The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth – A Review

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Okay okay, I know I said I didn’t have any interest in getting this game but I’m weak and…well who gives a shit whatever other reason I have?

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth (for those living under a rock or too idle to go to the Games Workshop website) is a boxed game depicting the running battle between the Ultramarine and the Word Bearers Legions in the catacombs below the radiation ravaged surface of…well, Calth. Obviously.

If you’ve been keeping up with the Horus Heresy novels then you’ll be fairly aware of the events leading up to it and the major players. If you haven’t please run full pelt into a wall as punishment. Then go read them.

So Betrayal at Calth is a very splendid looking board game pitting the Ultramarines against the Word Bearers in the dingy tunnels and chambers of subterranean Calth. I do have to address the elephant in the room. Yes it’s kind of like Advanced Space Crusade…and Space Crusade. But in a lot of crucial ways it’s not. It’s easy to make direct comparisons between this and its forefathers but the truth is Space Crusade’s focus was exploration whereas Betrayal at Calth is open war and a fight for survival. It’s tunnel fighting at its very worst. The need for blip counters and a lot of the other very cool things that made Space Crusade iconic just don’t fit.

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Truth be told, Betrayal at Calth is a pretty good game. Much like Deadzone, the game uses a grid movement system with an occupation limit. However, unlike Deadzone it isn’t shit. The main differences are the hex system works instead of the vague and wooly cube system in Deadzone…and it doesn’t have all the other reasons that made Deadzone poor.

Broadly, the mechanic in Betrayal at Calth works much like its forebears. You roll some very groovy dice with icons denoting a hit or critical hit or a shield (which is either a miss or a defensive success). Unlike Space Crusade it’s far simpler with a straight forward activation system that allows turns to be rattled through very quickly. Much like the reboot of Space Hulk. Unlike Space Crusade it doesn’t bother with the two tier dice system so you’ll actually bother firing your boltguns in this game.

The aforementioned hex system allows for not only slick movement, shooting and combat but very elegantly represents the cramped environs of the tunnels the Ultramarines and the Word Bearers were fighting through. This is a very good thing. Best of all it’s a simple value equals dice rolled process with additional dice being rolled in certain circumstances. Which makes for a far quicker gaming experience. Of course it gets a little abstract but, to be honest, it doesn’t matter because it works.

It allows you to hamper the movement of your opponent or outright bottle neck areas by using the accumulative bulk of your Space Marines or, better yet, your Terminators. It’s a surprisingly tactical game for what otherwise would be a ‘go here and shoot them’ offering.

The production value is also amazing. The cards are thick and premium, the book almost as luxurious as one of Forge World’s Horus Heresy publications and is resplendent with their artwork. The double sided tiles are also loving rendered. The only negative is that they’re not quite as premium as the Space Hulk tiles. But considering the amount of plastic you get in Betrayal at Calth I’m willing to let it slide.

At first I thought a game of Space Marines vs Space Marines would be deeply deeply dull but the differences in the forces – big scary dreadnought vs badass terminators – and the legion specific decks players can call upon actually really works. Plus the critical hit system actually has the stench of genius about it. Rather than the obvious bonus hits, the effects vary from stripping away activation points to reducing enemy characteristics to zero…which means they get pulped basically. And the exploding assault cannon is back! Huzzah!

The scenarios are…actually a bit like Deadzone’s. They’re paced to gradually introduce gamers to the different unit types which rather highlights one of the reasons I suspect Games Workshop put the game out. To introduce new gamers to the 30/40k Universe. Considering the revival of Specialist Games it makes complete sense.

Betrayal at Calth has a simple mechanic, it’s quick and it doesn’t bombard you with the lore like the main rulebook does. Plus the models are superb.

Honestly, they’re all awesome. The terminators and contemptor suffer slightly from being plastics in a starter set compared to their awesome Forge World counterparts, but broadly Betrayal at Calth is absolutely worth getting just for the models. What really sells it is that the Space Marines aren’t the usual push together at but genuine multi-part models as detailed as the plastic tactical squad. They don’t have Forge World’s fidelity of detail to be sure but they don’t have warping, miscast detail or fucking horrid mould lines either.

Regular readers will know that I’ve got two companies of Ultramarines already and, because all the models are non-Legion specific, this box could put me well on my way to a 30% of third. If I felt so inclined. I’ve had to promise Lee that I wouldn’t use them as Ultramarines…at least not all of them. It’s a fantastic starter army though: force commander, chaplain, dreadnought, terminators and 3 tactical squads. I think it roughly works out you get the characters and a tactical squad for free based on rule retail price which is an absolute winner.

