Friday, September 18, 2009

GENERAL: Bi-monthly book update

Back in August, when I should have been painting the last of my Blood Angels army I bought How to Paint Citadel Tanks and read it in a single sitting. Obviously this was relatively easy to do because much of the book is visual rather than text based.

This is the kind of book that I would recommend to someone relatively new to modelling who wants to improve. It'll be no good to the casual gamer who wants to get their models on the table as soon as possible and play a game - many of those will be perfectly happy to play with unpainted models anyway.

Similarly it won't appeal much to the experienced modeller. They are already familiar with the basic techniques and have started to look beyond Games Workshop in terms of equipment and materials. I'd put myself in this camp, and the IA Model Masterclass book satisfied my modelling itch much better.

That's not to knock HTPCT. It does a great job of explaining the basics in its ninety six pages, from assembling the model right through to applying the transfers. There are five stage by stage examples of vehicle painting which utilise many of the techniques and they include a Space Marine Predator, an Imperial Guard Leman Russ, an Ork Trukk, a Chaos Space Marine Defiler and an Eldar Falcon.

I guess the most useful tips and techniques in the book are those for the bold, bright tanks and vehicles, because other modelling guides from other companies can be used for more 'realistic' camouflage patterns and colours.

Thinking back to all the armies I've faced across the gaming table I think a lot of them would gain from reading this book. Whether those players will ever make the effort remains to be seen. What's for sure is that they no longer have the excuse of ignorance - if they shelled out £30 for this book and How to Paint Citadel Miniatures that's pretty much all they'd ever need to produce good quality armies.

Anyone following my blog for a while will know that I regularly enter Black Library book competitions on book review blogs. I've had a bit of a winning streak on Graeme's Fantasy book review, previously winning two Ultramarine books and Salamander, and I've just won again. This time it was for a copy of Cadian Blood.

Guardsmen and zombies? Yes please!

I read Cadian Blood in just two days whilst away on holiday. Aaron Dembski-Bowden is a new author to me and based upon my impressions from this book he's one I'd look out for in future.

The book is based around the time of the thirteenth black crusade, near the Eye of Terror. The Plague of Unbelief is rife on the front line, turning millions of people into shambling zombies, but suddenly Kathur shrine world succumbs well away from the main war zone. The Cadian 88th, led by warden-captain Thade, are sent in with several other Imperial Guard regiments to head the reclamation force. They meet stiff resistance in the form of Nurgle Chaos worshippers and the dread Death Guard.

The author sets off at a rattling pace and never lets up for the length of the novel. Many of the battles, even the climactic scenes are described with refreshing brevity compared to many Black Library novels. There is a looseness to the plotting which sometimes threatens to meander away from the central ideas but ultimately allows the story to breathe a bit.

Aaron draws his characters well and teases out a range of characters, largely through dialogue rather than through dull inner monologues. Again I liked this even if some of the dialogue sounded a little too contemporary. The author was unafraid to kill his characters off, too, which I found involved me in their tale all the more.

The only real downside for me was the lack of any real zombie action. I wasn't quite sure what type of zombies we were dealing with here. What exact rules governed them? It didn't really matter much as the central characters didn't really seem too concerned about them; the zombies were there simply to get mown down. There was no real physical or psychological threat from them in the novel.

I guess you could argue that the Death Guard were the main protagonists and it's true that they were described powerfully, but I would personally have preferred a bit more zombie versus Guardsman action. Still, it's a minor niggle and I'd still recommend this book as a good read.

I read Salamander just before I went away on holiday. I struggled to get into the book somewhat because it is slow in places. It's the first of Nick Kyme's books I have read, and being an avid follower of his blog through the writing process of this novel I stuck with it. I'm glad I did.

Our central protagonists are Dak'ir and Tsu'gan, two sergeants in the 3rd company of the Salamanders chapter. Their beloved company commander is killed in the first pages of the book and much of the ensuing tale takes place against the backdrop of the political infighting concerning his replacement. The main meat of the tale, though, sees the Salamanders exploring an ancient prophecy far from Nocturne which may shed light on the disappearance of their primarch. This brings them into conflict with Iron Warriors chaos space marines and a horde of rampaging Orks.

The author has a good command of the 40k setting and the Salamander space marine background in particular. Some of it was on show but I never found it flashy; it was just evident that Nick had done his homework. Some of his plot ideas were quite ambitious but I was largely sold through the context.

The characters were very well conveyed with subtly different and well thought out personalities. There was a surprising emotional content and moral complexity to the book which I thought strayed into Shakespearean territory several times. This isn't something you can normally say about Black Library books!

He's a good writer too. It felt technically accomplished without ever resorting to literary fireworks. The book is clearly the first in a series and I think Nick has confirmed that it is one of a planned trilogy.

