Saturday, 31 December 2016

Merchant Madness

Ok GW, I take it back, I stand corrected. That is now three good things you have done recently. 

My local GW store was giving these away for free on... Wednesday (it would have been Boxing Day, but Christmas was on a Sunday and the store is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) for free if you made a sufficiently large purchase. Apparently they were officially sent out from GW HQ itself and were presumably distributed to other GW stores as well as an officially sanctioned giveaway. It's a complementary bag of loose bits (y'know, just like the old White Dwarf subscription bonuses the Mail Order Trollz used to put together), and it is the most rock thing they have ever given away at a special occasion since the giffle bundles I've showcased before on here (which I estimate to have given me a rough total of 1000 pts of free Tau overall). The standout best inclusion in it by far is an almost-complete metal Daemonhunters Inquisitor (he's missing a hand and a base, but that's easy to solve), the very same one in fact that I've wanted for years for an Ordo Hereticus conversion I had planned. 

Other highlights include a classic metal Bestigor standard bearer (minus the standard top, but again it's not too difficult to fix) and a Lord of The Rings Easterling cavalryman (minus a horse), as well as the front of a Death Company Dreadnought. There's also a few Tau bits (I've identified a newer plasma rifle and missile pod, half a stealthsuit burst cannon and half a rail-rifle), some Skeleton parts, most of two Skinks (they're both missing shield arms) and some Eldar jetbike weapons, amongst other things. 

The purchase that got it was this. 

A brand new Crusade figure case to facilitate my grand plans of conquest for this year (they share more than a passing resemblance to my grand plans of conquest for last year, but 2016 ended up becoming a 'lost year' and so they never materialised). I also put a special order through, but that's still in the post. 

In the meantime, I've been working through the last few Tau ships still sitting in my build/paint backlog, starting with a pair of Merchant class starships. 

I don't remember if I've told this story or not on here, but there was originally only supposed to be one Merchant. Back in 2013 when the Specialist Games genocide began I quickly scrambled to rescue as many Battlefleet Gothic ships as I could. My top priority was to get at least one example of every Kor'vattra Tau ship made (the Kor'O'vesh ones from Forgeworld were valued targets of opportunity, but outside of the Emissaries were largely considered less important), and since I already owned one Merchant class starship I initially only planned a second one (to be my flagship) plus a blister of Orca gunships to accompany it. This, however, left me with a surplus two Orcas, since they came in blisters of four and the Merchant only has two gravitic hooks (and I already had enough Orcas for the other ships I owned), so I decided to quickly get another Merchant while I still could to make sure I would be able to transport the extra two into battle if needed. I first went to the UK GW page (the NZ/OZ page having largely run out of Battlefleet Gothic Tau by then) and placed an order, but a processing error meant that the order never showed up as being completed. Thinking that it had fallen through, I searched around for another Merchant class in stock and found one on the Japanese GW page, which I promptly ordered from. 

However, the UK Merchant order had in fact gone through and shipped, and so I ended up receiving it shortly after the Japanese Merchant arrived. I wondered what to do about it for a long time, but in the end there was only one real option - keep both of them! I'm never one to say no to more Battlefleet Gothic models*, especially if it's my favourite model in the entire game (which the Merchant is, in case you didn't know), so they both ended up finding a home in my fleet, though I now have two gravitic hooks without Orcas to go with them. 

Although if I happened to come into two more Explorer class starships and 8 more Orcas... 

While on the subject of Merchant class starships I also came up with some experimental homebrew rules for two alternate Merchant configurations. I've mentioned them before on ATT (and possibly on here as well) in the Merchant class background I wrote, but there are a whole slew of different Merchant class configurations besides the two listed in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada that I've come up with. These two in particular were originally conceived as a solution to a disconnect in the original Tau background in Battlefleet Gothic and 40k. The account of the Damocles Gulf Crusade, found in Codex: Tau, describes the Tau fleet in the Hydrass System as consisting of "Seven Tau warships of approximately cruiser displacement" and were apparently "Capable of launching powerful torpedo salvos at long range". It also describes them launching 'escorts' (attack craft really) from the capital ships. 

Now, on it's own this doesn't sound too out of the question, except that going by Battlefleet Gothic: Armada the only cruiser-sized ship the Tau Kor'vattra has that can launch torpedoes and attack craft is the Hero class starship, which wasn't invented until after the Damocles Gulf Crusade. The only cruiser-sized ship the Tau would have had available at the time this supposedly happened is the Merchant class, and the two configurations in the official Kor'vattra fleet list are both gunboats, without gravitic launchers or launch bays. The Bork'an configuration of the Explorer class starship can fire gravitic missiles (the Tau equivalent to torpedoes) as well as launch attack craft, but the Explorer class is most certainly not cruiser displacement - it's very definitely in the Battleship size range and it's hard to mistake it for a cruiser (seriously, the Explorer class is massive). The solution then, is simple - another two Merchant class configurations, perhaps older setups that were phased out after the Damocles Gulf Crusade. 

Thus, I present the Il'fannor T'au configuration and the Il'fannor Vash'ya configuration. 

Il'fannor (Merchant) Class Starship - T'au Configuration . . . . . . . 155 pts

Though almost unheard of in modern times, the T'au configuration of the Merchant class starship was once one of the most widespread and illustrious variants of the Merchant class starship, and promised to be the future of Tau naval combat. 

