Saturday 26 July 2014

Book Review: Darkness Rising - Book One

Greetings fellow bookworms. Waaay back when this blog first saw the light of day and I created my 'About' page, I wrote somewhere in the blurb that The Eternal Wargamer blog would primarily be a venting point for my Games Workshop gaming related shenanigans, but may also include the odd post that was about a film or programme I had seen or a book I had read if I felt that they were worth talking about. It's time I made good on that threat...welcome to my library.

This is the first book review I have ever written outside of the confines of the schoolroom, and I am not any kind of 'industry professional', but I do like to read, and I have studied the English language and literature. I am also trying to write a bit myself, and I have found that writing with any kind of real seriousness makes you look at the whole process in a different light. As a review, please don't expect this to follow a recognisable format for such articles; any resemblance to accepted 'book review' standards are purely coincidental. This is just a few words about a book I have enjoyed, and hope you might too.

The book I want to tell you about is the first in what is currently a series of four books, which collectively are called 'Darkness Rising', and written by a chap named Ross M Kitson of the UK. Book one itself is called 'Chained'. Before getting into my thoughts on the book, a smattering of basic facts about the story. It's a Fantasy Fiction tale which takes place in a unique yet familiar setting. In other words, the author has created what I came to realise quite quickly was a pretty detailed environment, but which incorporates many of the fantasy staples we know and love, allowing us to reconstruct the world in our minds without giving us a headache. The reproduction of the setting I created in my own mind is one of magic, monsters and rogues, with enough of our own real world history inspiration thrown in to make it amply believable.

'Darkness Rising' is well written in my humble opinion, and that's coming from someone who has become increasingly critical of other peoples work of late. The style is one that appeals to me, and is full of little details that hint at the amount of work that has gone into the creation of the characters and the various nations and realms in which the action is set. We are presented with a fully fledged world crafted as if by a skilled Games Master and story teller, and by the end of the novel, I was looking forward to seeing the story progress and reveal more of what has thus far only been hinted at.

The story follows a young girl sold into servitude by her parents, Emelia, and who finds herself tied to one of the great houses of the setting. She battles with inner conflicts, each facet of which tells us something about the world in which she lives. Emelia must come to terms with who she is, where she has come from and also where she belongs in a world where everyone seems to be cast as either life-bound servant or rogue beyond the protection of the realms highborn elite. Emelia must also learn to control the power within her, a wild and untethered power which must be mastered. This is a world where the denizens are strictly controlled, and power over magic and military might is jealously guarded by a greedy few. The high and mighty exploit the week for their own gain and position.

With the influence of a range of allies and adversaries, Emelia comes of age, while at the same time being swept along as the story evolves into what promises to be an epic confrontation between good and evil in later books. This first novel in the series is certainly the warm up that all great stories must have to set the scene for what must surely come later, and draws us in with tales of aloof mages, dark sorcery, griffon riding knights and carefree cutpurses. This story is the D & D adventure we all played out as young gamers brought to life as a full blown tale, and includes some interesting takes on some of the old Fantasy archetypes I haven't come across before.

The series is available both in paperback and in digital formats, and is highlighted as a '#1 Best Seller Epic Fantasy'! If you are looking for something to read, then I believe that Darkness Rising could be a refreshing change and certainly worth your time. It has been for me. I for one am ready to dive straight into Book 2, and will be back with a further review a little further down the road.

Until then gracious visitor, thanks for reading.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Tales from the Battlefield... #1

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists and welcome to my Hall of Battles. The walls of this grand old room are hung with tapestries and paintings of the greatest victories of my armies. This new painting shows the Ogre Tyrant Grund Giantbreaker defeating the Lizardmen at the Battle of Mad Moor. Don't touch please; the paint is still wet...

A few weeks ago, after suffering yet another defeat at the hands of my arch nemesis, 'Dave', at our local club, I started a series called 'Where did it all go wrong?', which was meant to be about going over the detail of battles I had lost in an effort to better understand why and how, and hopefully avoid the same results in the future. Well, it worked, because I have played two games since, one each of 40K and one of Fantasy, and won them both...

