Batman : Miniatures Game – A Review

This review has been a long time in the making. Years really. Let me explain why:

I’ve always liked Batman. As a child I liked the Adam West TV series. But that’s the thing: I liked it. I didn’t love it. It was too woolly and everything felt like they didn’t really understand where they were going with it. It was 2 Dimensional TV for the masses and that would have been fine had it been based on a 2 Dimensional comic book for the masses.

Even in the pastel tinted abyss that was the Silver Age Batman was still a conflicted character. Sure he’d been softened but that was because, unlike any other flagship IP, Batman was a commercial failure. At the time readers couldn’t get to grips with such a dark character. It was a case of evolve or die. The problem was it didn’t evolve, it rebooted.

Truth be told DC are stuffed whatever they do with an era in the Batman timeline that was erased decades ago. Ignore it and people still go na na na na na na na na Batman!…and I die a little inside. Acknowledge it and the only thing that dies is my soul.

The two things that saved Batman, in my opinion, was the Frank Miller’s non-canonical series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and the Batman Animated Series (1992). The former re-established the character as a crime fighting, bone breaking, badass and the latter gave it the commercial appeal it always needed. In the space of 6 years Batman was changed forever.

So what’s this Bat-history lesson in aide of? Put simply it’s to highlight just how much has changed. Obviously there’s been hiccups along the way, particularly with the movies franchises, but the character has come out of the other side as one of the most important and iconic characters of this and last century.

The release of a miniatures game may seem like small potatoes compared to rebooted franchises, multi million dollar movies and we haven’t even mentioned the Arkham video games. But it’s not. It’s important because Batman was and is a universal constant. He’s a hero that has successfully transcended genres, genders and ages.

Allowing a miniatures game is further recognition that we all, basically, want to be the Bat. In whatever form that may take. Even if that form may take running around the house with a bed sheet pinned around my shoulders thattotallyneverhappenedshutup.

But on to the game…


The first thing that is immediately apparent about the Batman Miniatures Game is that the book is a labour of love. The set piece photography has been so lovingly put together you can tell that the writers put everything into it producing something that DC and the fans would be proud of. It reminds me of the first edition of Games Workshop’s Fellowship of the Ring rulebook.

The production value is great. There’s a healthy mix of artwork from the comics and images from the Arkham video games. The book opens with a double page image from the Dark Knight Rises but I won’t hold it against them. It’s a premium production that’s roughly the same price as a Games Workshop codex but, if I’m brutally honest, is of a better quality. My only gripe is the showcase section of the book is 18 pages. Yes the models are cool but they could have been displayed in a more efficient way than that…like in the gang list section that doesn’t exist. But more on that later…

So in the Batman Miniatures Game players build crews of various types be they villains, cops or superheroes. The nice thing about the game, thanks to the variety of criminal scum in Batman, is that you can quite comfortably pit two criminal gangs against one another. Penguin verses Black Mask for example. Equally you can play games using just cops against the crims or just superheroes.

What has been well done is striking the balance between having the superheroes as walking examples of badassdom but still capable of being defeated if they’re singled out and attacked en masse.

The profiles are reasonable straight forward with key stats such as endurance, defence and attack all making an appearance. Where it suffers is the writing. It’s not badly written. It’s over written. Knights Models clearly wanted everyone to enjoy the Batman Miniatures Game so much that much of the book is over explained to the point that some parts I had to re-read to fully understand their meaning. It’s not the whole way through but I found myself skimming because I was getting bored of the repetition.

However this shouldn’t detract from what is essentially a very good game. A lot of thought went into the mechanic and how best to represent the fast paced action of the comics. For one thing every game is assumed to be set at night limiting line of sight to 30cm. This makes the game hugely tactical but suddenly makes anything that produces light a major threat or a major advantage depending on which end of it you’re standing.


In the Batman Miniatures Game each character has a Willpower value which indicates how many actions they can perform per turn. This elegantly allows the superheroes to kick face without having preposterously buffed stat lines as is common practise. Instead Batman gets to perform 8 actions per turn whereas your common crim only gets 5.

I can’t tell you much more about any character other than Batman because there are no profiles included in the book. Now, I didn’t know this which means that there’s a fair chance others picking up the book won’t either which is going to make for a big disappointment. Fortunately each model comes with a card so you won’t be forced to buy additional products so you can play the game.

That fairly major grumble aside the mechanic in Batman works well despite the abundance of tokens required to keep track of everything so, providing you know what you’re doing, each activation is reasonably quick.

Where it comes slightly unstuck is the two tiers of damage. Once you lose your endurance points you get knocked out. But there’s other forms of damage beside, which I’m not sure are needed and it took me three tries to understand how to inflict it and I’m still not sure how it works.

What is cool about the Batman Miniatures Game is the sheer volume of actions you can perform. Sure there’s running and face kicking but you can also do stuff like ping shots off objects to hit targets that would otherwise be hidden. Which is absolutely spot on for characters like Deadshot.

There’s also a list of special rules to put the 40k rulebook to shame. But it all goes towards making the game very cinematic and also encourages you to build and make use of, cool and groovy boards. Basically anything any character in a Batman comic has done you can do in the game. All you have to do is remember you have the option.

The sheer variety available reminds me of Inquisitor and that’s no bad thing.

What’s also pretty cool is a summary of the background at the back of the book for the less nerdy/initiated so everyone, not just the die yards, has a firm understanding of who’s who so they can make an informed choice over who to collect. Other than Batman. Obviously.

The Batman Miniatures Game is a good game. I was pleasantly surprised at how well thought out the game was to balance game play and authenticity. Yes the rules are a bit laboured in places but it doesn’t detract enough that I wouldn’t happily play it.

It’s touches like using reputation instead of points to govern the size of your crew as well as affixing a cash sum for equipment which stops players from having piles of hardware. The simple fact that superheroes are worth far more than henchmen you’re actually encouraged to think and fight like The Bat because you’ll get utterly spanked if you don’t. What the henchmen lack in ability they make up for in numbers and unbridled violence.

It’s great that the Batman Miniatures Game allows for and encourages you to take Jim Gordon and members of the GCPD and better still that going up against a supervillain is a genuine challenge for them. But most importantly, Batman or any member of the Bat Family aren’t unstoppable. Very tough to stop but still stoppable.

