Sunday, January 28, 2007

Onward and upward

I mentioned earlier that I had amassed £13 for my 'new model fund' from my penny jar. My main source of income, though, will be from selling my unwanted gaming gear. I've started that process by putting some stuff up for sale on e-bay. So far I have picked five items from my monstrous list, and they are:

The hangover is much better now. Thanks for asking.
I'm posting this on Sunday morning, hungover. Triple Jack Daniels will do that to you. I know I won't get any sympathy because my pain is self inflicted so I won't bang on about it...

So I got my latest Forgeworld newsletter and I'm finding it harder and harder to resist Aeronautica Imperialis. The big release is the Eldar Vampire Raider. It seems like a big model and it looks OK, but I'm not a big Eldar fan so this model doesn't excite me too much. The Thunderhawk is similarly large but is more to my tastes, a bit of a bruiser. If I got one I'd paint it up in Blood Angels colours.

The Arvus is a transport. It looks to be a very detailed sculpt and has bags of character. It's nice to see that the game isn't just about big killy stuff with massive guns. Anti-aircraft guns, missile silos and radar stations seem to suggest that missions will play a big part in the game.

I've heard that some players are having to wait a long time for delivery of the models as Forgeworld frantically tries to meet the demand. I may just wait a few months until everything settles down before I take the plunge.

As I have mentioned before, if I do buy any models the cash has to come from selling old models and gaming gear. I want to widen that slightly by including monies from my penny jar. It was overflowing after all my nights out around Christmas and New Year (I go out with three £20 notes and come back with £10 in silver and copper coins). So I counted it up and put some of it in the bank. My kitty now stands at £13.

Whoo Hoo!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Protectors of the Skolarii Sector

I have played many battles over the current tournament season with my Chaos Space Marines. But they aren't just generic Space Marines to me. No, they have their own tragic history.


The Exigators Chapter was created in the early 35th Millenium, shortly before the Age of Apostasy, as part of the 21st (cursed) founding. They were based in the eastern fringes of the Imperium at the very edge of the Astronomicon. Their purpose was to bring the Emperors law to the scattered star systems in the area, and to claim new worlds in the Emperors name. To further their aims they were supplied with the best equipment the Imperium could provide and underwent intensive combat training in numerous theatres. Only when they were totally prepared were they unleashed upon the Eastern fringes. According to their doctrine the fleet divided into company sized armies and some divided again into smaller detatchments. All was well for twenty years and many worlds were conquered or brought back into the Emperors fold. Then something went wrong.

Spontaneously, across the entire Chapter, the Exigators gene-seed mutated. Some marines died as their bodies underwent massive traumatic adjustment. Others devolved to motionless vegetables, while others still became slavering beasts howling for blood. This was not like Chaotic mutation, visible externally, but entirely internal, implants and organs rejecting their hosts, cancers running amok. In desperation the Chapters apothecaries concocted a serum to stabilize the gene seed. It was only a stop-gap measure until the Exigators could regroup and return to the Imperium to seek a more permanent remedy. As the Chapter traveled back through the warp the brothers began to turn grey, their skin succumbing to some horrible necrotic disease, a by product of the serum. The marines hair came out in clumps, their cheeks becoming sunken, their eyes glassy. The Exigators have not yet found a cure, but they fight on in undeath, always hoping.

Home World
The Exigators Chapter was never linked with any particular home world, instead they are fleet based, inhabiting numerous battle barges and strike cruisers. In recent years they are rumoured to be operating out of the Horsehead Nebula in sub-sector 2 of the Skolarii sector.

Combat Doctrine
The Exigators were intended to be a highly disciplined force, specializing in small-scale surgical strikes rather than massed battles. Subsequently their training focusses heavily on infiltration techniques, using available cover and attacking at night where possible.

The Chapter has a de-centralized structure, reflecting its combat doctrine. The Chapter is broken down into single companies and their accompanying strike cruisers. The Exigators often reduce further into individual detatchments.

The Exigators gene-seed was subject to spontaneous mutation in the Chapter’s early history. A serum was produced by their apothecaries to halt this mutation, which was in itself successful but it carried it’s own hideous side effects, rotting the brethrens flesh, till they have become dried out husks.

I hope to play the Exigators a few more times this year to end the season on a high.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kill-Team Severus

Another peek into the workings of the Skolarii Sector in this post. Today I shed a little light on the shady career of Inquisitor Lord Severus.

To: Lord Inquisitor Kepler, Ordo Malleus, Nemesis Tessera
Received: 999.M41
From: Inquisitor Mabus, Clearance Omicron
Message Format: Telepathic
Subject: Inquisitor Severus
Astropathic Duct: Skolarii
Priority: High
Thought for the Day: The loyal slave learns to love the lash

Kill-Team Severus
Honoured Inquisitor, I present my findings on the enigmatic Inquisitor Severus and his Kill-Team. No doubt you are already aware of his early career in the Skolarii Sector; rooting out covens and cults founded after the Chaos invasion some 600 years earlier. His record is exemplary and is extensively explored in numerous official histories (covering the illustrious Celebes campaign, the war of the Blue Storm Kabal and the Tau incursion on Nomolos). What is less known are his activities over the last forty decades.

His last official report to the Ordo was in 960.M41 following his destruction of the Vapparn Coven on Saudade. After lengthy investigations Severus travelled to Khazalin, a planet declared purgatos by the Inquisition during the original Chaos Incursion of 333.M41. Subsequent events are sketchy.

In 967.M41 Severus was sighted on Insolitus. This medieval world is home to numerous martial and death cults and it’s loyalty to the Imperium is questionable. Inquisitor Severus’ movements are unknown.

The trail is picked up again during the War of Succession in Sub Sector Four. The world of Meridium seceded from the Empire of Man in 974.M41 and declared war on the neighbouring planet Arctos. Confused reports suggest that a man matching Severus’ description fanned the flames of rebellion on Meridium and that Inquisitor Severus led the spirited Imperial defence of Arctos.

Since 974.M41 there have been a handful of scattered sightings of Severus throughout the Skolarii Sector. Most describe the presence of two powerful psykers or daemons laying waste to friend and foe alike. Are they perhaps linked to the denizens of Arctos who all carry a stable psychic mutation?

