Archive for the Totally worth it Category

The State of the Hunt, Week 51/2017: Gosh, is it that time of year already?

Posted in 30k, 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, Totally worth it, WIP with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2017 by krautscientist

Well would you believe it: Christmas has managed to sneak up on me again! With so much to do and so little time left this year, the one thing I definitely want to achieve is to publish another round of my annual Eternal Hunt Awards, and I am currently gathering material for that and preparing the posts — wish me luck 😉

Until then, allow me to address some assorted news straight from my messy hobby lab:

 

I. More grimdark games…

I would like to start with an addendum to my recent post about grimdark video games, mostly because I forgot to include two particularly striking examples on my list

The first is an incredibly 40k-ish moment in a game that is otherwise just about the least grimdark game you could possibly imagine:

Final Fantasy IX is, for the uninitiated among you, a callback to the series’ earlier, more innocent days, with lots of cutesy characters, talking animals, super-deformed character design and an all around cuteness that has held up remarkably well over the years. However, the game also features the regency of Lindblum, an industrious and advanced city state that basically looks like a hive:


Lindblum is a multi level city scape that seems like the love child of Victorian era London and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis…appearing in a Disney film — but then that’s Japanese JRPG eclecticism for you 😉

Seriously, though: Given Final Fantasy IX’s endearing overall design, it should be no surprise that we are dealing with a rather cutesy version of a hive here — no gang wars or underhive mutants to be found. There’s a pretty spiffy theatre district, though:

Back when the game was first released, Lindblum was one of the most stunning locales ever to be featured in a roleplaying game. And its design is still lovely many years later — with the added bonus of actually giving us a decent impression of what a bustling hive city might actually look like…minus the Moogles and talking animal people, that is:

The other addition to my list of grimdark games is a baffling oversight, in retrospect, because it has to be the most  incredibly 40k/INQ28 game ever to not bear the actual license:

A postapocalyptic adventure game, Dark Earth is set centuries after a big cataclysm has managed to wipe out modern civilisation. The dust and grime from the earth-shattering cataclysm have managed to permanently clog the atmosphere, casting the whole planet into darkness. The sole remains of civilisation cluster around so-called “Stallites”, city states construced around areas where light is still available by scientific or natural means. It probably won’t surprise you at this point that those stallites share more than a passing resemblance with 40k’s hive cities, even though they are slightly more medieval than your average 40k hive.


The society presented by the game is fascinating, though — and oh so INQ28 in style: With everything within the city geared towards maintaining the life-preserving light, society has adapted and stratified accordingly, with a solar priest class and a warrior caste – the Flame Guardians – at the top of society. Dark Earth puts you in the shoes of Arkhan, member of the Flame Guardians, who gets infected with a creeping corruption while fending off an attempt on the high pristess’ life. With his body slowly beginning to mutate and reshape into a creature of darkness, Arkhan embarks on a frantic quest to uncover a treacherous plot that might threaten the entire stallite before his time is up. Cast from his upper class surroundings, he must discover the seedier parts of the city — a veritable underhive full of malcontents, paupers and cultists.


Sounds like an Inquisitor campaign, doesn’t it? Indeed, the game’s scenario seems incredibly 40k in hindsight, if on a slightly more feudalistic level. There’s also a very distinctive look and feel to the game world: If you are into French graphic novels, you’ll find a lot to like here, as the game’s developer, Kalisto, is a French studio and certainly knows how to imbue their setting with the right style. The idea of Arkhan slowly transforming into a deformed monster also adds an intriguing, if slightly stressful, element to the game. All in all, I remember being quite taken with the game when I played it during the late 90s!

Dark Earth was originally planned as a series, and it’s readily obvious how much world building the folks at Kalisto did for the game and the planned sequels. Alas, it was not to be: A sequel for the Playstation 2 was cancelled without much fanfare. In an interesting twist of fate, however, it seems the world of Dark Earth did actually spawn a pretty successful (tabletop) roleplaying setting in its native France — and deservedly so, because the setting and general ideas behind Dark Earth were pretty fantastic!

Unfortunately, the game is not currently available on Steam or GoG (there’s a petition, though). You can – and should –  read up on the game in more detail over at Hardcoregaming101 (a highly recommended resource, by the way!), and there’s also a trailer giving you an impression of the overall style (and the badly aged CGI) here:

 

 

II. Digging in for Christmas

One of the best hobby moments of 2017 was when BubblesMcBub, whom I met during my visit to Amsterdam, sent me almost the entire Death Guard part of the Dark Imperium boxed set. In return, I promised him a couple of conversions, and I have been terribly neglectful about honouring that particular promise, due to a combination of laziness and RL reasons.

It goes without saying, however, that I remain committed to honouring our agreement, so the first model I have built for Bubbles shall make its way to the Netherlands, along with some odds and ends, later this week — and hopefully even in time for Christmas. But what kind of model are we talking about?

For starters, Bubbles wanted an officer for his Iron Warriors, and he told me he would like to see a Khornate Iron warrior to boot. No sweat, right? The one complication was that Bubbles’ Iron Warriors have a much cleaner, 30k-inspired look than the very baroque CSM I usually build, so I tried to dial back my usual style a bit.

So my task was to…

  • come up with a suitably imposing officer/champion
  • incorporating some classically Khornate attributes
  • at the same time, I still wanted him to clearly read as an Iron Warrior, so he needed to look suitably no-nonsense and slightly techy as well.
  • keeping the model clean enough to work with the rest of Bubbles’ army.

So without much further ado, here’s the model I built:





Personally speaking, I think I’ve hit a pretty good middle ground between “obviously Khornate” and “still fairly professionally Iron Warrior-sy”. And more importantly, BubblesMcBub seems to be happy with the model as well, which is what matters! So hang in there for a few days longer, mate! I’ll be swinging by the post office ASAP 😉

 

III. What else is new?

In other news, I am also gearing up for some long-overdue hobby time over the holidays: I’ve picked up the wonderful new Necromunda boxed set and am currently salivating over those lovely gang sprues. Nothing has been built yet — although some Goliath bitz have already made their way into my 30k World Eaters collection. Anyway, expect to hear from my firsthand experiments with the new sprues soon-ish.

And even though my painting output hasn’t been all that incredible this year – at least where mere numbers are concerned – I think I might have one more model in me for 2017. This guy:



I am still rather happy with the conversion, and the model should also make for an excellent capstone for 2017 — seeing how the very first model I painted this year was another converted plastic Contemptor, Vaako the Immortal, a model I am still enormously proud of:

So yeah, let’s hope this all works out! If all goes according to plan, the first post of this year’s Eternal Hunt Awards should go live later this week — keep your fingers crossed for me 😉 And I’ll make sure to put in some painting, in between all the sleeping and the eating. What about you guys, though? Any last minute chores or hobby commitments? As always, I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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Grimdark video games?!

Posted in 40k, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2017 by krautscientist

Hey everyone, something a bit different today — I hope you’ll appreciate the variety, even if it means a lack of new painted models. So what is this about?

It’s very common for hobbyists to talk about their inspiration: Whether it comes down to creating conversions or narratives, most of us will inevitably build on influences and concepts from many different sources, such as film, art, literature or personal experiences from RPG groups. To wit, the entire 40k universe itself is based on so many different influences, and has grown into a massive, unwieldy, eclectic and brilliant mixture of a thousand references, ranging from 80s pop culture to every SciFi and gothic cliché ever.

Today’s post, therefore, will deal with yet another possible source of inspiration when it comes to get a feeling for the kind of narrative that would work in the 40k universe, and the kind of characters that would populate such a narrative. And while I draw lots of my own hobby inspiration from the aforementioned media (with sources as diverse as David Lynch’s Dune adaptation, Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan & Gormenghast and Charles Dickens as some of my favourite influences), today I would like to talk about another possible influence: the wonderful world of video games.