The Batman Miniatures Game rulebook is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.49.

Ruination Battle Cards – A Review

Now I think it’s fairly common knowledge that I’m not a massive fan of collectible card games. There’s 3 reasons for this:

  1. The absence of dice
  2. The absence of models
  3. The utterly twattish way I’ve seen some people build their decks.

However, whilst at the Bournemouth comic expo I spotted a familiar face. It belonged to the incredibly tall and extremely friendly Samsun Lobe, the man behind the Dying Star trilogy of books that the failed Kickstarter of the same name was based on.

Whilst the team behind the game are hard at work redoing the models and buffing up the rules for another run at Kickstarter (next year I believe) Samsun has been busy developing and putting out a collectible card game based on his second trilogy of books called Ruin.

Now before I get accused of betraying my principles and such this collectible card game uses, wait for it…dice. But more on that later.

The Ruination Battle Cards starter set that I was able to get my mits on comes with two decks, some spells, a game mat/board/sheet/thing and the aforementioned dice. It’s all nicely presented with foam inlay to keep everything nice although the cut out for the foam is a little snug which makes getting the cards in and out a slightly stressy experience. I was worried about ruining them.


Part of the reason for that is that the cards don’t have rounded edges which makes them prone to foxing and excessive wear. And whilst production value is high the card feels s little thinner than other games – of any type – so a little more care will be needed in terms of keeping them nice.


Although it’s care you won’t mind taking because all the cards are beautiful. There’s a lovely blend of conventional artwork and renders but all of it looks fantastic. Granted, there’s no associated fluff with the starter set so until you read the books or go to the website the various characters and spells aren’t going to mean…anything at all. Which is actually a bit of a shame. A leaflet on the world of Ruin would be a welcome addition to the starter set, just to wet your whistle.

To put it in context it’s like having Space Marine models without knowing anything about Space Marines. Yes they’re cool looking models but so what? Although at least with a deck of gaming cards you can at least muddle through a game.

And on to the game itself. As mentioned you get too decks and boosters are available so you have the option of building your deck as you see fit (grumble grumble grumble) however – and this what stops the game from being a duel of dickishness is the a combination of the cards and the dice.

The cards, like the time-honoured game of Top Trumps, has multiple values. Six in point of fact. So (and I think you can see where I’m going with this) in a game of Ruination a dice is rolled per round and that value determines the stat you compare. The weaker card is defeated and the winner stays on and the dice is rolled again. Spells can be used to augment the result but as you only get eight they have to be used sparingly.

The multiple profiles and the dice role means that building a deck is an agonising process as you need a firm strategy weighted by the law of averages both in terms of what cards you take but the order in which you stack your deck. Some cards are the proverbial Top Trump and nigh on unbeatable whereas others are much more of a risk. Which I like. The dice adds in that level of unpredictability that prevents the kind of power gaming that’s always put me off this kind of game.

The incredibly easy mechanic means that you’ll be playing within minutes and each game will be fast paced and actually a lot of fun. And for those gamers who don’t always have much time or want to smite a colleague over a lunch hour, this is ideal.

Ruination Battle Cards is actually a lot of fun. Am I a collectible card game convert? No. Will I play this? Yes. It still needs that last little spit and polish – mainly in the form of some kind of background sheet – to make it perfect but broadly it’s there.

You can purchase Ruination Battle Cards from Samsun Lobe’s website priced at £20.00.

Codex Craftworlds – A Review


Another year another Eldar Codex.

At least it seems that way. Eldar have been a headache for the design team ever since the first Codex that came out for second edition 40k. They’re a fascinating army in terms of background, army composition and game play. Not even the Tau can match the Eldar for how well all the various units work in concert. Granted it’s very much the case of easy to learn, difficult to master but that’s true of armies like Space Marines. No really. No really. Shut up.

I’ve been frustrated with Eldar for a long time because the books are always brilliant until you get to the army organisation and then it all comes unstuck for one reason or another so I wasn’t surprised that another Codex was released so soon after the previous one despite the fact that the previous version was actually pretty strong.

But onto the current version. Which could have been superseded in to the time it took me to read it and write this review for al I know…


Like the previous version the cover art is splendid. Not quite as dynamic but has veiled menace which I dig. It’s interesting that the Space Marine and Craftworlds codices both have junior officers on the covers rather than cool and groovy leader types. Not that they’re any less cool of course.

The production value has increased just as it did with the latest Codex Space Marines and there is lots of splendid new artwork. Not as much as I expected in light of Codex Space Marines but still plenty to make you boy parts and your girl parts (delete where appropriate) feel all warm and tingly. But like Codex Space Marines the artwork dominates double page spreads making the book incredibly thin in terms of actual content. Throw in 36 pages of photos and hobby section and the 160 page Codex Craftworlds doesn’t feel like…well a book. The artwork is beautiful, especially the newer stuff, but there’s just so much of it.

What content there is, however, is broadly well written. There’s still typos of course, but I’ve all but given up pointing those out because all it’s going to result in is an ulcer. There’s been a very well paced step forward in terms of the background for Codex Craftworlds. As with the previous version, this version seems to understand further still what it means to be an Eldar be it the path of the warrior, the outcast or balloon animal maker. Wait, what?

However some areas have been neglected either through space or the assumption that they won’t hold people’s attention. The biggest victim being the timeline. There’s fewer events and they just don’t feel as tightly written. The nice thing though is, overall, Codex Craftworlds does feel quite well written. I still feel at risk from hyperbolic overdose but nothing to the extent of Codex Space Marines. Although that was just poorly written rather than repetitive. Although it was that too.

There are some parts of the book that do feel rehashed and slightly lack lustre but overall all the Craftworlds have been given a vibrant lick of paint. Even Ulthwe has more going for it now than being stuck at the very edge of the Eye of Terror. Which is nice. I guess, more than anything, there feels like there’s a point to it all. The previous Codex did an awful lot in making the Eldar feel more tangible but this Codex builds on it and makes the Eldar feel like a people. More to the point a people that does actually interact with one another.