Now we know of course that this fragile state of affairs can't possibly last, but while it does, I'm going to take the opportunity to talk about the high point of my last game in a new series I have dubbed 'Tales from the Battlefield'. Think of it as an arse covering excercise. Now, whether I win or lose a battle, I have a series to cover it.

So then, this first post in the series I will unofficially dub 'The Unstoppable Force vs The Immovable Object', which in this case is about the moment my Ogre Irongut unit (Including full command group, my Bruiser Battle Standard bearer and Grund Giantbreaker my Ogre Tyrant) move forward into a position to be charged by a block of Saurus Warriors.

First, a little scene setting. This game was 3500 points per side, Ogres and Nurgle Damons allied on one side vs Wood Elves and Lizardmen allied on the other. As this was a fairly large battle, we decided to just keep it simple and play it Pitched, particularly as we had a less experienced Fantasy player commanding the Wood Elves. Seeing as my Ironguts were being shot at by multiple units of Woodies, all with poisoned arrows, and the Guts were too far away to make a charge into the Saurus themselves, I moved them forward as far as I could to force the issue, and make the enemy either charge me or be charged themselves next turn.

At the same time as this showdown was being set up on one side of the field, on the other, a horde of Plague Bearers led by Epidimus was squaring off against a block of Temple Guard including a hero and Battle Standard. The chances were that these two combats would decide the outcome of the battle.

The next turn comes around, and units charge in on both sides of the field. Two decisive combats are initiated. My Ironguts may have been charged but they are big boys and can handle themselves I thought to myself. My only concern was causing enough damage to get through the Lizardmen's Steadfast and Cold Blooded. Then around comes the Magic phase. Our opponents roll well on the winds of magic. They cast Wissens Wildform on the Saurus block my Ironguts are facing. Not what I wanted, but we let it through, conserving our small dispel pool for countering Flesh to Stone, which my team mate was confident would destroy his Plague Bearers chances against the Temple Guard if it got through.

"Not the end of the world" says I, "not with my Tyrant in the fight and no enemy characters."
"Yeah," says my team mate, "You'll be fine. I'd be in real trouble if those Temple Guard got +2 toughness..."

Next they decide to cast Flesh to Stone. Not on the Temple Guard, but on the Saurus block my Ironguts were fighting. Our dispel roll was short. Damn.
Now you can imagine my consternation, and the feeling of guilt on the face of my team mate as I found my Tyrant's unit facing a unit of Saurus Warriors four ranks deep with Strength 5 and Toughness 7. With only the Wildform in play, they were wounding my Ironguts on 3's but being wounded on 3's in return, and I had my Tyrant and far more attacks. Now my models were wounding on 5's, even with Great Weapons, and going last to boot!

After some consideration about whether to activate the Dragonhide Banner this turn, or wait until next turn when Wildform would have ended making the Saurus easier to wound next turn (though it was a waste either way because the banner does far more for your unit the turn they charge, not when they receive a charge!), I decided to go for it. My logic was that I needed to do as much damage as possible in this first round just to make sure I was still there for a second! So the Dragonhide Banner kills 2 Saurus Warriors, but just as importantly, makes them strike last (simultaneous with my Ironguts) for the next two rounds of combat.

This is where I decided that I was very pleased with how I had equipped my Tyrant. Extra hand weapon, Greedy Fist magic item, and Giant Breaker Big Name, giving him six attacks at Strength 7. I would be relying on him to do well. As it turned out, with a few wounds caused on each side and all the bonuses, the fight was a draw. Thank heavens for the single wound caused by a Stomp attack!
Breathing a sigh of relief, but realising that both Wissens Wildform and Flesh to Stone would still be in play in the next round of combat, in our turn my Tyrant knocked back his Potion of Strength, boosting his Strength to a mighty 10! In addition, I managed to get a unit of six Bulls led by my Butcher into the flank of the Saurus block. Things were looking much rosier, but with the boosted Toughness of the Saurus still in play, this was certainly not a done deal.