Now some of you may remember that I am a huge video game nerd. It’s a medium that I have been endlessly fascinated with for a very long time now, and it continues to interest aesthetically, narratively and professionally .

I could wax poetical on the many fascinating, obscure or downright grotesque features that turn digital games into such a riveting subject for me, but that’s not really the focus of this blog. So let us rather focus on a couple of games that have influenced my hobby life by inspiring characters, narratives or just a general style in my own hobby work.

Before we begin, however, a disclaimer of sorts: By no means is the following collection of titles and influences an exhaustive collection, nor is it intended to be. It’s also very possible that you know each and every one of those games, so the post could turn out to be old news to you. And finally, to be fair, this post has also been simmering away in the back of my head for quite a while now, so be warned that it may actually have moved away from actual 40k a bit, dealing – at least to some degree – more with games and game series that I find inspiring, period. That being said, if you enjoy 40k and Inquisitor and all that, and if you are interested in visually and/or narratively interesting videogames, the following titles might be worth a look. And who know: Just like me, you may even get an idea for an army, a conversion or an INQ28 retinue out of it. So let’s take a look:

 

I. Legacy of Kain series

It seems weird to me that the Legacy of Kain series seems to have become almost a bit obscure by today’s standards, when it used to be a rather common household name in video game circles – and even a veritable system seller – during the late 90s and early 2000s.

The series’ development history is rather complicated and convoluted, with different developers and teams adding their own perspective to the series, and acclaimed video game writer Amy Hennig (possibly best known for her role on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series these days) ending up with the task of somehow binding it all together into a semi-coherent overarching narrative.

Fascinating as those tribulations are, however, I don’t even want to get into the details here. Suffice it to say that the series started with Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (basically “The Legend of Zelda” with vampires), which was followed by Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (basically “Tomb Raider” with Vampires). The series deals with the vampire Kain and his rise (and fall) in the gothic world of Nosgoth, and it introduced both a pretty interesting cast of characters as well as a very distinct look and feel. Just check out Soul Reaver’s intro movie:

One of the series major narrative arcs deals with the conflict between the – seemingly completely amoral – vampire overlord Kain and his fallen former lieutenant Raziel, turned into a twisted wraith at Kain’s behest and now out for revenge — although things turn out to be much more complicated than that, as the series’ narrative is just about as convoluted as its development history. It can be a bit overdesigned and wordy in places, but it’s well worth checking out for yourself!

So why does the series appear on my list? There’s the very grimdark setting, for one: Nosgoth is a very dark and gothic place, where everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket because the man destined to be the world’s saviour refused the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – electing instead to become a depraved, immortal vampire emperor, ruling a failing empire. If that isn’t grimdark, I don’t know what is.

But there’s more: Kain’s dealings with his vampire lieutenants and their ultimate fates remind me a lot of of 40k’s Daemon Primarchs and Traitor Legions: There’s a gravitas and a sense of lost grace here that should seem very familiar to anyone who likes 30k and 40k. There’s also a fair share of purple prose (and some truly excellent voice acting) to be had, so if you want to get a feeling of what a Chaos Space Marine might feel like after millennia of corruption and simmering regret, the Legacy of Kain series provides some very good inspiration on that account!

After several unsuccessful attempts at reviving the series in recent years, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see another entry. The games available so far still tell a (fairly) complete tale of hybris, revenge and redemption, however, and are well worth your time, provided you are prepared to deal with a bit of technical clunkiness (in the earlier games in particular). The entire series, minus the first Blood Omen, is still available via GOG.com, among others. The games cost about 5,00 Euros a pop, and if the series’ premise interests you, I recommend you just snatch them all up: I played nearly all of them back to back, a couple of years ago, and it really helps to get a grip on the rather complicated storyline. You can also read up on the games on Nosgothic Realm, an incredibly expansive fansite.

II. Primal

Like Legacy of Kain, Primal used to be a fairly high profile release back when it first came out in 2003. A Playstation 2 exclusive developed by Sony’s own Cambridge studio, Primal was a fairly ambitious project with incredible production values for the time. Not all that many people seem to remember it these days, which is a shame, especially since it has some rather interesting connections to Games Workshop — but we’ll be getting there in a minute…

The game’s basic premise seems clichéd enough: Perky goth chic Jen is nearly killed by a daemon who just happened to infiltrate a gig of her boyfriend’s Nu-Metal band (I swear I am not making this up!). With Jen’s boyfriend abducted, she finds herself transported to the fantasy dimension of Oblivion, which consists of four realms. The forces of order and chaos, respectively, seek to establish control over these realms, and Abaddon, Lord of chaos, has come dangerously close to toppling the precarious balance of power.

So it falls to Jen, accompanied by adorable gargoyle helper Scree, to travel to the four realms, learn how to transform into different demon forms and re-establish the balance between chaos and order.

Mechnically speaking, Primal is one of those third person action adventure the early 2000s were so very fond of (think Tomb Raider with less climbing and more character interaction). If that doesn’t sound like much to write home about, it’s important to point out that Primal’s production values, its narrative and its pretty excellent cast take the whole affair into some rather interesting directions, so it’s far more interesting than its rather cookie-cutter premise would led you to believe.

There’s yet another reason why Primal would be interesting for every discerning fan of GW’s various IPs: Travelling the game’s world, you cannot shake a general feeling of …familiarity. Take the game’s four realms, serving as its massive levels, and their respective inhabitants: There’s Solum and the Ferai (totally not slightly more lawful-neutral Khorne-worshipping Beastmen), Aquis and the Undine (totally not victims to some kind of slightly Nurglite plague), Aetha and the Wraith (totally not Slaaneshi vampires) and, finally, Volca and the Djinn (totally not worshippers of Tzeentch). The latter, in particular, seem rather GW-ish in design — to the point where the Djinn would make for excellent Tzeentchian champions or daemon princes, as you can see in this video (starting at 11:40, in case YouTube’s timecode widget refuses to work):

Those similarities are far from coincidental, however, as Primal’s lead artist was none other than Mark Gibbons, one of GW’s most prolific artists and illustrators during the early to mid-90s. You know, the guy who did pieces like this:

Artwork by Mark Gibbons

His touch is very noticeable, and there is more than a little vintage GW in the character designs and artwork as well as the art design in the game proper:

What’s more, while the four realms and their inhabitants clearly recall GW’s chaotic factions, the whole idea of of four discreet realms in the game also somewhat recalls the realms that now appear in Age of Sigmar, even though AoS didn’t come around until fairly recently.

An emulated version of Primal is still available on the PlayStation Store (both for the Playstation 3 and 4), and it’s very much worth the price of admission: It may be trying a bit too hard to be edgy and grownup for today’s standards. and it may not be great literature, but the main characters’ banter makes them genuinely endearing, and the production values are still great, even from a modern perspective. And if nothing else, it’s a fascinating example of Mark Gibbons creating something that should feel more than a little familiar for longtime hobbyists, albeit in a different medium and for a different employer.

III. Dishonored series

This next entry is a far more recent series: If you are even slightly into video games right now, chances are you’ve heard of the Dishonored series. It is also one of my current favourites. And it feels a lot like an Inquisitor campaign every now and then, but maybe that’s just me 😉

Dishonored is set in the Empire of the Isles, a setting that invokes Great Britain (in the first game) and its colonies (in the second game) during the early 19th/early 20th century, albeit with a twist: Much of the Empire’s culture seems oddly familiar, but Dishonored’s world also presents a strange and intriguing clash of fantasy, (steampunk) technology and magic. What’s more, there’s a very particular look and feel to the whole affair, ranging from the – almost painterly -realism of its character design (call me crazy, but there’s more than a bit of New Objectivity to be found in the games’ art design) to the general bleak atmosphere of the world, with decadent nobles scheming and vying for power, as disinfranchised smallfolk suffer under their cruelty. Dishonored’s world is very dark, but also quite fascinating. It poses some interesting moral questions and goes to some rather interesting places with them. The way in which the games explore the morality of nonlethal solutions to many of its problems is just one very poignant example.

