Sunday, 30 October 2016


If you were reading the last post on here, you might have noticed that I mentioned it had been delayed by a few weeks because something came up. That something was this:

A trip to the other side of the Pacific Ocean where I spent a week in the lost city of San Francisco. Aside from one rather nasty incident towards the end it was quite enjoyable, but this is a hobby blog, not a travel blog, so I will spare the details of my holiday here, save that the Americans of the Bay Area appear to have through some diabolical nefarious sorcery stolen the Southern Hemisphere's climate - despite it supposedly being in the middle of Autumn when I was there, the weather was routinely at summer levels of warmth and lack of cloud. I was told that they were going through an Indian Summer, but I suspect that the truth is something far darker and more insidious...

While there however, I did make an effort to hit up the local hobby stores over there. They were... well I guess they were what I'd expect them to be. There were only two model retailers I could find within walking distance of the hotel, and of them only one was really a hobby store in the tabletop sense, and it wasn't really that different to the few in Auckland that I've been to, save for slightly more artwork on the walls. In hindsight I don't know why I was expecting them to be noticeably different.

As I predicted though, they did still possess some examples of older models in stock, and so I was able to return home in triumph with these spoils.

Three blister packs of models (One Fantasy, two 40k), a box 'O' skeletons and two books - the 3.5 edition Codex: Imperial Guard and the 7th edition Beastmen army book. A fine haul to be sure, especially given the limited budget I had to spend on mementos.

The full gaming store that I visited possessed quite a few old blister packs still available, but after some thorough searching I found three that were most desirable for me. Fortunately being older stock meant they were massively discounted, and so I was able to get them all. They include a classic metal Tau Pathfinder Shas'Ui, which was the one metal Pathfinder model I never got around to getting - I decided to paint up a standard Pathfinder model as the team's Shas'Ui instead as I liked the pose better. Because of this I was determined not to pass up this rare second chance, and the model will make a fine leader of my future Pathfinder team(s), though I'm still working out the specifics of integrating him (or possibly her). The most promising solution I've thought of so far is making the model a higher-level Pathfinder commander and simply attaching him (or possibly her) to the Pathfinder teams when needed (AKA putting it in charge of a Pathfinder team in games every so often when it takes my fancy).

Perhaps even more valuable to me though was the classic metal shield drone bits that were included in the blister pack (by the way, have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE the old blister packs? Because they are amazing and I still hate GW for switching over to those infernal clam-packs). Again, shield drones were never really something that I stocked up on, since I always worked under the assumption that if I ever assigned drones to characters that gun drones would offer more bang for my buck (pun intended). This changed when I began to read up on the utility of shield drones in keeping Broadside Teams alive (this was back in the dark days of late 5th edition 40k, where railguns were kind of the only thing Tau still had going for them so the survival of anything with a railgun on it was sort of a priority) while freeing up a support system slot for target locks to maximise the number of targets one could shoot at with a Broadside team, and since my Tau army could only affort a maximum of one Broadside team that was somewhat important. While I improvised in games by using weaponless gun drones as proxies, that was only ever meant to be a temporary stopgap until I ordered some extra shield drone bits from GW online. Unfortunately the classic metal/resin shield drone bitz pack was discontinued by GW before I could get around to purchasing one, and the newer plastic version they brought out as a replacement is not only woefully less cost-efficient, yielding only one shield drone compared to the four you could make with the old bitz pack, but also produces a noticeably different shield drone design, with different antennae and a considerably redesigned shield generator. Since I consider the newer shield drone model to be totally lame compared to the cool older version, this leaves me in somewhat of a dilemma, and so any older shield drone components I can get my hands on is welcome.

They also include a Bretonnian Mounted Yeoman for Warhammer Fantasy. Given the rarity of these models (they were, I believe, among the first Bretonnian models from the 6th/7th edition range to be discontinued and never reappeared for the rest of Warhammer Fantasy's time as an official GW game) I'm still amazed I was able to get one for so cheap. I was somewhat expecting to find three of them in the blister, as I dimly recall GW selling them in threes at one point on the website, but in hindsight that was probably a small white box number like the 5-strong units of Eternal Guard and Wardancers. Speaking of which, there was also another incredible find there - one of the special release Wardancer models (I believe it was a Whirling Death if I recall correctly), which I also never ended up getting. I was deeply tempted to pick it up, but unfortunately it was a little bit outside my price range, and I figured multiple blister packs for different systems would give me more value for my money. I doubt I will ever see it again in my lifetime, so I can only wish that whatever lucky bastard manages to buy it fully appreciates and cherishes the treasure they own, and does not squander it.