However where it does fall down is it lacks the progression of Space Crusade…which is absurd considering it’s 25 years old and, in that regard, the stronger offering. One of the criticisms I’ve heard is that the tiles used in Betrayal at Calth overall make up a smaller gaming space than Space Crusade. Whilst that’s true, they are double sided and the mechanic makes use of that space very effectively so larger tiles aren’t needed. Plus Space Crusade took forever to play so I’m not sorry that Betrayal at Calth is a quicker game.

Between the simple rules, straight forward mechanic, interesting critical hit system and some truly gorgeous models, Betrayal at Calth is a rare solid hit from Games Workshop. It isn’t cheap but we’re use to that. Plus buying 30 tactical marines alone would cost over £60 so in terms of getting some very cool models for not tonnes of money it actually makes complete sense.

The models really are worth every penny. They look fantastic, they’re cast perfectly and would look amazing either as the core of a new army or swapping out some of the older Mk6 and Mk7 armoured plastics. As I mentioned the terminators and the contemptor do suffer from the limitations of their kits, to be more child friendly, but it does nothing to diminish just how cool they all look.

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is a brilliant little game. It looks great and plays well. It does lack some longevity but I believe the Games Workshop are remedying that with new scenarios and such. But even if that wasn’t true, you have the beginnings of a seriously cool looking Space Marine army.

The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is available from Firestorm Games priced £79.99.

Special Ammunition

6 months ago I took a leave of absence. My life was getting very complicated and things were reaching a critical mass that would have seen, amongst other things, myself explode like a poodle in a microwave.

Things are much better. Still complicated but I am happier. It’s taken a lot of reflection and a lot of changes many of which are personal and those closest to me will know what those are and the rest of you…well tough shit.

This site and my hobby – and the future of both – hung in the balance for quite some time. This website, once a source of great joy for me, had become something negative with the resounding screwing over I and it got last year. Equally my fixation on making it a success and its ultimate downfall cost me a lot. It cost me my health, it strained relationships, it impacted on my work performance – particularly during the aforementioned screwing over – and my hobby suffered too. It took a lot to reconcile all that and decide if I wanted the site as part of my life. The fact that I’m here typing suggests I do but I’m yet to full decide in what form that will take.

As for my hobby…like a fat chick fresh out of an LA cosmetic surgeons office, it’s looking pretty unrecognisable. Most of it has gone including items with obligations attached. I apologise sincerely to all those concerned, but promised content won’t be forthcoming. They were assignments taken on at a pretty difficult time in my life and I needed a cleansing of all the negative shit that had built up around the site. Which is why, beyond esteemed guest writers like the immense Gav Thorpe, you won’t see contributors on this site whilst it exists in its current form. Again, certain contributors had made promises, none of which were kept and rather than continually setting myself up for disappointment, I’m putting a stop to it all together. This does mean various series will not be concluded and, again I apologise for that also.

But back to my hobby. As I say, it’s all pretty much gone. I’ve kept my Games Workshop stuff, my X-Wing fleet, and the Terran contents from the Firestorm Armada box and that’s it. The rest was sold or given away. The reason why isn’t because my hobby had become my job. I’d love my hobby to be my job. It was because I had too much content to produce and not enough time or willing hands to achieve it. Whether it was ambition or ego (or both) I overestimated a great many things last year and it cost me.

So where does it leave this site? Well, I was amazed to find that despite being untouched since Christmas people were still visiting the site. That’s a very humbling thing. As for content, it won’t be every day. Hell, it may not be every week but I’ll be writing again. I’m also going to be writing about what I’m up to in the hobby with a smattering of whatever takes my interest thrown in. Essentially I’m taking the site back to what I created it for. To talk about my hobby.

I hope to still do the odd product review because I really enjoy them. Firestorm Games being the amazing people they are, stuck by me when they had every right to cut me loose so I’m looking forward to renewing our friendship. Equally there are a great many companies I’ve gotten to know over the years that I hope I can still support in some small way.

I also owe an apology to fellow #warmongers who expected to see me at Salute 2015. I had a ticket but the reality was it was better for me to stay away. Granted I had the worst cold I’ve had in years over the weekend, but to represent this site wouldn’t have done me any favours. I wouldn’t have been there to network like previous years – Mr McVey I still owe you that beer! – and I’d done no hobby to speak of. Plus I’d just got back from Houston, Texas (big up to the guys at Fat Ogre) so it’s not like I could dropped a wad of notes at Forge World like I normally do.

But the fact that all the Horus Heresy armour variants I bought at Salute 2014 – intended to get me painting my Ultramarines again – remain distinctly resin grey means that buying more shit I don’t use is a great way of putting myself into a flat spin again.

So. I’ll conclude with this: I’m back, at least in part. Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of support when I went on hiatus and after.

I’m working on a couple of Mordheim warbands at the moment so I shall be kicking things off with some stuff about them.

