Game of the Week – 06/02/2017

I don’t think I could ever forgive myself if I said that Game of the Week this week was “Windows Update Adventures” but it would be very accurate. I did a factory reset on my laptop and replaced the HDD with a larger SSD. I did around 4 years of updates across a couple of days and finally came out the other end where I had to re-download all of my games. It took a long time.

So my Game of the Week this week is… Final Fantasy VII!

Yes, I restarted a FFVII playthrough. I love the game and it holds a special place for me as one of the first games I ever played. It was one of the first games I played as a child, back when I was around 8 years old, along with Tekken 2 and Crash Bandicoot. I love this game.

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Dialogue in this game is a real gem!

One aspect I love with Final Fantasy VII is that it’s very emotionally evocative. People always talk about Final Fantasy VII’s emotional moment being the end of disc 1 where a certain someone dies, leaving you in shock at what just happened. However, it’s not just this one part of the game that brought tears to my eyes! I am an emotional wreck when it comes to well made movies and video games, but Final Fantasy VII does it multiple times. Sector 7 coming down was a real tear-jerking moment, though the moment that takes the cake for me is where Cid talks about his dreams of being the first astronaut, but the way he sacrificed it all because he didn’t want Shera to die.

In terms of gameplay, I really enjoy the chocobo racing mini game, however I only managed to clear disc 1 over the course of the week, including the Wutai side quest and acquiring Vincent. I will be continuing this, as I’ve invested a lot already and really want to get back to chocobo racing, so I am looking forward to revisiting a lot of nostalgic moments hidden within this game!

Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Final Thoughts

So, having finished Shadowrun: Hong Kong, I feel as though I should shed some new observations on the game. Now that I have completed the game once, though I will be doing another play through straight away, I must say that my opinions are not as high as they were walking into it for the first time. Please note: there will probably be minor spoilers, though I will stay away from specifics where I can! I’ll start with the good.

The music throughout was very good. Is it better than the Dragonfall or Returns soundtrack? That’s down to individual preference and it fitted the theme and locale very well. That being said, I loved the soundtrack of both the original Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall, so it’s hard to say which is better, if any. In my opinion, the music in this game is very, very good, but the previous games set a rather high bar to meet. It has at least done that.

Animations and effects also stayed better across the board. Full-auto and burst fire now feel like they really are spraying bullets everywhere with the occasional hit, as it should be. Magic effects are greatly improved from the previous games too, spells like powerbolt and manabolt feel far more magical and less… sparky. The bouncing spell mechanic is good fun as well and makes standing on dragon lines far, far more useful. I had instances where I cast aim on a character and it bounced to the whole crew.

Cybernetics have been greatly improved. Now, you need to take the cybernetics skill in order to take a lot of the more powerful cybernetic options rather than everyone being able to take whatever they want. I like this as it means that you actually need to invest in body and the cybernetics skill if you want to build a chromed up cyber-warrior rather than just every non-mage character taking all the best options. Added to that is the much larger selection of both cyberware and positions to put them, as well as extra essence given from the skill in cybernetics and you can really chrome up to the max!

There are... a lot of extra cybernetic options...

There are… a lot of extra cybernetic options…

Last but most certainly not least, possibly the best change in fact: decking. I just want to scream to the high heavens about how awesome this is. Before it was very simple, you jacked in, did some combat, activated some nodes and then jacked out. Now, when you jack in you are not automatically in combat. Combat-based IC aren’t always present, though there are usually trackers that patrol specific routes that you need to avoid.

Matrix combat is still unavoidable in the later parts of the game and trace can build quickly!

Matrix combat is still unavoidable in the latter parts of the game and trace can build quickly!

There’s a new trace mechanic which will start to increase if any IC detect your presence; while in combat with IC your trace will generally increase by 5 each turn (per IC that sees you), though if a tracker IC sees you it will increase by 20 each turn.

Avoiding tracker IC patrols is the new way to glide through the matrix without any issues

Avoiding tracker IC patrols is the new way to glide through the matrix without any issues

You get to most nodes by hacking blocker IC, which you can either force through at the cost of a large amount of trace, usually around 50+, or you can do a small minigame where you have to remember number patterns to increase your hacking time, then deduce a symbolic password as characters are periodically and very briefly revealed to you.

Sometimes there's a password option too, though most of the time it's either hack or force!

Sometimes there’s a password option too, though most of the time it’s either hack or force!

Because of this, you can largely get by in the matrix on the starting cyberdeck, though I will say now that later in the game the decking parts have actual IC and some brutally difficult tracker IC patrol webs, so don’t expect to be able to hack systems late game with a shoddy cyberdeck. I really, really love what they’ve done with the matrix portions myself; also, the music track for when you’re in the matrix is much better than the previous one. Definitely part of the soundtrack that improves upon the previous.

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You don’t have to do all of the number sequence memorisations. Each successful one gives you more time to work out the password in the next part though.

However, this game definitely has some drawbacks that I would like to visit. Firstly, I’ll go with the temporary one: bugs! As the game is a new release, there are a decent number of bugs which can be really frustrating on a play through of an RPG. There were some that were merely conversational, with NPCs saying silly things, but there were others that hampered my progress through the game. Also, there are typos aplenty. I think I counted at least a dozen on my first play through.

Where's my cyberdeck? Uh... It's right on my back. Are we both blind here?

Where’s my cyberdeck? Uh… It’s right on my back. Are we both blind here?

I also did not like the crew quite as much as the crew from Dragonfall. I got a really good idea of where Dietrich, Eiger and Glory came from and really enjoyed their story arcs and Blitz was comical enough that his otherwise insufferable bravado turned into a bit of comic relief for me. However, I don’t get that same feeling with the current crew. Duncan is your non-blood related brother and comes across fairly hollow. He’s an Ork who grew up with you and had anger management problems, eventually joining Lone Star with your foster-father’s help keeping him on task and under control. I don’t feel that there is a huge amount of depth to his character. Gobbet is one of the more interesting characters, a rat shaman with a special connection to Rat, or so she says, who grew up on a cobbled together raft with a bunch of friends. She’s probably the deepest character and her character arc is certainly the most enjoyable and simultaneously dark one to play through, her voice lines are generally the most enjoyable to read and post-run conversations with her were among my favourite. Is she on par with the Dragonfall crew? Debatable, but at least it’s up there! Is0bel is insufferable for me. It’s fortunate that I often play a decker and didn’t need her that much in this play through because I do not like her character. Anti-social deckers who claim to be the best just aren’t my cup of tea, especially when their background is sort of hollow and you have to ask a different crew member to fill in the details. During her mission you find out what an over-sensitive little brat she really is, though I won’t go into the details as it would most certainly be a spoiler. I do not like Is0bel and I dread my next playthrough when I’ll be running a mage character and will need her on my team. Racter is the other interesting member of the crew, though he falls short when compared to Gobbet and the Dragonfall characters as his personal run is just an optional objective to a run you do anyway. His conversations are interesting and he definitely has mental issues, but that’s part of what makes him interesting. His dialogue is well-written, portraying what he is quite well and he manages to narrowly avoid crossing the line where he becomes insufferable. Finally, there’s Gaichu. He’s interesting to a point and his character is good, but I feel that he might just infringe upon special-snowflake territory. His character mission is short and also brings up some fairly dark themes, but I didn’t find myself as emotionally invested as I did in Gobbet’s. Definitely not the best, but certainly not the worst.

