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Friday, July 30, 2010

Nemesis, A Review





I havent read this book yet as I have just bought it last Wednesday (28th July) but I thought I would put this review up to remind me to read it soon.

The ‘Horus Heresy’ books have pretty much become the flagship series for the Black Library’s ‘Warhammer 40,000’ line and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re already a fan then you’re finally getting a story that fills in all the gaps for one of the most important events in 40K history. Instead of internet speculation (and the odd paragraph or two in ‘White Dwarf’ magazine) you get to see what actually happened, all of it.

If you’re not really a fan of the setting then there is still plenty to recommend these books. Genetically engineered warriors with big guns fighting wars that engulf entire star systems; what’s not to like about that? If you like military sci-fi then you really need to be reading these books if you aren’t already.
I’m not a gamer but I fall firmly into the first camp as a fan of the setting and books. The ‘Horus Heresy’ series hasn’t been a perfect ride so far (and I haven’t read all the books yet) but there’s been more than enough to it to have me eagerly anticipating each new release. James Swallow’s ‘Nemesis’ is the latest release and it could very well be the best of the lot...

After the horrors wrought by Horus in the Istvaan system, all out war is declared on the Imperium and the march on Terra begins. Planet after planet falls and it becomes clear that the only way to stop the onslaught is to kill Horus himself. In the shadowy recesses of the Imperial Palace, an unprecedented alliance between the Assassin Cults sees a handpicked team sent to execute the Archtraitor and end the war before it can develop further.
What the agents of the Imperium cannot know though is that their traitorous counterparts have similar designs of their own. While the Imperial assassins head out to intercept Horus, another assassin is headed in the opposite direction. His mission, to strike a deadly blow at the very heart of the Imperium itself...

I’ve had mixed results with what I’ve read from James Swallow in the past. For every ‘Black Tide’ there’s been a feeling that Swallow likes to use the ‘haunted spaceship’ scenario a little too much for my liking (although I’ll admit that I do need to read a lot more of his 40K fiction before that feeling becomes more concrete). With this in mind, my anticipation of a new ‘Horus Heresy’ read was tempered by the fact that I wasn’t sure which way this was going to go. Were we talking ‘Black Tide’ here or would I find myself on board another haunted spaceship...?
It turns out that I needn’t have worried, not only was ‘Nemesis’ a storming read but there were no haunted spaceships at all!

‘Nemesis’ is a deftly written mixture of action and intrigue that really captures the feel of a galaxy that has just tipped over the precipice and is beginning the long slide into anarchy and chaos. It’s also the thirteenth book in the series, so far, so I really wouldn’t recommend beginning the series here (although there is enough background detail for you to be able to do it if you really wanted to) That’s not a problem though, not only will you have ‘Nemesis’ to look forward to but there is plenty of goodness to keep you going in the meantime! :o)

The big problem facing ‘Nemesis’ is that if you’re a fan of the setting then you will know of Horus’ ultimate fate and how that ultimately influences the outcome of this book. If you’re not then it doesn’t matter at all but there’s definitely an issue there for anyone with a little background knowledge of the 40K universe.
It wasn’t a problem for me. Apart from a few moments where I felt that Swallow was perhaps a little too verbose in describing the scenery (well done but not as relevant to the book as it thought it was) I couldn’t put this one down and I knew how the mission had to end. So... what happened?

For a start, and perhaps most importantly of all, Swallow isn’t afraid to mess with your head a little and at one crucial moment in particular. You may look back at it, afterwards, and think to yourself that it makes sense for it to have gone the way it did. While you’re reading it though, that’s a different matter...
Swallow builds things up to a real crescendo and then hits you right between the eyes with the last thing you would possibly expect to happen. I couldn’t believe it and the accompanying imagery really drove that impact home. Great stuff!
On a lesser scale, Swallow does a similar thing when rounding off one of the subplots. This one didn’t hit me as hard but, again, I never saw it coming and it’s a testament to Swallow’s skill at blindsiding his readers.

When he’s not messing with your expectations, James Swallow tells a pretty mean story. ‘Nemesis’ is a high octane ride where assembling a team of assassins can be just as dangerous as the mission itself. It’s also a ‘police procedural’ where nothing is as it seems as well as being a snapshot picture of a galaxy’s uncertainty as stability crumbles and chaos begins to take over.
Swallow switches effortlessly between these plots, giving his readers a multi-faceted tale that has something for everyone as well as coming together to form something pretty special. The battle lines are clearly drawn, between the two opposing forces, but the divisions within each side make for passages that resonate with intrigue. Everyone is on the same side albeit for reasons of their own...
When we’re not working our way through the labyrinthine corridors of Imperial (and rebel) politics, Swallow ups the tempo by pitching us headfirst into full on warfare between assassins. When this happens the story flows like quicksilver and so do the assassins who are fighting. Whether it’s the berserker fury of the assassin of Clade Eversor or the psionic fury of the assassin of Clade Culexus; Swallow shows us all too well that we are witnessing fights between humans with abilities augmented and far beyond our own. It’s great to watch.

