Sunday, 26 June 2011

A recent game of Apocalypse--Thoughts and Conclusions

The other night, I had a big game with a bunch of my buddies. We usually try to get in a big one with everyone while I'm in town, but this one was a little bigger than usual. There was a little bit in excess of 17000 points per side, I believe. On the other side of the table were IG, Tau, and Blood Angels. On my side were Chaos Space Marines, Daemons, and Tyranids & DE (me).

We set up in pitched battle, 24 inches away, with a table on either side of the main one. Chaos, 'nids, and DE deploy on the front line, while BA deployed across from the 'nids, and Tau and IG deployed in depth throughout their own table.

We were soundly thrashed.

There were a few problems that I faced with Dark Eldar and Nids. Some of it was due to my list--my friends usually don't use flyers, and the Tau player (not someone I usually play with) brought 3. The BA player used a formation that turned 3 Stormravens into flyers. Tyranids have no good defense against flyers using the current Apoc rules, which screwed us over to some degree. But I could've proxied Tyrannofexes, so I can't really complain.

Something more important, of note for all Apocalypse games, is however, board size. Large boards (more than 2x normal size, near as I can tell) take away large advantages for both. First, the Tyranid.

I simply ran everything I had, about 2000 points of normal tyranids plus a Scythed Hierodule. My force was concentrated into one side of the board, across from a blood angels column and some miscellaneous guardsmen. They were deployed back, towards the edge of the main table. And I found that I really struggled to reach them. Tyranid lack the mobility to advance on a board of Apocalypse scale.

Next, the Dark Eldar. Our main advantage is our mobility. When we can cross the board in a turn, we do well. When that merely brings us into the teeth of the enemy guns, we do less favorably.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter. USE TERRAIN! Lots of TERRAIN!!! We skimped on it because it would clog up deployment, and daemons would have trouble deep striking. Tyranids and Dark Eldar need terrain when facing an Apocalyptic gunline from Tau or IG. There is no way to make it across a table and a half with paper planes or footslogging monsters without cover and such to utilize.

My two cents, not well edited or thought through. A bit of tl;dr word vomit.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Super 8, Game of Thrones, and some 40k

Super 8 is a great movie. I have a hard time finding things that I did not like about the film. The child actors were excellent, the writing was superb, and I enjoyed the direction. J.J. Abrams must have a soft spot in his heart for monster flicks, but after Super 8 and Cloverfield, I have to say he's just about the best person to make them.

I consider A Song of Ice and Fire to be just about the best fantasy series written--certainly the best modern fantasy. After having a passionate love for years for David Eddings' work, this is hard to admit, but I believe it's so. Over the past couple of days, I've finally been able to catch up on the Game of Thrones HBO adaptation. I must say, I'm impressed. They stick very close to the original story, the acting is excellent, and they do a phenomenal job of visualizing Martin's universe. I cannot wait to see them bring even more to life in Season 2.

On a related note, Dance with Dragons should be out soon, and that will definitely getting a book review!

I got in a game of 40k with some of my buddies. It was a 1v1v1 with me as Tyranids, one friend as CSM and the other as Daemons. Tyranids and CSM deployed pitched battle, and daemons just dropped in as they are wont to do. We were just screwing around, no objectives or keeping track of KP, just playing for last man standing (which was me :) ). There were a few fun moments--I had a heroic termagant, who survived the destruction of his brood and all around him, charging him into battle with Abaddon and his Terminator bodyguard (along with two hive tyrants, two tyrant guard, a trygon, a tervigon--chaos never even had a chance to swing), and who was charged by a demon prince specifically to spite me. Needless to say, I had to table the offending player for his insolence. All in all, it was a nice beer and pretzels game, and a good time was had by all, as far as I know.

The lightning storm is threatening to cut my power again, so I'm going to post this without any more description of the game or the movie as I had planned.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Book Review: The Illearth War

I'm back in Chicago! Wrote this up on the plane trip home. 29 hours of travel kills--my body is so confused right now...