Towards the end of the 1st Sphere Expansion, the Tau Kor'ar'tol high admirality had begun to develop a better understanding of the space combat tactics employed by the Orks that were at the time the largest major power the Tau had encountered with frequency. Over the course of their many encounters with Ork ships and fleets, it was observed that the Greenskin craft were most dangerous at close ranges, a distance which their speed and tough front prow armour and shielding enabled them to reach with relative ease against the railcannon armed vessels which formed the bulk of Tau fleets at the time. Kor'Os and analysts theorised that the optimal solution for fighting Ork fleets would be to keep them at extreme range, where their offensive output would be reduced to sporadic torpedo and attack craft strikes. 

The Tau Earth Caste began a program of extensive research and development into new standoff weapons that would be able to engage the Orks at such extreme ranges, which culminated in the development of the first Tau gravitic missiles. While the Tau had made use of unguided missile weapons on warships in the past, the new larger missiles were able to perform sustained flight over far longer distances. Fired from a newly developed gravitic launcher, itself created by expanding the standard naval railcannon design to an immense size and linking the firing sequence to the ship's gravitic field, and equipped with the latest advanced drone guidance processors, the missiles were also able to reach extreme speeds and perform sophisticated course-corrections in flight to ensure a successful attack. Early testing against target drones and mockups of enemy warships proved highly promising, and initial field testing showed the new weapon system to be highly effective. 

Impressed with the results, the T'au Council of the Highest authorised the development and production of a new Il'fannor model armed with the gravitic launcher system. The end result featured two gravitic launchers to maximise both redundancy and tactical flexibilty by allowing the ship to attack multiple targets simultaneously. The new Il'fannor variant was readily adopted by the T'au Kor'ar'tol, and quickly spread to the fleets of other Septs as Tau analysts and the Tau admiralty predicted it would render all traditional gunnery-based space combat, and ships configured for it, obsolete. The T'au Il'fannor configuration quickly proved highly successful in fleet actions against the Orks during the tail end of the 1st Sphere Expansion, most notably in Por'O Dal'yth Kiv'rai's famous expedition to the Kroot Worlds and the Place of Union. For a while, it seemed as though the Kor'ar'tol's vision of space warfare dominated by standoff attacks with guided missiles would prove to be a reality. 

All this changed when the Tau encountered the Imperium of Man in strength for the first time. As the Damocles Gulf Crusade drove into Tau space, flotillas of T'au configuration Il'fannors suffered heavy losses. The lengthy reloading time for the gravitic launchers, combined with the immense speed of the Imperial Navy warships, meant that while the T'au configuration Il'fannors could initially inflict considerable damage, they were incapable of sustaining such attack power long enough to prevent the Imperial ships from entering close range, where their limited gunnery armament proved insufficient. Ultimately, the Tau had succeeded in creating a capital sized Cobra Destroyer, which lacked the speed and small profile of an escort torpedo-boat, and while this might have been good for a support ship, it made for a lacking mainline combat vessel. In light of the new developments the T'au configuration Il'fannor was largely phased out of service following the Damocles Gulf Crusade, especially as the more modern and capable Lar'shi and Kir'qath class starships began to circulate through the Tau Empire. Most were converted into other Merchant class configurations, and design features and data from the type would end up providing a major contribution to the development of the Bork'an configuration Gal'leath, but a few mothballed examples can still be found occasionally in Tau fleet reserves. 

Il'fannor T'au Configuration 

 Cruiser/4            15cm         45°               1                    5+                    2    

ARMAMENT                         RANGE/SPEED     FIREPOWER/STR       FIRE ARC
Prow railgun battery                          45cm                              2                    Front/Left/Right 
Port gravitic launcher                Speed: 20-40cm                     3                             Front 
Starboard gravitic launcher       Speed: 20-40cm                     3                             Front 

The T'au configuration Il'fannor may combine its two gravitic missile salvos into a single strength 6 salvo fired to the ship's front arc. Alternatively, it may fire two separate strength 3 salvos. If one of the gravitic launchers is damaged, the ship may only fire one strength 3 salvo until the damage is repaired. 
Later examples of the Il'fannor were produced with a drastically superior hull structure, constructed by methods only recently discovered by the Tau. Il'fannors of any configuration may therefore increase their hits from 4 to 6 at a cost of +15 points. 

Il'fannor (Merchant) Class Starship - Vash'ya Configuration . . . . . 155 pts 

The Vash'ya Il'fannor configuration is one of the oldest variants of Merchant class starship to have been employed by the Tau. It is heavily derived from the basic cargo freighter Il'fannor configuration, and was originally conceived as a medium sized colony transport. As conflict with the Orks became increasingly widespread and commonplace however, the Vash'ya configuration Il'fannor was pressed into military service, with its extensive cargo space re-purposed to support launch bays so the vessel could act as a light carrier for attack craft. Initially this was intended to provide a more economical alternative to the gargantuan Explorer class starships serving as fleet carriers, but the Vash'ya configuration Il'fannor ended up complimenting and serving alongside the venerable Gal'leath to ensure the Tau maintained space superiority amongst attack craft, which was proving to be one of the few areas where they had an advantage over the Greenskins. 

In addition to providing attack craft support in fleet actions, the Vash'ya configuration Il'fannor also proved useful outside of fleet actions. Its considerable cargo capacity and extensive support facilities allowed the Vash'ya configuration Il'fannor to act as a makeshift waystation for communications, repair and resupply purposes, and the variant was a vital link in the Tau command and control system until the Tau network of orbitals and waystations was strengthened and the Skether'qan class starship was introduced. 