In 982.M41 Severus arrived from nowhere at the Schola Progenium on Klasa and using his Inquisitorial authority, commandeered 100 of the most promising Storm Troopers into his keep. In later engagements they have been seen fighting by his side.

Finally, after a long silent period, a ship using his identification codes left the Tibe system in 998.M41. Its destination was believed to be Lelithar.

Inquisitor Severus is known to have a small but fanatically loyal retinue. Interrogator Lynch is known to have followed Severus for over five decades, while Explicator Keller was recruited relatively recently from the world of Insolitus. When Severus slew the Astropathic Choir of Meridium he spared two Seers and persuaded them to join his entourage; their skills were a valuable asset. Finally there is Combat Servitor Meritricius. Severus captured this heretic on Saudade and skinned him alive in order to uncover the machinations of the Vapparn coven. Unfortunately for Meritricius he survived and Severus found a use for the raving insane repentant on the battlefield.

It would seem that Inquisitor Severus has taken advantage of the unique psychic abilities of the inhabitants of Arctos in the creation of these two Daemonhosts. Unsubstantiated reports suggest that the Massacre of Tremix Hive may have been linked. It has been suggested that if a suitable vessel is prepared, it can capture the departing souls of people who die before they reach the warp. Timing is critical and the souls must be released from their bodies at precisely the same moment. Was Severus responsible for the deaths of over 700 loyal Imperial citizens in the creation of these monstrosities?

Death Cult Assassins
Almost certainly recruited from Insolitus during Severus’ visit there in 967.M41, these three shadowy figures seem to belong to the Cult of the Weeping Wound. Their names are unrecorded.

The Schola Progenium on Klasa has produced Stormtroopers for armies of the Imperial Guard all over the Skolarii sector. Their dour demeanour and unrelenting devotion to duty has earned them the nickname ‘Tallymen’ in the Sector. Their armour and equipment often sports kill markings; earned as they methodically destroy their enemies.

It is my belief that at the very least Severus is acting dangerously beyond his remit; at worst he is a heretic working against the Imperium. He should be declared Excommunicatus and brought to Nemesis Tessera for interrogation immediately.

Your faithful servant, Mabus.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A brick of a book

I've done it. I finally finished Let the Galaxy Burn.

It was one hell of a fight. I wrestled with this brick of a book for almost four months. It has over 700 pages, densely packed with text, forming 38 separate short stories. It is certainly value for money. Most of the stories are collected from Inferno magazine, previous anthologies and White Dwarf, but some are brand new. It certainly isn't practical. I got a hernia carrying it round in my bag after I realised I'd be 134 if I only read it at home.

Now I have only 2 Black Library books to read, both of them a similar size, but rather than short stories a trilogy of novels. One is the Ultramarines omnibus and the other is the Last Chancers book. Any ideas on what I should read first?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bringing the White Dwarf to heel.

I'm sitting here with a cuppa, listening to the Editors, feeling slightly guilty because I'm not at work. I finished early today because I eventually got my physio appointment (after a three month wait). Predictably, the problem I initially had has largely cleared up, while I have acquired another. It started last summer when my heel seized up overnight and I nearly hit the ceiling when I tried to walk on it. The doctor thought it was a tweaked Achilles heel and reckoned it would fix itself over time. She gave me some anti inflammatories to dull the pain. Four months later it was worse so she referred me to the physiotherapy department.

It isn't an Achilles problem at all - it is because I waalk funny (try saying that in a Geordie accent and you'll get the pronunciation). I roll over on my right heel and because I have been on my feet more with my job, and going to the gym more often, it has become a problem. My calf has stiffened and it has even affected my hip. The cure is to try and correct my gait by doing some exercises and if that doesn't work I'll need some inserts in my shoes. Fortunately I don't need the special shoe just yet!

So I trundled in from the hospital to find the latest issue of White Dwarf on my doormat (UK 326). I, like many other readers, have been dissatisfied with WD recently as it has ditched new rules, chapter approved and other such content as the focus of the magazine has shifted. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is going for a younger market of new gamers. To many people this is simply dumbing down. I thought I'd run a small review of WD and maybe do another in 6 months time so I can compare and contrast it over time.

The magazine is 130 pages long and has a Lord of the Rings cover, advertising The Ruin of Arnor supplement. The soldier on the front looks worryingly like Zinedane Zidane. The models accompanying the release look good - I especially love the Rangers models (who doesn't like Strider?). The Gulavhar and Troll Chieftain both look mean and moody but the Warriors of Arnor are pants. The best thing about the LOTR models is the price. £15 for 24 Rangers? Sweet. WD proper has design notes on the Arnor supplement and a large battle report.

Next up is the Dark Angels army set. I'm not entirely convinced by these power armoured Marines in dresses but the Company Master looks like a surly bastard and I may have to steal some of those hooded heads for my Blood Angels.

Warmaster gets some love in the form of an Araby army. I've always fancied a Warmaster army and if I ever do, this will be the one. Camels, elephants and flying carpets in the same list? Count me in.

The Harlequins are trailed, too. Jes Goodwin has sculpted these beauties but it is unlikely I'll buy any as I have 30 of the originals. Despite being 20 years old they still stand up to the new models.

The Warhammer section explores the Empire, with painting guides for the provinces. My own preference is for Ostland - Black and white, you see. There is also some weird and wacky scenery including a chapel built from a ship!

Jervis explains the thinking behind allowing special characters into games and tournaments (apparently they are all tested and balanced now. Yeah? So what about Thorek, than?). He also clarifies the Rules As Written philosophy introduced a few issues ago. I guess his thinking is that ultra competitive players won't exploit this approach. I hope he is right.

Phil Kelly has written a tactica on using reserves. Although this is clearly aimed at newer players I still thought it was worthwhile. At six pages it was more in depth than previous efforts and may halt some of the whinging about escalation (one of the best things about 4th edition in my opinion).

The article on modelling the Leman Russ tank was also useful to me. Some of it was obvious - I am a veteran after all - but there was still enough in it to make it worth reading. The organisational insignia makes me want to revisit my vehicles straight away.