I would also like to highlight the player character and the conversational choices that you are given throughout the game, as this drawback is related to the previous one about your crew. The character you play in this one felt as if I was being shoehorned into a type of character that I do not necessarily wish to be. In Dragonfall any lines of dialogue related to your character’s background were left wide open and there were definitely some varied inferences drawn from the various lines of dialogue, allowing you to role-play as a wide range of characters. In Hong Kong, it’s very black and white; you were a street kid who got taken in by a guy and then left for a job that, three days later, put you in a corporate prison for the rest of your life up until the present. From that point onwards, it always tries to push you into that role of a shady, either gang, thug or shadowrunner criminal type, shunning the megacorporations and the type of life working for one would entail. For example, my character was a very corporate, very businesslike decker who I played through Dragonfall with no issues, however in Hong Kong the same character feels contradictory; there are so many instances where I don’t feel like that type of character is even considered. To me, this was a real disappointment, especially given that there was a very corporate looking elf portrait in the character creator, and was only reinforced throughout the game.

Mega spoilers for Dragonfall and Hong Kong in the paragraph below, as I will now be talking about the ending. Highlight the paragraph to reveal the text and do so knowing that there will be major, major spoilers here. You have been warned!

Suffice to say, I am disappointed. In Dragonfall, you find Vauclair and he talks about his plans and why he’s doing what he’s doing; he sees the dragons as manipulative and controlling and wishes to get rid of them through a biological weapon that only hurts dragons. You can, through dialogue options, talk him out of it, fight against him or even join up with him! It was a really well done sequence of dialogue and Vauclair was a great antagonist for the game; he honestly believed that what he was doing was right and for the good of the planet. Siding with him doesn’t seem like an utterly moronic idea and I did do a game where I ended up siding with him, bringing about the near extinction of metahumanity due to the dragons being responsible for keeping some eldritch horrors at bay. All through the game, however, there are hints as to this consequence, especially if you play a mage or shaman and frequently speak to Absynthe and Aljernon, and you can use this as ammunition to talk Vauclair out of it, where he realises what a blind fool he has been. In Hong Kong, however, the choice felt really stupid. You track down Qian Ya and fight her twice before she offers you a deal where you can leave and let her have the Walled City in exchange for fourteen years of good fortune, or you keep fighting and eventually shut her out. There was no real reason to accept her deal, there was no feeling of “this is a good idea” when contemplating it, unlike Vauclair who put up a very good argument for his cause. If I missed something, it must have been due to a bug because I frequently spoke to Crafty and had enough points in conjuring to cast simple buffs and perceive things on the astral plane. I read through all of her notes and made sure to pay attention to everything about the Yama Kings, but nothing seemed that relevant. I’ve heard that you can avoid some fights through conversation options, but I did not see them. However, that is not the point I wish to make. The point is that the end of the game falls flat. There is no real reason to make a deal with the demon-goddess unless your character has large amounts of selfishness and stupidity and this disappointed me after the build up was very good and Dragonfall’s ending being so solid.

Overall, would I recommend Shadowrun: Hong Kong? Yes. It’s still a solid game with a good story and decent enough characters. However, I am a little disappointed overall. I enjoy the game and have already started playing through it a second time, though looking at it as a whole I would say that it simultaneously took steps forwards and backwards.

Have we had enough of Space Marines?

Well, apparently not. So the new releases for Games Workshop went up yesterday and, speaking honestly, I wasn’t very inspired. The value of these box sets is always good, and I’m glad that these Space Marines have less obvious Blood Angels decals than those in the Dark Vengeance box set, but why do we need yet another box set involving Space Marines?

It’s simple, really. Space Marines are the front product for Games Workshop. It is their most sold army and features… Four separate factions; six if you include Grey Knights and Chaos Space Marines in the mix as well. So what is it about Space Marines that makes them so loved? No, really. Why are they loved so much? The Horus Heresy is a great part of the Warhammer 40k universe and, whilst I haven’t read them due to little interest in most things to do with Space Marines, I’ve heard that the Horus Heresy series of books from the Black Library are well written. So I fully understand why someone might want to play 30k as one of the original legions, but why in 40k? Space Marines are generally bland and lacking personality and character. However, this is not the same type of lacking as Necrons or Tyranids. Necrons, at least back when I started Warhammer 40k, had the allure of being Terminator (in the Schwarzenegger sense) in space and Tyranids had the draw of being this giant devourer of worlds. Both had the allure of “being the bad guy” but what do Space Marines have? Defenders of humanity? Well, Astra Militarum defend humanity. The Inquisition defend humanity. The Adepta Sororitas defend humanity. Space Marines are well-equipped and engineered specifically for war? Tyranids are literally spawned to hard-counter the enemies on the planet they are trying to consume and the Inquisition has far more toys than the Space Marines gain access to.

Whilst Space Marine characters, such as Shrike, Lysander and Papa Smurf himself, Marneus Calgar, have different personalities, they are not different enough. They all share the underlying attitudes and characteristics of a Space Marine leader figure. The only interesting characters are, and I shame myself for naming Ultramarines, Tigurius and Cassius. Tigurius is interesting to me as his origins are mysterious, his psychic affinity (and ability to roll on Divination) a result of a potentially heretical origin; Cassius is an old man who hates Tyranids who leads his own hand-picked and customly equipped warriors against this foe. Still, they are nothing compared to characters such as Colonel-Commissar Gaunt in all his greatness (why was he removed from the codex!) or Commissar Yarrick who is a normal man who had his eye replaced with a small laser because the Orks thought that he could kill an Ork just by looking at them, or Asdrubael Vect who led a bunch of Imperials to Commorragh so that he could get rid of his rivals. What do Space Marines have? They all probably defended something against impossible odds, or performed some sort of daring offensive. Newsflash: So have others, without the aid of being superhuman and created for combat. The thing that sets Space Marines so low in my opinions is that most of them lack anything beyond combat prowess and faith to the Emperor. At least Sisters of Battle are expected to be able to blend into society and be as a normal human should the Ecclesiarchy need them to track down a heretic in the Imperium, as opposed to being simply nuns with bolters and power armour, and that is the most one-dimensional army that I like. Space Marines are the most one-dimensional faction by a long shot, even the off-shoots such as Blood Angels with their Red Thirst and Space Wolves with their Vikings in Space feeling all boil down to one thing: everything they do revolves around combat, whilst not being the only faction in the Imperium to do so.

Because of this unfathomable fascination with Space Marines, Games Workshop are churning out box sets involving Space Marines and leaving at least the rest of the Imperial factions out to dry. As I said, Space Marines are not the only ones who could be put as “the good guys” in a box set. You could easily use Eldar, Tau, Astra Militarum, Inquisition or (I know, I’m naive to even consider this) Sisters of Battle. Heck, you could even have Orks as the “not quite as bad as the other guy” in a box with Dark Eldar or Tyranids. As a predominantly non-Space Marine player, I ask you this: Where is my box set involving my army? Eldar, Dark Eldar, Astra Militarum/Militarum Tempestus, Inquisition or Adepta Sororitas. Where is my opportunity to get a good selection of models for an affordable price? If Games Workshop put something like Astra Militarum against Orks or Tyranids, I would probably start a small Ork or Tyranid army, as I would buy multiple of the box primarily for the Astra Militarum, but would also get a small, new army out of it that I would probably expand on at a later date. Throwing Space Marines into a box set, whilst I have a small Space Marine army, is not going to get me to buy it unless the other faction was one of the armies that I mainly play (which wouldn’t make much sense if it was Inquisition, Astra Militarum or Sisters).

Forgive me for sounding bitter. Truth of the matter is: I am.

Keep Your Enemies Closer – Part 2

We set about town once we had gathered our forces, if they can be called that. We decide to investigate the eight-foot tall armoured figure. We do not get very far before we hear gunfire down the road. I brace myself against the wall and peer around the corner to see a bunch of our troops engaging some of the locals. I mutter a curse under my breath as Sigmar steps out with his hand raised, his other placed on his laspistol holstered on the back of his belt. One of the thugs mirrors Sigmar, though his attempts to hide a full size sword is rather entertaining, whilst leaving their intentions wide open. Useful. I take aim with my lasgun from around the corner, ready to put a lasbolt between the primitive’s eyes.