From a gameplay perspective, the Dishonored games can be visceral, combat-focused revenge fantasies or elegant stealth games — or anything in between, really, purely based on your preferred way of playing. What’s so mechanically great about the games is how they accomodate your playstyle and choices and make the world adapt accordingly in many interesting ways. Like I said, it’s one of my favourite game series at the moment 😉

As for the series’ position on this list, Dishonored can also feel very Inqusitor/INQ28 at times. It would be easy to imagine Dishonored’s Empire of the Isles as a civilised world within the Imperium of Man, and as the setting for an INQ28 campaign. For instance, whenever I read Apologist’s incredibly cool world building for his “Death of a Rubricist” setting, Dishonored is one of the things I feel acutely remembered of. Plans within schemes are very much at the heart of the series, and if you are into Inquisitor and its particular way of storytelling and world building, you’ll take lots of inspiration away from Dishonored — in fact, the world building alone is basically worth the price of admission!

Dishonored 2_20161120161254

The series consists of two main games (Dishonored and Dishonored 2) and one major spin-off campaign for each of the main games. Dishonored gets “The Knife of Dunwall” as a nearly game-sized DLC, whereas Dishonored 2’s spin-off campaign, “The Death of the Outsider” was recently released as a standalone title. All of the games are available on PC, Playstation 3/4 or Xbox 360/One, and I would very much recommend to check out the entire series, starting with the first title. If you’re even a bit like me, you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of this truly breathtakingly realised world!

And while we are talking about Dishonored, let’s not forget about…

III.b …the Thief Series

Because I would be remiss not to mention the Thief series, which seems like Dishonored’s spiritual prequel (and a highly acclaimed stealth series in its own right). Thief only makes this particular list by association, it’s true, but the main reason for that is that its world is a fair bit more medieval (and thus less 40k) than Dishonored’s. Even so, fans of INQ28 and/or Mordheim in particular will doubtlessly find a lot to like about Thief’s dark, steampunk-ish world. Just to give you an idea, when I read the description of Queen Mab during the opening chapters of Dan Abnett’s novel Pariah (the first and, alas, to date only entry in the Eisenhorn vs. Ravenor series), I felt instantly reminded of The City from the Thief series.

IV. Resonance of Fate

A strange entry, this one, mostly because Resonance of Fate is a JRPG, with all the baggage and strangeness that entails: Now Japanese role playing games clearly aren’t for everybody, as they tend to have a particular tone and feel, one that is often informed by the peculiarities of Japanese pop culture. Personally speaking, I have a long personal history of playing JRPGs, however, going all the way back to the 8- and 16-bit days, so I can usually stomach, or even appreciate, the weirdness inherent to the genre.

Resonance of Fate is, on the face of it, very Japanese in many ways: It’s an eclectic combination of fantasy, cyberpunk, turn-based battles fought with guns (and almost ridiculous amounts of acrobatics) and classic JRPG tropes. What makes the game a definite candidate for this particular list, however, is its peculiar setting, Basel:

Basel is a multileveld city built around a massive central elevator. It was orginially constructed as a combined retreat for humanity and an atmospheric cleaning device, but it grew and became more complicated and essentially turned into a massive, sprawling city over the  centuries — a veritable Hive city by any other name.


And while Basel may look strange and far different from the hive cities of 40k, the game really does an excellent job of depicting a society that has developed around the basic challenge of living within a massive machine: Towns and villages are wedged into Basel’s open spaces, with giant cogs ticking away in the background. The strata of older cultures and settlements are clearly visible in many places, and most people have clearly forgotten the massive facility’s original use, content to eke out a living among its unknowable mechanisms. The rest of the setting confirms to this basic conceit: Instead of dragons and orcs, you get to fight modern bandits and runaway biological experiments.

Which is all a rather roundabout way of saying that, in spite of its copious amounts of JRPG tropes, Resonance of Fate can almost feel like a Japanese take on Necromunda. Which, in turn, can make it fascinating to check out for a fan of GW’s various 40k-related settings.

When all is said and done, however, Resonance of Fate is still a very Japanese game indeed, with all the tropes and quirkiness that entails. If you can stomach the occasional weirdness (the odd jokes, the dressup meta game, the weird gender stereotypes and the sometimes awkward pacing and dialogue), it’s a fascinating, quirky little game. The following video shows some of the gameplay, and I had an especially strong Necromunda moment starting at 6:26, with the heroes passing through the artifacts of prior civilisations while making their way from Basel’s highest level, the Chandelier, to the lower residential areas:

The fact remains that Resonance of Fate can be a bit of an acquired taste — even moreso, arguably, than mainstream JRPGs like Final Fantasy. You may want to take a look at the game’s prologue below to find out whether the general tone and style is for you:

V. Basically anything by Yasumi Matsuno

Yasumi Matsuno is a fascinating director and author because he stands for a very particular kind of RPG world and storytelling. Instead of fairy tale romps that end with the heroes defeating a mustache twirling demon lord to save the world, Matsuno’s games (and game worlds) are invariably steeped in realpolitik: They always deal with the politics going on in the background, the shady deals and painful sacrifices that keep kingdoms and empires going while creating tragedies for the protagonists. Unlike most roleplaying games, Matsuno’s titles usually don’t put you in the shoes of the idealistic hero saving the world due to sheer spunk and virtue: You just do your best while history – and politics – march on relentlessly in the background. And even if you should end up saving the world, don’t expect anyone’s thanks for it! Chances are, you’ll go down in history as a dangerous heretic…

There are also numerous shout outs to real world history: Tactics Ogre is basically a medieval fantasy version of the Yugoslav Wars. Final Fantasy Tactics (very much Tactics Ogre’s spiritual sequel) is basically the War of the Roses with dragons and Chocobos (it is also one of the finest strategy RPGs ever devised by man).

While all of Matsuno’s games are very much worth checking out, I want to point you towards some titles in particular, starting with Vagrant Story: a strange and darkly beautiful game that is one of my all-time favourites, and maybe Matsuno’s definitive piece of work:

Vagrant Story is a take on Western RPG and dungeon crawler conventions with a fascinating story about different factions trying to get their hands on the dark magics resting within the lost city of Leà Monde.


You’re cast in the role of one Ashley Riot, basically a medieval special ops soldier. Your goal is to infiltrate the lost city, rescue the hostages taken by a religious cult and prevent its members from claiming the city’s dark power for their own. You soon find out that things are far more complicated, however, and that there are more parties interested in Leà Monde and its legacy.

Vagrant Story is known for several things: Its incredible art design. Its dark and mature storytelling. Its punishing take on western roleplaying and dungeon crawling conventions. And, certainly not least of all, its acclaimed English translation by Alexander O. Smith, among others, adding an extra layer to an already incredibly elegant narrative.

I don’t even want to tell you too much about Vagrant Story, because it has to be experienced firsthand. It’s a punishing and darkly mysterious experience. If you enjoy deep, ambiguous tales and thought-provoking narratives, you should check it out. It’s quite a ride, indeed, and it can be had for a song on the PlaystationStore.

One of Yasumi Matsuno’s biggest mainstream games, set in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, is Final Fantasy XII, a mainline entry in the colossally successful Final Fantasy series.