Painting is covered in four separate articles and a free booklet. The first is a showcase of Empire models, while the second is on painting the Arnor Rangers. The Masterclass is on Mike Anderson and his stunning 'character portraits.' And finally there are some Bloodbowl figures (what a classic game that was).

The booklet is packed with sumptuous pictures of the Golden Daemon winners from 2006.

Overall, I'd say this was a fairly decent issue of the Dwarf and an improvement over previous months. I hope the trend continues.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dakka Dakka!

I've mentioned the Dakka Dakka website in a couple of previous posts, so I thought I better link to them properly. Dakka Dakka is mainly a web forum, similar in concept to Warseer, but it is far more controversial. Many forums are heavily moderated for aggressive antagonistic posts and in your face opinions but Dakka Dakka positively revels in this. That's why it divides opinion in the gaming community.

It's detractors would say that it is full of Rules As Written powergaming tournament players who wouldn't pee on a players background 'fluff' even if it was on fire. One particular sub-forum, you make the call, is renowned as a shark pit. Posters on Dakka Dakka are often referred to as 'the Dakka howler monkeys' by posters on other forums.

All that said, and there is a grain of truth in the above, I quite like Dakka Dakka. If I wanted a definitive rules answer from any forum on the web I would post the question on Dakka Dakka. Other forums, such as Warseer, would come back with answers based upon how the player feels, 'common sense,' and other largely irrelevant waffle. To my mind, if you ask a question you want it answered based on solid fact, Rules As Written, first. Then, when you understand what the rulebook actually says, you can try make sense of it in the context of the game. The no holds barred nature of the you make the call sub-forum actually helps this process, rather than hindering it. Much to the annoyance of many other forums, even GW has come around to this way of thinking.

Dakka Dakka is a much smaller forum than Warseer and this is both good and bad. The bad is that it is sometimes slow, with discussions turning over sluggishly and few new topics, but the upside is that the signal to noise ratio is usually better. I think many people miss the humour in a lot of posts there, even if the majority are rabidly anti GW.

So, if you're feeling brave, and keep your tongue firmly in your cheek, hop across the pond and check out Dakka Dakka.

Friday, January 19, 2007

What do game designers do all day?

A poster on Dakka Dakka asked the question: what do games designers do all day? Here is my take.

Play games for six hours and then spin the dial!

The Skolarii Sector during the Great Crusade

Following on from my early history of the Skolarii Sector I explore the coming of the Space Marines.

The Great Crusade
Early in M30 the warp storms that had isolated the planetary systems of the Skolarii Sector began to recede but the shattered survivors were in no position to reunite their empire.

The Emperor's Great Crusade reached the Skolarii Sector in the year 559 M.29 when the Blood Angels made contact with the Adeptus Mechanicus on Manil, in sub sector 2. The Blood Angels had already brought the Kintaro sector under the Emperor’s control and travelled along the warp route to Windar to enter the Skolarii sector. Using this system as a bridgehead the Adeptus Astartes, with the help of the Imperial Army, and helped to re-conquer sub-sector two.

Ustra was the first target. The Adeptus Mechanicus provided vital information on the Ork Empire holding the world and the Blood Angels used that intelligence to target key Ork Warbosses. The Greenskins were paralysed, allowing the Imperial Army to mop up the remaining warbands with minimal losses. The Marines even made contact with the human survivors who had originally colonised the planet and they agreed to become part of the new Imperium. The Blood Angels established Ustra as the seat of government for the Sector and left an Imperial army behind to defend the system. Many believe that the name of this first Imperial Commander was Skolarii and this is the origin of the Sector's name. Others maintain that the name Skolarii is a corruption of Skitarii - the fighting forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The truth is lost in the mists of time.

The sequence of events was always the same as the Blood Angels rampaged through the sector. Once compliance was reached on a planet it would be handed over to an Imperial Army general. He would be expected to garrison the planet, repopulate it, gather further resources to supply the new battlefront, re-establish a new civilisation and collect tithes from the new population. Once Imperial control had been consolidated, the commander was expected to explore adjacent systems for possible integration into the Imperium.

Windar had similarly fallen to Ork invaders but had a much stronger human resistance movement. Some of the best Ork Hunters from Ustra had been inducted into the Imperial Army and they were used extensively by Sanguinius as he drew up his invasion plan. The Ork Hunters were amongst the first troops to drop to the surface, and while the Blood Angels again executed the Ork leaders, the Ustrans established contact with the human survivors. The planet was conquered in seventeen days and it's people declared for the Imperium unanimously.

Luzon II was uninhabited and was quickly resettled by new colonists. Bataan was altogether more problematic. It had been riven apart by internal power struggles and the original government had been toppled. The Blood Angels offered the people of Baatan a place in the Imperium if they would recognise the Emperor’s authority. They refused to comply, and the Blood Angels reluctantly declared war. The Marines enlisted the help of the titan Legion Avernus to crush the rebels. It was a symbolic choice as much as a tactical one. The fight was short and brutal and Bataan was brought to compliance.

The population of Cairn were cowed by this show of strength and capitulated on the appearance of the first Imperial ships in their system. Sub sector two had been brought to heel within two years and Sanguinius took his Crusade into sub sector one.

Borne was the first planet to be landed, and the Imperial Army hooked up with the human survivalists in the interior who declared for the Emperor. The least mutated people of Luzon were welcomed back into human civilisation, while the rest were exterminated. Celebes was subjugated next in the sub sector, the Orks engaged in a titanic tank battle. Sanguinius personally led the fight. At the forefront of the engagement his force became cut off and surrounded. They endured a terrible pounding until an Ustran relief column broke through and relieved them. The Ork Warlords were annihilated. An important warp route into Kualum was thus secured. Kualum's new ruling class refused to recognise the authority of the Emperor and were exterminated - a new governor installed in its place.

Sub sector three was reintegrated with similar speed. From Kualum, the Blood Angels invaded Naich. The Apocalypts had foreseen death from the skies and a drop pod assault allowed the Angels of Death to fulfil the prophecy. Hakoda was found to be uninhabited and quickly reclaimed. The survivors on Kore were contacted and were grateful to rejoin human civilization. Mias was still enveloped in a ferocious warp storm and was ignored. The Orks on Formo were destroyed and the system was captured for the Imperium. Tibe was repopulated.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The ideas behind the game

I have been browsing Dakka Dakka over the last couple of days and become involved in a discussion about the 40k codex release schedule. As discussions on web forums are prone to do, the conversation has roamed far and wide to include codex design, the value of sub-lists, Marine-centric focus and a multitude of other subjects.