Weirdly that was always the thing with the Eldar: you never really got the impression that the various Craftworlds would have much to do with one another seeing as they have pretty different outlooks, ideologies, fighting styles and even agendas. This book does a lot to clarify that and to its very great credit. The Craftworlds feel more like nations now. Similar but yet different. Working towards common goals in very different ways that can cause friction, resentment and mistrust.

There’s also a general easing off the gas on the matter of the species dying out. Yes the race is the cusp but the emphasis is on that fact, not that they’re beyond saving. It’s an important distinction as one of the common grumbles was the point of playing as a species that was already doomed. Although if you really read into the background that can very much be argued for the Imperium. But I digress.

Broadly speaking the background in the Codex is great to read. Maybe it’s just me not remembering it much from the previous book but there seems to have been a lot of work done around the Wraith constructs and how Wraithguard, Wraithlords and Wraithknights fit into the grand scheme. I particularly like how unsavoury, yet necessary the entire situation is and that Spiritseers are treated with the same disgust as necrophiliacs.

The rules don’t seem to have changed…at all. A few things have gotten cheaper – like Howling Banshees. Presumably because everyone moaned that they were expensive die all the time. Now they’re less expensive and die all the time. So yay… That said the way Howling Banshees perform in this and the previous edition is a huge improvement on how they use to be.

The other tweak is that Dark Reapers get skyfire now which was badly needed.

The big deal in this Codex is, as with some of the others, the formations. Which are fucking mad. If it’s not free weapons platforms, it’s special rules or adding +1 to ballistic skill or weapons skill. Fire Dragons and Dark Reapers with a BS of 5 is just horrid. And wraith hosts make me want to vomit in terror. They get to re-roll failed hits against any enemy within 18 inches of the Spiritseer. I mean really?

Broadly speaking there wasn’t huge cause to redo the Codex. The points changes are convenient but I very much doubt they kept many Eldar players up at night. They will however be kept up masturbating furiously over the formations. There’s literally not a one I wouldn’t take. They’re all amazing. Dire Avengers get 3 shots. What the hell?

Of course the cynic in me would argue this entirely to sell all the models. But you know what? Who cares? Eldar range is gorgeous. Even the Eldar Guardians which must be around 17 years old now, are still awesome. And the bottom line is this:

The Eldar army has had significant weaknesses since 3rd Edition. Weaknesses that made the Eldar a real challenge to use. I’d go so far as to say that they’re one of the hardest armies to use. I’m certainly not the best gamer in the world but I’m certainly not the worst and I found them a challenge. I good challenge but I found strategy and tactics were tempered with faith far more than with other armies. And I’ve played with them all.

The formations in Codex Craftworlds give all the various units a buff that dramatically improves their combat effectiveness. It broadly doesn’t tackle their biggest issues – poor toughness and poor armour – but by increasing the odds of hitting or beefing up the fire power it goes some way to mitegating those weaknesses. Because, if you’re doing your job right, there will be fewer things alive to shoot back. The big revelation is this – it’s going to make the Eldar a challenge to play against.

You’re not going to save killer levels of points with the free support weapons and free upgrades but free guns are free guns. But it’s the special rules and stat buffs that you’re after anyway.

Is Codex Craftworlds going to set your world ablaze? Actually it might just. The formations are so good that no self respecting Eldar player should be without…any of them. The minor rule tweaks and points reductions are an added bonus. The flyers and wraith constructs are still sick and be crammed into your armies wherever possible.

Codex Craftworlds is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

Star Wars Armada – A Review

swm01_featureNow I seem to remember saying some time ago, around about the time I had a game of X-Wing involving a full squadron of fighters, that X-Wing – as much as I love it – doesn’t have the slick rules or the flexibility for really big games. A dozen fighters a side took ages and the dogfights, whilst awesome, did get really messy on the board. Shortly after Star Wars Armada was announced which leads me to conclude either FFG have planted a bug somewhere about my person or they had the same thought but about a year prior… I know, it’s totally the bug thing.

So fleet sized engagements in the Star Wars universe huh? Well all I can say is: fucking yes! This has been a long time coming and, if I’m honest, I almost needed this game to be good. X-Wing is so much fun but the mechanic was buckling beneath the weight of FFG’s ambition. As cool as it was to have a Corellian Corvette on your board, it wasn’t the most practical thing to play with. That goes double for the Imperial Raider.

Star Wars Armada, it seems, is the answer to our prayers – a game that allows Star Wars fans to don the warbly bits of Admiral Ackbar and yell ‘It’s a trap!’ at least once a turn. Even when it isn’t.

My other reservation about the game was the price. It’s more than twice the price of the X-wing starter set. Sure you get twice the plastic but as the X-Wing box was a lot of money for a lot of cardboard it still doesn’t feel like great value. The thought being: if the starter set is £80 how much is it going to cost to build any kind of viable fleet? The answer is: shit loads. A lot just doesn’t cover it. Expansions start at around £17 full retail but the average cost of a decent ship is £35 upwards. And you’ll need roughly a dozen to make the games tasty. So almost 3 times what it costs to play X-Wing. The concluding thought after all this was: this game better be fantastic…

swm01_boximageIn truth? It’s not far off. The rules are terribly laid out – think Dystopian Wars 1st edition (sorry Spartan Games but it’s true). It’s so poor that all the rules that explain how the hell you do all the things you’re told about in the main rules are called ‘Additional Rules’. I can only assume that some one meant to write ‘Essential Rules’ but just wasn’t paying attention.

Considering Star Wars Armada isn’t excessively complicated it takes far more concentration than it should to understand how to do anything. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe what FFG thought was: if the rules are so laboriously written people will really put the effort in.

The reality is there’s irritated gamers and Star Wars fans lurking outside FFG’s offices waiting to slap anyone that looks remotely responsible.

I stress the rules themselves are not bad, you’ll just spend the first half of the rulebook looking confused and the second half of the rulebook looking both relieved and annoyed.

The weird thing is that there’s a reference booklet included in the box that’s actually clearer than the rulebook. Which makes no sense what-so-ever. It’s still clumsily written so the rulebook has the edge because it provides you with examples without which you’d be lost.