Like Matsuno’s other games, FF XII is a triumphant exercise in world building, with a setting that seems like it could actually exist somewhere and wouldn’t wink out of existence the moment you switch off your console. Once again, there’s also a lot of background politics at play here, with history’s gears very much in motion while your band of heroes is gallivanting around the world of Ivalice.

It’s a rather interesting subversion of many of Final Fantasy’s classic tropes, as well as a fascinating look at what Matsuno can get up to with a bigger budget — at least partially so, as he had to drop out of the project late into its development. The game is still quite something, though! It’s still widely available on Playstation consoles, with a remastered version (“Final Fantay XII – The Zodiac Age”) released earlier this year.

FINAL FANTASY Ⅻ THE ZODIAC AGE_20170814193800

As for its influence on my 40k hobby, among many other things, let’s just say that I am still looking for a way of creating a 40k-compatible way of incorporating Final Fantasy XII’s Judges into my INQ28 setting…

 

Matsuno’s obvious love for the classic western pen & paper RPG finally came full circle with Crimson Shroud, released in 2012 as a fairly obscure download-only title for the Nintendo 3DS (at least in the west):

In many ways, Crimson Shroud mirrors many of Vagrant Story’s story beats (and much of its general look and feel): A small group of adventurers infiltrates the ruins of a palace in search of the eponymous artifact. There they encounter not only many vicious creatures, but also a dark and tragic story going back centuries. The narrative is both concise and nuanced, especially for a smaller digital release like this.

What makes Crimson Shroud truly captivating, however, are the lenghts to which the game actually emulates classic pen & paper roleplaying — to the point where you throw virtual dice to determine the outcome of most actions in the game and all the characters and monsters are displayed as actual miniatures mounted on their own small bases and placed within diorama-like backgrounds, making the whole thing seem like an actual tabletop roleplaying session.


If that sounds weird, it certainly is, and it’s not exactly easy to pick up and play. But everything that’s fascinating about a Matsuno game – such as the nuanced storytelling and excellent world building – also make an appearance here, creating a sublime narrative experience almost on par with Vagrant Story. Plus the game is a fascinating love letter to western tabletop gaming, as seen through a distinctly Japanese lense.

 

Honorary mention: Incubation

Okay, let’s treat this last game as a bit of an out of competition entry, but I still need to mention Incubation: Released in 1997 as part of the – then pretty successful (at least in Germany) – Battle Isle series, Incubation basically worked as the first really cool squad-based Space Marine game without even being a GW-licensed title.

Incubation probably seems incredibly primitive by modern standards, but back then, it felt like a revelation: I remember loving GW and 40k even back then and hoping they would end up making a game based on their IPs that didn’t suck — but it actually never came to that, at least not back then. But a German developer made a game about vanilla SciFi-troopers (totally not Space Marines) fighting against a slightly weird alien race (totally not the Tyranids), and after playing it, I kept asking myself why GW couldn’t have come up with that kind of game — or at least given the license to these guys…

Funnily enough, Incubation is actually still available as part of the Battle Isle Platinum Pack, but I couldn’t really tell you whether or not it has aged all that gracefully. I will affirm though that it felt like an excellent Space Marine game long before GW themselves got their act together on that front, and that’s enough to be included in this list!

 

So yeah, so much for my – entirely subjective and woefully incomplete – list of video games that have fed into my hobby over the years. I would love to hear your feedback, both on the nature of this post as well as on the actual choices I have made: Was this an interesting subject, in spite of only dealing with the actual hobby in a slightly roundabout way? And did I miss any games that should be included on this list? You are very welcome to contribute your own favourites!

In any case, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Interlude: State of the Hunt

Posted in 40k, Chaos, old stuff, paintjob, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, Totally worth it, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2016 by krautscientist

After a couple of weeks of frantic, ETL-related activity, this last week has been a bit of a cooldown period for me, which leaves me with the opportunity to share some World Eaters-related miscellany with you. So what’s on the menu today?

 

I. A really good read

A while ago, I was approached by Adam Jones aka Ratboy. Adam runs a monthly hobby fanzine called “The Golden D6”, pulling together a digest of hobby related content from various blogs and websites and turning it all into a rather bespoke online magazine featuring the kind of quality hobby content that we all remember from the WD issues of the yesteryear.

To my shame, however, I didn’t know anything of this at first, so when Adam asked me whether I would be okay with The Golden D6 doing a feature of my World Eaters, there was a bit of back and forth between the two of us, and with Adam trying his utmost to cater to my various whims and fancies, we arrived at a rather expansive (and pretty nifty, if I do say so myself) photo feature of Khorne’s Eternal Hunt that now makes up the tail section of The Golden D6’s issue 5:

D6 Screenshot

Beyond this army feature, the issue is full of reviews, battle reports and tutorials and makes for a very pleasant read indeed! Adam’s passion for this project shows both in his personal dealings with me and in the mag’s quality, and I am happy to have been a part of this issue! I also urge you to head over to The Golden D6 website and check out an issue or two: The asking price of $ 5,95 per issue certainly seems fair for the quality content that is on show, and a passionate hobbyist like Adam surely deserves a buck or two for engaging in this kind of endeavour!

D6 Screenshot 02
Full disclosure: As a contributor to the mag, I was given free access to issue 5. I still consider it a good deal, however, especially if you are interested in the varied style of hobby content that made old skool White Dwarf such a success!

You can purchase the various issues of the mag here.

II. An old skool daemon…and a taste of things to come…?!

And while we are on the matter of old skool White Dwarf, back when I first got into Warhammer, it was the time of the Realm of Chaos army box and a slew of related models, especially a new generation of greater and lesser Daemons. I’ve already talked at lenght about my love for the – then brand new – metal Bloodthirster here, but there were also the Bloodletters of course. And so when I needed a model to test yet another iteration of my recipe for red daemon skin earlier this week, I came across this guy here, languishing in my bitz box:

Old Skool Bloodletter WIP (2)
Old Skool Bloodletter WIP (1)
An old, mid-90s metal Bloodletter (one of the pre-predecessors of the modern plastics). I received this guy as part of a bitz drop a while ago, courtesy of fellow hobbyist Sagal (cheers, buddy! 😉 ).

Granted, these guys have a couple of glaring issues that are pretty hard to ignore by today’s standards, among them a certain anatomical wonkiness and that general clunkiness that is a hallmark of many vintage GW modelsfrom the 90s. I remember them looking truly excellent as a ranked regiment (for WFB), though: like a wall of red muscle and spiky swords. And they were a hell of an improvement over the goofy first Bloodletter incarnation, with the comically serpentine body and the lanky arms *shudder*. In fact, one could say that the current plastics are a successful attempt at taking the idea of the first Bloodletters and actually making it work.

Anyway, in spite of all their shortcomings, the slightly clunky mid-90s metal Bloodletters will always have a place in my heart, and painting one for fun should be a nice little throwback to those inncoent times! I did allow myself one small tweak to the model, however, and replaced the Bloodletter’s sword with a modern plastic Hellblade: The original sword had been snipped off when I received the model, and while I still have the bit, I still decided to replace it, as the old swords are arguably the models’ weakest point (well, that and the anatomically dubious bare asses…).

When it came to painting the model, I once again used the recipe from GW’s Bloodthirster video tutorial as a basic template. However, I made one small change to the recipe, replacing Khorne Red with Mephiston Red. The model was a blast to paint — it almost painted itself, so to speak, so here’s the finished Bloodletter:

Old Skool Bloodletter (1)
Old Skool Bloodletter (2)
Old Skool Bloodletter (3)
Old Skool Bloodletter (4)
Old Skool Bloodletter (5)
I am really happy with the result — and also rather surprised at the impact the the use Mephiston Red has had on the skin tone: The red is quite deep and luxurious, but also a bit brighter and it has more pop than the red I have used on my Bloodthirster and Skulltaker. Here’s a comparison picture that shows the difference really well:

Old Skool Bloodletter (6)
With the exception of a single colour, these models share the exact same palette. And look how much of a difference that one colour makes regarding their respective skin tones!