The whole confab reminded me of the seminar that Jervis Johnson gave at the Warhammer 40k Grand Tournament last November. Jervis had three main points.

The first was design philosophy. Discipline is the new buzzword in the design team. The idea is that the codex is the core list; a tournament list, a list for a player to play a 1500 point game with with confidence. Previously the focus was more broad. A codex had to encompass campaign play, army background, introduce new units, tournament play and allow themed lists. Not any more. To this end they will be more disciplined in writing the books. They have a text editor, Graham Davey, who will be responsible for sorting out rules conflicts before the book goes to print. The Eldar codex is the first of a new breed.

His second point was RAW - Rules As Written. They provide an answer (even if it feels wrong) to move past the issue and stop in-game arguments. Then you can talk about it afterwards without the passion. If you still can't agree, or the rules are ambiguous, then D6 it. The result usually isn't as important as you think at the time. Most games do not depend on a single D6 roll.

The third and final point was concerning FAQ's and errata. The Frequently Asked Questions answers GW provides will not be used to revise or re-imagine rules. They are there to change obviously broken or contradictory rules like conflicting profiles in the main list and summary or an Ogre Kingdoms magic item which makes magic harder to cast.

It is also to clarify - not change - unclear rules. Rules that are clear, but just feel wrong (like Space Wolf Scouts sergeants in Terminator armour) will be left until a new edition of the codex or main rulebook.

Alessio Cavatore is responsible for FAQ's after the book is published. There will be no more reprinting rules changes within the same edition of the codex (like the Chaos codex 4 printings).

During the questions at the end, the subject of White Dwarf came up. Jervis confirmed it was a catalogue first (to showcase the models) and content second. The content still needs to be good but WD needs to refocus on current releases and it's core audience - young and/or inexperienced gamers. Jervis used the example of Robin Dews, former WD editor. He is into sailing and subscribes to a sailing magazine. Every 12 months it re-prints an article about painting and preparing your new boat. WD needs to do the equivalent. There will still be some articles for veteran gamers but perhaps a resurrected Citadel Journal or some other outlet would be better suited to veterans.

I've fed a lot of this information into the discussion, which has lasted nineteen pages so far, and it doesn't look like slowing down any time soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Early history of the Skolarii sector

As I said yesterday, I have been working on the background material for the Skolarii Sector, my own little 40k playground. Today I have the first instalment of the history of the sector.

History of the Skolarii Sector

The Skolarii Sector lies far out to the Galactic East on the fringe of the Astronomicon, near the Damocles Gulf. Today it is a bustling sector filled with teeming Hive Worlds, verdant Agriworlds and industrious Mining Worlds, but once it was infested with Orks and the first human settlers had to cling tenaciously to their precarious existence.

Dark Age of Technology
The Skolarii sector was first colonised in M.24. Travelling on a prevailing warp current from the neighbouring Teuvo sector the colonists made first footfall on Kualum. This planet became the sector capital as the colonists used it as a base to populate nearby systems.

The first worlds were chosen for their natural resources. Later, other systems were chosen for their location on stable warp routes, staging posts for later colonisation attempts and some because they bore the remains of an ancient alien civilisation. Of course, many other systems capable of supporting the colonists were found but they were largely infested with the Orks that plagued the entire sector and therefore ignored.

Over the next two millennia sixteen systems were colonised. From sub sector one they were Luzon, Borne, Celebes and Kualum; in sub sector two Luzon II, Windar, Ustra, Manil, Cairn and Bataan were colonised; while sub sector three saw Kore, Naich, Formo, Hakoda, Mias and Tibe settled.

The Age of Strife
In M.26 the Skolarii sector saw a massive increase in the number and intensity of warp storms and other warp-related phenomena. Never totally self sufficient even at it's height, the sector's systems became more and more isolated both from each other, from the other sub sectors and from other sectors.

Sub sector two bore the brunt of the early warp activity. Once stable warp routes became treacherous and unnavigable and many ships were lost. Across all the worlds of the sub, psychic mutations developed and spiralled out of control. The colonists were completely unprepared for what was to follow. Cairn fell first, it's government toppled by rioting citizens and extremists. A similar fate befell Bataan. Manil, Ustra and Windar were too paralysed to help. They, like all the systems in the Skolarii sector, had periodically been troubled by Ork incursions. Each system's isolation left them more vulnerable to the hardy aliens who could never be fully eradicated. Already reeling from the same anarchy that had destroyed Cairn and Bataan, they succumbed to the Orks. All contact was lost.

Luzon II was particularly afflicted by creatures from the warp. It's ruling council was snared by Enslavers and they turned their armed forces against the civilian population. No humans survived the carnage.

Sub sector three was next to fall. The planetary crust of Kore became unstable when a star cruiser was deliberately flown into it's capital city by insurgents. The resulting ice age all but wiped out the human population. Formo was overcome by an Ork invasion. Mias was completely enveloped by a ferocious warp storm for six millennia. No-one survived. Tibe came under the control of an insane dictator who cowed the population in a reign of terror, his Night Squads carrying the citizens away into slavery. He was the last to die, cackling amidst the ruins of Tibe's capital city.

Hakoda came under attack from an unknown xenos species. The last anyone heard from them was a garbled distress call pleading for assistance. All kinds of Apocalypse cults sprung up on Naich. The authorities evacuated as many of its population as it could on 30 mass transporters, leaving the Apocalypts behind. Only 1 transport survived the perilous warp journey and landed at it’s destination, Kualum in sub sector 1.

Sub sector one held out the longest, but even so it eventually succumbed to the inevitable. Forbidden weapons were unleashed by separatists on Luzon and the radiation that swept the planet reduced it's once proud colonists to shambling mutants. Celebes hung on while it was battered by wave after wave of Ork invasions originating from it's own moon, then it's governor was killed in a shuttle crash and the resistance collapsed. Borne was devastated by plague and only a handful of people survived deep in the interior.