“What is the meaning of this? Why are you attacking our men?” Sigmar inquires peacefully.

“They attacked us. We’re just defending ourselves,” the primitive man spits back, quite obviously in a foul mood.

“Look, we’re sorry,” Sigmar waves placatingly, still trying to appear the good guy, “We’ll punish the one who did it, will that satisfy you?” he asks. The primitive merely shakes his head. “Well, fuck you then,” Sigmar curses, pulling his laspistol around and squeezing the trigger and sending a bolt of las energy into the man’s chest. His armour seems to absorb most of the bolt. The man then roars and charges at Sigmar. One of the mad man’s friends unloads a burst of autogun fire into the ensuing melee, catching his friend in the back though he does not seem to notice. Mott’s combat servitor charges in, chainswords whirring, to help Sigmar with the melee fight as another primitive also charges into the fray. I adjust my aim towards the one with the gun and squeeze off a couple of las shots, though before much can happen, he turns and flees, not comfortable with seeing his friends carved up by two chainsword wielding adversaries who literally tore the two primitives that they fought against into bloody ribbons. I prepare to squeeze the trigger once more on my lasgun, though there is a loud bang and his head turns into a fine mist. I hit the dirt, as is standard practice when faced with an unknown sharpshooter. I start to look in the obvious places for a sniper. The alleyway seems clear, I casually glance at the rooftops in case we are just facing an amateur with good aim but I see no one. Mott seems to be trying to talk the mayor down, both sides suspicious of one another, until the mention of the Imperium.

“Did someone say Imperial Majesty?” comes a booming voice. I look over to the source, one of the windows, to see a large, armoured figure literally walking through the wall to find Mott and the mayor. I heart skips a beat and I duck behind the corner to the alleyway. A Traitor Legionnaire? Here? His armour does not look like that of any loyalist that I have seen, a dull metallic colour with iconography that I have never seen before. He strides up to Mott and starts to speak, though I do not listen, now in a mild panic. Emperor, what do I do? I am no match for a Traitor Legionnaire. My lasgun would just bounce off his armour, whereas one shot from his behemoth of a weapon would do to me what it did to the fleeing local. I consider my options, though my train of thought is interrupted as I feel a tugging on my arm. I turn to look around and notice a young girl, no older than eight years old, sobbing and crying. I glance back to the conversation to see Mott get slapped by the Traitor Legionnaire, sending him crashing against a wall to which I recoil slightly. That certainly looked painful. I turn my attention back to the little girl.

“There, there,” I say quietly, trying to comfort the girl and stop her from crying, turning around to embrace her gently. I am no mother figure, but this is too much and is certainly no place for a child. I begin to usher her down the alleyway, away from the Chaos Space Marine. “Where are your parents? How about I take you back to them, away from this place,” I ask, stroking the girl’s hair. My blood freezes in my veins as I hear the heavy thud of footsteps getting closer to my position. The crying girl had attracted the attention of the Chaos Space Marine. I hold her tightly, keeping her curious eyes away from the sight of the Chaos Space Marine. I shut my own as I hear the sound of him unsheathing his combat knife. The girl has stopped crying by now at least, though I fear it may be short lived. I feel an inhumanly strong force taking hold of my helmeted head, tilting my gaze backwards. I open my eyes to see, the looming figure of the Chaos Space Marine standing above me with his large knife drawn. The blade gets closer and I close my eyes again. Hopefully it will be quick.

With a swift movement, he slices off the Imperial Aquila from my helmet and simply turns away, walking back towards the others. I briefly consider standing, aiming and firing as many las rounds into his back as possible for defacing my armour in such a way, but sense gets the better of me and I keep still, waiting for the steps to get a bit quieter. The girl seems to be lightly sobbing as I hear more footsteps, this time human in origin. I slowly look around to see the figure of the mayor, with a smile on his face. I take the girl’s hand and stand up.

“Excuse me, but would you know who this child’s parents are?” I inquire, barely able to get a sentence out through the feeling of fear that I had just experienced. The mayor explains that it is his daughter. Of all people, the mayor’s own daughter happened to be wandering near the battlefield. She walks over to him and a brief conversation ensues. I am not listening that much, however, much more curious as to what I am doing to do. I am stranded on this planet from where I will not be escaping alone. I deduce that my only option is to tag along with the Chaos warband. I catch up to them as they are leaving, catching the momentary gaze of the Chaos Space Marine. Emperor give me strength.

Throughout the rest of the day I do my best to keep to myself. I get to work making up some medicinal drugs in the room next door to Mott as he gets to work on weaponry. I need to keep a strong illusion that I am no more than a renegade Imperial Guard medic from a light infantry unit. I maintain concentration through my work, sustaining a psychic effort keeping a metaphorical eye on the near future and my surroundings. I do not want anyone sneaking up on me. Myself and Mott occasionally converse and exchange exasperated looks as we hear that Sigmar managed to lose one and a half thousand troops due to poisonous algae. How that man was an officer in the Imperial Guard, I will never know. The armour is scavenged and I am ordered to sterilise it. Unlike the incompetents who died, I wear gloves when handling it and sterilise them all to the best of my abilities. I am on a feral planet, so I hope they are not expecting any miracles. During the evening, I head out for a breath of fresh air and notice a horrifying spectacle. The neighbouring city, where the planetary space port was located, was raining blood. I immediately go back inside. There is a powerful, albeit irresponsible, psyker at work. I shudder at the mere thought.

Later that night, the Chaos Space Marine decides to summon us to a meeting and talk about his plan. He tells us that we are to take a hovercraft over to the city to assess the situation, gather some supplies and see how possible it is going to be for us to leave the planet. I sleep as well as I can, but I constantly wake in a sweat, my dreams plagued by nightmares of the Warp. The effects of whatever is going on over there is evident, though I remain silent the following morning as everyone prepares to leave. As I step onto the hovercraft, I aim for the controls, but turn away as a voice penetrates my mind.

“I see you,” the voice echoes, causing me to falter in my step. I turn from the controls and sit in the corner. I feel physically drained and this voice persists, but I am able to ignore it. I am not ignorant to the potential of psykers. It is obvious to me that there is another psyker at play on the island, so I will need to be at my best. I am in no condition to pilot this vehicle in this state and Mott makes the best he can of it, though he seems to falter and takes another backhand from the Chaos Space Marine, who takes over the controls. As we arrive, the Chaos Space Marine orders myself and Mott to set up a perimeter, taking Sigmar and a squad of men on some sort of reconnaissance mission. neither of us used to this, myself and Mott set about deploying the rest of the men who were left with us. We spy some bunkers which I check out and make sure are clear. This irresponsible psyker continues to try and contact me, though I do not listen. I could have saved the Chaos Space Marine a lot of time by just telling him about the psychic presence, but I would rather not tell a Traitor Legionnaire of this. Also, if he happens to die on his mission, I would consider it a boon. As we search through some buildings, we chance upon a crate of weaponry. It looks entirely normal, but I see a black aura surrounding it. I tell the men to leave it alone, but five decide to take weapons from it anyway, each pulling out a lasgun from the box. For about five seconds, they seem completely unchanged and I start to wonder if I was correct to tell people to leave it alone; however, after those five seconds, the men collapse to the floor, completely out cold. When Mott asks me to check the bodies, I go over and take a look, not touching them or even examining them. I already know what this is.