Until next time…

Forge World Preivews Word Bearers Gal Vorbak

The latest Forge World bulletin didn’t have much in the way of news I care about…until I got to this shot. The Gal Vorbak have always interested me intensely when reading the Horus Heresy novels featuring the Bearers of the Word. And, by extension, I’d always hoped they’d do models and hoped further still that they’d do them justice as I’ve never been a fan of the possessed models available for Chaos Space Marines.

GalVorbakJudging by these two gems I think they’re in safe hands. I love how the MKIV armour has been incorporated into the mutations. The reversed jointed lugs are inspired. It all likes like the changes would have been agonising, which they were. I’m finding my eye wandering towards Codex Chaos Space Marines…

 

Calas Typhon Unboxing

I’m back from my adventure to Adepticon, and I brought home lots of goodies! One of my favorite pieces came from Forge World, the fearsome Calas Typhon [So much want – Ed]. I’ve unboxed him so you can get a decent look at him.

I haven’t been too keen on a few of the Horus Heresy character models that Forge World has released, but Calas really strikes me. He may move to the top of my painting queue. He’ll certainly be assembled this weekend.

Also in that queue are several other Horus Heresy characters including Angron, Fulgrim, and Abaddon and Loken. I eventually plan to have the whole set of HH characters, which is getting harder to do as they release them at a faster pace. Originally, I had just planned on getting the Primarchs, but the other characters have been such interesting models that I decided to go for them all.

My wallet weeps.

I hope you enjoyed getting to see Calas Typhon!

Salute 2014

Salute 2014So tomorrow the big day will have finally arrived. And it cannot have come soon enough. These last few years I’ve pre-ordered my ticket as soon as possible. Not because I’m worried about missing out but because when I wake up the day after Salute I’m already looking forward to the next one.

For me Salute is the most important date in my wargaming calendar for the simple reason than it’s a room full of people, all passionate about ‘the hobby’ which has many facets to it that go far beyond genre, scale and metal vs resin vs plastic. For a day no one cares who plays what or how much crap we got painted from the year before. Or how much of the stuff we got from the year before we even still own. It’s a coming together of community behind the most inclusive and welcoming hobby there is. And then we walk, talk and breathe toys. And then we spend all of our money on all of the things.

It always tickles me that every year, and I include myself in this, there is a frantic burst of eBaying, Twitter bartering and the chucking of stuff on Amazon Marketplace in an effort to push the budget as far as possible. Because taking £100 isn’t enough. Oh no! £150, that’ll do. But if I sell this or that, or borrow from the savings and promise to put it back, I’ll have £200! And so on and so on. My budget this year is a little less than I’d have liked. The weight of home ownership has rested heavily these last few months. However, it has made me more focussed on what I want and what I need. The difference being that I don’t need the Praetors from Forge World but want them so I’m getting them anyway. But I do need a few bits to round off my X-Wing fleet until the next wave of stuff drops.

I also need to remember to take lunch money because walking around with a satchel or backpack all day is a pain in the arse.

Tomorrow is going to be a brilliant day. And not just because of the buying of all the things. Okay, a little bit that. But because it’s an opportunity to explore the parts of the hobby I haven’t seen, haven’t had the chance to look into or are totally new to me. It’s a chance to make new friends and get reacquainted with old ones and generally embrace this wonderful hobby of ours.

I’m really looking forward to the #warmongers Meet Up, as is the rest of the team. We’ll be meeting at 1pm outside the hall at which point we’ll find somewhere out-of-the-way and compare swag. The last couple of years it’s been a recessed section opposite the hall so we were nice and visible to any late comers.

Finally, we will have The Shell Case pin badges to give away to the first people who come and say hi to us on the day. We won’t be hard to miss, the entire team (apart from our beloved Ashley who is stuck on the other side of a very large bit of water) will be there in shirts. And just in case, they’ve got our names on them so you can tell us apart.

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See you all tomorrow.

The Shell Case does Salute – Lee

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s Lee’s thoughts:

Lee

This year’s Salute is going to be a little different for me.  With my new role as Deputy Editor and increased responsibilities within The Shell Case, this time round will be significantly more business focused than previously.  Whereas last year I visited each stand and cooed approvingly at their products whilst Phil chatted to his contacts (or attempted to make new ones), this time I must attempt to join in the conversations – whilst cooing approvingly at their products. Hopefully I can pick up a few things and acquaint myself with those who support us. We also have some new companies we are interested in working with, and Salute brings many exciting possibilities.

The most important stop I must make on the day is…the Forgeworld stand (I’m only human, and a wargamer).  I should be taking delivery of a Sicaran Battle Tank and a set of Phoenix Guard Terminators – so I’m very excited (and maybe even a Mannan’s Blades bundle depending on how the day, and the wallet goes). I have a Helblaster shaped hole to fill in my Empire army (Phil will be pleased) and I’m also going to be keeping an eye out for some good quality modelling hardware – a Paint Station, some Micro Magnets and the like.  Aside from that, I’ll just see where my wandering takes me.