A number of Vash'ya configuration Il'fannors were part of the Tau fleet that first encountered Imperial Navy vessels in the Hydrass system, and it was these ships that formed the rearguard while the Tau fleet disengaged, screening the other ships' escape with their Manta squadrons. The Vash'ya configuration Il'fannor would continue to serve the Kor'vattra for the rest of the Damocles Gulf Crusade, but mounting losses discouraged the Tau and the type was gradually phased out of service as the Lar'shi class starship  began production. Like its contemporary, the T'au configuration Il'fannor, a small handful of mothballed examples can still be found in Tau reserve fleets from time to time.  

Il'fannor Vash'ya Configuration

 Cruiser/4            15cm         45°               1                    5+                    2    

ARMAMENT                         RANGE/SPEED     FIREPOWER/STR       FIRE ARC
Prow railgun battery                          45cm                              2                    Front/Left/Right 
Port launch bay                          Barracudas: 25cm         2 Squadrons                       - 
                                                   Mantas: 20cm
Starboard launch bay                 Barracudas: 25cm         2 Squadrons                       - 
                                                   Mantas: 20cm

Later examples of the Il'fannor were produced with a drastically superior hull structure, constructed by methods only recently discovered by the Tau. Il'fannors of any configuration may therefore increase their hits from 4 to 6 at a cost of +15 points. 


So there you have it, two alternate flavours of Merchant class starship for use in games of Battlefleet Gothic. If you have a Tau fleet and wish to use either of these then be sure to let me know how they perform, I am happy to accept feedback for my experimental rules writing. 

*Unless GW releases a wave of new 'Battlefleet Gothic' ships with obscene new designs. Then I probably will say no to them (but never to classic Battlefleet Gothic ships!).

Monday, 26 December 2016


++++Orbital repairs complete++++
++++Central computer and AI systems purged: zero foreign code detected++++
++++Internal reconstruction complete++++
++++Primary reactors powering up++++
++++Atmosphere levels: optimum++++
++++Gravity levels: optimum++++
++++Running final systems check. All systems functioning optimally++++
++++ATT orbital online++++

In case you've never heard of it before, Advanced Tau Tactica is an online discussion forum specifically focused on the Tau faction in Battlefleet Gothic (and Battlefleet Gothic's spinoff games like Warhammer 40,000) . It has an illustrious history of providing exceptional-quality content for Tau players, especially tactics advice, and several famous Tau tactics have had their start either there or on its immediate predecessor Mech Tau Tactica (such as the infamous Fish of Fury). Run by tabletop hobby extraordinaire Sebastian 'Tael' Stuart the site has a reputation for harsh order in some circles, but by and large is a fantastic place to go if you're a Tau player.

It also happens to be the very first internet forum (and indeed the very first internet communication website) that I ever joined, ever, when I was just 15 years old. I think it's been something of a heavy influence on my internet conduct.

The other thing to note about Advanced Tau Tactica is that the site has an extensive mythos within it, centred on the ATT orbital, an in-universe reflection of the forum. The ATT orbital has had a few different incarnations over the years (not entirely unlike just about everything else in Battlefleet Gothic's universe), but it is consistently an illustrious Tau military academy where some of the Tau Empire's best military minds gather to discuss and examine strategy and tactics, and learn from the masters. In other words it's sort of like a Top Gun program for Tau military forces. It's been subjected to a few attacks from other Battlefleet Gothic forces as well - you can see the details here (look for the threads listed as 'April [Date]', they should be stickied at the top).

Way back in 2013 when I was frantically scrambling to rescue as many Battlefleet Gothic models as possible I ordered a number of items from Forgeworld. One of them was an Air Caste Orbital City. I had always wanted to paint an Air Caste Orbital City as the ATT orbital (though originally it was only going to be one of multiple Air Caste Orbital Cities...), especially after Embrace Change, so when the Specialist Games started to get discontinued I made sure to pick one up along with the Forgeworld Tau ships I wanted so that I could at least salvage that minor dream. 

I wanted to keep it an absolute secret so that I could surprise everyone on there when the time was right. Exactly when that would be changed quite a lot. At first I planned to have it finished shortly after the Custodian (see April 2015's post for the details about that - Ed), but the university workload became too much and so I had to put on hold almost literally everything not related to university work in order to withstand the relentless avalanche of assignments. When I finished university and looked towards restoring my life there wasn't enough time for everything, and painting priority went to the Warhammer Fantasy models that I had started just before the big freeze. After they were finished my free time went towards rebuilding my shattered blogging activity, and so it wasn't until about a couple of months ago that painting on it could begin in earnest. Initially my plan was to finish it in time to reveal it just after Advanced Tau Tactica completed the major upgrade work that had been scheduled for this year, but that happened much sooner than I anticipated, and painting the model took far longer. The final deadline was Christmas, with the release scheduled for just afterwards (as I didn't want it being overshadowed by Yuletide festivities). After this painting went smoothly, and I was set to be right on schedule until some idiot D'yi decided it would be fun to drive a car into a transmission pole which knocked out the power to my neighbourhood for the rest of Christmas Eve. I painted like a man possessed, but in the end as dusk fell I ran out of available light with which to paint by, and so was forced into yet another delay, with the orbital finally being finished on Boxing Day. 