Swallow’s character reflect the 40K landscape perfectly and all credit to him for creating an entire cast of cast that are completely unlikeable but that you also feel compelled to follow. This is especially true of the group of assassins tasked with killing Horus. Not one of them has a redeeming feature but you really feel how important their mission is and you have to see it through to the end. Characters who initially appear to be the most shallow turn out to be the ones with the most depth and they can really surprise you with their actions. You won’t engage with these characters because of who they are; you’ll engage with them because they’re so cleverly written into the landscape and the things taking place their.

Apart from a couple of minor niggling flaws, I can quite confidently say that ‘Nemesis’ is the best novel yet in the ‘Horus Heresy’. Here’s hoping that the rest of the series maintains this momentum...

Nine and a Half out of Ten

Please note the above review was taken from: http://www.graemesfantasybookreview.com/2010/06/nemesis-james-swallow-black-library.html

I claim no ownership of nor credit for the above review.

Next Month

I know this month was a bit quiet on the blogging front but I hope to turn that around next month. There seems to have been a slight F*** up some where as the second set of step by step photos for the predator and all the step by step photos for the razorgor seem to have disappeared into the under-verse. So unfortunately you will have to be satisfied with photos of the finished products while I give you a written step by step guide of how I painted them. I will also have part 2 of the three way chaos battle for you. My first scenery post will be forthcoming as I lead you through how to make a beastman Herdstone for your table top. I also hope to have an interview with Irish 40k ETC Captain Paul Quigley. Finally with all thing being equal I hope to have some more photos of the latest painted additions to my WHFB Beastman army and hopefully their first battle report under the new 8th edition WHFB Rules.

Till the next time

KD

Friday, July 23, 2010

40k Battle Report Pt 1

This is Part 1 of a Battle Report fought on Wednesday 21st July in the DGG. This part will detail the lists, special rules, setup, deployment and the first turn. Part 2 will be the remainder of the Battle. I organised to have a Battle with Derek, his Iron Warriors vs my CSM's. When I got there we discovered that Anthony forgot to arrange a game. So after a quick consultation of the special battles in the back of the 40K rule book and based on the fact that all 3 of us had Chaos of one type or another. We decided to play the chaos 3-way fight.

Here are the approx lists:

Me
Slanesh DP with wings and LOS
Khorne lord c/w pair of LC

9 Khorne Berserkers incl Champ c/w PP & PW
9 Plague Marines C/W 2 x Melta & Champ with PF
8 Noise marines c/w Sonic Blasters incl Blastmaster & Champ c/w PW
Plague Marines & Noise Marines both mounted in Rhino's

5 x Nurgle Bikers c/w 2 x Melta and Champ with PF

3 x Oblit's
Defiler
Land Raider c/w Extra Armour


Derek
Lord C/W Jump pack & Daemon Weapon
Sorcerer in Termi Armour

5 x Termi's incl 2 x champs c/w 5 x chain fist, 4 x Combi Melta & 1 x Heavy Flamer
Dread c/w Multi Melta
Dread c/w ??? (I think Lascannon & Missile Launcher)

10 x CSM c/w 2 x lascannon & Champ c/w PF
10 x CSM c/w 2 x Melta gun and champ c/w PF, Combi Melta & Melta Bombs mounted in rhino
5 x csm c/w Flamer incl champ c/w PP, PF & MB

Triple Las Pred
Triple Las Pred
Vindicator


Anthony
Tzeentch Daemon Prince C/W Warptime & Gift of Chaos
Tzeentch Sorcerer C/W Warptime & Gift of Chaos

5 x Termis c/w 2 x PW, 2 x PF & 1 x CF
Dread c/w Multi Melta
10 x chosen c/w Autocannon, 3 x Flamer and Champ c/w PF & Melta Bombs

5 x Thousand Sons & Sorcerer c/w Gift of Chaos & Icon in Rhino
5 x Thousand Sons & Sorcerer c/w Gift of Chaos & Icon in Rhino
8 x Lesser Daemons

3 x Oblit
Defiler
Autocannon Pred C/W Las Sponsons



Set-up
Each army had a base and they had to place an objective in their base. You roll for first turn as normal (which I won with my 6 beating Anthony's 5 and Derek's 1). There are 3 possible starting locations; 2 corners at either end of one of the long edges and then the cente point of the opposite long edge. Everything has to be setup within 12" of your base except 1 HQ choice which has to be set up within 6" of the centre point of the table.