I’m also looking forward to meeting up with my fellow writers at The Shell Case (those that can make it) now being more familiar with their work – along with anyone else that wants to say hi.  In all honesty, the 12th can’t come soon enough.

Forgeworld Open Day – Event report

 

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Forgive me, gentle reader, should my fingers stumble in the scribing of this missive, because I’m knackered right?

A 5am 6am start (stupid daylight savings time!) saw me heading off to Nottingham to Warhammer World and the Forge World Open Day!

I arrived and was greeted by a huge queue which, once I defeated, lead to yet another queue. Yay! This time however it was the queue to buy ALL OF THE THINGS! I saved that for later and dove straight into the design studio, with the aim of tweeting the hell out of anything new and shiny I might find. And there was some great stuff on show.

Probably the most talked about new model on the day was the Cerastus Knight Lancer:

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cerastus lancer painted

They also had some rather nice heraldry shields on display:

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The new knight model is easily two inches taller than a standard knight and built to stride rapidly across the battlefield. I think we should expect its slightly bulkier brother to make an appearance in the not too distant future as well. The model is a plethora of pose-able pieces, and apparently any purchaser can look forward to positioning each piston individually. It’s definitely more flexible in its assembly than the plastic kit given that the three I saw on the day all looked very different (as you can see from the unpainted vs. painted shots above). There have been some rules doing the rounds now as well given that the third Horus Heresy book was available on the day, which also contains a lovely Mechanicum army list (more on them later).

Speaking of Horus…

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There were several painted examples of him on the day, this was my personal favourite. He was on sale as well, would’ve been extremely rude to turn him down, so I didn’t – here’s a little ‘unboxed’ shot. I’ll be doing a more detailed kit review once I start work on painting him up.

horus-unboxed

There was plenty of evidence of the new Salamanders content and a strong sense running around the design hall that the next primarch release would be at the Horus Heresy weekender in May, and that it would be none other than Monsieur He’stan himself! They did have a work in progress sculpt (looked pretty finished to me!) of the new Fire Drake terminators:

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fire-drake-2There is some beautiful detail on that shield.

The other main work in progress things that caught my eye were the new Gorgon Terminators, which are very definitely ‘in progress’ given their general lack of all of their necessary appendages:

 

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And last but not least the new Mechanicum models. Man I’ve developed a serious model-crush on these guys. Picked up a bunch of stuff on the day (would’ve been more but the Krios tank had sold out by the time I got to the front of the sales queue), but the general style of these guys really appeals to me. The kind of “Weird War I/II” with a smattering of Victoriana/steam punk is right up my street. The Krios weaponry options have been added to as well, with the Venator sporting an Ordnance 4 (eek!) bombard gun of doom (that is its technical name) and the Lightning Cannon, whilst only having a Strength 7 AP4 main stat-line, also having just about every special rule in the entire world (Shred, Rending, Instant Death, 3″ blast…)

Krios mechanicum

The Mechanicum also receive my (soon to be coveted by absolutely no-one) “most awesome model of the day” award for the rather tasty Thanatar Class Siege Automata:

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It’s big. It’s bad-ass. It’s got a cannon on its shoulder that will blow the head off the most well-set pair of shoulders. I want so many of these it hurts (my bank balance, presumably). Here he is with a bunch of his new friends, the combi-weapon toting Thallax and Castellax

mechanicum automata group

Finally (and I can only apologise for the pics of this, the lighting was terrible in this cabinet), the Tyranid hive mind can look forward to something called the “Dimacheron” appearing at some point in the future, looks like it will be almost biotitan sized (those legs are big!) and undoubtedly scary, it has lots of talons, and a sort of Mawloc style head.

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There was a smattering of Warhammer Forge stuff there as well, but not much in the way of brand spanking new content, though the Dread Saurian looks very nice in real life!

Finally then, the event-only models, a Minatours heavy bolter and a rather nice Chaos Dwarf Daemonsmith. I didn’t grab either of these myself, though I do now have a nice bright red horus mug to drink my tea out of.

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So, despite a hideously early start and some lengthy queues it was a great day. I gorged myself on lots of stunning Forge World models (and stuffed myself on nachos in Bugman’s as well) and would definitely go back again next year. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with a few #warmongers and talk state of the game and Games Workshop. Everyone I spoke to was certainly looking forward to the re-development of Warhammer World and, as would be expected at a GW event, positive about everything the day had to offer.

I’m now even more disappointed I won’t be at the Horus Heresy weekender. I suspect that will be rather special indeed.

And no, I didn’t win the Reaver Titan in the raffle. I am outraged.