Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review: Mage: The Ascension

Touted as possibly one of the best roleplaying games to be published by some of my friends, Mage: The Ascension is certainly one of the finest publications to come out of White Wolf and World of Darkness, and remains one of the most innovative in my opinion.

The premise is remarkably simple, and strong. It goes something like this: reality is simply a reflection of common sense rules and paradigms derived from a consensus of everyone on the planet. The war for reality has long since been won by science and the technocracy. Those who wield the power of science are "correct" because they have persuaded the vast swathes of humanity that science is the only credible explanation for the world around them. Moreover, science also offers tangible benefits: medicines, electronic devices, and a lack of "supernatural" monsters in the darkness.

Now enter the mages. Those people who have awakened to the reality that they are able to shape the world around them by their thoughts, willpower, belief and actions. But they are not all powerful.

If they cast a spell that goes against the common sense, everyday experience of the vast swathes of humanity, a contradiction results. This is known in the game as paradox and results from "vulgar" magic such as conjuring and throwing a fireball down the street or turning a person in to a giraffe. Consensus says this is not possible, therefore the mage gets a metaphysical slap / backlash to the face from the consensus. Paradox is essentially reality trying to resolve the actions of the mage against the consensus and is a type of backlash in essence. But it can cause horrendous and random effects. This might be as benign as excessive fingernail growth, but could be as disastrous as summoning spirits who punish the mage to resolve the discrepancy between the mage and reality, or banishment to a labyrinthine pocket dimension.

These effects can be avoided by employing coincidental magics instead of vulgar (throw fire ball down the street type) magic. Coincidental magic represents things that might happen anyway and is not overtly magical in nature to a casual observer. For example, instead of throwing down a cloud of darkness to provide cover for sneaking about, the Mage might cause a street lamp's bulb to blow up. That happens every once in a while and agrees well with the consensus reality of every day people. If they're being chased down a lane-way, their assailant tripping over untied shoelaces could plausibly happen (but spontaneously combusting is going a bit far and would probably result in some paradox!).  Racing someone to a destination could be achieved through teleportation, but the mage better be sure there are not any witnesses at the start and end points. And arriving just before their competitors seems wiser than being hours in front. Risky and borderline for paradox, but still plausible so long as none-mages ("sleepers") didn't witness it.

Combine the above with a variety of possible backgrounds (religious inspired magic from the Celestial Chorus; blood-witches from the Verbena; etc.) and an aggressive technocracy who strive to keep control of reality for (originally) the good of everyone and hunt down vulgar mages who threaten to change the reality consensus, and you have the makings of one great role playing game.

Added to this are the rules from White Wolf that are similar to Vampire: the Masquerade (etc.), but could easily be implemented without any die rolling (IMHO), causes this game to really shine. There are a whole heap of expansions for it (many of which I have never owned or read), but I don't think they're necessary for the full enjoyment of the game. With an innovative storyteller / GM, the basic rulebook is really all that is required. If you have never come across this gem from the 1990's, you should ask your (older) GMs about it. Try it - you'll be pleasantly surprised I think!

(NB: I don't regard the successor "Mage: The Awakening" as being anywhere near as good as the old version of the game, so if you can get your hands on The Ascension version, I'd suggest that'd be a superior resource to check out).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

White Dwarf is Dead. Long Live White Dwarf?!

At least some of the rumours about the new White Dwarf have come to fruition.  Here is a copy of the Games Workshop email that appeared in my inbox recently:


Introducing two new magazines from the White Dwarf team!
White Dwarf, now weekly.

Available exclusively through Games Workshop stores, independent retailers, and White Dwarf is an exciting and essential weekly hobby magazine that contains something for every hobbyist, every week - guaranteed!

- 36 pages of everything that is exciting and new in the hobby this week.

- Detailed information on all the week’s other new releases, and the latest hobby news.

- New features, new modelling and painting techniques, new rules, new columnists and much more.

- All this every week for the same price as a single Citadel pot of paint!

Issue No.1 launches Saturday 1st February and subsequent issues follow every Saturday.
Warhammer: Visions, now monthly.