At this point in the game and after something of a lacklustre start, my dice decided to wake up. Combat continued in our turn (after failing to boost the Strength of my Ironguts with a Maw spell), everybody got to make their attacks, starting (after Strength 5 Impact Hits from the Bulls) with my Tyrant, who smashed something like 4 or 5 Saurus with his Strength 10 attacks (I had been saving the Potion of Strength for the Treeman Ancient, but needs must). By the end of the round, with a worse than average showing from the Lizardmen, my two units had killed all but three models, and without Steadfast, not even being Cold Blooded could save the Toughness 7 Saurus from needing 'snake eyes' to stay in the fight.

The Saurus broke and ran, but with my dice having decided that their work was done, the Ironguts failed to catch them, falling short about 2", though they ran the fleeing unit down next turn and picked up the points (including for the Skink Priest that was in the unit), and for a total loss of about three Ironguts from my unit (of eight I started with).

There you have it. For a while it looked like my prize unit would be undone by a supercharged unit of Saurus Warriors, but they ground it out and Grund Giantbreaker got himself some Lizardskin boots. I should say that the Plague Bearer unit also defeated the (decidedly unenhanced) Temple Guard. You're welcome buddy!

That's it for this post, I hope it at least gave you an entertaining couple of minutes out of your day. Let's hope I lose another game soon so I can write something more constructive...

Thanks for reading.

Sunday 13 July 2014

6th Edition 40K - A £40 door stop?

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists, and welcome to my library. Some of these books used to be worth something. Maybe a few still are...

A few weeks ago, while playing what has turned out to be my very last game of Warhammer 40,000 using the 6th edition big rulebook, one of my club mates (who I am guessing prefers the functionality of the compact version of the rules rather than the version that is so thick that even Luis Suarez can't bite through it) joked about what I was going to do with my now worthless door stop of a 6th edition rulebook? This is a question I have heard repeated many times over the last few months, as 7th edition approached out of the ever shifting haze of rumours, and after it finally landed.

Over the last couple of weeks it has got me thinking about all those old rulebooks and what happens to them, about the ones that end up propping up coffee tables, the ones that go on eBay for a hundredth of what we paid for them, and of those that simply end up as landfill. Oh, and of course the ones that end up at the backs of shelves and cupboards and in lofts the world over, bemoaning their all too short time in the limelight. What ever will become of those I wonder...?

Well I am on my 4th edition of Warhammer Fantasy and 6th edition of Warhammer 40,000 (why the disparity in the number of editions of each game I wonder?), and I still have most of the rulebooks, Codices and Army Books I have accumulated in that time. Yes, on the face of it, versions of the rules that are a decade or two out of date are not all that useful, but earlier this year I found myself fishing out all the versions of the Warhammer Fantasy rulebooks I could find, because I wanted to gather together as many different scenarios I could to use in campaign games at our club, with suitable tweaks to make them 8th compatible of course.

As I looked through those older publications, I came across more and more things of interest, like a Warhammer 'Tournament Scenario', two or three versions of campaign rules and magic item tables, sections on making your own scenery (which of course we almost never see in Games Workshop publications these days), and even rules for different kinds of in-game weather effects in the old Dark Shadows campaign booklet. That is of course without counting all the maps that came with issues of White Dwarf over the years, and all the great material in publications such as the Storm of Chaos campaign book.

I found it interesting to look at how the the hobby has changed over the years, how different styles of models and paint schemes have come and gone, how incarnations of a well known special character have evolved across the editions, and also which things haven't changed all that much. These days we have maps that depict the length and breadth of the Warhammer World, and the points of origin of the Ogres of the Mountains of Mourn, the Great Wall of Cathay and the domains of the Dragon Emperor, and the locations of all the Temple Cities of Lustria, whereas once we had just maps of the Old World, with just hints of what lay beyond the western oceans and the Worlds Edge Mountains.

Though the rules within any given tome that is no longer the current rules set may have limited worth, that doesn't mean that all those wonderful old rulebooks are entirely devoid of worth. There are some gems to be had if you just take the time to look. How about some easily updated siege rules? Or some skirmish game rules for those dramatic inter-battle encounters? Or even just some inspiration for a one off scenario - it's all there somewhere...

Oh, and an old BRB is pretty good at holding doors open too.

Thanks for reading.