I chose to set up in the middle of the edge with Derek on my Left and Anthony on my right.

Deployment
My base I positioned approx 5-6" from the edge (Just wide enough so a Landraider, Rhino or Defiler could pass along the rear without going through the terrain) The Landraider and Defiler I set up on the right hand side, the Oblits were placed in the base itself giving them a nice clear view and of course the all important 4+ cvr save. Every thing else (except my DP) was set up on the left with a forest giving them a cover save from Dereks lads.

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My Deployment

Anthony placed his Bastion approx 12 - 18" from his short table edge with one of his thousand sons units inside. His Defiler and Oblits were set up in the forest between his base and his short edge, the other TS squad was set up in their rhino between the forest and the edge while the empty rhino and his pred were set up on the opposite side of his base. Everything else went into reserve except for his DP which was set up near the middle as per the special rules.

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Anthony's Deployment

Derek placed his Sorcerer and Termi Bodyguard into reserve and his Jump-Pack lord near the Centre. His lascannon CSM's set up in his base on his objective. The vindicator was parked out front with both dreads set up to the rear. One of his Preds was set up in his base between his objective and the short edge while his other pred was between his base and the edge shielded by the rhino and the small squad which were set up in front of it.

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Derek's Deployment.

First Turn
Another of the special rules was that the armies are so confused by the sudden outbreak of fighting that all units must roll a 4+ on the first turn to act. Should they fail they my not perform any actions (except fight back if assaulted) So I started rolling for each unit in turn with things going well as my DP, landraider and unit inside the raider all rolled 4+'s in a row. It all went pear-shaped after that as the rest of my army rolled 3 or less meaning they would spend the first turn scratching their B***X. I therefore moved my DP towards Dereks lord and decided to leave the berserkers in the raider while the tank itself opened up with everything it had at the Tzeentch DP. All 3 HB shots hit but failed to wound while the TL lascannons managed to inflict 2 wounds whereupon the DP promptly failed both 4+ invun saves. In the assault phase my DP charged Dereks Lord but thanks to terrible dice I only managed to cause 1 wound (despite Hitting on 3's wounding on 2's). Derek in reply rolled to see how many extra attacks his daemon wepon would provide, promptly rolled a 1 meaning that the daemon bound in the weapon rebelled against its owner inflicting a wound on him and not allowing him to attack at all. :) That ment that Derek's Lord lost the combat by 2 but he passed the resultant break check.

Anthony's army must have been expecting trouble as all his units bar the defiler passed their test. His DP moved towards my landraider with revenge on his mind while the rhino mounted TS squad rolled down the flank at full speed. His Oblits fired Lascannons at my Landraider resulting in 1 hit which glanced and prevented my landraider from shooting. His predator fired at Dereks Dread but failed to penetrate the armour. In the assault phase his DP attacked my stationary Landraider. 4 of the 5 auto-hitting attacks failed to breach the armour the 5th one penetrated it but he rolled a 1 just emphasizing the fact that it couldn't shoot next turn.

Dereks turn started just as effectivly as mine with only one of his dreads and the rhino passing the 4+ test (the lord didn't have to take it as he was in combat already but we rolled anyway and he failed as well). The dread passed it "crazy" test and moved towards Anthony's empty Rhino firing and destroying it with its Multi Melta while the rhino sped towards my troops keeping the forest between us. In the combat phase my DP quickly finished off Dereks Lord consolisdating towards the Iron Warrior base.



The rest of the battle will be in Part 2.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Estiah

Estiah is a free browser based MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). It offers a rich game experience for both the novices and the online RPG experts. No download, no membership fee, you can start playing right now by creating a new account.

I've started playing this game only a few days ago on the recomendation of one of my DGG Buddies (Quozl AKA Greg) and already I find myself hooked. Admitidly it takes a little while to master but once you do you will find yourself counting down the seconds till your next action point boost. The most confusing thing is the way characters advance. As a RPG veteran I expected the stats to increase as the character advanced in levels. But what actually happens is that the characters levels up BY increasing your stats.

If you want to sign up just copy the link below into your browser and fill in the details. This will also set you up as my apprentice so if you have any questions feel free to ask away either in game or through this blog.

http://www.estiah.com/user/register/index/id/87868

See you next time

KD

Monday, July 12, 2010

Graham McNeill Interview

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KD: Hey Graham, Firstly let me thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me.