Experience a visual feast of super high-quality Citadel Miniatures. In more than 230 pages you’ll find a completely new take on the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 in a stunning new extended pictorial style.

- Contains all your favourite sections from Army of the Month and Blanchitsu, to Kit Bash and Paint Splatter.

- Over 70 more pages than the previous monthly White Dwarf with more Golden Demon and Armies on Parade photos and more fantastic photographs of Citadel miniatures than ever before.

And it’s wrapped up in a fabulous new format that you will want to keep and collect! Issue No.1 out Saturday 1st February.


To me, it feels like they've split the (recent) traditional White Dwarf in to a trade magazine and a "cool, look at this" kind of Citadel painting and conversion magazine.  I'm not sure what to make of this move to be honest. My opinion is that it is either its a really really great one, or a really really poor one.  I'm just not sure which! I might just purchase both in February and see what I think.  If nothing else, I suspect that the February releases might become collectors items at some level (much in the same way the very early White Dwarfs are).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Veterans of the Long War, Supplement Rumors and Thoughts

There are plenty of rumours doing the rounds about the potential supplement for Chaos Space Marines with the Veterans of the Long War upgrade. In short, it appears that us chaos players will be able to purchase additional upgrades for chaos space marines that already have the Veterans of the Long War rule. This would include rules like Fear, Infiltrate, Tank Hunter and Preferred Enemy (amongst others).

As a long time chaos player, this kind of upgrade harkens back to the (good old?) days of the 3rd edition codex for chaos space marines -- one which is still held in high regard by both power gamers and casual players alike.  It creates the ability to really fine tune what the chaos space marine horde should look like and play like. Hence one can imagine creating a Night Lords fine tuned army with plenty of fear, or an Alpha Legion force with lots of infiltrating units.

Personally, I hope that these rumours turn out to be true. It would be great to craft a force (not only the old legions, but newer chaos chapters!) along these lines once again without having to rely on certain units to be competitive all the time -- it would (should?) open up a variety of new builds for the chaos space marine player and force opponents to reconsider how they play against them.

That,  and its about time that Chaos Space Marines caught up with certain other codex builds  XD

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Daemons from Dark Future Games

If you are a daemons player (or a fan of AMAZING conversions and paint jobs), you need to hop over to Dark Future Games (see also 40kTenerife) immediately!  Just saying.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons Cloth Patches

Considered a rarity (and listed in the Tome of Treasures), it is somewhat amazing to think that TSR brought out a series of cloth patches for Dungeon and Dragons at one point. These patches are intended to be ironed on to clothing (baseball caps?) and worn ... but as you can see from my image, I never did that with mine, and I largely forgot about them until moving house and unearthing them once more amongst some roleplaying games and very old Citadel miniatures (and Marauder for that matter too) I have in the collection.

If I recall correctly, I obtained these for DM'ing a series of games at an officially sanctioned event when I was a little bit younger (yes, I used to DM a whole lot!). Vintage and in near mint condition, I suspect these might be worth keeping for a little while longer to ensure that they get even rarer!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Conversion: Lascannon emplacement

What do you get when you cross a left-over predator sponson and a spare soul grinder leg part? Why, a chaotic looking lascannon emplacement!

This is a remarkably easy conversion to do with a few spare parts. But more over, it looks good when placed amongst ruins, or a scenic defence line that permits the addition of lascannons. Mounted on a small circular base, the lascannon is movable and can be easily captured (and attacked) by any force on the battlefield. With a little paint job, this should come up nice I reckon.

Just a simple idea for some left over parts! Would love to hear about your weapons emplacements if you do similar with spare bits?!

Friday, January 17, 2014

CSM and Daemons Review: Be'Lakor

I admit it: I bought the Be'Lakor dataslate when it became available. Well, it was actually a holiday season gift from my wife (I have the best wife!).

At a basic level, Be'Lakor is a new HQ choice for either chaos daemons or for chaos space marines. He is a pricey unit - to be clear - but probably correctly (i.e. fairly) priced. Hence there is no "discount" for taking him.  But his abilities are a force to be reckoned with - he is a real "force multiplier" in a number of ways. And: he DOES have eternal warrior which is a great bonus to have in there.