All in all it was a good solid book, without being spectacular, and I have high hopes that the characters will develop further and deeper with the coming books.

The final book I read, which I won't dwell on too much as it is not directly related to gaming, was Bomber Boys. This is a companion book to Fighter Boys which I read previously.

Bomber Boys describes the plight of British crews piloting bombers in the second world war. Unlike their fighter pilot comrades, who had a clear objective and were defending their homes, the bomber crews were unsung heroes and history has forgotten their sacrifice over time. This is because of their rather dubious tactics of area bombing German cities, resulting in the firestorms of Dresden and Hamburg which killed thousands upon thousands of civilians, including women and children. Despite the carnage they caused no-one really knows how much impact they had on the war, and it was a real shock to me to see just how inaccurate bombing really is, even today.

This moral complexity casts a shadow over the bravery of the often very young boys who were forced to fly one nerve-wracking raid after another with appalling survival rates.

I'll be using some of the information in this book to inform my Aeronautica Imperialis games and background when I get round to playing it.

I reduced my reading pile still further by selling two Black Library background books. They were Life of Sigmar and Darkness Rising, both for Warhammer Fantasy Battle. This is very much a secondary game system for me and as a result I figured I'd never get around to reading the books. Instead I put them up on eBay to rake in some cash.

Where does that flurry of reading activity leave me?

Books read
  • How to Paint Citadel Tanks
  • Salamander
  • Cadian Blood
  • Bomber Boys

Books bought
  • Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project
  • Imperial Armour VII: The Siege of Vraks part three
  • Cadian Blood

Books sold

  • Life of Sigmar
  • Darkness Rising

Books wanted
  • Red Fury
  • Planetkill
  • Titanicus
  • Imperial Guard Omnibus Volume 1
  • Creatures Anathema
  • The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
  • Tales of Heresy
  • The Grey Knights Omnibus
  • Heroes of the Space Marines
  • Scourge the Heretic
  • Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium
  • Rogue Star
  • Star of Damocles
  • Lord of the Night
  • Emperor's Mercy
  • Fallen Angels
  • Heart of Rage
  • Dark Disciple

The reading pile

  • Liber Chaotica
  • Imperial Infantryman's Primer (Damocles Gulf edition)
  • Faith and Fire
  • Cardinal Crimson
  • Kill Team
  • Annihilation Squad
  • Space Wolf
  • Ragnar's Claw
  • Grey Hunter
  • Soul Drinker
  • The Bleeding Chalice
  • Crimson Tears
  • Codex: Space Marines
  • Warriors of Chaos army book
  • Disciples of the Dark Gods
  • The Killing Ground
  • Courage and Honour

So the reading pile has diminished somewhat but the eagle-eyed will have spotted that I bought both Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project and Imperial Armour VII: The Siege of Vraks part three. This means that I now own all of the IA books and will only buy the new ones as they are released. I'll probably read the Vraks book first and then start on the Anphelion after that. I have also started reading the Killing Ground Ultramarines novel so I expect that will turn up in the next bi-monthly book roundup.

Until then, adieu!


  1. Hi lone pilgrim,

    Have you ever read any of the Warhammer Fantasy Series of books ?

    I'd be interested in your opinion on them.

    Also, if you play Fantasy Battle at all would you be interested in joining our forum ? We're always on the look out for keen bloggers, gamers, painters. We have a 40k section too but it needs work !

    If you fancy it:-
    Battle Reporter forum

    Nice blog by the way,

  2. Thanks Sigmar.

    I have read some of the very old Warhammer Fantasy books such as Drachenfels, Beasts in Velvet and Plague Daemon, but none of the newer stuff. There are just so many 40k publications being released that I can barely keep up with them, never mind other games such as WFB.

    I've bookmarked your forum and I'll have a good look at it when I get the chance.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Thanks for the notes on the bomber boys. My grandfather was a wellington navigator and was shot down... he spent 4 years in the Stalag Luft camp (great escape territory) and got the DFC.

    The fighter pilots always had the glory and the 'independence' - whereas the bombers often had the workhorse 'real' job of damaging the german war machine.

    On the bombing front ... nothing ever changes. My grandfather's log notes drops over Bremen, Berlin and Dresden. Blanket bombing a city was neccessary due to the sheer inaccuracy of the method - the most accurate method was for a leading group to drop a flare. The problem was that in nighttime bombing if the first plane dropped, they all dropped - resulting in bombs scattered across a couple of miles...

    Keep up the book reports... nice work.

  4. @suneokun - One of my favourite quotes from the book was about American bombing accuracy versus British bombing accuracy: 'the RAF carried out precision attacks on area targets, while the USAAF carried out area attacks on precision targets.'

    It's quite sobering to think back to those military presentations given to the press during the recent Gulf Wars trying to convince everyone bombs could be dropped down a chimney in the context of this book.