“Medically, there is nothing wrong with them. In the Guard, this situation would call for summary execution; a las round through the head,” I gesture at the unconscious men and pull out my laspistol. Mott contacts the Chaos Space Marine, not trusting my analysis as I am no expert on matters of the Warp to him. The fool. The Chaos Space Marine tells me that I am no longer in the Guard, but that I am also correct. Mott orders his servo skull to execute some of the men, unable to bring himself to do it and I dispatch the rest. I turn to the others, who seem to be eyeing the second box which, to my knowledge, has no such aura around it, but a believable lie must be consistent. I tell them to not touch the second box and this time, most of them oblige. A few, however, go up to the box and take out some weapons. I turn to face them, appearing as if I were inspecting them. Mott asks them how they feel, to which they respond that they feel just fine. “If the same happens to you as happened to these five, do not think I will hesitate to render you the same judgement,” I tell them, walking back to the coastline and back to the hovercraft. We wait for a while until the Chaos Space Marine, Sigmar and the men who went with them come rushing back. They tell us that there is a Sorceror named Balthazar who was in control of a lot more troops than we had available and, whilst they had been diverted after a small firefight, this would only buy us time. We needed to retreat for now and think of a battle plan. Again, a wave of terror swept through us. Balthazar was pulling off more psychic abilities to which I steel myself against. I do not care how powerful he is, I will not yield to such a childish practitioner. Mott seems to scurry onto the hovercraft much faster than everyone else, starting up the engines. The event proves rather taxing for me, the reverberations through the Warp constant and brutish, like an Ork pounding at the armour of a Sentinel over and over; unsophisticated and barbaric, but tiring to deal with. Some of balthazar’s men try to board our hovercraft, though they are gunned down by our own and Mott, now more comfortable with the controls either through fear, experience or both, guns the engines and we speed away. I take my position in the corner once more, slumping against the walls and cradling my head in my hands. Balthazar continues to send out messages, but by now I have no energy to expend on his constant bugging. Are we dealing with a Sorceror, or are we dealing with an amateur? The question rolls around my mind, well into our landing as the men unload the hovercraft, until there is another reverberation through the Warp. I stand up from my position and cast my gaze towards the horizon. Balthazar himself is following us on his own boat and appears to be trying to manipulate someone in our group.

“There’s a boat out there!” I call out, pointing towards Balthazar’s ship, barely visible to the human eye and surrounded by lights, which I deduce are of Warp origin. I do not, however, share this information with the others. Mott stands up.

“Corporal?” he asks curiously.

“I can see it, over there on the horizon.” Mott peers over to where I point.

“Good eyes,” he remarks.

“Light infantry. It’s one of the things we do,” I reply, shrugging as if it were nothing of note.

“Perhaps it’s my ally,” Sigmar interjects, causing Mott to draw his las carbine and aim it at Sigmar’s head.

“Corporal, arrest him. Soman, your ally?” he says warily, glancing briefly at me.

“Yes, ah… My ally. The one who spoke to me in my head,” Sigmar responded, blissfully ignorant of the mind games going on inside his head.

“Las-round to the head in the Guard, is it not, Corporal?” Mott rhetorically asks, “disarm him.” I do not know who made him the boss of me, but if he was being mind-controlled by an enemy psyker, it was in everyone’s best interests if we co-operated in this. Before I can do anything, the Chaos Space Marine strides forward.

“Stand down. We are going to negotiate,” he boomed.

“With the Sorceror?” someone asked, gaining a nod from the Chaos Space Marine. “Soman, with me. We will handle the negotiations.” He turns to us, “you may listen on the vox.” With that, our men stand down; Mott and myself retreat to a safe distance and watch as the ship docks. Another large, blue power armoured man disembarks, bearing a force sword, a daemon cage and a bolt pistol, quite obviously a Chaos Sorceror. He was greeted by the Chaos Space Marine in our group and was directed onto the hovercraft. Myself and Mott huddle around the vox unit, which we set to only receive. What we hear of the negotiations are equally amusing as they are horrifying. Balthazar’s antics had been merely to get our attention, his antics including firing at our men and causing it to rain blood from the sky. His psychic presence when he casts anything is powerful, but his usage of power is like that of a five year old. We truly are dealing with one of the most incomprehensibly childish and irresponsible psykers I have ever seen. I smile to myself under my helmet as he states that he tried to contact us through a psyker, leaving everyone clueless. For one so powerful, he is easy to defeat. Eventually, the vox link is cut and Mott and myself are left with nothing but each other’s company.

“You know,” he turns to me, “ganger activity has been rife. It would be best if we stood the men to, ready to repel them.” I chuckle and nod, and so we order the men to be ready to defend themselves. After another short while, he shares the story of why he fights the Imperium, a freedom fighter after a change of government, a tale that I can sympathise with. I in turn share my story as to why my regiment had been declared renegades, though I omit many details, such as our loyalty to the Emperor. We both look over at the daemon cage that Balthazar had left behind. Mott turns to me once again, after we both take a while to gaze uneasily at the cage. “You know,” he starts, “I have a demo charge.” I smile and tap my helmet.

“Keep your cards close to your chest,” I reply with a smirk, though my helmet fully obscures my facial expression. What I do not tell him is that using a demolition charge on a daemon cage would likely just set it free, which is bad for everyone. All we can do then is sit and wait. I fall asleep much easier this time, a combination of physical and mental exhaustion, as well as the lack of Warp entities entering my dreams.

The following morning, we pack up and board a ship that appears to belong to Balthazar. I hesitate in going along with this plan, but it is my only way off this planet and this all-powerful Sorceror seems very easy to out maneuver. I will stay with them as long as it serves my purpose, but I need to get back to Imperial space. The longer I am here, the more corrupting powers of Chaos I will be exposed to and the less likely I will be able to return. As we take off, I feel an overwhelming wave in the Warp. I do not need to look out of any windows to know what just happened. All the people that we left behind were ritually sacrificed by Balthazar to aid our transit into the Warp. Being from a fleet based regiment, I know that this was entirely unnecessary and honestly horrifying. I feel the bile rise in my throat and I rush to the women’s toilets. I spend a while throwing up with a pounding headache, the screams of thousands of souls being sacrificed to the Warp overwhelms my senses and my constitution. I have never felt this terrible in my life.

Just as I finish, I make sure to clean the latrines to the standards that I had found them in. I do not want to raise suspicions and go to exploring the ship. I eventually find the workshop where Mott appears to set up and decide to set up in the corner. I would much rather sleep in the knowledge that there is a chainsword wielding combat servitor watching over me on this ship. I would prefer to not wake up with a Chaos Sorceror probing my mind, although if he did I would probably notice. That man is about as subtle as an Ork Deff Dread or squad of Shootas.

Then I learn that we are heading to a planet with a huge Ork problem. Emperor… Why me?

We All Saw It Coming – Steam Box Revealed

As the title of this article suggests, we all saw this coming. With SteamOS announced at the start of the week, it was inevitable that one of the remaining two announcements would be their Steam Box console. As they will not be commercially available until 2014, all we can really do is look at what it promises and take first impressions based on that.

The first thing that strikes me is the contrast to other modern day consoles. The Xbox and Playstation variants all remain the same, apart from maybe hard drive space and wireless capabilities, capable of largely the same core functions. The Steam Box, however, will be offered in multiple different specs, allowing for users to pick and choose according to their exact needs. This is highly ambiguous and could translate to the same as the aforementioned two consoles, but I do not believe that this will be the case. Whilst I do not have any sort of conclusive answer, nor do I have a good idea on what to expect from this, one answer in the questions section of the announcement page leads me to believe otherwise. It is as follows:

“Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot? Sure.”