Stat line wise, he is very similar to a regular daemon prince. His sword is pretty special, having both types of 'bane and strength modifier (and then some).  On top of this is his 4+ invulnerable save coupled with a Nurgle-like shrouding ability (which ties in to his whole "shadow" theme that he has going on). But he does not have any alignment to the big four chaos power in warhammer: he is the only undivided chaos daemon prince available. 

To my mind though, the real benefit (and the reason to take him) are on the psychic side of things. He has access to all telepathy skills.  Why is this such a great thing? Well: think of being able to guarantee invisibility.  But it gets better: mental fortitude or hallucination can be extremely potent in their own rights if played right. Want more? Well, Be'Lakor gains bonus warp charges if enemies fail morale checks.  Hello terrify!  There's little not to like about such a combination in the game! Use Endurance on him if possible to help him keep alive and kicking should the flying shrouded jink'ed basic version be not to your liking.  And use puppet master (and the rest) to utterly disrupt your opponents battle plans. Especially those Tau that you're starting to really be annoyed with.

Play wise, I think I'd be seeing him as a chaos space marines HQ mostly. Even if I were fielding daemons, I would use Be'Lackor as an HQ of an allied chaos space marine force organization chart (so as to keep the warlord traits of someone better, like Fateweaver!). In such a mould, Be'Lakor brings a little extra pain to the table of the daemons flying circus style lists that are popular at the moment. And he doesn't remove too much either (possible a Tzeentch daemon prince, rather than a Slaanesh one, plus a few daemonettes).  Hence I can easily see him being taken with a minimal detachment of cultists to make it work.

In short: tailored to the right list, Be'Lakor will see competitive play and will be a pain to opponents in the hands of a competent player. And I think he will certainly see play in casual games too, for variation and shadowy themed armies (Night Lords? Alpha Legion?).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wargames Gallery: Deepstriking the Bad Way

Deepstriking on to the red cratered forge worlds surface, the Great Unclean One of Nurgle finds himself (through mishap) extremely far away from the centre of the action and eventually gets picked off by the much speedier dark eldar bikes.

(Picture taken last year during our local league).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Graffiti and other flavour for painting miniatures, and empty rooms in RPGs

In Dungeons and Dragons, and indeed: many other roleplaying games, (including painting blank walls for the warhammer / 40k!) there are whole suites of rooms that are described as "empty". This does not mean they are featureless. To the contrary, an "empty" room can consist of all kinds dressings and flavour.

One of the best resources I've found on the internet for this comes from the Hack and Slash blog (with a downloadable pdf here). This contains a wealth of information for role-playing games to make those empty rooms more interesting and entertaining. Add to that some traps, some treasure (pdf here), and the makings for a free wheeling game are already in ones hands.

Today, I wanted to give a list of graffiti for the Astulae setting that we have "in preparation". Many of these are generic enough to be transplanted to other settings easily enough. I hope you gain some inspiration out of them. Roll 1d10 if you must, otherwise select the ones you want!

1. Tag - a symbol or a combination of letters is scrawled on the surface at regular intervals, perhaps by disaffected youths, wild monsters staking their territory, or lost adventurers trying to keep track of where they've been.
2. Unreadable language - written back-to-front to what the players expect, or using characters that simply don't exist in their own language, this graffiti simply makes little sense.
3. Symbols of power - magical lettering and runes adorn the wall. Perhaps they're to be used in a ritual, or perhaps they summon a magical creature when read or traced by fingertip.
4. In Memorium - a stylised header lettering at the top announces those who have lost their lives, perhaps within the hallways of the dungeon being explored. A set of names follows the "In Memorium" header.
5. Arrows - several arrows point the direction to travel in. Or perhaps not. It is up to the adventurers to decide whether to follow them or not.
6. Warnings - "Beware the Red Telepath! She can take whatever form she wishes in your mind's eye!"; "Do not trust the Lady in Blue - she LIES!"; "Run away from all Crossers!"; "Always follow the wall to your left!"; "Do not pick up the ancient device!", etc.
7. Maps - an attempt to map out a portion of the Astulae (or dungeon) has been etched in to the wall. Several crosses appear on the map, perhaps denoting visited rooms, dangerous rooms, or rooms with vast treasure hordes?
8. Instructions - "Give way to Crossers"; "Stop at the intersection"; "No diving in to the pools"; "No walking across the grass", "Obey the rule of three"; etc.
9. Names and Labels - whether they are street names, house names, names on statues, or whatever else, the possibilities for such labels are literally infinite.
10. Audio announcement - "Attention please. The driver of the vehicle with registration XXX needs to report to reception immediately"; "No magic in the corridors"