We will start with the easy questions:

How long have you been writing for black Library now?

GMN: My first novel, Nightbringer. was published in 2002, and I’d presented BL with a job lot of short stories just before that, so I’d say around nine and a bit years.

KD: Was this your first writing job or did you have any before it?

GMN: It was my first paying writing job, though I’d done lots of writing beforehand, my own comics, board games, role-playing scenarios and so on. And while I was at university I wrote a novel (which probably explains why I’m a writer and not an architect). None of it has been published, but it was all vital training to get me ready to actually write professionally.

KD: We all know you are a huge David Gemmell fan (who isn't) but who else do you enjoy reading for pleasure?

GMN: I read lots of different authors. I love Clive Barker’s work, Terry Pratchett, Irvine Welsh, Bernard Cornwell and James Ellroy to name but a few. Certainly, they’re the ones that give me the most enjoyment, though each in very different ways.

KD: You have written novels for both the WHFB world and the 40K universe, do you have a preference and if so which one?

GMN: I only have a preference when I’m actually writing one or the other. When I write 40k, I love the immersion in the gothic madness of it all, with its boundless scope for invention and planetary destruction. Then when I get to write Warhammer, I love the gritty, grim realism of it all. Heroic fantasy is where my heart lies as a writer, so when I get to tell those kinds of stories, I think it’s when I’m at my most empathic with the world and the characters.

KD: Who is the favourite character from the books you have written and why?

GMN: I like Uriel (obviously) as he is the heroic embodiment of what it means to be a hero in the horror of the Imperium. Despite all the darkness, all the ways it would be easy to be ruthless and heartless or give into despair in the face of never-ending hordes of aliens, heretics and a galaxy’s worth of hostile forces, he never gives in, and he always remembers the Space Marines’ original purpose – to claim the galaxy for humanity to prosper. Other Chapters might now see themselves as superior to humanity, but the Ultramarines never do, they recognise that they were created to serve mankind, and that the galaxy isn’t their private playground. It’s that willingly-made sacrifice that makes them so appealing to me.


KD: Which of your novels so far was the most difficult to write and why?

GMN: In some ways it was Nightbringer, as it was my first novel and I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to bring it to life. I learned on the job, and while I’m still very proud of it, I think with all the experience I’ve gained along the way, I’d do it very differently now. The other difficult one was False Gods, which was my first Heresy novel. Hard enough to do, but then when your book follows Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising – a book that excited me like no other as I read it – was no small challenge. Though having said all that, where a book is a challenge to write, it makes you raise your game and often gets the best work out of you. In sport the only way to improve is to play opponents better than you, and the same principle works in writing too. I like to work on projects that are going to challenge me, push me to do better and work my mental muscles in new ways that improve my writing and give me a wide range of styles, skills and ways to tell exciting, interesting stories.

KD: Excluding your own which is your favourite HH novel so far?

GMN: I’d have to say it was Horus Rising, as it was so different from anything I’d read in the 40k universe. Its tone, pacing and language was a real shift away from those books, and it made me see Horus in a totally new light. It might sound stupid, but I’d never thought of the Warmaster as a good guy, he’s always been the arch-traitor who spat on his oaths of loyalty. It’s hard to remember that he was the best and brightest son who fell so far. So to see him as this beautiful, magnificent war god was thrilling to read. And any book that can make you feel sorry for Horus has to be doing something right.

KD: When you were writing the short story The last Church did you have a particular location in mind when describing it?

GMN: A few folk have asked this, and yeah, I had a very definite place in mind. I imagined the Lightning Stone to be the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. There’s a few hints within the story that can lead you there if you know a little bit of British geography. My family’s originally from Skye, and I’ve been to the Old Man of Storr many times, and always thought it was a really dramatic location to use in a story.

KD: Have you ever based the personalities of any of your characters on Real life people?

GMN: Not consciously, though I’ve used the names of folk I know a few times (with appropriate 40k-ification). And then killed them. That’s the price you pay for appearing in one of my books – you die horribly. Though when I was writing Ursun’s Teeth, the follow up to The Ambassador, I was having the guys in Games Development read the chapters of the book as I was going along, and Phil Kelly remarked that the character of Kaspar was uncannily similar to mine. I presume he was talking about his heroic nature, unfailing loyalty and noble demeanour, not his cranky belligerence, shouty temperament and general old mannishness.

KD: Which is your favorite GMN novel?