Whilst Microsoft and Sony would actively try to stop you from hacking their consoles and modifying them, Valve have straight up said that they do not mind what people do with their Steam Box. For me, this is not just good news, but great news as one of my main gripes on modern gaming is the lack of customisation. I will not expand on this, having done so at length in a previous article, but if the Steam Box is allowing us to do whatever we want, then we will not have such a hardware imposed barrier on what we can and cannot do. More freedom means more flexibility and a likely increase in wiggle room when it comes to content on the system itself. I am a strong advocate for custom content, as it means more maps, more game types, more skins and just more of everything depending on what type of game it is. What makes this better is that it reduces costs to developers as they will not have to flood us with content which may transpose onto cheaper costs for the games. Again, this is merely speculation on the system and only time will tell. That being said, 2014 is not that far off!

This will certainly make the next generation of the console wars a lot more interesting. With both Sony and Microsoft already locking horns, how will the Steam Box fair? Will it be able to knock the two giants off the top spot? Seeing as Microsoft had a very rough start with the Xbox One, I believe that the newcomer to the battle is in a strong position. However, we have to look at the Steam Box as more of a PC that will be attached to your television set that uses a controller as opposed to a traditional gaming console. This might scare people away from buying it as a lot of consumers just want simplicity. They want to be able to return home from work, switch on and have an hour of gaming to unwind without having to worry about potential errors and having to fix problems that may arise themselves. I have had many times where I have tweaked with Garry’s Mod, only to get constant lua error messages which I was able to fix after combining Google searches with a level of computer understanding somewhere between good and mediocre. With my Xbox 360, however, I have never had any such problems, though I also lack the custom content of my PC games. Will it replace the Xbox or Playstation? Possibly, depending on the consumer, price and games available. The likelihood is, however, that it will not cause the Playstation or Xbox to recede as a living room gaming system.

More information about the SteamOS and Steam Box can be found at: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/

Now we wait another twenty six hours to find out what Valve’s third announcement is. I am personally quite excited, despite knowing that it will not be Episode 3.

The Benefits of Specialisation: Eldar Elites

The elites section of the Eldar codex has quite possibly been my favourite section since I started collecting them. It could be because it houses the Eldar dedicated melee squads, which I absolutely love to field in order to protect my dedicated ranged units. As we all know, an Eldar army relies on synergy between units rather than aiming for a specific idea. The way the Eldar warhost operates allows for many different types of units to be fielded, allowing for more diversity than any other army out there through units of specialists, rather than the more Space Marine approach of having every unit as a relative jack of all trades. These units all inherit Ancient Doom and Battle Focus like most units in the new codex.

First of all, my personal favourite: Howling Banshees. Whilst we all remember the days of our power sword wielding maidens charging into units of terminators, only to decimate them and strike fear into the hearts of the hordes of power armour wearing opponents, they are not the same in sixth edition. Their power swords only being AP3 has really swayed people against using them in the current meta, preferring to just take Striking Scorpions instead, though I believe that the Banshees still have a key battlefield role. Whilst their swords merely bounce off the armoured shell of a Terminator or other 2+ save models, they still carve a bloody path through anything with a 3+ or worse save. I’m not saying that you should charge them into hordes, as they still only have a toughness score of three and a 4+ armour save, but any non-Terminator Space Marine squad (these ladies will absolutely decimate Vanguard Veterans for about half the points cost) is a prime target; non-Terminator Grey Knights weep at the sight of Howling Banshees, as do Sisters of Battle, just watch out for those incinerators and flamers as they fire overwatch! Their masks now reduce your opponent’s initiative by five as opposed to bumping yours to ten when you charge, which again is nice as unless your opponent has an initiative score of ten, or some other way of reducing your initiative, you will be striking first on the turn that you charge in, which is invaluable for such a fragile unit. They also now run D6+3 inches, as opposed to just D6, and also keep the fleet special rule, which will really help you to charge your enemy and not the other way around. Their Exarch largely remains the same, although her Executioner has been made AP2, her Triskele is AP3 and her Mirrorswords are now master crafted and only give +1 attack as opposed to +2. With an initiative of six, she remains a great choice for challenging enemy sergeants only to chop them cleanly in half in a few seconds. Where Howling Banshees fall short, in my opinion, is through a lack of support. Without the ability for our Farseers to reliably take doom and fortune, these ladies have certainly lost some of their appeal as a dedicated melee unit on the tabletop; whilst they have AP3 attacks and will likely be going first, they only have strength and toughness of three and a save of 4+, which means you’re wounding Space Marines on 5+ without a re-roll some of the time. That hurts.

Striking Scorpions in my opinion have taken a hit. Their scorpion chainswords are now AP6, so they’ll ignore some armour saves, but the fact that their mandiblasters are no longer an extra attack has hurt their horde killing potential, now working as an automatic hit at initiative ten with strength three and no AP on a single model in base contact. I much preferred my extra attack as now I believe that Striking Scorpions just aren’t as effective as they used to be. They come with infiltrate and move through cover as standard, however, and also now get stealth as well, so they’re a bit faster and more durable than they were before, and at only one point more I can say that they are still very much worth taking. In terms of the Exarch, I feel that the Scorpion’s Claw is now redundant with the Biting Blade almost doing the same, striking at strength +2 and AP4 as opposed to strength x2 and AP2, but keeping the Exarch’s delicious initiative of six. My favourite choice for the Exarch are the Chainsabres, though I will be keeping an Exarch model with a Biting Blade as it is a very viable option, because it is now AP5, grants a bonus attack for being two close combat weapons, increases his strength by one like the normal chainsword, but also gives his melee attacks the rending special rule. For a measly ten points, I can definitely get on board with that idea! He can also take an Exarch power that increases his strength by one, giving you a model with four attacks on the charge, with strength five and rending. Definitely still a unit that is worth taking, though overall I feel that they aren’t quite as effective as they were before.

Fire Dragons are a double edged sword. The good news is that they have been given that much needed 3+ armour save, so they won’t just get annihilated as soon as they show their faces. The bad news comes in the form of their points cost. Now, Fire Dragons cost a whopping six points more per model. They do get the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus special rules as well, so they are overall a lot more of a solid unit, but you really do pay for it. There’s not much else to say about Fire Dragons, as they have remained largely unchanged apart from those points stated above. I will probably not include a unit of Fire Dragons in my army list most of the time as I prefer my anti-vehicle firepower to be long range or durable enough to be on the front lines; even with their 3+ armour save, at twenty two points per model they just don’t fit the bill. However, they are far from useless, especially with the Battle Focus special rule, I’m just saying that I won’t be taking a squad myself.

Harlequins weren’t really anything special in the last edition of the codex, being expensive, toughness three and only possessing a 5+ invulnerable save whilst being generally not as deadly as Howling Banshees or Striking Scorpions. In this edition of the codex, they are completely unchanged, though the Death Jester, Shadowseer and Troupe Master have been explicitly labelled as characters. With the general buff that the army has gotten overall, I find that Harlequins are still lacking, trying to do a job that can be done better by other units. I will be fielding a unit of Harlequins because they look amazing, especially when painted well, but thinking from a practical point of view I would prefer to take more of other units instead of Harlequins. They also don’t benefit from Battle Focus or Ancient Doom.