The Illearth War is the second novel in Stephen R. Dondaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Once again, this book review will start in the middle of a series—sorry, Internet! [Though I end up reviewing the Lord Foul’s Bane too…]

As before, there are likely to be [read: are] spoilers for the first two books of the trilogy.

I’ll start with a quick recap of the premise and my thoughts on the first book, Lord Foul’s Bane. This first book follows one Thomas Covenant, a man turned extremely bitter by his leprosy, and society’s reaction to it. While walking into town in a blatant defiance of those who fear his disease, Covenant is nearly hit by a far and wakes up in the Land—a mystical world beset by The Despiser, Corruption, Fangthane: Lord Foul. Covenant names himself The Unbeliever, as the healing power of the Land threatens to destroy all of the caution which is necessary for a leper to survive. He refuses to accept that the Land is anything more than a delusion.

Now, you might be thinking at this point that Covenant comes into his own and gathers the courage within himself to defeat Lord Foul. Think again.

Thomas Covenant in this first book is one of the least likable protagonists I have ever encountered. Only my sheer will to finish any book I start* carried me through at certain points, especially where Covenant rapes a sixteen-year-old girl. (It’s not explicit, for those worried about that—I actually had to reread it to make sure it actually happened, through my shock.)

The setting is also a problem in the first book. Donaldson has a nature crush on the Land, and just about every chapter has some new glorious vista that is described in tedious detail. When not a lot is happening, this gets tiresome, and it’s not helped that what does happen is usually not committed by the Unbeliever. I kind of felt like RPing a character in a campaign with a great setting, only to have the GMPC railroad me through a plot I was not invested in. In the end, Covenant returns to the “real world,” and has only been in a coma for a few hours.

On to The Illearth War! Let me start by saying that I was much more impressed by the sequel. While Covenant has been away for 5 weeks or so, the Land has progressed by 40 years. Foul’s army is ready to march upon the Land, and another man, Hile Troy from the “real” world has also been summoned and was put in command of the Land’s army.

In this book, Covenant is a much more sympathetic character. I only began to understand him at the end of Lord Foul’s Bane, and armed with that knowledge, his self-hatred and regret turn him from a whiny little caricature to a man who is deeply flawed in The Illearth War. He hates himself and everything he ever did in the Land, and cannot accept that even those he harmed forgive him, and he cannot accept the responsibility that the people of the Land lay on his shoulders.  

The plot is also much more exciting than the Quest of the first book. The book is written in three parts, but contains four real storylines. The first part, Revelstone, sets up the action for the story. Not much need be said, plot-wise, although some nice character introduction and development occurs. The second part, The Warmark, follows Hile Troy as he leads the army of the Land against Fleshharrower, commander of Foul’s armies. This moved well, and was rather exciting, given that most of it was marching. Included in this was the third storyline, the Bloodguard’s mission to discover the fate of the Giants. Although it only comprised two chapters at different points in the book, I could not put these chapters down. They were the best parts of the book, in my opinion, building dread reminiscent of Lovecraft’s scarier work. The fact that certain elements were left unresolved makes me eager to read the next book of the series. The fate of the Bloodguard Korik is something I eagerly wish to know! Part Three is relatively short, and follows Covenant and the High Lord as they attempt to uncover a source of ancient power.

Overall? The Illearth War was well worth my time, and was a very good piece of High Fantasy of the old school. I’m eager to learn what happens to Korik, as well what the third Raver, Satansfist, has been up to. Donaldson corrects the mistakes of Lord Foul’s Bane, creating more three-dimensional characters and cutting back on the gratuitous descriptions of the Land. Whether or not the series is worth it will depend on the quality of The Power That Preserves, which I’ll get to as soon as I read it. When that’ll be? Not sure. Now that I have a social life again, I'll be reading a little less. But I've already started it.

*Except for Moby Dick, but one day I’ll slay that personal white whale. But dear God, Melville, have you ever heard of a bloody editor?! This is a rant for another day.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Trust Me, I'm The Doctor

A new Dark Science is up! I enjoy that comic, but I think I'll write more on that later.

More importantly, I'm going home today! I'll leave Saturday morning, spend 25 hours traveling, and get home Saturday night. Sometimes I really hate time zones...

