Thursday, April 28, 2016

Legends of the Age of Sigmar: Skaven Pestilens by Josh Reynolds [Book Review]

Bit of a lazy cover art to be honest (it's the same as the Pestilens battletome).
So, I just read "Legends of the Age of Sigmar: Skaven Pestilens" and I wanted to do a review. I have tried to hide the worst of the spoilers, but if you're really passionate about reading this book unspoiled it would probably be better to just go ahead and read it before reading the rest of this post.

http://www.blacklibrary.com/aos/whaos-novs/skaven-pestilens-ebook.html

Synopsis


On the Amber Steppes of Ghur, the Crawling City is dying. The rabid devotees of the Clans Pestilens have infested this colossal worm and the structures upon its back, bringing poison and corruption with them. They seek to glorify their foul deity by unleashing one of the prophesied Great Plagues, and the Crawling City holds the key. In their way stand Sigmar’s Stormhosts, and stranger enemies still – the skaven must overcome not only these foes but their natural disunity and suspicion, if they are to lay their claws upon the baleful prize at the Crawling City’s heart.

Written by Josh Reynolds

I'll do this one in three parts:

The Skaven Storyline 

 

Skuralanx - The Scurrying Dark, the Cunning Shadow, etcetera. This guy is the main reason that the skaven have come to the Crawling City. Reading internal monologue and dialog from a Verminlord is a first for me. I had no frame of reference on how these things are usually handled and had no set expectations. Especially in the case of these epic daemons and how alien and mysterious their inner workings are supposed to be, I was surprised that this one got as much 'screen time' as he did and we got to see so much of his true plans and intentions. All in all, Skuralanx turned out to be a pretty relatable guy and it was fun to watch him start out the story as the grand manipulator, seeing himself as a puppeteer behind the scenes, yet gradually becoming more and more involved and forced to get physical (literally) as his underlings inevitably screwed up.

***SPOILER***Though I didn't mind having the Verminlord die at the end of the book, the way he did was pretty brutal and humiliating. Smashed by the hammer of the same Sigmar statue he was mocking in the beginning. There was a point even before that in the book where his incompetence was emphasized a little bit too much for my tastes. It also seems a strange move to me to have a book that is obviously intended for a skaven-playing audience where the skaven champion is so thoroughly defeated. With Mantius being the only casualty on the stormcast side to show for. Thank the Horned One we still had Kruk.***SPOILER***

Kruk and Vretch - Kruk is the main plague priest of the Congregation of Fumes and Vretch is a plague priest of the Red Bubo. Kruk is a dumb (but occasionally cunning) brute who has probably taken a few too many whiffs of his own censer, while Vretch is a more traditional Skaven who'd rather scheme his way out of a situation than actually confront a foe. Both of them serve as pawns in Skuralanx's plan to get the Great Plague, but, throughout the book, Vretch seems to be the only one making any actual progress. Kruk, in turn, does almost all of the fighting against the stormcast and the seraphon. I think both characters are well written and Reynolds did a good job making them distinctive from eachother despite the both of them technically being regular skaven plague priests.

***SPOILER***Something I really liked from this book is the great twists of their stories at the end of the book. Despite all his cunning, Vretch only manages to become a victim of the very plague he hoped to find and eventually goes through all this trouble only to end up with the wrong relic. The ending in the epilogue where Kruk survives his fall down the gut of the worm and makes an almost destined landing amid the ancient lab where the Great Plague was created was greatly satisfying as well. Both Vermalanx and Vretch were constantly in it for the personal glory. Perhaps we're meant to conclude that Kruk was the only one acting as a true servant of the Great Corrupter. I don't know if that was the intended message, but after all that failure and catastrophe on the skaven front, it was nice to see Kruk rewarded for all of his unthinking devotion.***SPOILER***

The Stormcast/Seraphon Storyline


Zephacleas, Mantius, Seker, Tethacleas - To be perfectly honest, I didn't pick up this book to read about Stormcast. I get the fact that they're the new thing that needs to be marketed and require somewhat of an open mind to accept that they are not by definition uninteresting, but damn I find it hard to like these guys. It didn't help that the Astral Templars (the name of the warrior chamber) are apparently supposed to be a more 'feral' or 'wild' themed chamber. Especially their Lord Celestant: Zephacleas comes across basically as a sort of barbarian king who enjoys fighting more than thinking and is in a constant state of straight forwardness while bellowing manly things to his fellow warriors, except not in a particularly funny way. It felt a bit simple to watch him develop a brotherly bond with the seraphon sunblood Sutok mainly because they both enjoy bashing in the heads of other things with blunt objects. I don't remember the exact page number, but there might even have been a moment where they actually bro-fisted. Yuck.