Anyway, back to the yeoman, it may have been a letdown to only get one, but at least I got that one. He will make a fine addition to my small Bretonnian army, especially if I can find another 2-5 friends for him.

This mighty fortunate find was found at a different place, a collectables store in the Japantown centre (oh yes, there's a Japantown in 'Frisco as well as a Chinatown). Their assortment of GW models didn't feature as much in the way of older stock, making this one a much easier choice to purchase - it was either this or a classic metal Chaos Dreadnought, and I figured this one would give me more value for my money, again. It is an older (5th edition vintage if I'm not mistaken) box set of Skeletons for use in either of the two Undead armies in Warhammer Fantasy (in fact depending on when it was first released they may still have been just one Undead faction). Eventually it was replaced in the Vampire Counts model range by a newer Skeleton box, but apparently from what I gather the kit soldiered on in the Tomb Kings range, albeit with a repackaging and some extra bits like more Ancient Egyptian-styled shields. The box was in fantastic condition too, the damage in the bottom right corner coming from being crushed in-between other suitcase contents on the trip home, which is great because it means I can enjoy the fantastic artwork on it (if you remember I tend to be fascinated by model box artwork).

A lot of people apparently aren't fond of this Skeleton kit, but I've always really enjoyed it. It helps that I'm quite fond of a lot of classic Fantasy tropes, and I'm very tolerant of technical shortcomings when it comes to models; it's aesthetics that I really value, so if I'm given a choice between a dynamically posed, perfectly realistically proportioned plastic model with tons of options that I can't stand the look of and a static, exaggerated metal monopose model that I love the aesthetics of, I will pick the latter every single time. As a result I've never really understood the hate for this Skeleton kit, especially as it contains a full 20 Skeleton models (which is twice as much as the later kit contained) which is enough for an entire complete unit that's a NORMAL size rather than those gargantuan 30+ strong abominations that people were obsessed with in 8th edition.

This means that I also actually have an Undead infantry unit for my Vampire to lead when I eventually get around to painting her, and ironically fits with the Lahmian theme perfectly. I still want(ed) a Vampire Counts army that was mostly if not entirely, well... not skeletons, but hey you can never have too many Skeletons in a fantasy adventure and they'll work well with the other handful of Skeletons I got with another purchase - I have some ideas for how to use them in games. I was going to name them Gashadokuro. on account of getting them from Japantown and all (plus still being blown away by Kubo: Legend of the Two Strings), but a quick spot of research on wikipedia suggests that they'd probably be too small for that, so I'll have to default to plan B and give them a unit name that has something to do with barrows. Y'know, given that barrows are basically hills you bury dead people in, and I got them in San Francisco which is notorious for being full of hills.

As well as old blister packs, I also discovered a cache of older books, including a copy of the 3.5 edition Codex: Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard books weren't the highest on my list of old gamebooks to get, but finding it there, combined with the repeatedly-slashed price, made this a target of opportunity that was too much to pass up. It continues the trend of concentrated weapons-grade EPIC that is common to all 3.5 edition era books I have come across, with a fantastic piece of cover artwork by Karl Kopinski and a beautiful inside cover illustration that really captures the anachronistic grandeur of the Imperium in relation to its mainline standing army. One thing I found unusual was the book's layout. Most 3.5 edition codexes I have seen all share a broadly similar pattern of: Background > Army List > Colour Hobby Section > Extras, but the Imperial Guard codex instead has the colour section towards the front, just after a few pages of introductory background. I guess this was so that they could consolidate the rules material all into one place, but then the even more rules-heavy 3.5 edition Chaos Space Marine codex still had the colour section in the back, when you'd think it would make sense there too. This also marks the second 3.5 edition era codex I have encountered that doesn't include a special scenario in it somewhere, putting the total tally at 50/50 between ones that do and don't have scenarios in them. Come to think of it, the 3rd edition Tyranid codex never had one in it either, which is very weird because you'd think that it would be the perfect place to drop in a special 'Tyranid Attack' scenario. I'm starting to think that special scenarios in the codexes and army books might be the exception rather than the rule, which is sad because I always thought including a special themed scenario was a really neat idea.