However, once you’ve ploughed your way through Star Wars Armada‘s rules, what you have is actually a pretty slick game. It takes the simple principles of the X-Wing game and builds on them so the basic phases and functions of the game are just as simple but you get all the fun of hammering capitol ships thrown in to the mix as well.

The result is a game that’s quick and involves throwing fistfuls of dice. It’s fair to say that’s usually a hallmark of a good game.

The fact that you need to measure arcs for both shooting and damage isn’t as much of faff as you’d think and fighter squadrons make a real contribution to the action in Armada, much like they did in the movie so bravo to FFG for striking the balance as well as they did. Although if you’re a Rebel player always take Luke Skywalker, his special rule is broken. And very useful…

All the various phases are quick and the shooting mechanic not only works but reminds me of the days of my long-lost youth playing X-Wing on the PC. What I mean is this: the longer the range the fewer shots the ship will make and the less accurate they become. This took me back to making attack runs and seeing ranging shots flash past the cockpit only to find my shields being hammered a few seconds later as I closed within effective range. How it’s worked it is simple and visually represented on profile cards and the range rule so you don’t have to waste time buggering about with the rulebook.

Damage in Star Wars Armada is tracked much like X-Wing, using cards, which is good because it’s a satisfying thing making your opponent draw them. Where it does differ is shields are tracked on the base using wheels for the four arcs. Again this is inspired because large games of X-Wing were a nightmare of models covered in wobbly stacks of cardboard.

My only real gripe is tracking the activation of fighters is needlessly complicated. The stands have slides which move under the base to denote if they’ve been activated or not. The colour representing activated changes depending on the colour of the initiative counter. It’s confusing. Surly a far simpler solution would have been to have sliders marked with ‘awaiting’ and ‘activated’ or similar?

Other than that though it’s a really tidy little game. The profile cards have subtle differences almost to the point of being unnecessary, much like in X-Wing but it didn’t bother me then so why should it bother me with Star Wars Armada? Like X-Wing, the upgrades offer some interesting game changes to keep players amused.

armada_stp1_compAs for the models themselves for what they are and their size, pretty good. You get a Nebulon-B Frigate and a CR90 Corellian Corvette for the Rebels and a Victory Class Star Destroyer for the Imperials. The detail is more than sufficient and the pre-painted standard is okay. Roughly the same as that of X-Wing. However because the models in Star Wars Armada are of a small-scale that quick, slightly slapdash, approach works far better. A black wash works far better on something the size of the corvettes in Armada than the fooking huge one in X-Wing. Ultimately, they look good and they escape feeling like expensive Micro Machines.

In fact the whole set, as one would expect from Fantasy Flight Games is produced to a very high standard. I seriously doubt it’s £80 high though. Although maybe we’re paying fro the truly outrageous amounts of packaging. The box is 5.5 inches deep. It could be half that and there’d still be rattling around room. There really is no excuse for such an excessively big box other than to make people think they’re getting something hefty. I can well imagine new gamers feeling slightly cheated when they open Star Wars Armada for the first time. I didn’t because I knew  what to expect. I knew what to expect because they fooled me with X-Wing.

The mad sized box and the price tag aside there’s no denying that Star Wars Armada is a brilliant game. It’s fun, it’s fast paced yet you’ll still get to spend a decent amount of time smacking each other around the board without it dragging on for too long. Whilst the various counters etc all make sense there’s going to be somewhat of a learning curve making sure they all get used in the right way at the right time but that’s not an unusual condition for a new game.

So is Star Wars Armada worth the hefty price tag? No with a but. It is flatly not worth full retail price. It’s still a push at £68 (from Firestorm Games) but considering the entire offering of the box and the contents will actually keep you entertained for quite a while, it can be justified. Barely. However it’s important to consider the quality of the game, not just the models and piles of cardboard. It is a good game. A game that you’ll wince paying or but the point is you will pay for it because ultimately you’ll enjoy it.

Star Wars Armada is available from Firestorm Games priced £67.99.


Codex Adeptus Astartes – A Review


I must admit, when I saw a new Codex Space Marines had been released I had to check the date of my last review to make sure I wasn’t going mad. The previous edition was just 2 years old. Now I’ve never been one to stand in the way of progress (stop laughing) but that does seem a little soon and understandably makes people nervous about committing to a £35 book if it’s going to be replaced just 24 months later. It’s little wonder the illegal download underground is getting bigger all the time.


As with other, more recent, Games Workshop publications, the by line is absent. Presumably to stop the bilious tirade directed at any one person that ensues when a new codex comes out. Bringing a new book so soon is bound to cause a certain degree of justified gnashing of teeth.

As with the previous book it’s just lovely to look at. From the cover art to every picture on every page is glorious and much of it, if I’m not mistaken, is new. Which for us old buggers is a bit of a treat. But there’s also a couple of images realised in colour that I’ve only seen in black and white, which is nice.

The quality of production has been increasedThe lining paper is a better fit and feels less luck it was stuck down by PVA. The hateful fold-in reference sheet is gone and with it the embarrassingly shonky folds.

Sadly the increase in quality doesn’t extend to the writing. There are fewer typos than the last book and they weren’t on the first page but they are still there. There’s also some stellar mixed metaphors, the worst of which is in the opening gambit. The background of Codex Adeptus Astartes feels, if I’m honest, nearly as lacklustre as the previous version. There have been some improvements for but the overarching theme doesn’t have any of the sense of urgency, drama or presence that previous books sweated from every surface. This book kinda feels like the Codex equivalent of the Amazing Spider-man 2: it’s drips with obligation rather than inspiration. It’s fulfilling of an intellectual property requirement rather than a promise of excitement, heroism and valour.

So Codex Adpetus Astartes isn’t worse than the 2013 Codex Space Marines. Hooray! Although I’m fairly certain there’s a smaller word count despite it being a thicker book (200 pages to 180). The artwork, splendid as it is, occupies a half page apiece on average. Sometimes more. The timelines in the previous edition were not only far prettier to look at, but more substantial. Each of the first founding chapters got fluff and timelines, that’s all been replaced by three of four paragraphs. It’s shame because the Ultramarines end up dominating the book more than they did before which does nothing to smooth over the – by this point – fairly mean-spirited bitching and belly-aching that is abound within the 40k community towards them. It would be good news for Ultramarines if the their background was written with any personality what-so-ever.