In hindsight (as you will see with the other pictures, and might possibly be already able to guess) it is easy to see why it took so long to paint. The Forgeworld designers weren't kidding when they called it an orbital city - the vast majority of the model is covered in an immensly detailed and intricately designed layout of a cityscape. The bottom piece even looks a lot like a Hive City spire if you turn it upside down. This makes for a fantastic rendition of a model (and also provides the best depiction I have seen of what a Tau city would look like from altitude), but also means that the bulk of the model is covered in a nightmarish twisting labyrinth of surfaces and edges that all need to be painted. If the Custodian was the painting equivalent of trench warfare, then this model was the painting equivalent of urban combat, and my work flow quickly devolved into a gruelling quagmire as I slowly painted it street by street, building by building, room by room, highlight line by highlight line. 

The dark mechanical 'city bits' of the orbital were painted the same way as the dark mechanical areas on the Custodian. After an undercoat of Abaddon Black I applied a heavy drybrush of a 50/50 mix of Abaddon Black and Dawnstone for a base colour. Originally I had planned to layer it like I had done on the Custodian, but that quickly proved to be horribly inefficient. A series of drybrushes provided the same effect much more quickly. The Layer Painters' Union was deeply angered at this decision, but was appeased by the assurance that they would still get the glory of working on the outer rim areas. Once the basecoat was down the 'city bits' were highlighted using Dawnstone, followed by a final highlight of Administratum Grey on the exposed areas. Veteran members might recognise this as the same method written in the original 3rd edition [i]Codex: Tau[/i] for painting the dark mechanical areas of Battlesuits, which is where I got the idea from after noticing the similarities between that and the colours used for the mechanical areas on the Forgeworld demonstration image of the Custodian. Finally, the lights were picked out with White Scar and Evil Sunz Scarlet. 

The outer rim areas were more experimental. I looked at several sources of inspiration for them, including the official ATT avatar artwork and the old forum colour scheme, but by far the main reference material I used was the old Thread Locked Mantas. After staring at them for some time and checking the Citadel colour range I worked out the best fits and some ideas of how to use them. I started on the lower concourse with a basecoat of Fenrisian Grey, followed by layers of drybrushing using a 50/50 mix of Fenrisian Grey and Celestra Grey and then highlighted with Celestra Grey. My original plan was to use blending to get a smooth transition between the colours so that the outside of the orbital would have a gradient effect, the required mastery of advanced Phased Blending technology proved to be beyond the grasp of my scientists at present, so I instead devised a solution using multiple successive drybrushes that I call a layered drybrush to achieve the effect. This process was repeated on the upper concourse, but using colours a tone lighter, so the basecoat was the same 50/50 Fenrisian Grey/Celestra Grey mix that was then given a layered drybrush of Celestra Grey and highlgihted with Ulthuan Grey. This was also done on the command deck, with a basecoat of Celestra Grey and a layered drybrush of Ulthuan Grey (also applied to the rim as edge highlights) and a final layered drybrush of a 50/50 mix of Ulthuan Grey and White Scar as a highlight on the apex. I was advised by Tael to look for a steely blue for the sept colour, and after cross-checking reference sources I decided the closest match was Thunderhawk Blue, which was used for the panel lines and sept markings. Once again, the lights were picked out with White Scar and Evil Sunz Scarlet. 

I also documented the model itself, as part of my A-Z archive of Battlefleet Gothic models. If you were to order an Air Caste Orbital City from Forgeworld, this would have been what you got. 

And the assembled model, ready for painting. 

Welcome to the ATT Orbital

STAGE 1: Orbital Power Core and Engineering 

- Primary orbital reactors 
- Orbital gravitic field generator 
- Main orbital engineering bay 
- Primary orbital engineering control centre
- Main Kor'vessa hangers 
- Primary capital ship docking facilities 

STAGE 2: Lower Concourse 

- Research and Development labs
- Experimental painting centres
- Experimental modelling workshops 
- Exemplar Galleries 
- Project log archives 
- Research and Development Resource article database 
- Library 
- Main habitat dormitories 
- Commerce sector 
- Recreation sector 
- Primary capital ship docking facilities 
- Primary outer rim launch-bays 

STAGE 3: Upper Concourse 

- ATT Fire Caste Academy campus
- ATT Air Caste Academy campus
- Academy article database
- Cadre building recruitment centre and supply depot 
- Tactica halls 
- Rules of Engagement conclave chamber 
- Field Experience archives 
- Internal battledomes 
- Fire Caste barracks 
- Enemy Units and Alternate Systems Intelligence centre 
- Secondary outer rim launch-bays

STAGE 4: Command Deck 

- Orbital control bridge 
- Orbital command centre 
- Orbital space traffic control centre
- Main orbital communications array 
- Orbital staff membership primers orientation centre 
- Orbital staff member profile database 
- Visitor help desk 
- Information desk 

Additional launch bays and hangers are scattered across the orbital's internal cityscapes. Not listed: Secure Ar'tol command centre. 

Not a bad grand finale for ATT's 10 year anniversary, if I might say so myself. Now then, time for a well-deserved break. There's still some Yuletide trifle left with my name on it...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

On Metaplots, And Why They Must Die


I was going to try and continue being nice for a bit longer. I wanted to try and stay positive. I wanted to just focus on models and fun backstory, but my hand has been forced. They leave me no choice. So buckle up ladies and gentlemen, because for the remainder of this post it's going to be another wave of nothing but furious venom-filled scathing ranting from an angry tabletop hobbyist. Because there's something that's been going on in the tabletop industry for a while now, a repulsive loathsome cancer that eats away at my enjoyment year by year, month by month, and quite recently it's been kicked into overdrive in the once-great land of GW. All this week I've been bombarded with glowing praise from the official statements about it, how amazing it is, how fantastic it will be, how much of a great leap forward it is.