Also of note in this codex is the legendary Doctrines system, perhaps best described as a kind of Chapter Tactics for Imperial Guard regiments (and by Chapter Tactics I mean the earlier version where you could pick and choose from a bunch of different options that could be combined, rather than the rigid version 6th edition 40k introduced). There weren't quite as many Doctrines available in the codex itself as I was expecting, so I imagine a lot of the ones people tend to reminisce over were included later in White Dwarf. Even so there are some pretty cool ones included - Light Infantry seems particularly kick-ass (Infiltrate on everyone? Giving one infantryman in any squad a sniper rifle instead of using up two to make a heavy weapon team? Yes please). All in all I think I know exactly which ones I'd take for the regiments I've invented.

As well as the Imperial Guard codex, I also found a copy of the 7th edition Beastmen army book for Warhammer Fantasy, which  was high on my to-get list. As I understand it this book was the last army book to be released for 7th edition Warhammer Fantasy, and it definitely shows. I mentioned in the last post how I thought the 3rd edition Tyranid codex felt like a prototype 3.5 edition book, and if that's the case then this book feels like a prototype 8th edition army book in a lot of places. There's still plenty of cool black and white artwork in it, mind, but there are a lot of times where the writing has a particularly 8th edition, dare I say even Wardian style to it - one piece about how Beastmen Warherds often take down castles in Bretonnia by goading something called a Ramhorn into charging the castle gate (and how a lack of widespread Ramhorn numbers is apparently the only thing stopping them from overrunning Bretonnia. Y'know, because it's not like there's any heavily armed Knights that can fight back or anything) stood out as particularly egregious to me, It also has a disturbingly similar layout to the 8th edition books, right down to the formatting of the bestiary section and a colour illustration of shield and standard designs at the end of the colour hobby section.

On the positive side, this book also includes a selection of magic items that I enjoy much more than the 6th edition magic item armoury. The in-game effectiveness of a lot of them is up for debate, but some of the background descriptions are exactly the sort of creepy side of Chaos that I look for - particular standouts include the magic weapon Everbleed, the Chalice of Dark Rain and the Manbane Standard. Not only that, but this book includes the Lore of the Wild, a unique spell lore for Beastmen armies that I've always been really fond of. I've always loved unique spell lores, and the background behind the Lore of the Wild is fantastic, not to mention the thematic side of it making an excellent dark and twisted mirror to my favourite Warhammer Fantasy spell lore of all time, the Lore of Athel Loren in the Wood Elf army book. On top of all that there are rules for Jabberslythes, which I've always liked, and a host of what are actually some very interesting special characters with really fascinating backstory ideas.

And in other news, I experienced a stunning revelation the other day when browsing the GW website. In the distant past GW went through a phase during the 1990s that is known to many as the 'Red Period'. It is often remembered with scorn by many Warhammer grognards as a time of childish background, poor model designs and a general dumbing down of everything by GW, as well as garish colour schemes that frequently made use of the colour red (hence why it's called the 'Red Period'). I was just thinking about this as I looked through the GW website when I saw the new Horus Heresy Custode models. And then it hit me.

We are living in GW's Gold Period.

No, seriously, think about it. This era of GW that we're living in is a brand new 'Red Period', only this time with gold instead of red. All of the parallels are there. Juvenile, one-dimensional background? Check. Poor model designs? Oh yes. General dumbing down of rules? Depending on how you view AoS, you betcha. And I'll tell you what, over the last four years, GW has started using a lot of gold in their studio paint schemes. The new Custodes and Sisters of Silence, the Sigmarines, the Tempestus Scions, and those are just the examples that immediately come to mind - the GW studio schemes today have just as much gold in them as the GW studio schemes of the 90s had red.

Will we see a 'Bronze Age of GW' afterwards, the same way that the Red Period heralded the legendary Silver Age of GW? That is the question, but I have my doubts. Even assuming GW survives that long, I have a feeling that the current trends aren't going to stop anytime soon.

Man this time I'm spending out in space is really helping me clear my head and think about these things. I think I'll stay up here just a little while longer...

Lousy Zogg'in Squig-thiev'in Sunuva'Grot only sold me 'alf a Krooza!

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