Finally, whats with the image of the obliterator? Well, I've added some text to the base of the obliterator for a little flavour (slightly obscured in the image) that reads "Zoot Lives!".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Apocalypse Cards

One of the releases that happened alongside the new version of Apocalypse was the deck of physical cards (pictured). These cards contain all of the strategic resources available to players (including those specific to individual races / codexes). Today, I wanted to share a few thoughts about them.

I like these cards in general: they provide a good resource that is handy and ready for the players to consult in the middle of games (if only there were primary and secondary objective / sub-plot cards like that! cf.: my Flux Battle Objectives -- am half tempted to turn them in to playing cards!). In a crazy "everything-in" apocalypse game, it is quite easy to forget these kinds of things, so having these cards is a benefit, in my opinion.

Aside: I accidentally photographed the top card, entitled "Lies of Tzeentch". This is essentially a new version of the old Glamour of Tzeentch which I think is a nice addition to the rules set.

My only complaint about the cards is their colouring. The colour of the text is distinctly dull. Combine this with the off-black background and it sometimes makes for slightly hard reading (especially if trying to read them quickly!). Grim dark - yes. But playability could be slightly better.

The quality of the deck is great. The rectangular set (with corners clipped) are created from quality materials that won't chaff in a rush and can be used repeatedly. Indeed, one way of playing them (particularly that top card and cards like it) is to place them below the miniature in question (i.e. a Herald of Tzeentch in this case) on the game board itself, and have them move with the miniature until they are used up. Hence I'm glad of their robustness in general. All told, the positives for me outweigh the negatives.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Herald of Nurgle

The plastic plaguebearer range is terrific for the long time Nurgle affectionados like me. Not only is a plaguebearer troops based army entirely feasible (if a little odd and shambling!), but one can also create HQ choices from them as well. Specifically: Heralds of Nurgle.

The image shows one of my plastic heralds, assembled but unpainted. The ease to create such impressive looking miniatures is incredible. For those of us that have been in this hobby for the long haul, you may recall heralds that look like the ones below (all metal; top is from Marauder and the bottom is the 1990's citadel version).

The difference is sculpts is rather stark. The earlier models, whilst certainly Nurglesque in appearance are distinctly not as detailed. But there are certain characteristics that have carried over from them. Notice the triple horn of the Marauder miniature. And the triple skull motif on the citadel one, replicated from the stomach to the death heads in the plastics. Its pleasing to see such ideas remain constant over the years.

Moreover, the new plastic miniature is slightly larger than the old Marauder one (more "heroic scale" if I can use that term), like the citadel one.  That said, the citadel one is pretty much a solid piece of metal. The new plastics are much easier to carry around and result in a more pleasant play style than having to (sometimes) balance a metal miniature on an uneven terrain feature.

Overall, I'm impressed with the new plastics and remain a Nurgle fanboy. It might take some time to get around to painting this one up (got a few other projects on the go at the moment). Am tempted to move away from the greens that are typically seen on the plaguebearers and try something new (perhaps a pastel / frozen frostbitten blue or necrotic grey). I think thats one of the "beauties" of collecting a Nurgle army: so much choice and variation in possible and viable painting schemes!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Plague Drone of Nurgle: Thoughts on Assembling the Beasts

The plague drone (of codex: chaos daemons, not to be confused with the Forge World unit by the similar but more blighted name but more technological!) is a great sculpt in the plastic.  I bought a batch of drones when they were released alongside the new daemons codex. The picture below shows the first one of them assembled (minus the plaguebearer rider).