That said there’s some interesting tweaks to the background, one of which actually makes the Iron Hands interesting. Like: Horus Heresy books interesting. Like they’re all a bunch of repressed, self mutilating, sociopaths that are all one tin-man joke away from losing their shit and killing everyone. It’s brilliant. The best bits about the Heresy Salamanders is also evident, emphasising their compassion and their place as leaders of humanity rather than rulers. So whilst Codex Adeptus Astartes does condense, it does work harder to draw gamers towards the more exotic adherents of the Codex Astartes.

Overall though the layout of Codex Adeptus Astartes is strong and brings it in line with Codex Orks, which is a fantastic book. The army list is long but clear. The variety of Space Marine units available means there’s going to be a fair bit of flicking backwards and forwards for the purposes of army list writing but the upside it that you shouldn’t miss any notes or special rules with everything right there in front of you.

It does get a bit woolly in places and the Imperial Fists and their successor chapters are relegated to tertiary chapters whose histories focus around Lysander, Helbrecht and Grimaldus. But the good news for Black Templar players is they get an apology by way of really good Chapter Tactics. The Black Templars used to piss me off royally with their bullshit list of special rules. Whilst this list is thankfully a thing of the past, they still fare far better than most benefiting from bonuses to running, bonuses to Deny the Witch rolls, they get Counter Attack and Rage and all its cost them is the use of Librarians.

The rest of the rules are largely unchanged with a few points changes here and there. There’s been a subtle push towards flyers and anti-flyer units as the Stormtalon’s weapons systems have been halved in points and they get +1 to their jink save when hovering which makes them a massively more appealing option albeit at the cost of the Escort Craft special rule (this has been thrown into a formation instead). Equally the Stalker’s gun has lost a shot but can now split fire with its remaining three shots at Ballistic Skill 4 or, if it shoots at a single target it’s twin-linked. That’s nasty.

One of the changes that’s tickled me and is up there with equipping Havoc squads with plasma guns and a rhino as something to try is you can turn Tactical Squads into Wraightknight hunters. All you need to do is equip the squad with a grav-cannon, grav-gun and a grav-combi bolter. Although you could do similar with Devastator squads in a Rhino. You’d need to pick your moments wisely but it’d certainly make a real mess.

Master of the Forge appears to have gone the way of the Dodo and instead the humble Techmarine has had a 15 points increase but got an extra wound for their trouble with the option of all the cool and groovy upgrades. This is by no means the end of the world as you can still have a Techmarine leading your army but you’ve saved 25 points and it’s cost 1 point of Ballistic Skill.

The formations are no doubt what will get many hot and hard as it affords lots of big delicious bonuses for taking certain combinations of models. I deliberately missed out the word ‘expensive’ because it was obvious. Unfortunately it’s those with the deepest pockets or the biggest collections (they’re not necessarily the same thing) that will really benefit from these formations and they’re bonkers special rules.

Regular readers will know that I have two full companies of Ultramarines – 1st and 5th. This means I can, and often do, field a full battle company. This means I get all my transports for free. Hurrah! I can also field a Land Raider Spearhead the bonuses of which means I get to ignore everything but immobilised and vehicle destroyed results on the damage table as long as they stay in formation. Oh, and re-roll failed rolls to wound or for armour penetration. I mean really? I would actually feel embarrassed fielding that. I mean I’m gonna, but I’ll blush slightly as I kick the shit out of whoever I’m playing against.

Although there’s still no way to take a legal 1st Company army list which is such a shame, especially as the 1st Company formation feels more like they’re trying to push expensive models than because it’s accurate. It’s not the end of the world as gamers can just use an unbound list, it just would have been nice to give the option.

The hobby/showcase section in this Codex is huge. A fairly indulgent 43 pages compared to the previous 28 pages. So 15 of the extra pages in this version have been given over to pictures basically. Although I shouldn’t be surprised as most of the pages in the book have been given over to pictures. That said, because of the way the images are presented it’s going to make painting and marking Space Marine chapters are less painful experience now which is an extremely good thing. Thinking back to my staff days, one of the hardest things younger gamers had to deal with was getting that stuff right and it’s nice to see the book written inclusively rather than targeted at one audience or the other. I just wish it wasn’t quite so much of the book.

The reality of Codex Adeptus Astartes is that it’s essentially the second edition of the previous one. The background is blah rather than bad. The rules have had a review and there’s been a few interesting changes. Some subtle, some not so much. The presentation of the army list is clear and concise. The irritating things about the old book, like the folded reference sheet, are gone. It’s a nicer, better put together book.

I do still yearn for the days of Chapter traits because they made them all far more interesting. The tactics are fine and being an Ultramarine player I certainly can’t grumble but it still doesn’t quite grab me by the hobby spot. This said, there is still some improvements in there that’ll please one or two of the wargaming community. Unfortunately this book is, again, very much aimed at gamers that use Codex chapters. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing in there for Salamander players etc but there’s just not as much. Actually I’m pretty sure there’s less than before but I suspect that’ll be remedied with supplement books.

Overall Codex Adeptus Astartes is an average offering fixing many of the bugs in the previous books whilst introducing some interesting – albeit Easter egg sized – changes that will have far more impact than some appreciate. The formations are interesting enough that people will want to take them and broken enough that they’ll feel guilty doing it. But with some of the combinations out there, they won’t be alone. The background is a little stale but it is better but there’s still huge room for improvement. It is, end to end, beautiful. It’s also a big book about Space Marines.

Codex Adeptus Astartes is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – A Review

gw-rules-bannerI leave the hobby alone for five minutes!

A lot has changed during my hiatus. There’s bat shit crazy amounts of new stuff for X-Wing. There’s whole new armies for 40k and yet more re-released rulebooks. Spartan Games has landed a Halo fleet game (soooo getting that!) and it seems the entire Warhammer World has been destroyed. Careless.

Now I must be honest, I wasn’t living in a hole in the ground, I was aware that 9th Edition Warhammer was looming. I was also aware of the End Times books and the bonkers models but as I couldn’t give it any time I didn’t give it any thought. Oh what a mistake that was. It was a mistake because 9th Edition Warhammer isn’t 9th Edition anything. Warhammer ended with 8th Edition. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, 1st Edition, however has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Well I was unsuspecting so sod the rest of you.

