Sunday, 30 June 2013

Horus Heresy – The books reviewed – Overture

I started playing 40k back in the old Wild West days before it became the soulless megacorp we love to hate. Rogue trader was fun, though it was a mess of a system, but it contained some real gems in its background (along with a pile of crap).
The game that started it all

It was in this era that I bought my 1st two stand-alone GW games, Space Hulk and Blood Bowl. These games still represent to me what GW can do when it gets things right. The other game I got into was Space Marine 1st edition.

This game was 6mm epic scale battles between armies of Marines, set in the 30th millennium, during what was to become known as the Horus Heresy. I loved the civil war concept and the fact all players had the same list to choose from, it was pretty much Space Marines & Land raiders, not much else. But it was the setting that intrigued me.

I've always preferred 30k to 40k. I guess the theme of "brother vs brother in an age of heresy" does more for me than "

The core story

Get to know your Primarchs
Over time that setting has been developed, reworked and rebuilt more times than I can shake a stick at. The core concepts remain though. The Emperor created the Space Marines, 20 different legions of kick ass super soldiers to help him conquer the galaxy. Each legion had a Primarch, an even more super-powered leader who embodied the core principles of each legion (indeed, the marines were grown from the Primarchs).

Some wacky misadventure in time & space caused the Primarchs to be stolen away from their growing chambers while still infants and scattered across the galaxy. While conquering said galaxy the Emperor finds all his lost lads and reunites them with their legions. Good times are had until the Emperor appoints his favourite Primarch (Horus) to the title of Warmaster and puts him in charge of everyone else.

Horus goes nuts, declares war on the Emperor, kills a bunch of loyal Space Marines and the galaxy divides into two camps to fight a civil war. Horus looks like he will win, attacks Terra, cripples the Emperor who then promptly kills Horus. The Emperor is left mangled and the entire human domain pretty much becomes a steaming pile of crap from here on in.  

These events describe why the 40k world is such a bleak grimdark future.

What the story really is (according to me)

Lucifer cast down
I think the story is a Christian parable in space. It is the rebellion of Lucifer against the throne where all the protagonists are wearing power armour.  Space Marines are already described as the Angels of Death, and have enough Judaeo-Christian iconography on them to back this up. Purity seals, Hymms to the Emperor, relics, Iron Halos, you name it. There is so much predominately Catholic imagery in marines alone to make the angelic connection. And when an angel falls it becomes a demon.... you know, bat wings, fangs, that kind of stuff. 

This of course makes the Primarchs the Arch-Angels. The Arch-Angels have normally been portrayed as exceedingly more powerful and influential than any individual angel. Archangel Gabriel, for example, heralds the birth of Jesus and recounts the Qu'ran to Mohammad while Archangel Michael is meant to have broken Lucifer’s back and cast him down from heaven.
Lucifer, according to Christian mythology (The war in heaven is briefly mentioned in the bible in revelations 12:7 but most “fact” about this comes from other sources) was the best and brightest of the angels. Various versions of the story revolve around one core concept, that Lucifer’s pride caused him to rebel against the throne of god, and that he and his allies (fully a 3rd of the host of heaven) were defeated and cast into hell.

Horus is Lucifer, the best and the brightest of the Primarchs. He, through various actions, opens himself to temptation, in this case the forces of Chaos. Through his power of persuasion he brings fully half the host of heaven (the Imperial military) under his sway and begins to assault the throne (Terra). Finally, the defeated hordes of Chaos are cast down and exiled to hell.  In the 40k world, we call that “the eye of terror”.
Metatron is out of fucks
The Emperor is of course God, all powerful and stuff, so powerful that he needs Malcador the Sigilite to speak for him so mortals don’t go crazy. This is comparable to the Metatron, the angel who spoke for God, so wonderfully portrayed by Alan Rickman in Dogma.

Each of the fallen Primarchs also embodies a Christian mortal sin that leads to their demise. Fulgrim is full of pride as he strives towards perfection. Magnus is also undone by pride, in his case believing he can master dark arts and dark forces better than the Emperor. Konrad Kruze and Angron fall victims to their own rage and hatred. Peterabo and Mortarion are undone by jealousy of their brothers. Lorgars fall is triggered when he love for the Emperor is spurned, driving him in to the arms of Chaos. Finally, Alpharius is tricked into falling through his own suspicions and isolation.

Why this makes the story cool!

Each Primarch and each Legions fall is told in such a way to highlight their mortal fragility and the human nature of their sin. The battles might be epic in scale, but the tragedy is frequently presented in very human ways.

The story is epic, it spans hundreds of years, has a cast of thousands battling across thousands of worlds. But it is the mix of epic scale and real humanity that makes the Horus Heresy a lot better than it could have been. It could have been dull as shit: “I get magic sword, it makes me angry, I fall, SMASH EMPEROR! CHAOS GOOD!” fiction. The writers, for the most part, avoid this obvious but easy pitfall and attempt to write real people. This is a very good thing.