Not only does the miniature look totally Nurglesque, but the fetid appearance of the pseudo-fly is excellently executed in the look, feel, vibe and level of detail of the sculpt. The wings along are terrific: modelled so that they can be positions in a number of orientations (with a little work), they add so much dynamism to the miniature - if you've ever faced off against a unit of these flies, you'll know what I mean.  I intend to use mine as a rapid response tarpit unit (as explained in my codex review of the unit).

What I haven't yet done is affixed the rider to the back of the drone. My only complaint about the sculpt is actually the rider. Specifically: the plaguebearer's plaguesword arm (or etherblade arm?) comes in two parts. This is a poor design choice as the the method to attach it is barely more than a step. It really isn't that secure and will break apart at the slightest gust of wind (from experience).  Moreover, pinning it is awkward as the arm is very thin. I might have to experiment with a conversion to make the arm work better.

Apart from that, I think the assembly of the miniature is fine and straight forward enough (following the instructions). But: having been moving house and doing a lot of travel recently, I can assure you that those miniatures with large sticky-out parts (like the drone) are plenty more prone to breakage than the more (errrm...) blocky miniatures (I'm looking at you space marines).  Pack with plenty of wrapping and cushioning!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Tyranids

The new welcome addition to the 6th edition of 40k is the Tyranids; available on pre-order as of today. Clearly there are many new miniatures and rules to be digested on the tyranids in the coming weeks. I don't want to add to the rumour mill myself at this stage - I'll content myself to read the rules when they're fully available.

Instead, I wanted to comment on the new miniature range available and what appeals to me about them. I'm going to start with the Haruspex/Exocrine. The Haruspex in a narrative manner is the large-scale equivalent to a ripper. Built to consume, this guy's maw is absolutely incredible! I love the detail in the maw and think it would be terrific to paint up in a green Nurglesque colour in a wicked daemon prince conversion. The Exocrine feels like a greater biovore in many ways. A living plasma cannon in some ways, and not too appealing to me.

The Harpy/Hive Crone is the second wonderful kit that has come out of this release. With a massive, glorious pair of wings, there is a lot to like about this kit.  The Harpy has a nice looking head coupled with a twin liked set of weapons. The overall impression is one of a sleek hunter, which to my mind works very well indeed.  The Hive Crone on the other hind looks interesting with the underwing creatures and the narrative of physically wrestling other aircraft out of the skies. Those underwing creatures (what are they called?) I think would look great on their own circular base (as perhaps an alternate ripper swarm?).

The other new miniatures (tyranid warriors and hive guards) also make great updates - but I'm less excited about them compared to the previous two kits. That said, the fact that most (all?) of the weapon options are present is excellent.

I look forward to seeing some new lists based on the new tyranid codex and some beautiful paint jobs across the blogosphere.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Simple Modelling / Conversion Tip: Angling Heads

jabberjabber here with a very simple tip that I wanted to share with you: Angling heads.

The image is of a plastic plaguebearer, glued together in a standard fashion apart from one thing. The head has been rotated by some 35 or 45 degrees from the vertical position where it might ordinarily be found at.

This technique of angling heads can be applied to most Nurgle models to give them a slightly zombified appearance (as if more were required!). It works especially well with plaguebeareres, zombies, undead, and plaguemarines, but can also be applied to more regular figures. Space marines for instance can be made to look down the barrel of their boltguns with a cocked head to the side which can create a unique model (or indeed squad) when set against what is ordinarily seen on the tabletop.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Plot hooks

I never wanted any of this. What choice was there? Come here, or die. And so I came here. I have lived 7 years in the Astulae. Not once have I found an exit in that time. Remember that when you see what I have wrought: I never wanted any of this.

-Unknown author, from a papyrus journal page recovered by expedition XIII.

I have asked my nine best minds to divine the source, power and centre of the Astulae. None have returned.
-Guildmaster Aldro.

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