If I’m honest, for the interests of this review, it’s actually a good thing I didn’t have a clue what the hell was going on. It’s kept me far more objective than someone that’s been in the hobby as long as I have has any right being. Because it’s changed. A. Lot.

The premise is basically this: everything is fucked. No really. The Warhammer World as we knew it has been destroyed. Archaon decided to blow everything up. Just coz. The result was Chaos running riot over the world and the fabric of reality unravelling like a sweat shop jumper. There are now multiple plains on which the various forces of order, chaos, death, destruction and candy floss duke it out for…well, I have no idea what for because there’s nothing left worth holding on to. It’s a Chaos wasteland. Not to be confused with a teenage wasteland, that would have more cider cans and used condoms I suspect.

The problem is most of that information was explained to me by my brother Sunday evening because I haven’t read the End Times books and without them you don’t have a clue what the background book is banging on about. Whoever wrote it tried to follow a similar mythical vein to Warhammer 40,000 but falls so woefully short of the mark that it’s just a confused, vague, mess. I have no idea how new gamers are supposed to understand the first thing about the world when the writer clearly didn’t.

And it’s not just that it’s vague, it’s poorly written. The word vengeance is so heinous in its overuse that I gave up keeping a tally. The number of ways they’ve tried to cram the word Sigmar into places, items and objects is embarrassing. There is only one, maybe two, references to other races in the game and there is nothing remotely scroll-like about the warscrolls, but on to those later.

On the upside the book is beautiful. It’s nicely put together and the artwork is amazing. The layout is broken down into logical sections allowing new gamers to absorb the information (and they’re going to need to!) before moving on to the next. I suppose that’s the point of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, it’s not aimed at old wargaming dinosaurs like me. It’s for a new and far younger audience that have grown up on a diet of Pokemon, Adventure Time and copious amounts of Capri Sun. The book bludgeons you over the head with heroes and villains. Of vengeance and slaughter. It’s kinda like sitting next to the weird chatty person on the bus. After a while you just tune out.

The reason I’ve spent 600 words complaining about the background, or lack thereof, is because I’m a fluff gamer. It’s the background that kept me into the various Games Workshop systems all the while my wallet begged me to leave. The fact that it was always five minutes to midnight, at the very brink of annihilation, is what made it compelling. The small glimmer of hope, the nobility of sacrifice, the feats of heroism and all supported by a rich and vibrant history. Boy is it history now. So much so it’s only referenced as the time before. The Games Workshop have hit the big red reset button of destiny. Warhammer is dead. Long live Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

And speaking of the hammer wielding God-King: his gold clad Fantasy Marines, also known as the Stormcast Eternal (no really) are really quite awesome models. I mean seriously cool. Side stepping the quite shameless attempt to waggle them at young gamers shouting ‘hey these are like those Space Marines you like but with big hammers’, they are quite excellently sculpted. The detail on them is not just impressive but cleverly incorporated into the design. And us old buggers will inevitably draw comparisons to MkI Thunder Armour.

They’re big too. Bigger than a Terminator big. They feel substantial and look every bit the vengeful (fantasy) Angels of Death you’d want them to be. Plus all the hammers look amazing. Considering it’s a bit of a gimmick, they actually do a good job of making all the various hammers look distinct yet fit for purpose. That purpose being vengeance. Apparently. The styling is very close to that of the Blood Angels Sanguinary Guard which will no doubt spark a deluge of highly groovy conversions although I certainly wouldn’t want to try to get the comet sigil of all the surfaces.

Truth be told, I don’t have a problem with their being a Space Marine style army in Warhammer. It’s been lacking for years. If you wanted to do an elite army your options were either Warriors of Chaos or some super wanky army list that made you lose friends quicker than acute halitosis. Or something so achingly characterful that you’d lose all the time. So hooray, big armour clad (vengeful) heroes for everyone.


Equally the Khorne models are awesome. Some of the poses are a little flat with the time-honoured brandishing weapons to the side poses, but the detail is there in spades and considering it’s Khorne it doesn’t get too daft. Apart from Bloodstoker, he’s shit. Even the icon bearer, Bloodsecrator (no really) doesn’t look preposterous. The icon itself is fantastic and would have made a stupendous battle standard-bearer for 8th Edition – and he still might sports fans. You’d think the spinal column he has for a ponytail would be eyebrow raisingly silly but actually it just works.

I’m side stepping Khorgoraths model because whilst it isn’t bad, it doesn’t wow me either but it’s such a shameless rip off of the Slaughterbrute from 40k that it pretty much has the same pose. Tisk tisk.

The Blood Warriors are my favourites though. Effectively the equivalent of the Chaos Space Marines in the 40k boxset the level of detail on them is impressive and they’d make fantastic Chosen warriors in the 8th Edition army. As would the lower level Bloodreavers to be honest, they’re that hench.

But on to the game itself. Now, a lot has been said about the lack of points and such and one must assume the Games Workshop has something up its sleeve on this topic because if it was simply a case of ‘I have 20 blokes, you have 20 blokes’ why are the number of models you get for each side in the box different? There’s clearly a balance there which suggests, at some point, there will be a system for selecting your forces.

I deliberately didn’t use the word armies there because you can’t take them any more. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is very much a detachment level game like 40k is/was. Whilst the rules have been streamlined to near collectible card game levels of simplicity, the multiple wounds for every model on the board would make it impossible to play a large game. More on that shortly.

It’s been widely publicised that the rules have gone from a big beast of a book to 4 sides of A4. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of the biggest barriers to entry for any kind of wargame is the size of the rules. Stripping it back to little more than a pamphlet is a very brave move and a clear signal from the Games Workshop that they want as many people enjoying the game as possible. I’d like to point out it probably would have been less hassle just to make the models cheaper but there we go…

If I were to cast my mind back to the distant past of the early noughties when I worked for the Games Workshop Warhammer was by far the hardest game to get younger games psyched about. Not because the world was lacking, far from it (*cough cough*) but because the intricacies of deployment and movement were lost on them or seemed like too much hassle compared to the board next door which had blokes running around in every direction blowing one another’s faces off. When a game went well it really went well and Little Jimmy would toddle out of the store having spent all his allowance as well as his father’s booze fund for the month. But for every 3 Warhammer starter sets I sold, I’d sell 9 40k’s.