In case you don't follow GW (and are probably better off for it), the latest big release for them have been a return of the glorious Juan Diaz early 2000s era Daemonette models that I've always loved. But the release they're really hyping up is a continuation of their new line of campaign supplements, this one called 'Wrath of Magnus'. It's accompanied by the usual swarm of garish soulless empty plastic abominations I never asked for or wanted that accompany a GW release nowdays, but the real problem, the real thing that has me literally so angry that I'm struggling to type coherently, is the book itself, and the thing that it represents the latest in a long line of. The book, you see, is a continuation of that horrifying plague known as the metaplot.

And it's destroying my enjoyment and interest in this hobby.

For those of you who don't know (and I was like that once), a metaplot is a single unifying story arc that links together across several different independent works and impacts on all of them. In other words, you have creative works X, Y and Z, each of which cover a different aspect of the same setting or internal universe. A metaplot will be a continuing narrative across all of them, with events from work X having an impact on work Y, which in turn provides revelations that affect work Z. It's most commonly associated with tabletop RPGs and wargames, where the independent works in question are sourcebooks and gamebooks for the tabletop game's fictional setting, and it became very popular in the 1990s after White Wolf achieved some success with their famous World of Darkness RPG series, starting with Vampire: The Masquerade. These RPGs were designed from the start with a central metaplot, and when they started making considerable amounts of money (by tabletop game standards at least) other manufacturers decided they wanted a piece of the action and started coming up with metaplots of their own. Today it's very common to find them in both RPGs and wargames covering fictional settings (such as Dystopian Wars, modern GW games and perhaps most famously Battletech).

Now, so far this probably sounds perfectly well and good, after all that's basically what happens in every traditional media from books to TV shows. And that's true. It's only when it's taken out of its native environment of traditional media that the metaplot becomes such a destructive invasive disease. The astronomical problem here, you see, is that tabletop games are in many ways very different to traditional media, as an audience interacts with them in very different ways.

Traditional media like books, TV shows, movies etc. is meant to be enjoyed passively. You sit down, read the book or watch the movie or TV show, and when you reach the end that's it, the story's finished. It's over. Oh sure some people theorise and discuss things and write their own stuff about it, but that's not really what the core intent is. You don't watch Star Wars to decide what you'd do if you were in charge of the Rebellion or that it really should have been Captain Phasma that stayed on to become the big badass antagonist for the new films, you watch it to watch the story of Star Wars (and then if you get really, really invested in it you can take things from there). At the heart of it, a creator is telling you a story, and you can take it or leave it.

Tabletop games, however, are a whole other thing entirely. Instead of passively consuming them, tabletop games require you, the audience, the player, the hobbyist, to enjoy them actively. You don't just sit there while a story unfolds in front of you, you actually get in there and actively engage with the setting (even if only on the absolute minimal level required). Because tabletop games require you to create something for them. Whether it's characters in an RPG or armies in a wargame, you are required to contribute something. YOU create the characters, YOU build the army, and you, yes YOU are in control of them. You effectively create your own small part of that setting, with which you can then interact with the rest of the universe. This is easily one of the greatest joys to be had in the tabletop hobby, and I'm always very disturbed and upset when I see few people pursuing it.

Unfortunately, this starts to crash and burn if the contributors are denied a sufficient amount of agency over what happens to their creations, and that's exactly what metaplots do. Because official top-down 'storyline advancing' metaplots don't affect just one part of the setting, they affect all of it, including the parts you created. Thus, an advancing metaplot forces new background material on your characters, armies and stories regardless of whether you actually wanted it or not. And because it's official and top down, there is no real way it can be effectively denied. If you don't want or agree with the new background, there is no way for your characters or army to stop it because its set in stone from on high by people who in all likelihood will never even hear about your own creations.

There's a quote on TVtropes in the examples listed under the 'Creator's Pet' trope amongst the examples found in Tabletop Wargames:

"That's the other thing: [White Wolf] hires people who want to tell stories. But, the only characters they have to tell stories about are the NPCs. So, they tell stories about the NPCs. 
Gods, I wanted to smack some of my fellow writers upside the head on some Vampire projects when they burbled on about the cool things they'd have Hardestadt do, or whoever. What were the *PCs* supposed to do?" - Dean Shomshak

Shomshak was talking about the World of Darkness and its metaplot, but the same principle applies to any tabletop game. Even the most compelling core background element of a tabletop setting is technically only ever supposed to be a backdrop for what the players are doing. As a result, if you make it all about the central metaplot and 'advancing the storyline', then I, the hobbyist and consumer of your product, can only be left saying "OK. Great. What's my army/fleet/characters supposed to do."

Let's look at some examples under the microscope shall we? Perhaps the biggest illustration of why this whole metaplot thing just does not work is the infamous 'End Times' series by GW (henceforth referred to as the ET series like it is almost everywhere else on this blog, for it does not deserve to be recognised by its full name). The ET series, as has been discussed on here before, was a series of narrative campaign books GW published for Warhammer Fantasy, and they ended up literally destroying the setting. Kislev, Bretonnia, Tilea, Estallia and several other factions were supposedly wiped out off-hand in single paragraphs, the Elves were thrown together in a fit of what certainly felt like blatant Dark Elf pandering and the forces of evil generally rampage across the entire Warhammer World. And if you wanted to stop any of this from happening? Y'know, like fantasy heroes are supposed to do? Well too bad! Instead you get to sit on the sidelines while the official named characters do everything because apparently they're the only ones that matter and the only ones allowed to have any interaction with the setting.