Monday, 13 June 2011

I Never Thought I'd Say This, But Volcanoes Are Stupid

Well, I spent most of yesterday on an impromptu road trip from Sydney to Melbourne because that Chilean volcano's ash cloud grounded our flight. I don't mind road trips all that much, but it was a long day that I wasn't fully braced for. I mean, what business does a Chilean volcano have cluttering up Australian airspace? Damned rude of it, in my opinion.

I've asked my players if they mind me recording our campaign up here. If they tell me they don't the prologue should be up in a few days, and Chapter 1 (which is considerably longer) ... sometime after that.

I would really like to get into steampunk and Dungeon punk, and have thus been considering getting some Eberron source material for my 4e campaign, primarily for equipment and monsters. Can anyone tell me if this is a good investment, and which books I should look at in fourth edition?

I've been jonesing for some nerdiness. Happily, my players are gleefully spying on the Duke's court, Blood of Kittens has been dumping Sisters rumors, and Girlfriend is powering through season 3 of BSG (apparently she was using it to replace my constant geeky chatter while I'm away, and now she's hooked). So that's kept me going, but it only takes the edge off the fact that I really want to roll some dice!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Book Review: Yellow Eyes

From Google. The other cover had some sort of Beastman in Power Armor? Not sure what THAT was...
My first book review will unfortunately start off in the middle of a series. For those wondering, I plan to review whatever books I happen to read. I have just finished Yellow Eyes, by John Ringo and Tom Kratman.

Warning: Thar be spoilers ahead, matey!

Yellow Eyes is part of John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series. The story takes place before and during the Posleen invasion of Earth: chronologically, it begins during A Hymn Before Battle and ends between Gust Front and When the Devil Dances.

The writing style is pretty much what I have come to expect from Ringo: easy, laid-back, very accessible, with some extremely irritating comma usage (or more importantly, lack thereof). Kratman's influence is detectable--the narration is a bit more informal, and some of the scenes are gory in very descriptive ways. Whereas Ringo would before have left the effects of certain injuries more vague, Kratman goes into detail.

The story is also what I have come to expect. The good guys win, and the bad guys lose. I found the story predictable, with certain deaths forseeable (marriage is a death sentence, by the way) and the survivors just about what I expected (with the possibility of a few Posleen, who I either expected to live or die, and had those expectations reversed).

The problem was, as it was in When the Devil Dances and Hell's Faire, is that I'm not rooting for the humans. I want the Posleen to kick those threshkreen's asses and eat them! John Ringo has created characters in the Posleen God Kings who are generally far more likable, changeable, real than the plastic humans who are defending Earth against the oncoming alien hordes. Without the O'Neil clan, I don't mourn for the lost soul of humanity, as I did in Hell's Faire. There was no chance to see a man call down a nuclear blast on his own daughter so he could follow orders that he despised with every fiber of his being. (By the way, I think the exchange between Jack Horner and Mike O'Neil in When the Devil Dance's is one of the finest parts of the series--O'Neil literally destroying his own building in impotent rage was an image that still stick with me.) Instead, Yellow Eyes give us a few humans who are good, and a few who are bad. Granted, the scenes involving the military coup are well done, but I never get the sense of loss that I do in the main series. I get...confusion. While the slaughters of Posleen by humans in the main series are heroic and tragic at the same time, in this book, they are gross. The soldiers think it is hilarious as Posleen are disemboweled while slipping to and fro in the blood of their mutilated comrades, but I was half afraid the author did too.

And that's the part that bugged me the most. The Posleen, whom I cared about more deeply than some of the humans (I'm looking at you, token ACS officer) were getting the crappy end of the stick, in some cases for no apparent reason. (The native american who ravages an entire oolt and kills one of my favorite Posleen ever written can bite me.) There was never any sense they could win, because the cards were stacked against them from the start. I never felt like Panama could fall, as much as the author kept telling it could happen soon. There was just too much plot armor for a clan whose normals only had boma blades to cut through.

But my brother tells me this leads into The Tuloriad, which I am very much looking forward to. 'Cause I love me some Tulo'stenaloor more than just about anything else in the entire series.