Under the new rules the longest section, by a mile, is the battlefield section. This actually makes a great deal of sense as one of the big draws for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar isn’t just the new shiny models – although they are – but the mad as bat shit world those models now inhabit. Because it’s all a bit mental boards can be as varied as those used in games of Warhmmer 40,000. And because the models are now on round bases the boards can be used almost universally.

This is a shrewd move by Games Workshop. It encourages the hobbyist to go all out on a board, buying up all the things, knowing that they can use it for either system (more or less). The logic is that gamers were put off purchasing because they knew they were going to do have to build a board twice. Two large hobby projects that don’t involve armies would put off just about everyone except Lee of The Chaps. But the cost remains. Now a daemon world board, for example, is now good for both systems.

The rules for movement are largely unchanged. You have a value, you move the value etc. Shooting and combat are now so aligned in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar that they may as well have written one long section called ‘Twatting Shit’. Again, this isn’t a criticism but to highlight how surprisingly elegant they’ve made the rules. All weapons have a range. You may raise a cynical eyebrow but it makes sense. A bloody great big hammer has a longer range/reach than a regular hammer. It’s logic lifted straight from the pages of Inquisitor and that was a great game.

It’s weapons and not the man that do the heavy lifting in W:AoS, which has more irony  than perhaps was intended. The profile of the model has been stripped right back to Movement, Wounds, Bravery and Save. And because of how the weapons work it stops characters from becoming complete monsters like they could in 8th Edition thanks to the heady cocktail of weapons and items available to them. They’re still as tough as old boots but due to the way some weapons can inflict multiple points of damage they’re not invincible either.

But the system is simpler because there’s no charts any more. A weapon has a number of attacks, a required roll to hit, roll to wound and will inflict x number of damage points/wounds. It also has a rending value which is the fancy new name for the save modifier.

Indeed the fact that some weapons can inflict multiple wounds is just as well because most models have multiple wounds now which is gonna mean lots of record keeping. Which would have been a nightmare under the old system with so many models on the board. And that’s really the biggest thing I had to reconcile with: Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is not a game of big fisty-cuffs any more.

Again, this isn’t a complaint as such. Big games of 8th Edition Warhammer took forever to play depending on your army and rules knowledge. It’s a huge barrier to entry. Throw in the precise set up and movement and it’s little wonder Games Workshop had such a hard time not just drawing in, but keeping younger gamers. Granted, there’s an argument to be had for the game being for the seasoned gamer but how commercially viable is that?

You can now get through a game similar in size increments to 40k in an evening and still have time to tell smutty jokes to your mates. This, if we’re really honest with ourselves, is a good thing.

I really like the rules. It makes life so much simpler. I hate the stupid names they’re trying to give everything but you can’t win them all. And some of the special rules included in the book are a bit iffy but overall, they’re pretty strong and, perhaps the biggest thing, they’re quick!

Where it gets let down – and I’m by no means the first person to say this – is the army structure and points system. In that there isn’t one. You can literally take whatever the hell you like as long as the forces are equal. Which is impossible to determine because there are no values.

I understand the logic – if you take a wanky army no one will play you so take a balanced army. Games Workshop has woefully underestimated the sheer volume of beardy, smelly, friendless tossers that prowl games clubs and infest tournaments looking for some poor unsuspecting (and usually novice) gamer to absolutely destroy. I’ve known dozens of them over the years. I’m willing to bet that everyone can think of at least one at their local hobby store or club as well.

Moreover the people with the biggest model collections will win. Not because they’re using the most models but because they can pull out the unit that will best counter the army of someone who is just starting out. The whole idea relies on people being good and decent which isn’t impossible, just very hard with no guidelines on how to balance your forces.

The daft thing is I could take a starting army of Chaos Lords. Under the rules I can summon a Slave to Darkness unit per model per turn on a 4+. So for every Lord I take I can attempt to summon anything in the army which has the Slave to Darkness special rule. Chaos Warriors come in units of at least 10. And I may be getting this wrong but I think I could summon more Chaos Lords too. Who in turn can summon more on top. It’s just mental! Again the counter argument is ‘but no one would play you’. 1. That’s just not true and 2. the argument should never ever take place. Points limits, unit limits and army organisation was never and is not a bad thing. It was far easier to spot a power-gamer before. Now everyone has the potential to be one.

And as I’m on the subject of the warscrolls – three things.

1. It’s an utterly stupid, deliberately commercial, name aimed at Generation I Choose You!

2. It’s awesome that Games Workshop have made warscrolls available for all the various armies for free. I have no idea if these are just place holders, whether or not new books will come out or if it’ll stay digital. That’s not for here, it’s just cool that we got something for free. However…

3. Whoever wrote the warscrolls was either high, mentally deranged or has utter contempt for those that would use them. There are special rules within the warscrolls that demand gamers to grunt like animals, shout Waaagh or lay on some form of amateur dramatics if they want to get the most out of certain special rules or spells. Seriously.

Now I’m the first to admit to inciting a Waaagh of a Sunday morning with a table full of beginners. But they were 10. And even they felt like twats. How is a seasoned gamer in his 40’s or 50’s supposed to feel about shouting Waaagh in his dining room or, worse, a games club if he wants to use his army properly? It’s insulting.

It’s insulting because Games Workshop are either so woefully out of touch that they thought it was a good idea or they wanted to stop people from using certain units because they’re being phased out and it would soften the blow. I can’t accept that someone woke up one morning thinking that it would be a valuable and worthwhile addition to the rules to have gamers cavort for the amusement of others.

So what of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar? Well, if you hadn’t guessed: I’m a bit mixed on the whole thing. The models are stupendous. I mean really top-notch. A little bonkers in places but that’s hardly a new direction for Games Worksop, or indeed most wargaming companies.