I will talk about Wraithguard and Wraithblades in one paragraph as they are effectively the same unit, just equipped differently. Wraithguard have the same statistics as before for a slightly lower points cost, both Wraithguard and Wraithblades costing three points less than Wraithguard used to, as well as not suffering from Wraithsight and gaining the Ancient Doom. Standard Wraithguard are equipped with Wraithcannons, which in my opinion have been vastly improved. They no longer wound on a 2+ and cause instant death on a 6, now with strength ten and cause instant death on a 6. Also, against vehicles it doesn’t glance on a three or four and penetrate on a five or six, it’s just strength ten with AP2. A unit of Wraithcannon wielding Wraithguard are now, in my opinion, far better at shredding tanks as well as infantry. Strength ten has a tendency to kill with ease anyway. They can also take D-scythes, which are basically AP2 flamers with the distort special rule, which is very useful considering how close range your wraithguard usually are, though it costs a heavy ten points per model for this upgrade. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to charge that unit! Wraithblades are basically Wraithguard equipped for melee combat. They are equipped with either two Ghostswords, which strike at strength +1 and AP3, or a Ghostaxe and forceshield, basically strength +2, AP2 and unwieldy (strike at initiative one) but also having a 4+ invulnerable save. You want a tar-pit unit? There you have it; toughness six, 3+ armour save and a 4+ invulnerable save, with strength seven, AP2 close combat attacks for only thirty two points per model.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Wraith units, so I won’t be using any, though I will still be taking a unit of each close combat Aspect Warriors, and occasionally a squad of Harlequins when I get the points for it. Hey, I field what I like the look and feel of, not what I think works well!

The Heart of a Strikeforce: Eldar Troops

Thus we start article number two of Eldar week. In the last article I talked about the HQ choices that will lead your army, so I decided to cover their troops choices next; being the other required units on a standard force organisation chart. Troops will probably make up the bulk of your army, unless you’re list-tailoring or being generally beardy, as they can capture and hold objectives regardless of the scenario. Before I start, I want to talk about some of the global rules that I referenced in my last article: Ancient Doom and Battle Focus. Ancient Doom gives your units hatred against all things Slaanesh, whether they are Slaanesh daemons or merely models with the mark of Slaanesh, your Eldar gain hatred against them which allows them to re-roll any 1s when rolling to hit or wound; however, the trade off is that you also take a leadership penalty of -1 when in combat with the units you gain hatred against. Most Eldar have at least a score of nine for leadership, so I’m not too fussed if it also gives me hatred. Battle Focus is one of the most broken parts of the new Eldar codex, allowing your units to run and shoot in whichever order you want to in the shooting phase, rather than one or the other. This takes your already mobile Eldar and turns them into what they should be, in accordance with how they are portrayed in the fluff. Also, I feel that I should write something about the new rule for all shuriken weaponry called “Bladestorm”. This is not the same as the old Dire Avenger Exarch power, giving AP2 and an automatic wound on any rolls to wound of a 6. Yes, Eldar players, all our shuriken weaponry is basically rending against infantry. Enough intro, let’s get right into it.

First, I will talk about Dire Avengers. These lads and ladies in blue have gone from a staple inclusion in most Eldar armies to… Well, it’s hard to compare them to what they used to do. The two main builds that I saw around before was either an Exarch with power weapon, shimmershield and defend, or an Exarch with dual Avenger shuriken catapults and bladestorm. Their Exarch powers have been completely changed, now able to purchase up to two out of three that come from a pool of shared Exarch powers rather than the fixed ones for each Aspect Warrior squad. Statistically they are identical to the old codex, now also boasting plasma grenades and counter-attack by default for an extra point cost. They have the Ancient Doom special rule, as well as the Battle Focus one, meaning that they can run and shoot in the same shooting phase with those pseudo-rending eighteen inch range shuriken catapults. Move up, unload pseudo-rending death and then run D6 inches away from your opponent or back into cover afterwards, with a re-roll if need be due to the fleet special rule. That being said, the dual Avenger shuriken catapults have been nerfed, now only counting as twin linked rather than having four shots, and the weapon upgrades generally cost more. You can also give your Exarch a power weapon as opposed to a diresword for a few points less, though in my opinion, it is not worth it. The power weapon and shimmershield sticks out to me as the best option for any Dire Avenger Exarch, as it still gives the whole squad a 5+ invulnerable save and turns them into a real tar-pit should they get charged. Just make sure to decline challenges from big, beefy, scary opponents! My biggest annoyance with Dire Avengers is the fact that Games Workshop have decided to make them financially impossible. Now, you get half the box for roughly the same price. I don’t know about you, but five Dire Avengers (six with a spare pair of Guardian legs!) for twenty pounds is just not affordable. Lucky for me, I already have all the Dire Avengers I will need.

Next up are Rangers. Not much has changed concerning Rangers, as they still sport all their old special rules, though they act like normal snipers now; meaning 6s to hit are precision shots, no longer AP1, and they have the rending special rule. They still have stealth, infiltrate, move through cover, as well as the two new rules stated in the first paragraph. They have gained an extra point of initiative and weapon skill as well though, unless things go horribly wrong, these are largely moot. What is nice is that they have been brought down to a measly twelve points per model, even though they have largely just been buffed. I will always be fielding at least one unit of Rangers in all of my Eldar armies, regardless of points. It’s a sixty point, five man unit of snipers with the stealth special rule who can capture objectives. Very useful! If your army contains Illic Nightspear, then you can pay an extra thirteen points per model, bringing the total up to twenty five points per model, to make your Rangers into Pathfinders. Pathfinders in this edition are basically normal Rangers with shrouded and sharpshot, giving them +2 to their cover saves as well as making all of their shots into precision shots. Watch your enemy weep as you kill all of his shiny weapons!

Finally, I will cover the last three choices in one part, as they are all three Guardian variant: Defenders, Storm and Jetbikes, renamed to Windrider Jetbikes. In terms of statistics, Guardians are much better. With an increased initiative of five as well as weapon and ballistic skills of four as opposed to three, along with the Ancient Doom and Battle Focus special rules added on and plasma grenades as standard, Guardians may actually do some serious damage on the tabletop now. They cost one point more now and do not have to take a heavy weapon platform, though just imagine their uses. Twenty Guardians is one hundred and eighty points; if they unload all their shooting, that’s forty shots that hit on 3s and have the Bladestorm special rule. That’s a lot of twelve inch range death that they can hand out for a very small amount of points, with the ability to then run away or into cover afterwards. However, one thing to note is that heavy weapons platforms are generally more expensive and nowhere does it say to treat them as assault weapons, meaning that if we want to fire our Guardian heavy weapon platform, we have to stay still like everyone else or resign ourselves to snap firing. Storm Guardians get the ability to take two power weapons in their squad as well as two special weapons between fusion guns and flamers. I believe that both Guardian Defenders and Storm Guardians benefit even more from a Warlock leader now than they ever did. Just imagine if your Warlock got the psychic power that increases strength by one; suddenly your Guardians are weapon skill and strength four with initiative five and two power weapons in the mix. That’s some cheap, yet very effective troops there, however they are still made of paper, sporting a 5+ armour save and toughness three. No matter, it’s the Eldar way: Kill them before they can effectively strike back. Windrider Jetbikes benefit from all the Guardian statistic increases, though they remain largely untouched. For every three, you can take a shuriken cannon, and squad size has gone down to a maximum of ten. The best part about them, however, is the fact that they are five points cheaper, despite all the buffs that they received.

All in all, Eldar now have a very solid selection of troops now that Guardians have gone from almost useless to deadly overnight. I believe that any combination of troops will work in any Eldar army, as long as they are used in the right way. You could viably field multiple Ranger squads, or an Ulthwe strike force of Guardians and Warlocks, or a Saim-Hann inspired mass of Windriders. Personally, I will be using a combination, though Dire Avengers will stay my preferred troops with a squad or two of Rangers to back them up. However, I may actually use my Guardians now… Hmmmmm… Let me know in the comments what you think of the changes, new rules, as well as my opinions. Don’t hesitate to tell me I’m wrong if you believe that I am, and feel free to post up anything I missed!