OK. Great. What are my armies and characters supposed to do?

A more recent GW example comes from the last two Warzone Damocles books, in which Aun'va supposedly died and the Damocles Gulf was allegedly set on fire. Ignoring the glaring contradictions of basic laws of physics that are horrendous even by 40k's standards. you really shouldn't be making those kinds of big sweeping changes in a way that leaves the hobbyists no room around them. I have a very sizeable Tau fleet (just over 2,500 pts by my estimate), some of which I've documented on this very blog. The backstory behind them has them around the Damocles Gulf right at the point when that event supposedly happens, and also has them fighting against the Imperium (mostly). And yet now it doesn't matter how many games of Battlefleet Gothic I play or how well I play them or how many Adeptus Mechanicus fleets I defeat or how many victory points I defeat them by, the Damocles Gulf is still always going to be ignited in GW's crazy made-up world. Which wouldn't be a problem if that world was the piece of silly fanfiction I'm making it out to be here, but it's the official company line, which means the bulk of the community will likely end up swallowing it. So according to GW, the Tau can't stop the Damocles Gulf from being blown up, no matter how many Exterminatus! scenarios I win against Imperial fleets. None of the official named characters did anything about it, so it happens, and that's that.

OK. Great. What are my fleets and characters supposed to do?

Also, what are my armies and characters supposed to do? I do play 40k too (well in theory at least).

And it's not just my armies. The new book GW's just released has a whole bunch of stuff happening between the Dark Angels, Space Wolves and Thousand Sons, and if you want to try and stop any of that? Too bad, as it has been written, so shall it be.

OK. Great. What are the armies and characters of the Space Wolves, Dark Angels and Thousand Sons players supposed to do?

GW isn't the only manufacturer that's guilty of this either. For a long time I flirted with getting into Dystopian Wars, a 15mm steampunk wargame produced by Spartan Games. But when I went to check up on where it was at I was put right off ever wanting to start into it, because any remaining models in the range that I do like would be thoroughly eclipsed by 'progressing storyline' that's taken the setting beyond it's starting point. Oh, you wanted to conquer the carribean or invade Russia (though you probably don't know much about world conquest if you did the latter)? Well fuck you! We've written about the official events in these fancy new books! Go and slavishly devote yourself to just passively eating up whatever we spoon feed you, your creations don't matter to us*! Heck, the enormous metaplot in Battletech is the single biggest factor AGAINST me getting into that system.

And that's another problem, developers just don't stop at one addition, they keep driving the metaplot until everywhere is covered. So it doesn't matter that your army and its related background happens thousands of light-years away from the events in a given GW campaign book, or a continent away from the latest Dystopian Wars metaplot antics, because that won't keep you safe forever. All it takes is one campaign book, one new piece of background material, one 'advancement to the storyline' to render all your carefully thought-out background effectively null and void in the wider community. And frankly, if that's what's going to happen, then why should I even bother with building my own army in the first place? And if the answer to that is 'you shouldn't' then what's the point of the tabletop hobby, and why should I care about it?

This isn't a new problem, but it wasn't this bad before. GW's global Eye of Terror global campaign promised big shakeups to the status quo, and while glorious it was almost certainly a mistake. But it at least allowed hobbyists to have some level of agency over the changes by allowing them to interact with the process - if you don't want side X to win at location Y, then you'd just have to win enough games and report those wins in to stop them there (well that's the basic concept at least. The actual system was somewhat more complicated). With these new campaign books? None of that. The things happen, rocks fall, everyone dies, and there's nothing you can do about it. And at the risk of sounding like an 80s action film character, I didn't sign on for that.

And it's a trivially easy thing to fix. All manufacturers would have to do is write in a little 1-page introduction piece at the start of every campaign book that clearly and explicitly states that all the background material contained within is just a hypothetical 'What if?' scenario and is only one potential outcome out of many, and encourages players to come up with whatever outcome suits them the best, and reinforce that message in every official statement about the campaign books, and there'd be no problem because then everyone would be free to decide for themselves whether to include the new background or not. And if they want to do a massive global campaign event, then they just have to think smaller. One planet, one city, one thing that's inconsequential in the grander scheme of things. Things like the Medusa V campaign or Imperial Armour Volume III: The Taros Campaign are the right idea, because even if you don't agree with the outcome it's just one small place that you can avoid. The Tau conquered Taros? That's OK, your army is light-years away engaged in its own equally important conflict, and who knows maybe it'll go there someday to try and retake it. Maybe it will, maybe it won't but it's up to you. And that's the important part that's missing at the moment. If it is there, then I don't think it's being rammed down the community's throat nearly enough.

All official background in a tabletop game is ever meant to do is be a starting point, something to give your games and characters and armies context. It should never be a prime mover - that's the job of YOU, the player and hobbyist.

All the official background should ever do is set the stage and provide some props and costumes. It should then be up to you to cast some actors, write a script and perform it. And the sooner manufacturers remember that, the better.

Right then. I fell better now that I've gotten that out of my system. My apologies you had to see me in that state, but I just couldn't take it any longer. I'll try and talk about something more positive next time, although for now I will state again just how delighted I am to see the 2000s era Juan Diaz Daemonette models come back, if only briefly.

*That may not be the intention they have, but it certainly feels like that to me.

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!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Glory And The Scum


Ahem. So as I was hitting up the local second-hand bookstore I managed to find another lot of old Warhammer books.