So, in conclusion. This book is a decent addition to the Legacy of the Aldenata series, but not my favorite. If you read for big battles and killing hordes of Posleen, look no further--it has that in spades. What it lacks is the sense of dehumanization and cultural shift that so nicely formed the background of the main four books; the sense that humanity could indeed lose the war, and even if it wins, we may not like what we become. That is what made the Legacy of the Aldenata distinct for me, and that is what Yellow Eyes unfortunately lacks.

Friday, 10 June 2011

From a hotel in Sydney...

Not much to update on for now, but I thought I'd throw something down.

Well, it appears that the new SoB 'dex is truely in a White Dwarf. I hope it doesn't suck, because for some odd reason, I've always like the Sisters. I've never even seen them on the tabletop, but the idea of SO MUCH FIRE, in addition to Nuns with Guns... I dunno, it amuses me. I hope they still have lots of fire. Not to mention I enjoy when Games Workshop puts out quality product.

At some point, I may do recaps in a story form of the D&D campaign I'm running. (Good lord, I'm such a dork!) I want to finish Chapter 2, and that will happen when we get together at school again. I also need my player's permission. If I get bored, I may decide to start writing out Chapter 1 before then.

That's all for now. I expect the banality of my posts to lessen somewhat once I'm home, and have access to all of my hobby stuff.

My first book review is on its way. As soon as I finish the book.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Visions of a Madman

I have a few long-term projects I'm working on. Some are inhibited by time, some by space, and some by money. Some are going forward, and some may never come to fruition. So, here's my little to-do list. For Hobby:
  • Finish my Tyranid Army. 
    • I'm right about at 2k points, where I want to be, but I have a handful of minis left to buy, and only about 10-12 termagants completely painted, with no basing finished. (BTW, if anyone knows how to base a mini so it looks like it's in a wheat field, throw something in the comments!)
  • Build up my Dark Eldar force.
    • I still have a long way to go on this one. I have to finish of my 1.5k force, and then buy my way up to Apocalypse strength. Which means more triples of everything, since my Kabal runs on principles of 3. When IA12 or 13 has Dark Eldar, I'll be very happy, though my wallet won't be. 
  • Space Marines.
    • Oh, Lordy. My Space Marine Chapter has fluff, a paint scheme, but no models. One day I'll start buying them. But it'll be an Apocalypse-sized force, with playable armies for all the Space Marine Codices (not CSM or GK, though. They are too aesthetically different.) That may branch into an entire Imperial force, if I like the Sisters.
    • For these guys, I also want to build a scale model of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne:
    • Now imagine it with battle damage!
    • Yep, I'm an idiot! That's gonna be a while coming, though.
Generically, I also have a few other to-dos.
  • My Secret Project. 
    • It's writing. But other than that, I'm not allowing myself to say, only a few select people have been informed of this.
  • My Book Series.
    • I'm excited about this again. Maybe I'll try and start actually writing it once the SP is done (for better or worse). Right now I'm just mentally story-boarding.
  • Mass Effect!
    • Alright, with Mass Effect 3 coming out, a good portion of my time will be devoted to getting my Shepard's backstory perfect. I play BioWare for the story, and I love the Mass Effect series. It should be awesome.
Oh, and I have to catch up with friends and family for the short time I'm in Chicago, move into my apartment in Texas, start work, spend time with Girlfriend, and eat, sleep, and bathe. 

We'll see how all this goes, won't we?

In The Penal Colony

Hello? Anybody out there?

Well, I'm bored, so I'm starting a blog!

Jesus, I'm already banal.

Alright, let me introduce myself. I'm assuming the title Abakus. This blog will probably deal with Warhammer, gaming, my personal musings, my attempts at writing, video games, and things I find interesting. Assuming it doesn't stagnate and die.

I'm an American, though I begin this little journey on the continent of Australia, hence the title. I'll be home in few weeks, and then I'm traveling home again. Confused? Imagine how I feel.

It's late down under. Perhaps I'll tidy up the visuals, and hit the hay. G'night, world.