To Command a Strikeforce: Eldar HQs

With the new update, the Eldar HQ section has been largely revamped. Whilst some choices remain similar, there are changes to those units we knew and loved, as well as completely new choices emerging with new possibilities and potential strategies. In this article, I am going to go through each choice in detail, outlining possible ways to use them, what combinations may work and where the cheese is!

Firstly, we have the main man himself: Eldrad, High Farseer of Ulthwe. Eldrad was amazing in the last edition of the codex and he has only gotten better. Five points cheaper, an extra mastery level and some really fun special rules, Eldrad has gone from good to great. I will not go through all of his special rules one by one as many are globally available to other Farseers or units in the codex, such as runes of warding or battle focus.On the topic of Eldrad’s own special rules, he still has his 3+ invulnerable save, and the ability to re-deploy D3+1 units after both sides have deployed, but before scout moves are performed. He still has his staff, though it has been changed slightly. It is AP3, using his strength with the fleshbane special rule; however, it now gives him a one in three chance at giving back one of his warp charge counters whenever he passes a psychic test. Oh, did I mention it was a force weapon now as well? Yes, Eldrad can now cast on average about five or six psychic powers per turn, as well as inflict instant death with his force weapon. Ouch? Yes, ouch. He also generates his psychic powers from the divination and telepathy trees in the rulebook, as well as the runes of fate table in the Eldar codex itself; whilst I do not like telepathy, the other two tables are both very strong and Eldrad gets four roles total on them! A very, very solid choice for an HQ and a good choice for a warlord if you want one who will probably stay alive, though his fixed warlord trait of giving all units within 12″ of him the stealth special rule once per game for a single shooting phase isn’t the greatest.

Next up, another familiar face: Prince Yriel, Autarch of Iyanden. He remains largely unchanged, with an extra wound and the spear of twilight working slightly differently, he wades in at fifteen points less than he used to, with a general buff as he gets some of the lovely global Eldar special rules that have been introduced. Ambush of Blades, his fixed warlord trait, can be used nicely as it allows you to re-roll 1s to wound for every Eldar unit within twelve inches, which considering how much firepower the Eldar have now, that’s potentially going to hurt a lot. His spear no longer automatically wounds him at the end of the game, either, as it now just forces him to re-roll all saving throws of six. More risky, but potentially less deadly. I like him, for his points cost he is definitely worth taking, but he’s not too broken so if you’re playing to win, there are other choices that are just better. Plus, I dislike named characters, so I’m biased in that respect.

Next on the list is a newcomer to the codex: Illic Nightspear, The Walker of the Hidden Path. Illic is basically a pathfinder on steroids, with weapon skill and initiative scores of six, a ballistic skill of nine, a power sword for no reason other than to annoy people, and a sniper rifle of over-powered killing-ness; Illic is a must have for any competitive army and I haven’t even gone into the juicy details yet. Firstly, let’s look at his sniper rifle, Voidbringer. With a 48″ range, AP2 and the distort special rule which means he auto wounds on a 2+ (WRONG! It’s a 4+. Now you see why I am called Refined Fail) and causes instant death on a six, he kills whatever he shoots at. Not only that, he has the sharpshot special rule, which makes all shots, excluding snap shots, into precision shots. Not only does he kill whatever he shoots at, but he chooses exactly what he wants to shoot at, giving you the ability to surgically remove any characters, heavy or special weapons that your opponent may have. In addition to this, he has the warlord trait fixed that gives him the split fire special rule, and another rule where any outflanking, friendly Eldar Rangers or Pathfinders can just arrive within six inches of him via the deep strike special rule with no scattering, he can not only kill whatever he wants, but also help a load of other snipers kill what they want. To add insult to injury, he gives you the option to field pathfinders, as you cannot field them without Illic, though as they all have sharpshot as well, they are well worth the points if you have Illic in your army. I will cover pathfinders in more detail tomorrow in my article on troops.

We still have all of the Phoenix Lords, though they are not that impressive to me. They still have their insane statistics and new rules and weapons, but compared to Illic and Eldrad, especially for the points cost, I don’t really see them as being that useful. That being said, there are no longer the barriers that say a Phoenix Lord can only join their own aspect warriors, leading to the shenanigans when Jain Zar joins a unit of Striking Scorpions and gives them the benefit of her super-powered banshee mask, or when Fuegan joins anything close combat based and tears everything apart. Asurmen is like a powered up Dire Avenger with a 4+ invulnerable save, D3 warlord traits and a master-crafted diresword that gives him +1 strength. Jain Zar is a Howling Banshee with a pumped up triskele, an AP2 shredding close combat weapon and a banshee mask that also subtracts 5 weapon skill as well as initiative. Karandras isn’t that great, with a better mandiblaster than other Striking Scorpions, along with the stealth special rule. Fuegan is a close combat monster, and one of my favourite Phoenix Lords; boasting an AP1 axe with armourbane, fast shot for his firepike, feel no pain and a special rule that increases attacks and strength by one for each unsaved wound he takes. Think about that for a second. Yes, have him followed by a Warlock with the destructor / renewer psychic power for a potential of strength and attacks characteristics of ten with an AP1 axe. Ouch? Baharroth is a Swooping Hawk with an addiction to blinding opponents, which is not that powerful. Finally, Maugan Ra, my second favourite Phoenix Lord. With a thirty six inch range on his four shot rending shrieker cannon of pinning goodness that can also be used to club enemies to death at strength +2 and AP3 and precision shots on a 5+, he is very good at killing lots and lots of your enemies; combined with battle focus, he can run and shoot that cannon in one shooting phase. Also, did I say four shots? He has the fast shot Exarch power, so make that five shots at ballistic skill seven. For me, they are not worth the points for what they are with the possible exceptions of Maugan Ra and Fuegan; if I wanted to win, I’d take Eldrad, an Avatar of Khaine or Illic over any of the Phoenix Lords I think.

Then we have the Avatar of Khaine. The Avatar has gone from an eight out of ten on the broken scale to troll-face out of ten. His points cost has gone up by forty, but let’s look at what you get for that. He still makes all Eldar within within twelve inches to be fearless, and causes fear in close combat due to being a daemon. He is now also immune to pyromancy psychic powers, as well as any weapon with the soul blaze special rule to go along side his immunity to flamers and meltas. He is also now Fleet and has the battle focus special rule, so he can move, run and also fire his twelve inch melta. Wherever you run, the Avatar will get you! He also had his ballistic skill and initiative both increased to ten and gained an extra attack and wound. He also has the option to purchase a large variety of Exarch powers, such as +1 strength, monster hunter and disarming strike to name a few. In my opinion, they are largely unnecessary, but when your Avatar suddenly disarms your opponent’s daemon weapon totting daemon prince, the look on your opponent’s face is worth the extra points cost! Beware though, the Avatar is not an eternal warrior, so he can be killed by weapons that would inflict instant death, such as distort weapons, force weapons and other such items. Also, his save has been downgraded to a 5+ invulnerable save and a 3+ armour save, as opposed to the 4+ invulnerable save that he used to get. However, the fact still remains that the Avatar is under 200 points for his base cost for a whole lot of pain. Very worth the points, very painful. Take one if you want to win and possibly cause your opponent to cry.