Anyway, this tweaked red skin recipe will be used on a pretty big upcoming project of mine — but that is a story for another day 😉

Until then, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Nordiska Väsen revisited — the Vaettir

Posted in Conversions, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2015 by krautscientist

With Christmas right around the corner, what better subject for today’s post than a slightly heartwarming tale, right? So what is this about?

Nordiska Väsen (1)

I’ve already told you a while ago that hobby luminary and kick-ass illustrator Jeff Vader was awesome enought to send me a copy of his wonderful book “Nordiska Väsen” earlier this year, just one case of the amazing generosity I have witnessed since getting back into the hobby, but one that has stayed with me. To understand why I am so in love with the book, it’s important to know that Briand Froud’s and Alan Lee’s seminal “Faeries” is one of my favourite books of all time: It’s a lavishly illustrated tome describing the Fay folk and collecting various folk tales.

Just one example of the wonderfully evocative artwork appearing in "Faeries" | Illustration by Froud/Lee

Just one example of the wonderfully evocative artwork appearing in “Faeries” | Illustration by Froud/Lee

The artwork is nothing short of spectacular and has provided me with lots and lots of inspiration and edification throughout my life — as well as a nightmare or two.

That changeling sketch is still giving me goosebumps, even after all those years | Illustration by Froud/Lee

That changeling sketch is still giving me goosebumps, even after all those years… | Illustration by Froud/Lee

Jeff’s own “Nordiska Väsen” takes some cues from “Faeries” while putting a decidedly Nordic twist on things. Jeff’s style is also wonderful, mixing elements of Froud’s and Lee’s work with influences that recall, for example, Paul Kidby, another illustrator whose work I really love. Jeff brilliantly renders the various members of the fair folk into fantastic illustrations that fill me with the same amount of wonder I recall from browsing through “Faeries” for the first time.

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

 

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

 

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

 

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

Illustration by Johan Egerkrans

Anyway, it’s a wonderful book, and my sole point of criticism is that I cannot understand the textes accompanying all the pretty pictures, since they are all in Swedish. But even the artwork alone is well worth the price of admission in this case!

What’s more, when the book arrived, I was delighted to discover that Jeff had also added a personal dedication for me, and underneath his very kind words was a drawing of yet another brilliant little goblin. This little guy here:

Johan's goblin

And I thought the best possible way to thank Jeff for his awesome gift would be to build a model based on this sketch and send it over to him — which I actually managed to do very shortly before Christmas, I might add. But all in good order:

When building the model, I dug through my bitzbox and tried to come up with a combination of parts that would create a suitable representation of the artwork. I did have to make some allowances here and there, of course, but this is the conversion I ended up with:

Vaettir WIP (2)
Vaettir WIP (3)
When all is said and done, the model’s basically a Skaven clan rat with a gnoblar head and arms spliced together from Empire flagellant and Dark Eldar Kabalite warrior bitz. It seems like a fairly eclectic combination to be sure, yet it went together into a fairly accurate interpretation of Jeff’s sketch. How to build the massive nose was a question that confounded me for quite a while, until I finally shaved down a Skaven spear and grafted it to the little guy’s – already pretty sizeable – schnozzle. And I used some bitz and bobs to create a backpack resembling the one in the sketch:

Vaettir WIP (1)
It’s not a perfect representation of the artwork, by all means. For instance, my little guy seems to be far less jolly than the one created by Jeff Vader. But I think it’s still reasonably close — there seems to be a certain “family resemblance”. Plus building something so different from most standard GW factions turned out to be a rather liberating experience!

When it came to painting the model, I chose predominantly earthen tones and hues that reminded me, once again, of the artwork appearing in “Faeries”. I also tried to emulate Jeff Vader’s own painting style — which turned out to be quite a difficult task, however, seeing how Jeff is a much better painter than me 😉

Anyway, here’s the finished model based on Jeff’s sketch. Take a look:

Vaettir (1)
Vaettir (4)
Vaettir (6)
Vaettir (3)
Vaettir (5)

I am rather happy with the finished piece, even though it’s merely an approximation of Jeff’s artwork. What’s even better, though, is that Jeff also told me he really likes the model! He calls it the “Vaettir”, which I dearly hope is not the Swedish word for “shitty miniature”, although I am too frightened to use Google Translate in order to find out…

Vaettir (7)
Anyway, not only was this a really fun little project, but it also felt like a good way of repaying Jeff for his generosity. At the same time, I am also aware of all the other people who have shared bitz, models or valuable advice with me over the last twelve months and whom I haven’t yet send a model — sorry guys, I know I’m a terrible person! But hang in there, I will get around to all of you, eventually! In fact, I should make it a new year’s resolution! 🙂

So yeah, so much for my little Christmas tale. Let me wish you all a very merry Christmas, and see you soon when it’s once again time for the annual Eternal Hunts Awards. Until then, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

The Vaettir next to the drawing that inspired the model

The Vaettir next to the drawing that inspired the model

Striking a rich vein

Posted in 40k, Blood Bowl, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, old stuff, Orcs & Goblins, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2014 by krautscientist

Late last week, the most wonderful thing happened to me: While browsing through the stuff at my FLGS, I found out that the owner was currently selling two huge lots of assorted miniatures and bitz: One of those lots came from a former hobbyist who wanted to get rid of the last part of his collection, while the reason for the other lot being sold was, sadly enough, its owner having passed away. Anyway, the owner of my FLGS found himself in the (temporary) possession of two huge piles of models — and it shouldn’t surprise you that I was very eager to have a look at all of that stuff.

This provided me with one huge moving box and several smaller shoeboxes of stuff to sift through, which was already brilliant fun in itself: With the internet so full of collectors, professional sellers and general information as to the worth and availability of miniatures these days, finding such a hoard of stuff has become increasingly unlikely, and so the simple act of digging through the piles of models alone was an experience to savour! Most of the models came from WFB, but there was such a mass of different models (and factions) present that it took quite a bit of discipline not to just buy the whole thing outright.

Anyway, I tried to reign myself in and only dragged away about a shoebox’s worth of stuff. And whether or not my haul was all that spectacular surely lies in the eye of the beholder. But I went home utterly content, I can tell you that much 😉

Anyway, let’s take a look at the best parts of my haul (and also at the provisional ideas I have for this stuff), alright?

First up, tucked away in a plastic bag labeled “Vikings” was most of the dwarf army from the WFB “Battle for Skull Pass” boxed set from a few years back:

Lucky purchase (1)
While some of the regular models are missing, all the special characters, standard bearers, champions and musicians are still accounted for. Plus there are also the little additional bitz and bobs and terrain pieces. I basically picked this up as a bonus, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I might already have a new home for these guys (Michael, if you’re reading this: Make sure to bring a big enough suitcase, when you’re in the area again, okay? 😉 ).

I also picked up two more pieces from the same boxed set:

One, the plastic troll accompanying the Night Goblin army:

Lucky purchase (2)
This was actually one of the high points of the purchase for me, because this guy will look perfect as a troll player for my orcish Blood Bowl team, the Orkheim Ultraz  — as a matter of fact, you can already see the first parts of his Blood Bowl gear in the picture above. Nothing’s glued together yet, but I already like where this is going!

Two, this strange shaman’s tent/tree trunk hut:

Lucky purchase (3)
This might come in handy for my Blood Bowl team or for the Mordheim Orc warband I’ve been planning for a while. Come to think of it, including terrain pieces like this in the starter boxes was a really neat touch! They should do that again!

Upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that the sculpts and level of detail for starter box minis have increased dramatically since these models were released. But I still like them well enough, and finding them all together like this without a hassle certainly was a nice surprise!

While we are on the subject of greenskins, I also bought this assortment of brilliant goblins and snotlings:

Lucky purchase (4)
These are part of the still available Doom Diver Catapult — as a matter of fact, pretty much the whole catapult was included in the deal, although the greenskins themselves are definitely the stars of the show! Again, these will probably be used for Mordheim or Blood Bowl (the winged goblin would be perfect for the latter…).

Like I said, most of the stuff available was from WFB, but I did manage to find a 40k treat or two. First up, a small pile of Tyranid nuts and bolts that, while not all that impressive in and of itself, will come in handy for a future INQ28 project of mine…

Lucky purchase (5)
And there’s this lovely OOP Eldar Warlock from the 90s, sculpted by Jes Goodwin. It’s trange: Even though I have always loved Jes’ Eldar models to bits, I have never owned any of them, so picking this guy up was an absolute no-brainer:

Lucky purchase (6)
And, last but not least, a lucky find at the bottom of a box of bitz: Exactly half a Delphan Gruss model from Inquisitor:

Lucky purchase (10)
This guy may actually become my first (and, quite possibly, only) foray into the world of Inq54 — just watch this space 😉

And as for the WFB universe, there are some final highlights to share:

First up, this guy (from one of the old WFB mercenary regiments, if I recall correctly):

Lucky purchase (9)
I keep racking my brain for a way to make this guy into an INQ28 character — maybe a member of a particularly archaic Astra Militarum regiment? I am very open to suggestions 😉

Then there are three of the 6th (?) edition metal chaos knights:

Lucky purchase (7)
Pictured here is their champion, but I also purchased a standard bearer and an additional knight. While I don’t have any actual plans for these, I just had to pick them up due to nostalgia:  I loved them so much back when they were released, but they were completely unaffordable to me. I just bought the riders, btw, because there is no more room for those terrible, generic 90s plastic horses in my life. But as you can see, the new chaos knight horses work like a treat with the older metal models.

And finally, another lucky discovery:

Lucky purchase (8)
The Dark Emissary from the Albion campaign. This guy was re-released in Finecast a while back and is still available. But finding him in a pile of shoddily painted Hormagaunts was still a rather nice surprise!

I’ll spare you the piles of Catachan, Night Goblin and generic Space Marine bitz that were also part of the bundle: Much of this stuff will come in handy sooner or later, but it lacks the appeal of the highlights shown above 😉

In addition to the models, I also picked up some older 40k related books:

Lucky purchase (11)
From left to right: The 40k 3rd and 4th edition big rulebooks (believe it or not, I have never owned those until now), one of the hallowed Chapter Approved compendiums (containing wonderful but somewhat outdated Index Astartes articles on the creation of Space Marines, Dreadnoughts, Librarians and on various chapters and legions: Dark Angels, Emperor’s Children, Iron Warriors, White Scars & Flesh Tearers) and Codex: Witch Hunters (obviously a must for any fan of the Inquisition).

All of these are in excellent condition, and I suspect the old 40k source books will merit a more detailed writeup in the not too distant future…

So yeah, quite a haul! I am immensely pleased, both with the stuff I did and didn’t buy: By sheer force of will, I resisted the urge to just grab the whole, enormous box — although my restraint made me miss a mint 2002 Games Day Chaos Champion which my colleague Annie later picked up (*sigh*). And I did find a 1998 Games Day Female Commissar, but pointed it out to the owner of my FLGS, since I knew that, as an avid IG player, he would probably be extremely interested in the model — I was right 🙂

But even beyond the stuff I purchased (at a very good – albeit not unreasonable – price, by the way), digging through the various strata of the boxes served as a trip down memory lane. Before long, me and the owner of the store were exchanging old hobby tales and thinking back on innocent days long past. Good times 😉

Anyway, so much for a very nice, hobby-related surprise! And wherever the original owners of these models may be now (in this world or in the warp), they may rest assured that their lead and plastic have found a good home with me!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

From the Warp – a blog sorely missed

Posted in 40k, Conversions, DIY, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2013 by krautscientist

Today I would like to talk about one of my favourite hobby blogs as well as one of my favourite hobby artists. So what is this about?

It has been almost exactly one year since Ron Saikowski last updated his blog, From the Warp, and told the community he was taking some time off from blogging. And even in a hobby scene as full of amazing hobby blogs as this, the absence of new content on FTW is still very keenly felt — at least by me.

FTWbanner

But why? And what was/is so great about FTW in the first place? Allow me to elaborate:

When I got back into the hobby in 2010 after a longer hiatus, I was amazed and cowed in equal parts by the quality of the hobby content that could be found online: While I had been away, it seemed like everyone and their cousin had become expert painters, wielding superior techniques and baffling creativity. The presence of such a treasure trove of hobby related content proved to be equally exciting and intimidating: How was I to get back into all this and hope to build an army that I could truly be proud of? In any case, it seemed like an even more daunting task than it had been during my teens.

And then I discovered FTW, and things started to fall into place.

You see, like many other hobby blogs on the internet, FTW is full of beautifully painted models and valuable hobby advice. But while I love many blogs and read them regularly, no other site has come close to FTW when it comes to actually helping hobbyists, to teach them new stuff and to encourage them to step outside their comfort zone. At the same time, if you are simply in it for the pretty pictures, FTW should be right up your alley: Ron’s style of gritty realism is one of the most effective and elegant approaches I have seen in our hobby. And I’ll just take the liberty to intersperse my ramblings in this post with pictures of some of my favourite models of his — it goes without saying that none of these were built and painted by me. I own none of this stuff. Credit must go to Ron Saikowski.

This Cataphractii Terminator showcases one of Ron's trademark conversion recipes, using cardboard-turned-into-plasticard to transform standard plastic terminators into Pre-Heresy individuals before FW ever released their own versions and before "Cataphractii" was even a word. Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski.

This Cataphractii Terminator showcases one of Ron’s trademark conversion recipes, using cardboard-turned-into-plasticard to transform standard plastic terminators into Pre-Heresy individuals before FW ever released their own versions and before “Cataphractii” was even a word.
Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski.

It’s hard to pick my favourite part of FTW, as a matter of fact: The stunningly effective, yet surprisingly simple, recipes for achieving certain painting effects? The clean and seamless conversion work? The useful reviews of hobby products (and the mention of possible alternatives) or the insightful commentary about the hobby at large? All of these were reasons for why FTW still seems like such a great blog.

A fantastic converted Astartes chaplain, based on the pose of GW's Gabriel Seth Model.  Model built by Ron Saikowski

A fantastic converted Astartes chaplain, based on the pose of GW’s Gabriel Seth model.
Model built by Ron Saikowski

But at the heart of it all lies Ron’s own approach to matters: When posting on his blog, he was always, in the truest sense of the word, a scholar and a gentlemen: always helpful and willing to explain every step of his work until everyone was content and carefully addressing comments and suggestions made by the readers. And while Ron’s work taught me countless neat things, his posts never seemed like he was trying to lecture people of convert them to the “right” way of doing things in our hobby.  In fact, there has probably never been a nicer, more pleasant blogger in our particular neck of the woods..uh webz 😉

Space Marine Commander on Pre-Heresy jetbike by Ron Saikowski

Ron’s stunningly effective Pre-Heresy jetbike conversion: I have used the same approach to build jetbikes for my small Custodes force.
Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

Another great thing is that Ron’s recipes and techniques are so great precisely because they can be used by normal people. Now we all enjoy looking at some GD level painting from time to time, but when it comes to getting our armies painted, we are happy enough to find a recipe that works and stick with it. FTW has always been a perfect resource in this respect, featuring countless wonderful painting recipes without the need for twenty extra-thin layers of paint in order to build up a certain hue. No freehanding under a microscope with a paintbrush the width of a horse hair here, but rather a way of doing things that produces awesome results with a modicum of work.