The background is mess. Not poor as such, just poorly written (there’s a difference) and very confused. It needs seriously tightening up if there’s going to be a second edition Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I honestly didn’t have the foggiest idea what was going on until I got the summary from my brother. And this is bad because it’s obviously aimed at a new and much younger audience who probably wouldn’t have read the End Times books.

The rules are actually very good. Super slick and whilst pixie dice will no doubt be needed it’s a significantly smaller commitment in time. Throw in the fact that you need fewer models for a good-sized game and the impact of hobby time shrinks as well which means more people will complete projects. And when I say people I mean me. Huzzah.

The army lists/warscrolls/post-it notes of power/whatever are stupidly named but nicely laid out and, more or less, pretty clear in their intent. But some of the free to download warscrolls have some utterly maddening rules in them so I strongly urge you to take a red pen to them.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar isn’t 9th Edition no matter what anyone says. It just isn’t. It’s a totally different beast living in a totally different world. Actually nine of them. And you know what? It’s fine. Overall it’s a reasonable attempt. It’s a good game let down by the simple fact that the majority, if not all, of the lore keepers, who wrote the really strong stuff, departed years ago and the heavy lifting is now done by the Black Library writers.

I freely admit that I will continue to play 8th Edition. For me it was the best, and as it turns out, last version of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I will complete my Warriors of Chaos army as best I can and enjoy 8th Edition the same way I do Mordheim: as a finished game, forever unchanging.

But I can also see myself playing Age of Sigmar in some small way. It’s a good game. But the departure for me is that I won’t be invested in this world the way I was the old one. 26 years of hobby experience aside (shut up I started when I was very young), the world just isnt’ as rich and it won’t be for a little while yet I fear. Which is fine as long as I know going in.

Should seasoned gamers pick up Warhammer: Age of Sigmar? Yes, they absolutely should. Firstly, the models are awesome and have fantastic hobby potential. Secondly, t’s a great game and should be enjoyed as such, just leave your memories at home next to your shattered innocence.

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is available from Firestorm Games priced £63.75.

Ork Gorkanaut – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoThis review is later than planned because my daughter selfishly got sick and meant all my evenings were spent caring for her instead of building the Gorkanaut. I’ve still not finished it but I’m far enough along that I can confidently review it.

It’s awesome.

Review over.

Gorkanaut_MorkanautAs if! My opinions can never be confined to two words.

Just for the benefit of those that have been living in an Ork free cave for the last few months, the Gorkanaut/Morkanaut is the latest big kit to roll off the production line bring the Green Menace up to snuff with the Imperium, Tau and Eldar. And like the Imperial Knight there are options to build one of two types of big clanky architects of destruction.

Whilst I plan on having both variants in my Freebooter’s army I kicked things off with the Gorkanaut because it’s my favourite of the two. The only real difference is the primary weapon and the absence of the Kustom Forcefield. And a less mekky head.

The kit has needed instructions. There’s a lot of parts and some of them need to keep moving after the gluing and it wouldn’t take much to get that wrong without the guidance from the below par diagrams. And between the below par diagrams and the sheer volume of cool bits and bobs to add it takes a good long while to build the kit. If you’re planning on using it the day you buy it, start early.

It’s brilliant fun to build though. The kit strikes the balance between strength and posibility perfectly aside from the legs being a little static, but it’s forgivable considering the design of the model and the inevitable limitations. But there are options enough you can mix it up a bit. Plus if you’ve bought any other Ork vehicles there’s no shortage of odds and sods to really make it feel individual. Which is just as well if you’re planning on having more than one of these bad boys in your army. And why wouldn’t you?

The detail on the kit is awesome. The bulkheads have that rough and uneven feel of something that’s been hand-made which, of course, they would be. And the areas around the legs and feet have wearing from the legs being poorly designed and made which, of course, they would be.

The hard points and the weapons design means you can build either configuration without the need of lots of spare and wasteful plastic. It also affords some subtle variation as well as conversion opportunities. The big shootas would also look awesome slapped across the wings of Dakkajets for anyone wanting to really tool up their flyers.

There are lots of little touches to the kit that imply real thought on behalf of the Meks albeit none of it terribly clever. Like the mud guards by the leg and the fact it kinda looks like a Mek got carried away trying to build a suit of Terminator armour. It is a poor man’s Stompa in many ways though, in the same way that a Killa Kan is a poor man’s Deff Dred. It’s not a gripe as such but it does lack the same gravitas or the same degree of crudity to its construction. But it will still look badass on the board. Until you buy a Stompa. And for the difference in money you kinda have to ask yourself why you’d opt for the Gorkanaut.

But truth be told it’s an excellent kit in its own right and whilst the Gorkanaut’s big brother is the cooler and better value option it’s also the less practical one. And you can field two Gorkanauts for the points.

In game terms it’s typically Orky in its application. Volumes of dice from a big shooty weapon, in the case of the Gorkanaut, that will miss more than it hits, and a claw to tear open…well, everything. And it’s needed. The fact that it’s armour is 13 to the front and side is pretty amazing for Orks but it’ll still be vulnerable through sheer weight of fire and most armies having vastly superior anti-tank. So for the points it’s a gamble as you’ll be forced to send it stomping across the board in the hope of it making its points back.

The Morkanaut more so for me. Whilst it’s Kustom Forcefield affords it durability – which is handy considering the small transport capacity – but it’s single shot weapon will be useless 4 times out of 6. And even then the kustom mega-blasta lacks the punch to be major threat to heavily armoured vehicles like Leman Russ or Land Raiders. Instead it’s far better put to use crippling APCs and support vehicles forcing the enemy out into the open where the rest of the Ork army can wade in. The claw is for the big meaty stuff. But even then don’t hinge your game plan on it.

Annoyingly the support weapons will probably be more use considering how likely either ‘Naut is to get mobbed by nasty choppy units.. Especially on the Morkanaut as it lacks the anti-personnel potency of the Gorkanaut to thin the herd.

But it’s an Ork vehicle and Ork players have come to expect very little from their army so anything that does come off is a bonus. And in the mean time they have a very cool model on the board that looks scary and might draw some fire for a couple of turns. And maybe, just maybe, it may take something down with it. If it doesn’t just console yourself with the fact that it was immense fun to build and looks awesome.

The Gorkanaut kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £55.25