Now getting onto the non unique or named characters, otherwise known as the only HQ choices that I take. First up: The Autarch. Autarchs have generally been buffed, though like before, they are nothing special. Seventy points base with a few new rules and the same statistics as before. Some points costs have been tweaked to balance better, though the nice thing for the Autarch is that he or she, depending on your conversion, can take items from the remnants of glory list. In particular there is a sword which gives +2 strength, fearless and rending, as well as fleshbane and instant-death in challenges. It’s forty points, but you can really surprise players when you run up to Scarbrand or any other expensive character without eternal warrior with a banshee mask, attack him first and get lucky in a challenge, slaying him or her or it outright. One hundred and fifteen points for an Autarch with the Shard of Anaris and a banshee mask, having a decent chance of inflicting instant death on your expensive character in a challenge? I’ll take it! Or you could take the Firesabre, otherwise known as the Smokey’s Bane or the Sword of Setting Everyone on Fire as it causes soul blaze that spreads to nearby units; paired with a Phoenix Gem and your Autarch is running into hordes, setting everything on fire, then exploding on a 2+ when he or she dies; then if said explosion causes any casualties, the Autarch gets back up with a wound to do it all over again. One hundred and twenty five points for a Saint Celestine with more of a troll factor? I didn’t think it was possible. All in all, I like the Autarch, even when not exploiting remnants of glory to make cheap yet effective powerhouses. It’s a diverse commander which can be set up however suits your army, providing a decent synergy between commander and units. If there’s one thing the Eldar need, it’s unit synergy.

Next, the staple unit for any Eldar army: The Farseer. This humble HQ unit has the same statistics as before, as well as the same statistics and special rules; though like the Autarch, he or she can take items from the remnants of glory section. They have the two global special rules, Ancient Doom and Battle Focus, but otherwise they are the same. Oh, but they’re now mastery level three and cost forty five points more. This sounds like a lot until you realise that you don’t have to pay for your psychic powers any more. You pay one hundred points for a mastery level three psyker with a 4+ invulnerable save. They can still take a jetbike, runes of warding and runes of witnessing, as well as a singing spear to replace their witchblade. The two runes have been changed for the worse, no longer having the anti-psyker net or the runes of I May Cause Perils But I Will Always Get My Powers Off. They are both now one use only, the runes of warding giving you +2 on a deny the witch role, and the runes of witnessing allowing you to re-roll a psychic test, potentially avoiding a perils of the warp. Oh, ghosthelms now operate like warp charge trading posts to get rid of perils. With mastery level three, you are likely to have a warp charge lying about, so perils of the warp are a thing of the past. Well, unless you happen to be playing against Tyranids.

Lastly, we have the Spiritseer. They’re mastery level two warlocks who let you take Wraithguard and Wraithblades as troops. They work best when used in tandem with wraith constructs, due to their spirit mark ability that lets you mark an enemy unit and then re-roll all 1s to hit against them with Wraithguard, Wraithblades, Wraithlords, Wraithknights and Hemlock Wraithfighters for that turn. However, it only has a range of twelve inches, meaning you have to get your Spiritseer close to your enemy. However, they also make very capable warlock leaders, able to roll twice on the runes of battle or telepathy tables which will allow them to take a good number of buffs and debuffs to help your army along. I like the Spiritseer, as he or she makes a very affordable psychic commander with a decent selection of abilities to pick from and use. Whilst he or she does best with more Wraith units, I could see them used effectively with no Wraith units as well. Plus, I dislike named characters, so between the Spiritseer, Farseer and Autarch I have two slots to fill. In that sense, I think that I will not take it that often in my army, preferring to use a Farseer and Autarch combination, but that’s personal preference.

I will dedicate a small part to Warlock councils here on the end, as they are a part of the HQ section, though they do not take up any slots on the force organisation charts. It’s a single squad of one to ten that you can either run as one seer council of doom, or break individuals off to lead squads of Guardians, Artillery Platforms and Windrider squads. I could see some people doing a combination, perhaps breaking two off to lead your Guardian squads whilst eight of them congregate around the Farseer, potentially on jetbikes. I will speak more on Warlocks in the article tomorrow about troops choices, as they augment troops very well, but now that they’re mastery level one and able to roll on the runes of battle table, they make very capable psykers, as the runes of battle table is far more powerful than the old warlock psychic powers. They are ten points more expensive than before, but they come with one more initiative point than before, as well as a better psychic power. However, they do have to make psychic tests on their leadership of eight when they want to manifest them. I will probably keep a Warlock council around to protect my Farseer and aid in turning the tables on my opponents with their buffs to my troops or debuffs to theirs’, but I will also split them off to lead any squads of Guardians that I may use. More of a psychic net means that more of my troops are doing more than they should for their points costs.

This article has ended up being far longer than I anticipated, so I apologise for the wall of text here, as well as the lateness of posting. For now, I should go and collapse on my bed, though keep your eyes open this week for more articles outlining my thoughts on the new Eldar codex!

The Eldar Warhost Mobilises!

This article comes a day late due to the very nature of it. On Saturday 1st June, Games Workshop unveiled the new Eldar codex, all ready and streamlined for sixth edition. As an Eldar player, I naturally went down to Warhammer World, having the privilege of living just down the road from the UK headquarters, to get a hold of my new codex. In the spirit of things, I have decided to dedicate my articles for this week to the new Eldar releases where I’ll give unit overviews, some tips and tactics that have come out of spending a whole day in Bugman’s Bar discussing the new rules as well as some general ideas and fluff discussions.

In today’s article, I will give a brief overview of the codex itself. In terms of cost, I believe it is on the heavy side at a total of thirty pounds for the standard version, sixty pounds if you wanted to buy the limited edition; it’s not a book you want to damage or lose once you’ve bought it! Saying that, however, the quality of the book is very good overall, encased in a rather attractive hardback cover. Inside is everything that you would expect to find in a Warhammer 40k codex printed on pages that feel good, rather than feeling flimsy. They’ve certainly upped the quality with the price, though I still miss my eight pound codices that were around when I started the hobby. The artwork is entirely in colour which really helps to bring the book alive with the vibrant array of colours, much like an Eldar tabletop army itself. The background fluff is well written and gives a good insight into the story of the enigmatic Eldar race, being the product of Phil Kelly and Adam Troke, as opposed to some of the more questionable fluff that we’ve seen in other codices; yes, I’m looking at you, Grey Knights, with your Sister of Battle slaughtering ways and characters who casually stride through the Warp, punching Bloodthirsters in the face. But I digress, the point is that the Eldar fluff is largely well written and sticks closely to what we’ve learned so far.

The rules are well laid out though unlike the previous codex, the rules on specific items such as the ghosthelm or singing spear are not listed in the unit entries, relegated to the specific weapons, treasures and equipment section of the book. Whilst annoying at first, it is a nice way of laying things out for easy reference as you don’t have to look for several unit pages if you forget what a few things in your army do, as it’s all in one place. The last few pages of the book are dedicated to a condensed set of rules and tables for ease of use in games when you need to see what your psychic powers do, or what the statistics for your troops are, which nicely folds out to a four page spread, showing almost everything you’re going to need to know during a game. On the topic of psychic powers, I am both saddened and pleased at the same time. I am very pleased with the fact that we get our own tables, runes of battle and runes of fate, as well as getting to roll on the divination and telepathy trees with the former being one of two useful psychic power trees in the entire sixth edition rulebook. I am very pleased with how the runes of battle, otherwise known as the warlock psychic powers, will work and how they will change the way that people will use and field warlocks in their armies, and I am very happy with our lovely rules surrounding psychic powers, though this will be covered in more detail when I cover the units and tactics themselves. What I am not pleased with, though I was expecting it, is the fact that you cannot just choose your psychic powers, having to roll on tables like the other armies with sixth edition codices. I do not like this random aspect that they have added to building an Eldar force, as I liked the certainty of having guide, fortune and doom on my Farseer every game.

Overall, I like the update that they have given Eldar. I believe that we are now far more competitive, for those of you who enjoy cheese and powergaming, as well as allowing for a variety of units to be selected, rather than having a strict meta containing units that everyone used. I think that the fluff is well written and the contents of the codex itself is nicely laid out, giving clear, easy reading for theorycrafting or just reading up on the Eldar background.

The lesser races will fall before us!