GMN: To use the clich├ęd answer, the one I’m working on now. But in all seriousness, I don’t know, they each have their strengths and flaws that wax and wane for me depending on the mood I’m in. One one day it might be Heldenhammer or Storm of Iron, on another it could be Mechanicum or The Chapter’s Due. Each of them represents a period of my life and that’s likely reflected in each of them, so they hold a special place in my memories dependent on where my head was at the time. For example, A Thousand Sons will always be the book I was writing when my son, Evan, was born, so that will always have a special memory associated with it. Likewise, Fulgrim was the first book I wrote after leaving Games Workshop, so there’s a bittersweet flavour to that one.

KD: Do you actually play 40k or WHFB and if so what armies do you have and are you any good as a player?

GMN: I haven’t played in a long time, but I do have a number of armies. I have fully painted Necron and Space Marine armies (4th Company naturally…) and a half built, half painted Tau army. And I also have my Empire army, as well as an unbuilt, unpainted Rohan force. All of them are buried at the back of a cupboard in their carry cases, and regrettably haven’t made it onto a tabletop in quite some time.

KD: How come you weren't asked to write the screenplay for the upcoming ultramarines movie especially since you had written about them so much?

GMN: I don’t know the answer to that; you’d have to ask the guys that commissioned the script from Dan. If you think about it for a moment, it makes perfect sense to have Dan write the script for the movie, as he has written a great many scripts, has a vast fanbase, both in the Games Workshop universes and many others (Marvel springs to mind…)and is a fantastic writer. All of which will bring in fans from other areas to the movie. To be a real hit, the movie needs to cross over to folk who haven’t necessarily heard of 40k, but will likely have heard of Dan, so hopefully we’ll create an army of new fans for the movie and the universe.

KD: I will finish with a few questions from some of my friends and gaming colleagues around the country.

- Jimmy Murphy from Cork would like to know if all the BL authors got together for a piss up who would be the first to fall and who would be last man standing?

GMN: As a hard-drinking Scotsman, I’d have to say that I’d be the lat man standing, or at least the last man dancing, as I tend to end up air-guitaring and headbanging on the dance floor by the end of a night. The lava pouring through my veins, bestowed by the brazen gods of metal from their abode on Mount Olympus probably burns up the alcohol in my body. As to who would be first to fall, who knows, the nights have always ended with the dawn chorus before anyone falls over.


KD: John Stowe from the DGG (Dublin Games Guild) would like to know did you regret killing off inquisitor Ario Barzano? He also said:

- Kudos to you for "The Last Church" in Tales of the Heresy. Finally a bit of substance to the character of the Emperor. Any more plans to flesh out the Emperor (no pun intended)?

GMN: I’ve certainly no plans to do anything as full on as The Last Church for appearances by the Emperor. I used him there in the guise of Revelation, as it was a facet of his personality rather than him in Full Emperor Mode. I think we’ll see more of the Emperor as we go on, gradually building his persona and motivations as the books progress (or delve back into the past…) so that by the time we get to the final battle between Horus and the Emperor, the outcome actually matters. It’s no use having a final battle that’s taken years to reach if we don’t care for either of the combatants. To be affected by the outcome, we need to feel for both the Emperor and Horus.

KD: And Colin Murray from DGG wants to know if you could write about any part of the rest of the known HH; which story would you most like to tell?

GMN: I certainly want to tell an Iron Warriors story. So far we’ve seen lots of stories about how certain legions fell to Chaos by trying to do the right thing, pursuing the right ends by the wrong means. I’d like to tell a story where a legion falls to Chaos because they choose to do it, because they’re bad bastards and willingly embrace the chance to let loose the beast within. To my mind, the Iron Warriors fit that bill rather nicely. Then there’s Calth…that would be fun to do as a two hander with a Word Bearers author.

KD: Lastly, without breaking any non-disclosure agreements you have; can you give us any hints as to what we can expect to see in the future from yourself?

GMN: In a couple of weeks I’ll be getting stuck into a Heresy short story and another audio drama, and once they’re out the way, I’ll finally be writing the sequel (and concluding part) to Defenders of Ulthuan. It’s been a long time coming, as bigger projects kept muscling it out of the way, but I’ve finally found time on the schedule to get it in before I start my next HH book. Huzzah!

KD: Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. I will make sure the next time you are in Ireland we will meet up and have a pint or 2. Good luck with the rest of your career, long may it last.

GMN: Sounds like a plan to me. Mine’s a JD and Coke.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This Month

Sorry its been so long since I've put up an article its just that I've been really busy IRL. Between the visit of my nephew and a job interview and the preperation of the house/garden for the visit of one of my wifes friends from Sweden. It has been a mad week. This month you will get part 2 of the chaos predator article, a similar article for WHFB, a look at my new Bloodbowl team, an interview with Black Library Author Graham McNeill and much much more.

See you soon.

KD