The other stormcast characters were a bit more fun to read. Mantius was maybe the only one I really liked. The fact that he had a magical falcon from the realm of azyr was pretty cool, his nickname "Far-killer" is pretty bad ass and his fight against the Skuralanx was also quite good. In the end though I probably would have preferred to read more from the viewpoint of the original inhabitants of the city who were enslaved by the skaven. There has been a general complaint about the background of Age of Sigmar that the regular humans are not featured nearly enough in the story. Perhaps it's because the GA: Order book wasn't out yet, so the details of the human civilizations weren't really known, but the book could've done more with that in my opinion. Having all that focus on the stormcast instead was, I think, a missed opportunity to win back the hearts of some of the old fantasy vets.

Kurkori, Takatakk, Sutok, etc. - The arrival of the seraphon was a nice surprise and a nice shift of focus from all of the stormcast exposition. The whole 'star-dream-magic-heaven-energy' thing the lizardmen have got going on now is still a little strange to me and takes a bit of getting used to (especially considering how incredibly vague the lore on it still is). Nevertheless, I guess it all helps make them seem mysterious and alien again. Their introduction creates an interesting comparison between the stormcast, who are also made from some sort of star-energy and they serve as a great enemy for the skaven as well. While the stormcast are kind of the new kid on the block as far as beings like Skuralanx are concerned, the skaven are positively sh***ing themselves when they find out the 'star-devils' are getting involved.

Honorable Mention: Shu'gohl - She's a pretty big gall and served as a fun and interesting setting for the story. The various locations that were on her back (the Sahg'gohl, the Dorsal Barbicans, the Setaen Palisades, the Libraria Vurmis, etc) got confusing to me pretty quickly. Maybe because english isn't my first language, maybe because I'm not an expert on worm biology, who knows. In any case, the skaven vs stormcast/seraphon and infection vs immune system metaphor was not lost on me and quite a cool analogy to see.

The Verdict (a solid 10 out of 13)


I think the book is great. Yeah, it might have been better if there had been less stormcast and more humans.

***SPOILER***And yeah, it would have been nice if the skaven could have achieved a better victory instead of the highly speculative ending/humiliating defeat that we got.***SPOILER***

But honestly, this book is 183 pages of great action, cool plot twists, fantastic places and interesting characters. Although the book seemed a bit short to me for the price that it's sold at, the 183 pages do keep the book from becoming boring or too demanding on your time. I've never read an age of sigmar novel before, yet I feel like I've had a good idea of what to expect from now on and the potential for great adventures that the new setting has within. If you've got 20 euro's to spare and have an interest in Pestilens, Astral Templars and/or Seraphon, do yourself a favor and add this tome to your collection.

For the glory of the Horned Rat!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'm Actually Gaming!

Wow. I totally forgot to publish the last post..

That's embarrassing and basically means this one is going to be a long one. I also don't feel like retyping the whole thing, so you'll have to imagine a bit of a timeskip in between. Anyhow!

I played a game of Ninth Age recently. I got out my old Empire army for it, which had been gathering dust ever since the release of 8th edition made it obsolete. What is pretty cool is that it seems that the army has now become really poweful in the Ninth Age system. Check it out in the pics below:

Turn two. The first important combats are starting to erupt.
The game was against Dirk and his yellow Orc army (lovingly named the "Pizzkidzz"). The game was pretty fun as we quickly found out that the game is very, very much like old Warhammer Fantasy. The downside however, was that we spent so much time flipping through the pdf's that we weren't able to properly finish the game. Also, my detachments formations are still not legal (I have them in 3 by 3 blocks). All in all I can't give the game a good verdict yet other than that it's an admittedly more balanced version of Warhammer Fantasy that you can get for free and will probably remain relevant for a couple of years. Good for anyone with an old fantasy army, not so good for introducing new people to the hobby. Then again, the game itself is in a self-declared Beta stage right now so comparing it to fully supported games such as AoS and KoW may still be premature.