Ron's Alpha Legion recipe is an example of a fairly simple approach that still yields awesome results. Model bult and painted by Ron Saikowski

Ron’s Alpha Legion recipe is an example of a fairly simple approach that still yields awesome results.
Model bult and painted by Ron Saikowski

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Ron remains one of my favourite painters for the reason that his pieces are perfectly realised: Poe described a thing called “Unity of effect”, arguing that all parts of a literary work should work towards the intended effect in an interlocking pattern. And this is very true of Ron’s paintjobs: While there may be painters who can pull of even more amazing stunts when it comes to blending, glazing, freehands or what have you, Ron’s models always look completely realised: All of the different colours and effects work together to create a model that looks like a perfect little slice of the 40k universe. Nothing detracts from the overall effect. The models seem like they could just step down from their bases and lay waste to your desktop. I cannot, for the life of me, think of a more successful way of painting!

The Novamarines' colour scheme always seemed pretty gimmicky to me. But given Ron's "unity of effect" approach, it is transformed into something that seems quite plausible. Model built and Painted by Ron Saikowski

The Novamarines’ colour scheme always seemed pretty gimmicky to me. But given Ron’s “unity of effect” approach, it is transformed into something that seems quite plausible.
Model built and Painted by Ron Saikowski

And while the blog is mostly about Space Marines, not only will non-Astartes players find much to like about the recipes and tutorials featured on FTW, but Ron is also sometimes at his best when he isn’t actually doing Marines. Take a look:

A fantastic DKOK model built using second party bitz. Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

A fantastic DKOK model built using second party bitz.
Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

A very successful attempt at kitbashing an Eversor Assassin from nothing but plastic parts: This guy inspired me to build my own "Operative Sigma". Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

A very successful attempt at kitbashing an Eversor Assassin from nothing but plastic parts: This guy inspired me to build my own “Operative Sigma”.
Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

A very evocative and "Blanchian" Imperial Mystic, unfortunately Ron's only foray into the wonderful world of INQ28. Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

A very evocative and “Blanchian” Imperial Mystic, unfortunately Ron’s only foray into the wonderful world of INQ28.
Model built and painted by Ron Saikowski

If all of this reads like a gushing love letter to you, that’s because it it: To date, FTW remains one of my favourite hobby resources, and I think it’s a crying shame that it isn’t updated anymore. In fact, I still regularly check whether there are any new updates — just in case…

The good news, though, is that all of the existing amazing content is still there for you to check out and discover. Ron’s tutorials are still every bit as helpful as they were when he first posted them. And the models are still inspiring and beautiful, a testament to effective painting. In fact, I would argue that From the Warp is still one of the most important hobby resources for those active in the hobby or just getting into it, and a priceless treasure trove of hobby knowledge.

Oldies but goldies: Ron's own "Lustwing", an army of Emperor's Children Terminators. Just check out that awesome lord in pre heresy armour! Models built and painted by Ron Saikowski

Oldies but goldies: Ron’s own “Lustwing”, an army of Emperor’s Children Terminators. Just check out the scratchbuilt Pre-Heresy armour!
Models built and painted by Ron Saikowski

So, Ron, if you’re reading this: Thanks for all the amazing work! We owe you big time! And here’s hoping that you’ll eventually get back to updating your blog! And to you readers: FTW should really be part of your regular hobby diet, if only to check out all of the great ideas and tips. So head on over there right now and bookmark that page! And if you’ve been a regular reader of FTW before, well, you know what I am talking about anyway, right?

In closing, while most of the content on FTW is truly amazing, here are a couple of personal favourites of mine that I think you should check out:

Ron’s Pre-Heresy Jetbike conversion

Converting a skull helmet for chaplains or Dark Apostles

Ron’s very own “Lustwing”, a counts as Deathwing force consisting of Emperor’s Children Terminators.

Truly heartwarming: Ron’s Chaos Daemon based on a sketch by his daughter

How to make your Space Marine Captain stand out

His collection of advice on basing is still essential reading for every hobbyist, if you ask me.

So what’s your opinion on FTW? And has anyone been hearing from Ron, perchance? Let me know what you think in the comments!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

A Dark Vengeance Chaplain painted by Ron: One of his most recent models, and possibly my favourite! Model painted by Ron Saikowski

A Dark Vengeance Chaplain painted by Ron: One of his most recent models, and possibly my favourite!
Model painted by Ron Saikowski

Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Betrayer – a review of sorts

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Fluff, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it, Uncategorized, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by krautscientist

And now, as they say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, for something completely different…

Today I’d like to talk about Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s novel Betrayer, which I finally managed to read this last weekend. Seeing how I am a really big fan of the World Eaters, you could certainly say that I took my sweet time for getting around to reading the book, right? Well, there’s a reason for that — several reasons in fact. Allow me to elaborate:

Betrayer_cover

For starters, I have to admit that I am not perfectly sure how to feel about the whole Horus Heresy business. And by that I don’t mean the actual (fictional) event, but the business part: It’s easy to see how the HH franchise has turned into a huge business opportunity for GW and its subsidiaries Black Library and Forgeworld: On the modelling and gaming side of the hobby, FW’s release of Horus Heresy themed models and rules has been a dream come true for countless hobbyists. And the accompanying series of tie-in fiction seems to have opened up the 40k (or rather, 30k) universe to a readership beyond the diehard fans, at least if the sales based awards heaped upon the series are to be believed.

Now everyone’s allowed to have their profit, of course, but you may agree with me when I say that the prospects of huge amounts of money to be made are never the best thing to boost narrative integrity: There are countless instances in literature, film and videogames where the monetary success of a franchise served to replace any semblance of telling a great story with what us mere mortals refer to milking the cow (well, I refer to it as that, anyway).  Therefore, I am reasonably sure that I am not going to burst your bubble when I state that a series of tie-in fiction might not be the perfect place to look for literary greatness. But even then, there’s actually decent storytelling and there is money grabbing. I also harbour the subtle fear that there might come a day when every single hour of every single day of the Horus Heresy is firmly documented within its own novel — just like each and every creature in the Mos Eisley cantina now has a rather detailed CV available in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (go ahead, do some research — I dare you!)

And, in all fairness, my first foray into the literary side of the Heresy (the short story collection “Tales of Heresy”) didn’t leave me exactly optimistic, since I found some of the stories to be pretty horrible, some merely tolerable (among them a Dan Abnett story, which was really a disappointment for me) and only two truly good: Graham McNeill’s haunting “The Last Church” and Matthew Farrer’s seminal “After Desh’ea” — the first story to ever make the World Eaters’ Primarch Angron actually read as an interesting character.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached the first real BL book to flesh out my favourite legion: I have gone on record stating that the prospect of new material for “my” legion always fills me with equal amounts of anticipation and dread: While I love to get more input on the World Eaters, the rather hamhanded current background for them leaves me wishing as often as not that GW would just leave them alone. So when I learned that Aaron Dembski-Bowden would be writing the novel, I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about it: On the one hand, I would have perferred Mathew Farrer, the one guy so far who seemed to have understood the legion’s narrative potential, to get another shot at writing these guys. On the other hand, ADB’s credentials and the quotes he posted on his (higly recommended) blog made me cautiously optimistic. But I was still feeling a little scared — does that make sense? In all fairness, I also didn’t want to read the digital version, since I am a printed on paper kind of guy. Anyway, hence the delay.