They're the 3rd edition Codex: Tyranids and the 6th edition Chaos Warriors army book for Warhammer Fantasy (back when it was Hordes of Chaos and Demons were still part of the book. Ahh those were the days). There was also a copy of the 3rd edition Space Marine codex and the 3rd edition Warhammer 40,000 rulebook. I was going to get the 3rd edition rulebook, but in between me checking it was still there and actually going to buy it (two consecutive days) some bastard swooped in and bought it before I could. The Space Marine codex was left, and as far as I am aware is still there. I was tempted to buy it as well, but I'm not really sure how much use I'd get from it since I have no desire at all to ever own a (loyalist) Space Marine army, ever.

The 3rd edition Tyranids codex was admittedly my main target, and was an extremely fortunate find as it was the next 3rd edition codex I wanted to get after the 3.5 edition Chaos Space Marines book. I have plans, you see, to get it and the 4th edition Tyranid codex that followed it in order to try and compile a full catalogue of every Tyranid biomorph that's been published in Warhammer 40,000's history. An impossible task to be sure, for the Great Devourer is constantly mutating and evolving, but I want to get a good idea of all the biomorphs that have been featured and what they do for use in designing homebrew rules.

A cursory look through Lexicanum seems to indicate that this was the last of the 'first generation' of 3rd edition Warhammer 40,000 codexes, released just before the famous 3.5 edition books, and it definitely shows. From the artwork to the background stories to the overall layout, the whole book feels like a prototype 3.5 edition codex. The cover artwork has the same sort of gritty, realistic style as most of the 3.5 edition cover art (in sharp contrast to the more vividly colourful first generation 3rd edition codex covers), and it's easily my favourite out of the Tyranid codex covers. The tortured, dying sun, the pack of gaunts barrelling straight towards the viewer, the sickly green glow from the barbed strangler, the fantastic use of indistinct background shapes and the dark brooding colour scheme all drive home exactly what the Tyranids are to me. The internal artwork also has a distinctly 3.5 edition feel, with many pieces in the softer sketch style of the late 3rd edition period rather than the comparatively sharper and more immediately Blancheian early 3rd edition artwork. There are a few exceptions, some of which (like a small piece at the end of the book depicting some giant Tyranid spores drifting between celestial bodies) would later end up in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada. There is also a delightfully creepy background art on many pages that mimics the amazing inside cover, which lends a fantastic ambience to the book.

It is still at the same 40something page length of the early 3rd edition codexes, but pound for pound there's an astonishing amount of stuff in there. The rules are somewhat light, especially for biomorphs - I was expecting that most of the biomorphs featured in the 4th edition codex would have gotten their start here, but it seems like many of them (especially the Carnifex upgrades) were invented for the later book. Consequently the 'armoury' section is fairly thin, with most of the customisation options coming from the optional mutation and genetic engineering rules at the back of the book. The unit and weapon stats had some interesting features, bio-acid spore mines weren't quite as hardcore as I was anticipating them to be, and I'm still struggling to imagine why I would want to use Devourers, especially on gaunts - I know the models look pretty funky, but I'm just not sure exactly what 2 strength 2 shots are meant to accomplish. Is it a numbers thing where you're aiming to force wounding 6s and failed armour saves through sheer weight of dice? They seem slightly better on Warriors and Raveners where they get bolter strength and 6 shots each respectively, but then I can't help but think how much better Deathspitters look since they have better range, AP and strength, and seem like they'd hit just as many enemies per shooting round since they're blast weapons. Likewise rending claws seem kind of redundant on the monstrous creatures since they already ignore armour saves automatically, unless you want to giggle about Carnifexes getting AP22 against vehicles in close combat (which admittedly is kind of fun to think about). Ah what do I care, it's not like I've ever been interested in the competitive gaming side of this hobby anyway.

Speaking of non-gaming stuff, there's a healthy colour section nestled in the middle of the book with a lot of helpful hobby material and a layout that's eerily similar to the colour section in the later 3rd edition Tau codex. It has guides on converting and assembling Tyranid models, as well as plenty of photos of what is actually my favourite incarnation of the Tyranid model range. Yes, I like this one more than the 4th edition range - THERE I SAID IT! The 4th edition range has a lot of nice technical attributes in the form of bits and opportunities for customisation, to be sure, but in terms of aesthetics the 3rd edition range has it pretty solidly beat hands down as far as I'm concerned. The scything talons look like actual talons on the larger models (whereas the ones on the 4th edition models tend to look more like long chitin-covered fingers to me), and the whole range just looks more threatening to me than the later versions (I've never understood the 'friendly smiles' complaint that gets levelled at this range a lot - the grins on the models always looked more psychotic or sinister to me). Most of my favourite Tyranid models are also from this time, including the 3rd edition Lictor and Biovore (for some reason the later versions of them just never looked right to me), the Raveners with their wicked looking maws, the Tyrant Guard (I always liked the 'elite warrior bodyguard' style of the 3rd edition Tyrant Guard rather than the pudgy balls of chitin from the later editions) and of course the awe inspiring 3rd edition Hive Tyrant. I even have plans to convert one of the newer Hive Tyrant models back into the 3rd edition style if I ever start a Tyranid army...

Since I couldn't get the 3rd edition rulebook, I consoled myself with this, the 6th edition Chaos Warriors army book for Warhammer Fantasy. I don't remember exactly how it was received at the time, and I have some trouble discerning the community's memory of this book with that of the 7th edition one (wait there was a 7th edition Warriors of Chaos army book right? I distinctly remember there being one, that was an actual thing and I'm not going insane yes?), but GW certainly seems to have made a big deal about it at the time - right after the contents page there's a page-long introductory spiel about how this book will change everything for Chaos armies (There's also a corresponding page at the back with advice on how to proxy older Chaos models not represented in the book as stuff that does have rules for it in the book, which I quite liked) along with the later Beasts of Chaos army book and a mysterious second companion book that never seems to have materialised.

