has the sole lead at the moment, and there's only two months to go!  Frans ALSO has the most variety of points, which shows he's definitely working hard!

Accomplishments for October

Well, another month down.  Let's see what I managed to get done.

Painting: Nothing

Assembly: I assembled the Withershadow Combine, and Lich Lord Asphyxious.  It would have been more, but Asphyxious was a bit of a pain...

Gaming: Ben has been too terrified to game with me at work, so I only played 2 games of Warmachine (both 25 pts, one as a three-player game), and 2 games of Blood Bowl (solo).

Blogging: Again, you can just read them here.

Will have the competition results up as soon as I can!