 

Betrayer tells a surprisingly momentous tale (interesting for a series that often seems content to over-embroider minor plot points to the point of ridiculousness) that ends with what may truly be called a bang. Without spoiling the plot for you, let’s just say that the end of the model does have enormous ramifications for the future of the XIIth Astartes Legion. Before that, though, the World Eaters get lots and lots of opportunities of rampaging across Imperial worlds, among them the Ultramarines’ war world of Armatura and Nuceria, the Primarch Angron’s own homeworld.

For a book dealing with a legion that is mostly about frenzy and senseless butchery, the plot is also uncannily character and dialogue driven. It’s all for the best, though, because in my opinion, ADB is just very good at writing Space Marine characters: He manages to combine their supernatural powers and majesty with a believable amount of humanity and of course just the right blend of gravitas and theatrics. The interactions between the different Primarchs are just as good, with the fabled demigods truly feeling like a race apart but remaining relatable nevertheless. The Word Bearers’ primarch Lorgar stands out as a inscrutable character, sincere and utterly manipulative at the same time, impossible as that may seem.

The book’s greatest feat, however, is how it treats Angron. You should think that a guy who is “always angry all the time” and whose name is, for crying out loud, ANGRON would not exactly turn out to be a narrative goldmine, but Matthew Farrer already disproved that notion in “After Desh’ea”. I had hoped that ABD would take the look and feel of that story and run with it, and indeed he did: His Angron is a tragic, damned figure, scarred in body and soul and utterly beyond redemption. So far, nothing new.

But ABD’s characterisation truly excels at making Angron believable and, dare I say it, sympathetic in his background and his pain, while also making it clear that the Primarch is monstrous. It’s a very delicate balance to maintain, but it works: You cannot help feeling sorry for the broken Primarch, but you could also never really like him. He has the best possible reasons to be this way, but he is also irredeemable.

A similar high point, then, is the relationship between the Primarch and his gene-sons: There has been a discussion over at Throne of Skulls whether or not the World Eaters hate their Primarch, and I would argue that the truth of the matter, at least according to Betrayer, is far more ingenious and believable than that: It’s clear that the World Eaters are very aware that the Butcher’s Nails implants that they let themselves be outfitted with in order to feel true kinship with their Primarch have irrevocably damaged the legion: Kharn and several other characters show feelings of resentment and melancholia at the realisation that their legion can never be as inspirational or cultured as most of the other legions due to the bite of the nails. And who would be to blame for that other than Angron, right?

Yet at the same time, it’s obvious that the World Eaters take fierce pride in their brotherhood and martial honour. They have eagerly cobbled together their own warrior culture from the snippets of lore brought back by Angron and those traditions from their legionaries’ myriad homeworlds, and while they clearly acknowledge that it’s not a shining example of human endeavour, it’s the only kind of culture they have, so they cling to it fiercely. And this culture does of course encompasses Angron and his past at Nuceria.

Then there’s the fact that they do, in fact, feel pity for Angron — a notion that would probably send the Primarch flying into a rage, ironically enough. They share his feeling that he never had a chance to begin with, and what little glory was his to claim was taken away during the battle of Desh’ea.

And finally, even though Angron’s condition is perpetually deteriorating, there are moments of brotherhood and kinship between him an his sons: The book describes how he shares in his sons’ rituals and battles, how he drinks and laughs with them like few other Primarchs do, even though there is a gulf of conflicting emotions between them.

So what we have here is this hugely complex (and beautifully written) mix of resentment, love, hatred, disappointment and what have you. I think this is as true to life as fiction dealing with transhuman supersoldiers can possibly be, precisely because it echoes real life: You might feel resentment or embarrassment or even hatred for one of your close relatives, but they will always remain your family, and there’s no escaping that fact.

Below this main storyline, I also loved how ADB managed to partly flesh out the fleet and Titan legions — actually my least favourite parts of the whole background so far: By creating interesting and noble characters (like the Conqueror’s flag-captain Serrin or the Legio Audax personnel) and by injecting both organisations with a healthy dose of WWI air warfare chivalry (with officers complimenting their opponents on shrewd maneuvres and elegant tactics), he succeeds at actually giving the non-Astartes characters a voice of their own, without their parts of the novel ever feeling boring or unnecessary.

And for all those who are understandably sceptical of GW’s focus on Space Marines, feeling they are all just reskins of the same basic design template, it should be interesting to see how the author manages to give a different feel to the Legiones Astartes: From the fierce brotherhood (and battlefield frenzy) of the World Eaters to the priestly nobility (and insane zeal) of the Word Bearers, you get the impression that the Legiones Astartes are very different from each other indeed, if only written well. Even the Ultramarines, serving mainly to be beaten up very badly, get a few moments in the spotlight, and we are afforded glimpses at their warrior culture that make them look more interesting than they have any right to be (their battlefield commanders issuing orders in High Gothic is a great little touch).

In fact, ADB’s writing of characters always seems to be at its best where it deals with duality: Lorgar’s inscrutable motives, Angron’s position between a tragic hero and a monster, the legions’ duality or even the surprising depth of minor characters.

And, beyond all that, the book is of course a goldmine for little bitz and pieces of lore, from the World Eaters’ battle traditions and gladiatorial bouts to their affected bastard language of Nagrakali: These guys may fall to frenzy and bloodlust when on the battlefield, but for what may the first time ever, you can actually imagine them off the battlefield as well — no mean feat!

 

So, are there any negatives?

For one, this is, after all, only one book in a series. This means that most of the plot will only make sense to you if you do at least have an idea of the overarching narrative: If you’ve never heard about the Word Bearers’ machinations, about what happened on Calth or about the Thousand Sons’ being torn apart by the Space Wolves, you’ll be left scratching your head more than once. And even if you have a relatively good grasp of the bigger events, some references and allusions might still go over your head. That’s not really the author’s fault, though — if anything, I feel dread at the prospect of now having to read other HH novels written by less talented people…

Nevertheless, if you are simply looking for a great SciFi novel to pass the time, this might not be it: Too much stuff will be lost on you, and there are probably enough self-contained storylines of similar quality that are easier to get into. And it goes without saying that the book will prove utterly impenetrable to those without any knowledge of the attached GW universe.
If, however, you have a general idea of the overarching HH storyline – not necessarily from reading other HH novels, but from a mix of reading the different (Chaos) Space Marine codizes over the years and doing a bit of scrounging around for background at places like the Lexicanum or the Warhammer 40k Wiki – you’re good to go: That was my preparation going into this novel, and I belive it was enough.

For every World Eaters player, Betrayer is, of course, a must buy, for the amount of background lore alone. But there’s a great story beyond all that, and the book is truly great as tie-in fiction, and still very good on its own terms: I, for one, will probably pick up more of ABD’s novels (I am told his Night Lords stuff is the shitz) and look forward to his Black Legion series — or maybe some more World Eaters stuff?

 

But what does it all mean for Khorne’s Eternal Hunt? I’ll be honest with you: I did of course fear that parts (or most) of my own fluff would be ivalidated by this novel. But not only does ABD himself address the fact that several versions of events exist in the background (in a surprisingly clever throwaway scene), but he also succeeds at creating a canvas for your own fluff rather than enforcing his own view of things (as some authors have been known to do…). So while small readjustments to my own background may be in order, I relish the chance to make the 4th assault company even more interesting and colourful. In fact, there might be a separate post in that somewhere 😉

 

What about you, though: Have you read the book? How do you feel about it? And was this review helpful to you? Please feel free to share whatever thoughts you might have in the comments section!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

P.S. Oh yeah, before I forget; In case you didn’t gather as much from my rambling above, this book is also totally worth it.