As far as army books go, it's massive - easily the lengthiest one I've come across so far, and full of background information about Chaos and the Northern Chaos-worshipping barbarian tribes of the Warhammer World, and a lengthy army list section not entirely unlike that of its 40k cousin the 3.5 edition Chaos Space Marines book. However, I've never actually been that interested in the Warriors side of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy (or the Chaos Space Marines in 40k for that matter - it's always been the creepier sinister insidious paranormal horror side of Chaos that's interested me rather than the fightey punchy heavy metal side), so really the main reason I wanted it was to plunder the magic items section for goodies to give the Beastmen army I wanted but will almost certainly never get (the magic item armouries in the two army books are inter-compatible with one another you see - as I understand it a Beastmen character can take stuff from the Chaos Warriors armoury, and vice versa). There were a couple of things in it that caught my interest, like the Hellfire Sword or the Blade of Blood, but ultimately I was kind of let down by the magic items - again, they mostly seemed to be of the whole raging fighty warrior style of Chaos, and that's really not what I'm looking for when it comes to the Ruinous Powers. Still, there's a lot of neat stuff in that book.

If you follow GW news a lot then you'll probably know that they recently switched their hobby magazine, White Dwarf, back to a monthly format after a stint as a weekly pamphlet. I was going to write something about this sooner (I've actually had this copy for a few weeks now), but something came up and I had to delay this whole post by a couple of weeks or so. Unfortunately at least half of the content featured in it is for a system I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever (and no GW, taking the 8th edition Dwarf Slayer model and giving it a new paint job does not make it a special Grombrindal model), so it was off to a bad start already, but on the positive side I was pleased to see two female White Dwarf team members featured prominently on the staff list inside the cover - as someone who has wanted for some time to see more... girls? Women? Ladies? I'm not quite sure what the most appropriate term to use here is, but more female hobbyists at any rate (and more female computer gamers too for that matter) I'm always glad to see a blow against the whole male dominated hobby thing. All genders should be welcome in the world of tabletop wargames.

Other features include some background stuff about Imperial Knights, which might have excited me 5 or 6 years ago but is now of little use since I've grown almost entirely self-sufficient when it comes to tabletop background material (3-10 years of stupid official background will do that to you) and some designers' notes on the ungodly eyesore that is the 8th edition Nagash model released for the thrice-damned ET series, which much like the 8th edition Treeman model and its unclean spawn in the AoS sylvaneth range possesses an uncanny ability to make my blood boil even now over a year after its release. Ultimately it was a good attempt at putting more content back in, but after experiencing the glory of the early 2000s era White Dwarfs I don't think anything will ever truly compare.

The most profound reaction I had, however, was with the featured army of the month, a very large Biel-Tan Craftworld Eldar army featuring some damn fine paint work. Reading about it though, and some of the history behind it, I couldn't help but feel... sad. I've touched on the death of most of my hobby dreams a few times before, but one in particular I don't think I've mentioned yet is that I've sort of always wanted to have one of my armies or fleets featured in a White Dwarf article. Ever since I first started reading through White Dwarfs (and even before then on the old GW website) I would always liked looking at the featured armies (starting with none other than the legendary Tau army of Sebastian 'Tael' Stuart himself in the first issue of White Dwarf I ever purchased) and reading the owner's commentary about them - what made them go with that paint scheme, where the idea for the army came from, how they did this particular conversion and so on, and I would always dream of one day seeing my own army (later armies when I expanded into more than one) featured in White Dwarf so that other hobbyists might enjoy reading about it like I had before them.

Unfortunately it seems that my views have become diametrically opposed to GW's. I hate metaplots like the one they torpedoed Warhammer Fantasy with and the one they're driving into 40k, and I genuinely see nothing good in just about every GW model released in the last couple of years (the closest I get to having a positive thing to say about them is the occasional "Meh... it's kind of ok... I guess..." or "I suppose I could use one or two parts from that in a conversion... maybe..." which is a very far cry from the "WOW that's awesome!" that literally any GW model released between 1999 and 2008 universally gets from me, or the "Hey that's pretty neat/cool!" reaction that any GW model from before 1999 gets*). Ultimately, all the GW and Forgeworld models I love are from the past, not the future.

This means that in all likelihood I will never get featured in a White Dwarf article, or even on the GW website. My armies/fleets will never be showcased in lavish professional photographs, I will never be able to share any anecdotes or cool stories with millions of readers across the world, and worst of all I will never inspire another hobbyist the way the ones featured in those showcases inspired me. The closest I'll get is this blog, and considering that it's buried under 4 and a half pages in a google search for 'Naked Metal' I'm not sure how many aspiring young hobbyists are going to find it...

On that note however I do wish to express my immense joy and excitement at GW's new 'Made to Order' service for older models. As someone who has been calling for a cast-on-demand archive service for years now I was thrilled to discover the announcement on the GW website and the first wave of old Imperial Guard models to get the treatment. There are still a couple of kinks that could be ironed out (I still think a minimum availability period of 48 hours is too short to reach the most people who would be interested), but it's a definite step in the right direction and has my full support and OHMYGOD They're even in metal!!

Well done GW. Keep going down that path and you might actually start getting more money from me.