Horus and Sanguinius pre-heresy

So far, it's 20+ books, each with a different perspective and story, all building into a massive narrative. Yes, we know how it all ends, but that’s not the point. The journey is far more interesting than the destination in this case.

My reviews, what to expect

I plan to recap and review each book. I don’t want to do the traditional “I give this 7 oblongs out of 10” style review. I want to look at how the writers, as a team, build the world. How they build characters and make you feel for characters that are essentially immortal 10 foot tall giant wearing power armour with retarded names like ROBUTE! I want to explore the failings and successes of each story and how each book is an individual brush stroke in the Horus Heresy painting.

These reviews will not be for people who haven’t read the books as I will talk about all the key “big stuff” that happens. Why they are important and what implications they have on the series.

At its best, the Horus Heresy series is A Game of Thrones in space ... at its low points it's freaking Commando comics in space. The series benefits and suffers from its “panel writing” approach. Some writers are gold, Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Dan Abnett stand as giants in this writing team, but they get sorely let down by the team at times.

So, join me as I embark on this process of examining the heresy. Join in with comments and critique. Let’s discuss the crap out of these books. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

100,000 page views

Holy moly, 100,000 views.... nearly 2 years worth and 134 freaking posts.

That seems like a bucket load.

I don't really know what to say asides from thanks for taking the time to read the blog.

It all started because Megapope goaded me in to contributing on the interwebz. Get a blog, he said, it will be fun, he said.

The crazy bearded fool had a point, it has been fun.

The biggest highlight was the response my NOOB's guides to Warmachine received. The faction guide alone has over 12,000 direct views which is pretty epic. Being stickied on the official PP forums, Battlecollege and /warmachine on reddit has been a really big deal.

My Axis and Allies painted set has drawn a lot of readership as well, about 6,000 views for that series. I'd like to thank the team at for keeping my posts stickied in their Anniversary edition section. Pretty stoked to see the number of people inspired to make their own painted sets after reading those posts, and some of their work kicks the crap out of mine.

I've used to blog to motivate me to paint and play, it's become a symbiotic relationship type thing. "I should play something because I need to update the blog" one week, then the next week its "I should blog about the things i just did".

Finally, a thank you to those people who have given feedback, played games with me, or offered support at different stages. Real names hidden to protect the guilty.
Master of the Forge conversion

  • Ms. Vomkrieg
  • The Monday night gaming lads, Megapope, Professor M, DJ Ekim & Rahana 
  • The Port Nicholson privateers but most of all Sicarius & Palarel. 
  • The Ministry of Wargaming team, Ginger Ninja, Lintman, The Scottish Play and the Ships Cat. 
  • Everyone i've played at a tournament who allowed me to take pics for my battlereports
  • Everyone who has run a tournament that i've been to. 
  • My dealers (namely John from Pukeko games and Chris from Mark 1)

The blog will keep going strong for a long while yet, so here's a random assortment of photos to show whats been covered on the blog to date. 

I look forward to adding to it. 

Chaos in the Old World

Sons of Medusa veteran conversions


Grubby Tank

Descent Heroes

Space Hulk

Sculpting 101

War of the Ring

Axis and Allies

Magic Runes!

Breaking arms and custom bases

War of the Ring expansion

Storm Strider

Storm Lord

A damm fine cloak!

Battlestar Galactica with freaking bells and whistles

Horus Heresy


Monday, 24 June 2013

Card games – Collectible vs. Living (or... how magic is the great satan)

Collectible card games are the devils work, and Magic the Gathering is the GREAT SATAN.

I can hear fans of the game wailing and gnashing their teeth, but it’s a simple brutal truth.

Few things are as financially crippling as a MTG habit. Addicts spend their time in a daze, waiting for payday to buy another booster just to get that “Blue Eyes White Dragon*” they've been craving to complete their super deck of doom. The rush of opening a pack, the lament at seeing a pile of cards you already have and a crappy rare no one wants to trade.

How many cards you will discard to get that one rare you need. 

Magic the Gathering has one big thing going for it.

The game is actually pretty freaking brilliant.

Oh wow.... this fits so well it makes me
lament my wasted youth playing this game even more
Satan’s own finance model aside, the game-play has that brilliant combination of easy-to-learn and impossible-to-master. There are multiple paths to victory, millions and millions of card combinations, and a seemingly endless variety of tricks, strategies and card interplay to explore. The game is a master piece.
Satan’s own hand is on it, that much is self-evident.

I was once an addict like you, spending my hard earned (well, that’s a stretch, but it was money I could have used on other things) on Vampire the Eternal FREAKING struggle cards. I spend a fortune on that game and do I play it anymore?