Kualum was already in disarray as it's weak, inbred royal family had neglected it's armies and frittered away it's wealth. It ignored the crisis in the neighbouring sub sectors and turned a blind eye to the psychic mutations sweeping the population. Eventually, the whole royal family was burned alive in it's palace and the populace split itself into numerous infighting factions. Those that survived were reduced to barbaric tribes, shambling through the ruins of their once great civilizations.

One ray of light in those dark days was the landing of an expedition of the Adeptus Mechanicus upon Manil in M.28. Their Explorators found the ruins of a dead xenos civilisation. More Adepts arrived over the next millennia as the importance of the find became apparent. They brought with them a Legion of Titans, Legio Avernus, and managed to found a small Forge World in the image of Mars. It endures to this day.

If you have any comments, let me know.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Skolarii Sector

I've had a good weekend. Two full days off without a massive to do list of 'drudge' housework, I felt like a schoolkid again. Newcastle United beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 away, with Obafemi Martins scoring an absolute screamer. And I transferred him into my fantasy football team just before the match! I'm really looking forward to the next three games, which are all at home.

Gaming-wise, I should have been painting my Chaos Warriors but I just couldn't be arsed, so I got out one of my old 'background' books and leafed through it.

I've got about a dozen of these A4 pads crammed full of my gaming ideas. Everything from campaign systems to new rules to sketches to short stories is in them. The particular one I grabbed was my scribblings on the Skolarii Sector. I began writing about this little corner of space, far away on the Eastern rim, as a setting for my games. Of course, from a fairly modest beginning things spiralled out of control and the sector became more and more detailed. I drew a map showing all of the main planetary systems and the warp routes that connected them. I created the populations of each planet and subjected them to alien invasions, natural disasters and sector-wide wars as I wrote up their histories. I began to scour my old collection of rulebooks and Black Library novels, trying to piece together such esoteric information as the structure of the Inquisition in a sector to the hierarchy of the Ecclesiarchy.

As I played games, especially with my Imperial Guard and Exigators, I fleshed out more and more of the sector and this soon spilled out onto my website. I built a page for each Imperial planet and detailed it's tithes, it's population, it's stable warp routes and it's history. My lofty ambitions came crashing down to earth when my hard drive crashed and I lost a lot of information as well as my web building software. My site is back up, after a fashion, but the the Skolarii sector stuff hasn't made it yet. Reading through my notes and ideas really inspired me to start over again, so I spent most of Sunday getting my writing into some sort of order.

My plan is to post articles on this blog and then transfer them to my 'proper' website following any comments. Anyway, without further ado, here is my first article; on the Titans in the Skolarii Sector.

Titans in the Skolarii Sector

The Legio Avernus are the only Titan Legion present in the sector. They operate out of the Forgeworld of Manil in sub sector two. When the Adeptus Mechanicus came to the sector in M.29 they used the Titans to conquer the planet. Many of those same Titans still defend Manil today. The current leader of the Legio Avernus is Grand Master Sayyam.

As of 950.M41 the Legio consists of 46 Titans. There are two Emperor class titans, 1 Imperator and 1 Warmonger, and they are usually deployed singly. There are 24 Warlord class titans, deployed in 8 groups of 3 titans. Next come the 12 Reaver class titans, generally found in 4 groups of 3. Finally there are 8 Warhound class titans, arrayed in 4 groups of 2.

The tactical deployment of the Legio Avernus is based upon the Legio, Demi Legio and Quarto Legio.

The Quarto Legio consists of six Warlord titans, three Reavers, a pair of Warhounds and possibly an Emperor titan. These twelve titans would be the typical detachment for large campaigns.

The Demi Legio would include 23 titans, fully half of the Legio. The deployment of a Demi Legio is a very rare occurrence and has only ever happened twice in the Skolarii sector.

The Legio is largely a notional deployment as it would consist of all 46 titans in the sector. This has never yet occurred.

My (crazy) plan is to build the entire Legio if and when I get into Epic 40k. Gulp. Given the list of unpainted models I've already listed on this blog, and the cost of buying the models, I might get round to this project when I'm 70. Hey ho, you have to dream. Just look at what happened to Newcastle yesterday...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Forging a new world

I just received a copy of the latest Forgeworld newsletter by e-mail and it prompted me to add Games Workshop's sister company as a link in my blog.

Forgeworld produces games, models and rules that lie just outside of Games Workshop's core game systems. It is therefore aimed at the more mature, veteran gamer who wants to dig a little deeper. It's just as well that Forgeworld attracts an older audience because their products are expensive and you really need to be in a well paid job (or be spoilt rotten by your parents) to afford this stuff. It's also just as well that the models are superlative. Most of the models are made from resin which allows a fantastic amount of fine detail.

For example, in the latest newsletter, Forgeworld unveil their command squad for the Death Korps of Krieg.

You can see more pics here.

My recent favourites, though, are the Chaos Renegade Militia. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have twenty of these beauties ready and waiting to be put together.

Forgeworld are a bit like Games Workshop were about 15 or 20 years ago when they made quirky, unusual miniatures with sometimes limited tabletop usefulness.

I'm also excited by their latest game release, Aeronautica Imperialis. This explores aircraft combat in the 41st millennium. Quite apart from being a good game in itself and adding another layer to the 40k background, who wouldn't want the chance to don those Biggles goggles, a flyaway scarf and yell 'chocks away, Ginger!'

Friday, January 12, 2007

Definition of a powergamer

Anyone who has ever gotten serious about playing wargames will have come across the term powergamer. Like pornography, opinion rages over exactly what powergaming is, but everyone recognises it when they see it.

I'd say that a powergamer was someone who played the rules and not the game.

A powergamer might argue that his Eldar jetbikes count as skimmers and can only be hit in combat on sixes (even though he knows this is a stretch) while he will argue that your Khorne Berzekers can be pinned because their fearless description does not specifically state they are immune to pinning.

A powergamer will let you target his stealth suits THEN tell you that you have to roll nightfight to see them and THEN tell you that you could have shot the battlesuits behind because the stealthsuits don't block LOS. When it was bleedin' obvious you wanted to shoot the battlesuits in the first place.

