Friday, September 26, 2008

GENERAL: Bi monthly book update

Okay, I'm back from almost three weeks in California and ready to immerse myself in the Games Workshop hobby once again. First up is what's been on the reading stand?

The apocalypse is coming! Worlds will bleed and civilisations will end! Why?

I have finally exercised some self restraint and not rushed out and immediately bought the latest Black Library 40k books. I really wanted to pick up Red Fury as it covers my Blood Angels - I'm painting an army of them at the moment - the new Forge World publication Siege of Vraks and the Planetkill anthology, but my 'to read' pile isn't getting any smaller. To that end I have introduced a new category to this bi-monthly book update; books wanted. I'll catalogue everything here so I don't forget about it, then I can work through the list once I've read some of the books I already own.

Books bought.
  • Apocalypse: Reload

Books read.
  • Battle for the Abyss
  • Apocalypse: Reload
  • 40k 5th edition
Battle for the Abyss was a disappointment. I haven't read much of Ben Counter's stuff other than his previous Horus Heresy novel which I was largely undecided on, so I was eager to give this book a go. The first thing I have to say is that the content of the book was unexpected; it largely deals with spaceship battles rather than battles on the ground. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; indeed it can allow authors to deepen the universe by shedding light on largely unexplored areas of the setting. Look at what Abnett achieved with Legion (which was a great book).

Unfortunately Counter misses the opportunity and instead creates a cliched plot, villains and protagonists and under imagines all the detail which could have redeemed the book. Skraal's 'journey' through the bowels of the Abyss was a prime example which read like a series of random rolls on an RPG encounter table rather than the desperate guerrilla war it could have been. The writing was so hackneyed and on the nose I can't believe a decent editor would have let it through. There is no way that this book is anywhere near the standard of plotting, writing and in particular characterisation, of Fulgrim, Horus Rising or False Gods.

Oh dear - I have the three books of the Souldrinkers trilogy sitting on my shelf still to read.

Apocalypse: Reload was a quick read. The vast majority of this tome is additional datasheets, several of which have already appeared on the GW website. Since I haven't actually played a game of Apocalypse yet they are of limited use to me at the moment. The rest of the book consists of a brief tactica for each army in Apocalypse games (Daemonhunter and Witch Hunter armies are once again ignored completely), army specific strategic assets (nifty), some ideas to spice up Apocalypse games (including notes on the 5th edition rules changes - decide yourself!) and finally a battle report. It's hardly an essential buy, being an expansion of an expansion, but handy for Apocalypse players.

I finally finished reading the new 40k 5th edition cover to cover. It is split into three main sections; the rules, the background and hobby information. Each of the sections is laid out in a visually appealing way and GW get top marks for streamlining both the rules and background. In fact, everything in the book seems far more focused than in previous editions.

The rules are a step forward as far as I am concerned. They seem quite tight on first inspection with a lot of the contentious issues from 4th edition resolved. Consistent wording coupled with good diagrams and even a bit of game designer commentary combine to make a better game in my opinion. Of course I have minor quibbles; why bring back kill points from second edition when they were dropped because they were broken then, and why bring back ramming? Still, I'm looking forward to playing many games of 5th edition over the coming years.

The background section is simply stunning. It makes heavy use of John Blanche illustrations and, while his work is not to everybody's taste, I think it embodies the spirit of 40k better than anything else I've seen. There are no photographs of models in this section - it solely consists of atmospheric paintings and drawings.

It also gathers together the history of the Imperium in a comprehensive six page timeline. The last 300 years are labelled the Time of Ending and highlight the fact that the Imperium is crumbling under attack right across the galaxy.

Another innovation here is that each faction has it's own four page view on the 41st millennium, rather than the Imperio-centric only view of previous editions. The Craftworld and Dark Eldar Commorragh paintings in particular break new ground and are simply stunning.

The third and final chunk of the book is the hobby section. This shows the models and battlefields used in the game. It contains virtually no rules (4th edition had loads of specialist missions, campaign rules, etc) but is a practical guide to playing the game - choosing an army, painting it and making a table with terrain.

All in all I give a big thumbs up to this version of 40k.

Books wanted.
  • Red Fury
  • Planetkill
  • Siege of Vraks 2

Here's what I already own and still need to read:
  • Imperial Armour Three: The Taros campaign
  • Liber Chaotica
  • Storm of Chaos
  • Imperial Infantryman's Primer (Damocles Gulf edition)
  • The Life of Sigmar
  • Faith and Fire
  • Dark Apostle
  • Cardinal Crimson
  • Warriors of Ultramar
  • Dead Sky, Black Sun
  • 13th Legion
  • Kill Team
  • Annihilation Squad
  • Space Wolf
  • Ragnar's Claw
  • Grey Hunter
  • Soul Drinker
  • The Bleeding Chalice
  • Crimson Tears
  • Soldier

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