But there is another option, A way to get your card game fix without shelling out half a house deposit on cards that won’t be useable in a few sets time (MTG tournament rules exclude the older cards… makes business sense after all….. IF YOU’RE SATAN).

Living card games

Fantasy flight game developed a new business model for card games a while back, and I think whoever game up with it deserves a nice yacht or something similar…. an aircraft carrier to cruise the Caribbean perhaps?

The living card game is different to the collectible card game. It was clearly developed by someone who had sunk a lot of cash into MTG and was left feeling cheated, dirty and crying in a shower.  

The fundamental difference between the two models is you know exactly what cards you are getting in a booster pack, and you only need to buy one of each booster to get all the copies of a card you will need (unless you’re crazy).

The starter boxes come with enough cards to make some decks, and each booster so far comes with 3 copies of the 20 cards in that set.

That’s it.

No digging through boosters to get that rare you want. You buy the booster and get 3 copies of everything. BOOM! Just like that.

You still get the fun of unboxing the cards, reading what they do and figuring out how to use them.

Each game also has a drip feed release schedule, one booster a month, at about $20 NZ a pop.

Now if you get into one of these games, you can still sink a lot of money, but it will be over time and eventually, once you catch up to releases it will be $20 a month. That’s less of a crack habit and more of an occasional joint at party’s type habit.

What LCG’s are there?

Fantasy Flight games have six on the market right now, and they are targeting some pretty strong fandoms. I own two of them, Netrunner and Star Wars and they are both excellent games.

Netrunner is a cyberpunk hacker vs. an evil mega-corporation in an asymmetric game of bluffing and deduction. Netrunner is currently the 5th highest ranked game on Boardgamegeek, if your serious about card games, it’s a must try. Also, one of the corporations is Weyland…. Of Alien fame.

Star Wars is another asymmetric card game, with a predictable rebel vs. Empire theme. The gameplay however is wonderful, and it is the first card game I have come across that does not have “bad cards”. I’ll review the game another time, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and I rate it highly.

Also on the list are Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Invasion (for all those GW fanbois), Lord of the rings and A GAME OF THRONES.

Yep, FFG got Cyberpunk, Warhammer, Cthulhu, Star Wars, LOTR and AGOT. That’s targeting a lot of geek fandoms, and I’d be surprised if anyone reading this isn't a fan of one of those.

So, go online, look up the rules for the LCG and buy a starter box. You’ll save roughly bazillion dollars by flogging you magic cards off online and picking up an LCG instead.

* Yes, I know that’s a Yu_gi_oh reference. 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Bust a move - Finale

 When my painting muse is not with me, it takes forever to paint anything.

This relic project has taken a lot longer than I would expect, and that has little to do with the quality of the figures and everything to do with me being a bit burned out by painting.

The final three paintjobs turned out alright I thought though. I tried a few different things this time, but of most interest to others would be the continuing experiments with pigment powders.

The ogyrn has a small amount of pigment work on his sweatshirt to make it look dirty (note, nipple highlighting was not the intent).

But the new thing I tried was using pigment to represent camouflage paint. In the past, if i have tried do camo paint on a model I've used paint. This time, especially on the ratlings face, I wanted the camo to look like it has been applied "on top" of the original colours.

I used a technique similar to dry brushing to get the effect. You can still see the flesh-tones of the face through the camo, but it's an unmistakable effect. (inspired by platoon and tour of duty). I quite like how gritty the Ratling turned out.

As mentioned earlier, painting updates will be more sporadic from here on in for a while until my urge to paint returns. Until then the blog will shift focus on to boardgames and the Horus Heresy books for a while.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

A new direction

My painting muse has fled… this happens to me from time-to-time. I can paint non-stop like a rampaging half-bull half-manbearpig hybrid at times…. And then, all of a sudden, I cannot be bothered with it.

I’m nearly done with painting Relic, but lordy, has that been a pain. What I've noticed is the amount of time I spend painting is directly related to the time I spend playing PC games. I just started playing The Old Republic and I’m enjoying the stuffing out of it.

So what does that mean for the blog?

Probably very few painting updates and game reports for a while, but I do have something else planned, excellent stuff in fact to fill the void. I’m planning a new regular column for my blog. It’s  hobby related, but not to do with painting.

Horus Heresy recaps

Probably the most iconic scene in the 40k universe. 

I’ve been reading the Horus Heresy books and I quite like them. I started off playing “Epic Space Marine” instead of 40k. I’ve always preferred the 30k setting to the 40k setting and I think the book reviews will be a good project to do. They will be filled with spoilers, so if you don’t want the books “ruined” for you then I suggest ignoring this section.

Right, that’s about it from me. Hopefully, if the weather is fine I can take some pics of the Relic busts and finish off that project. Until next time…

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