A powergamer will place half of his vehicle off the edge of the board in order to get in a shot at your juiciest target which you have carefully shielded. When queried he would rather spend the next 30 minutes arguing his case than getting on with the game.

A powergamer carries twelve versions of his armylist around with him. He finds out his opponent's army and then uses the list best suited to killing that army.

A powergamer avoids playing armies and opponents who might threaten his precious 134-1 win record (and that lost game was against a - wait for it - POWERGAMER!).

A powergamer can usually be identified in your gaming group by studying his opponents. They will usually have their head in their hands by turn 2. They will be so browbeaten that by turn 3 they will let the powergamer get away with the most outrageous rules bending just to finish the game. The opponent will quietly weep after the battle at the inhumanity of it all. He is twelve and it his second ever game of 40k. The powergamer is 36.

Sometimes people use the term beardy instead of powergaming, but I think the two are different. Beards originate from historical gaming groups who usually have an older member (with a beard of course) who knows everything about everything and CAN use his knowledge to influence the game. A powergamer WILL use every tool at his disposal to win the game.

The powergamer will carefully choose his opponent and the army he is to fight, he will optimise his armylist to fight that foe without giving his opponent the same courtesy, and he will use every rules loophole, codex mistake and arguing technique to force a win, even against new players.

That's why powergamers and unsporting players are often described as one and the same.

It's just not cricket!

You know you are a powergamer if the units and rules you rely on to win games are changed when a new edition of 40k comes out or your codex is updated.

2nd edition powergamers, for example, had to go out and buy tons of troops in order to make their armies legal for 3rd edition. I'd imagine that a lot of current players with 5+ rhinos in their marine armies won't be using as many as often in 4th edition.

Powergamers tend to gravitate toward the powerful armies and the powerful rules within those armies. Although the game designers try to balance the game it is so vast, wide ranging and sprawling that they will never get it right all the time. Eventually the problem is identified and rectified and then the power gamer has to move on to another rule/army.

'Regular' gamers won't focus quite so much on rules; they have other considerations like aesthetics (how the models look), theme (the idea behind the army), originality (nobody has an army like mine).

For myself (and I suspect most gamers) I shift between the different styles of gaming depending on my mood. Although I'm predominantly an aesthetics player (I only have a chaos army, for example, because the daemon prince model is so cool) and I'm often faced with the dilemma of crafting a bunch of good looking models into a decent army, there are times I want to win and I deliberately pick my 'hard' units.

In those games I am more of a powergamer because I'm playing the rules and not the game.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only Warseer

The Warseer website grew out of the ashes of Portent. I use it for it's extensive forums.

One of the great things about the Internet is it's ability to bring people together regardless of their physical location. For many years I was a 'basement' gamer, playing games at home. I found my opponents within my own family, Gary - my gaming nemesis - is my cousin, or talking about my 'funny little hobby' and persuading people to try a game. The entire range of my gaming experience was half a dozen players.

Five years ago I got hooked up to the Internet and suddenly I discovered all of the millions of ideas every other gamer had had. I realised there were more armies out there and more ways to play them. There were more painting techniques and more conversion opportunities. And there were more campaign systems and ways to play the game than you can shake a stick at.

Warseer is one of the biggest forums out there and has a massive turnover of posts. This means I can dip into it every day, or even more, and any debates or discussions will have moved forward and new ones will have begun. Aside from the mass debate, there are two main sub forums I keep returning to.

The first is the news and rumours section. Perhaps because of the large number of posters, Warseer is often the first site to break news. For example, one of the latest posts discusses the possibility of a new Chaos codex or five. The poster Brimstone works very hard to collate all of these rumours, so much so that he runs a further sub forum called the 40k rumour roundup.

The second forum I use frequently is the background section. This allows me and other gamers to dig a little deeper behind the tabletop wargame and explore the rich galaxy of the 41st millennium. Maybe it's time to post my Chaos cult background...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Flee this!

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday because I was out playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle with my Horde of Chaos. At 750 points it's hardly a horde, but I still managed to trip my units over each other as Gary's Dark Elves ran rings around me. I stranded my newly painted chariot in front of my Warriors, preventing them from marching forward and those f***ing Dark Riders were getting right on my wick as they baited my units only to flee the charge.

Things seemed to turn around for me in turn four when I eventually got to charge with every one of my units. Gary fled with the Hydra and only ran 5" so my chariot slaughtered it as it blundered around. The Dark Riders only managed a pathetic 5" too and I chopped them to pieces with glee.

I thought I had the other flank sewn up as my Aspiring Champion and Sorceror charged into the combat with Gary's general and my Knights, but through a series of challenges and poor dice rolls I got mullered.

The Dark Eldar spearmen slapped my Warriors about a bit and ran them down, but their pursuit didn't quite take them out of my chariots charge range. It mowed down seven of them but the Druchii held. Meanwhile my Warhounds killed Gary's sorceress.

I thought the result would be a draw but the capture of my two standards swung it in Gary's favour. Ho hum.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Can't see the 40k wood for the trees? Search The Jungle.

My second link is to The Jungle. This is my inspiration for lone pilgrim in many ways. I first set the website up as part of my university course, using basic HTML. While searching the web for inspiration I came across The Jungle. It stood out because it was so well organised with numerous menus and navigational buttons. It looked original and stood out from all the the others which had the standard 'starfield' background.

The site is run by Kenton Kilgore and he obviously understands the number 1 rule of a webmaster; content is king. The Jungle is absolutely crammed with gaming material. From campaigns to tactics to editorials to army background this site has it all. Kenton updates regularly too, and this keeps me coming back for more. His writing style is easy and conversational and the site is well laid out, using sensible colours, unlike many fan sites. He even has an article on how to build your own 40k website!

I'd encourage everyone to have a good root around this terrific site and be amazed.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Games links

Looking back over my humble blog I noticed I hadn't updated my links. I'll begin to change that, starting today. Over the next few days I'll outline the main sites I use and tell you why I think they are valuable.