Close-up of the big savage orc unit. Tough to kill units all around.
In more recent news I've played the second game of the 30k campaign that's still going on at the GameForce. Incidentally this game was also against Dirk.

The mission however, was not quite a success as we had to place objectives which one of us had to destroy and the other had to protect. I was assigned the protecting role, but was also informed that objectives had to be deployed before we were allowed to choose sides. This made setting up the objectives very difficult and I ended up placing them somewhere in the middle. When I then lost both rolls to pick a side as well as the roll for first turn I could only watch helplessly as 2 objectives got immediately taken out in turn 1. Dirk's army spent the rest of the game running away. What also didn't help is that I had chosen to field a contemptor while the boards we used had passages that were consistently too small for a dreadnought to pass through. Nevertheless, it was a short game and I still had fun throwing dice against Dirk's nicely painted Death Guard.

Seriously though. I'm glad we're not doing zone mortalis anymore next game.
 Now! For the painting part of the blog post.

Two weeks ago I had this standing on my painting table:

It's going to be a busy month.
Here's what I managed to complete:

Can you read the text I wrote on his chest flag things? Pretty pleased with myself that I kinda pulled that one off.
Chaplain dude. Is this the time to start naming things? Maybe flesh out the fluff a bit?
And the first of the Skaven!! Unspectacularly they are rat swarms. Still took me long enough to paint up though. Warlock engineer is next on the list.

So that's all for this post. I tried not to keep it too long this time. There's a big forge world order coming in this week and I also finished the Legends of the Age of Sigmar: Pestilens novel which I kinda wanna do a book review for. I already talked about the latter on the latest episode of Skavenblight Radio, but a more thorough review on here would probably be a good idea also. So! Fingers crossed for next week guys!

Victory or Death!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ravens and Skavens

It's been a busy couple of weeks on the wargaming front!

First thing I want to talk about is the Horus Heresy campaign at my local gamestore. The campaign has kicked off in full swing and we've got a seriously large group of 18 gamers going at it. Freshly assembled Betrayal at Calth marines are everywhere. It's an escalation campaign designed to help us build our armies and so my first 250 points zone mortalis battle was against Night Lords (courtesy of Peter Zuidgeest, check out his pro-painting service!). Despite going for the ridiculous option of fielding a land speeder, I actually won this. Because of a shortage of assembled models, I went with a single unit of 10 guys and a land speeder. Peter figured more bodies would be better, but in the end resulted in a victory for me due to my squad's superior combat capabilities. We did a second battle afterwards where Peter took some different upgrades and I lost that battle completely. Biggest thing I took away from all of this though is to never use a land speeder in a zone mortalis game.

Phone shot of the second battle. Note the sad, useles, immobilised land speeder in the back.
With my first battles done I could return the focus on painting the army again. So, just last night I finally finished my first tactical squad! Next month will have 500 points battles and I think I'll try and build a contemptor and the BaC chaplain to round out my army.

The finished squad. Not featured in this image: some extra grass tufts that I added later.
Now, because working on a 30k army is apparently not enough to keep me busy, I've also made my first steps on the road to the Age of Sigmar! Which basically means that I've bought a lot of stuff and I'm doing a lot of reading. As people might have noticed, Age of Sigmar has released Skaven Pestilens as a playable faction. Complete with their own battletome and black library love.

Just look at that beautiful mug and tell me you are not hype for this faction.
Since I plan on playing Skaven exclusively to start with, I have picked up the battletome and the black library book 'Legends of the Age of Sigmar: Skaven Pestilens'. The latter one is well on its way to being finished so hopefully I'll be able to find the time to do a proper review for the blog some time as well as perhaps a future Skavenblight Radio episode.


Squeeking of the Radio, we released a new episode a couple of weeks ago. It's most likely a lot better than the previous episode since I talk a lot less in it. Also, it's episode #13 and that has to at least count for something on a Skaven podcast.

So that's what I'll leave with for now. Next couple of weeks should hopefully provide painted Skaven, progress on the 500 point Dust Vultures and a review of the Pestilens black library book.

Victory or Death!