The first site I have linked to is the obvious one, Games Workshop itself. The site isn't one that I frequent all that often, as a lot of content is aimed at younger, newer gamers, rather than crusty old veterans like myself. If you don't know your lasgun from your boltgun or why the Horus Heresy happened you can find the official answer here. I use the site for a couple of main resources. The first is for errata. Games Workshop write superbly evocative background for Warhammer 40k and sell some visually stunning models but most people would agree that their editing, proof-reading and rules writing can let them down on occasion. The errata documents aim to put this right.

The other reason I visit this site is to keep up to date with events and tournaments. I went to my first 40k Grand Tournament last year and enjoyed it immensely, so I plan to go to more events in the coming year. The next one in my sights is the Dark Stars campaign weekend.

Back to Warhammer Fantasy, I have just undercoated my new 10 man Warrior unit. Like most modellers I have struggled with priming my models over the years. Most of my problems stem from the fact I live in northern England. I just laugh when people recommend you spray undercoat your models outside. Between rain, wind, snow, sleet, hail, dark nights starting at 4.00pm and extreme cold that would mean I could prime models on two days per year. So I have painted undercoats (too slow), sprayed on newspaper (you end up with hard lines of undercoat on the wallpaper and very angry parents) and sprayed in boxes (you almost choke on the fumes). In the spell between rain showers this morning I tried out a new method utilising double sided tape.

The tape held the plastic models very securely, although I'm not sure how it would cope with metal models. The only problem I had was with the wind, meaning I had to spray at 45 degrees to the models.

Now I just need to get onto the painting.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The army musters

I'm writing this post with twisted and gnarled fingers following the construction of my Chaos Warriors. The bodies were easy enough for my stubby fingers to put together but it took ages to file the mould lines off the weapons. The heads were even worse, and sent me scuttling around on the floor more than once as they acquired a life of their own and leapt from my hands in a bid for freedom.

You may notice from the photo below that I have slightly converted the heads by taking off all the horns. Real Vikings didn't have horned helmets, so neither do mine!

You may also have spotted that the vast majority of my Warriors use hammers and axes rather than swords. This is due to my army background, where the army leader, Sigurt Volsung, has been trained in combat by a (Chaos) Dwarf, and has passed this training on to his followers.

Here is a pic of my previously completed Warriors.

I'll post other photos of my completed units soon, along with regular updates on my progress on the new units.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Selling my RPG soul

I've already posted a giant list of models I want to keep. Today I'm posting a list of the gaming gear I want to sell. Most of it is role playing stuff I sadly no longer have time for, along with some other random stuff. It'll all appear on e-bay in the near future.

RPG magazines
  • Dragon 180 Vol XVI, no 11 April 1992
  • Dragon 186 Vol XVII, no 5, October 1992
  • Dragon 187 Vol XVII, no 6 November 1992
  • Dragon 204 Vol XVIII, no 11 April 1994
  • Signs and Portents no 2, September 2003
  • The Last Province rpg magazine, issues 1-5, 1992-1993
  • Pyramid rpg magazine, no 19, 1996
  • Gamemaster rpg magazine, no 5, December 1990
  • Gamemaster rpg magazine, no 8, March 1991
  • Adventurer rpg magazine, no 1, April 1986
  • Adventurer rpg magazine, no 8, March 1987
  • Arcane rpg magazine, issue 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 1996-1997
  • GM rpg magazine, volume 1 no 5, January 1989
  • GM rpg magazine, volume 1 no 7, March 1989
  • Roleplayer Independent rpg magazine, volume 1 issue 5, April 1993
  • Roleplayer Independent rpg magazine, volume 1 issue 10, September 1993
  • Roleplayer Independent rpg magazine, volume 2 issue 1 no 13, December 1993
  • Roleplayer Independent rpg magazine, volume 2 issue 3 no 15, 1994
  • Roleplayer Independent rpg magazine, volume 2 issue 4 no 16, 1994
  • Challenge rpg magazine, no 56, January 1992
  • White Wolf rpg magazine, no 44
  • GM rpg magazine, volume 1 no 6, February 1989
  • GM rpg magazine, volume 2 no 2, October 1989
  • Valkyrie rpg magazine, volume 1 issue 4, December 1994
  • Valkyrie rpg magazine, volume 1 issue 10 (or 7), December 1996
  • Valkyrie rpg magazine, volume 1 issue 11
  • Valkyrie Quarterly rpg magazine, no 22
  • Valkyrie Quarterly rpg magazine, no 24
  • Valkyrie Quarterly rpg magazine, no 26
RPG games and supplements
  • Middle Earth Roleplaying ICE July 1986
  • Mirkwood The Wilds of Rhovanion (ICE MERP campaign supplement Northern and Southern Mirkwood combined) Oct 1988
  • Sea Lords of Gondor (MERP & Rolemaster) 1987
  • Darker than Darkness, Lord of the Rings adventure, 1991
  • Dungeons and Dragons players handbook 3rd edition, Core rulebook 1, D20 system, 2000
  • Judge Dredd rpg, D20, 2002
  • Mega-City One's Most Wanted, supplement for Judge Dredd rpg, 2002
  • Apple Lane, 2 Runequest adventures, Greg Stafford, 1980 (+Basic roleplaying introductory guide)
  • Delta Force rpg, 1986
  • Everway rpg, Jonathon Tweet, 1995
  • Dungeoneer, Jackson and Livingstone, 1989
  • Maelstrom rpg, Alexander Scott, 1984
  • Fantasy Wargaming, Martin Hackett, 1990
  • The Making of Starship Troopers, Paul M. Sammon, 1997
  • The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a trilogy in four parts, Douglas Adams, 1993
  • The Official Batman Batbook, Joel Eisner, 1987
  • The One That Got Away, Chris Ryan, 1995
  • The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks, 1997
  • REM Documental, Dave Bowler and Bryan Dray, 1995
  • Middle Earth CCG, The Wizards Companion, 1996
  • Star Trek ccg cards
Board Games
  • Hexagony, Oriental Strategy and Conquest game, Avalon Hill, 1980
Computer games
  • FIFA 2006, PSP
  • LMA Manager 2006, PS2
  • Warrior monthly, volume 2 number 6, no 18, April 1984
This is just the most accessible chunk of my collection. There are certainly more comics and RPG's tucked away somewhere (I may have to don a miner's lamp and climb up into the loft to investigate).

Of course I have a whole raft of models I want to ditch too, but I'll sort through them at a later date. Note to self - if in doubt, chuck it out.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

What's on the workbench?

Since I'm inviting you all into my little corner of the gaming world I thought you would like a look around.

Here is my desk. As you can see I didn't tidy it up for the photograph. You might be able to make out a cup of tea, lamps for lighting my photo's (but all the bulbs are knackered), my laptop, a radio, fan and my Newcastle United season ticket, as well as my gaming gear.

So what is on my cutting mat?

I'm currently painting up my Chaos chariot. All the model needs is some detailing on the horses' barding.

I'm particularly happy with the wooden parts which is a real shame as it's the bit of the model you won't see once the crew are in place.

I didn't like the old hunchback crew so I used two plastic Chaos Warrior models instead. I pinned the original metal whip onto the driver and fashioned a halberd from a standard bearer.

I'm also putting the other 10 Warriors together. I'm still not sure whether to add them to my existing unit of 12 to create one mega unit, or to paint them as a separate unit. In any case I've got a bit of construction left before I'm forced into a choice.

On an entirely unrelated note I am going to quote Glen Roeder from the Newcastle United v Manchester United match programme.
Now it is very important that we do not just run on the spot, for if you run on the spot you are going backwards. Rome wasn't built in a day, but in professional football you have to be seen to be moving forward.
If anyone has any idea what that means, please let me know!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Give me 100 marines or failing that, 1000 guardsmen

As promised, here is the biggest 'to do' list I have ever written. Every model on the list needs to be built and painted - the full bifta. I've broken them down into categories because...well, because that's the kind of thing I do.

Space Marines
  • Techmarine and 4 servitors
  • Whirlwind
  • Rhino
  • Landraider
  • Landraider Crusader
  • 10 Scouts
  • 5 Honour Guard
  • 30 RTB01 plastic Marines

  • 8 'Ardboyz
  • Dreadnought
  • 3 Killa Kanz
  • 3 Mega armoured Nobs

  • 9 Plaguebearers
  • 8 Deathguard
  • 8 Khorne Berzerkers
  • Fabius Bile
  • 9 Bloodletters
  • 6 Daemonettes (base coated)
  • Keeper of Secrets
  • Terminator Lord
  • 20 Chaos Renegade Militia

Sisters of Battle
  • 4 Arbites
  • Saint Celestine
  • 2 Vindicare assassins
  • Culexus assassin
  • Callidus assassin
  • Eversor assassin
  • Inquisitor
  • Uriah Jacobus
  • 3 Henchmen
  • Immolator
  • 20 Sisters

  • 2 Crisis suits
  • 16 Kroot
  • Hammerhead
  • 6 Vespid
  • 2 Broadsides
  • 3 Stealth suits (new plastics)
  • Sniper drone team
  • 3 Aircaste (forgeworld)
  • 10 Kroot hounds
  • Commander Crisis suit
  • 3 Pirhana
  • 24 Firewarriors

  • Vyper
  • 4 Jetbikes
  • 30 Harlequins
  • 6 Guardians
  • Jain Zar

Imperial Guard

  • 5 Lascannon
  • Autocannon
  • 70 Infantry
  • 4 Command
  • Mortar
  • 4 Lascannon
  • 6 Mortars
  • 72 Infantry
  • Creed and Kell
  • Commissar
  • Rough Rider (converted)
  • Company Standard
  • 3 Psykers
  • Lieutenant
  • 2 Medics
  • Chimera
  • 13 Stormtroopers (part painted)
  • 12 Infantry
  • 8 Vostroyans
  • 5 Tanith

Warhammer Fantasy
  • 77 Wood Elves
  • Nurgle Palanquin
  • Beast of Nurgle

  • 3 Bounty Hunters
  • 8 Ratskins
  • 9 Escher gangers
  • Orlock ganger
  • Delaque ganger
  • Van Saar ganger

  • 2 Goblin cheerleaders
  • Jordell Freshbreeze
  • Dwarf Death Roller
  • Dwarf Coach
  • Goblin Coach
  • Dark Elf assassin

Battlefleet Gothic
  • Plastic boxed set

  • Daemonhost
  • Death Cult assassin

  • Squat
  • Pilot
  • Navigator
  • Forgeworld abandoned Chimera
  • Forgeworld Chaos Marine bust
  • Forgeworld Bloodletter daemon bust
  • Limited edition Space Marine 'Iwo Jima' diorama
  • Limited edition Ultramarine standard bearer
Phew! That little lot will keep me busy for about a decade, I reckon. My hazy plan for getting them on the tabletop is to complete each batch of models as and when their codex gets a redo, but this must fit into my other objective of playing a new army for every gaming season.

I am currently playing Warhammer Fantasy with a Hordes of Chaos army and I am buying and completing the models as I go. Once I have reached 2000 points I will return to 40k with my Exigators Chaos Marines, so it would be a good idea to finish my Chaos models off next.

After that, it's all up for grabs and I'll be looking at a new 40k army.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Gaming resolutions

Once the building work on my house was complete I had to unpack all of my gaming gear into my shiny new gaming room. I realised just how much I had and how much I am never going to use again. Most of it is role playing stuff but I also have some old books and models.

This realisation has led to my two New Year resolutions:

  1. I have more models than sense. I also have more models than I will ever use. The ones I want to keep are lying around in boxes, unassembled and unpainted. My resolution is to start putting these armies together. I will get rid of the rest on e-bay.
  2. I can only build and paint my existing models if I inoculate myself against 'new army syndrome.' It goes like this. A new army is released. I say 'ooh' and 'aah' at all the funky new models. I convince myself I could fit the army into my existing 40k background. I sketch out a play style and convince myself I could make it work. I spunk £200 on the army. The time frame for all of this is 3.4 seconds. The next day I look at the pile of unopened boxes, calculate it will take about four months to complete the army, then quietly pack it away into a cupboard. Sometimes I weep at the inhumanity of it all. Then I get distracted by the next new army. My resolution is to only buy new models with the money I make from selling my old gear, otherwise I'll just use my existing models.
Tomorrow I'll post a gigantic list of all the models I own and need to build and paint.