Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reading: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Finally finished it.  Here's my official review:

While the book certainly had its strengths, it was a huge disappointment.  To summarily break it down to numbers, I would say if the author or editor had trimmed the fat 465 pages by say, 100 to 125, it’d be a better book.  (Not that long books are bad, as I’ll get into.)  At about page 250 I actually put the book down for a month, not sure if I cared to continue.  The reason: nothing had happened in 250 pages.  When I finally did pick it back up, something finally did happen; on page 253, there was finally a positive step into the mystery story of the book, thus it finally got interesting.  But to Larsson’s credit, I had kept reading it up to just before that point.  There was something simple, easy, and compelling about his narration that kept me going.  Okay, I admit, I am a somewhat impatient reader (impatient in general, but my reading time is very limited and valuable and this was maybe not worth all the hours it absorbed).  It was not the “definition of page-turner” as I was led to believe, to say the least.  Of the 465 pages, only about 150-200 of them directly dealt with the primary mystery story. 
            But that’s not bad in itself.  The good thing about the novel as an art form—which we, including myself, in these hard-and-fast, short attention span, flash-bang, more quantity-less quality times seem to lose—is that is doesn’t have to be just about a single linear plot, as does a short story or two-hour movie where the delivery has to be relatively short and sweet.  I am glad there is still success out there for the meandering, developing novel that weaves an entire world and doesn’t have to be pressured into getting it done fast and dirty (just ask Stephen King, perhaps the most successful and time-taking writer out there).  However, that said, this book meandered more than really necessary.  The first 50 pages were mostly about doing generational research on a family while drinking a lot of coffee and having sex with the villagers (okay, just one villager).  There was more day-to-day, mundane detail than needed for the story.  It was not page-turning, nail-biting suspense.  The primary characters were thoroughly wrought with their own ins and outs and developmental episodes (which is good), to the point where the murder mystery plot line was secondary, or at least no more important than any of the other lines running in this book (which isn’t good).  Other running lines include the characters own lives, the operations of a magazine, the financial ruin of a bad guy and his giant corporation, as well as criticizing the modern financial system and highlighting crimes against women (and very good points made there!).  Something else that struck me as strange was the author (or at least the character Mikael) seeing hackers as about the most despicable form of criminal; he almost seemed more taken aback by Lisbeth’s computer habits than by the rape and murder of women.  Perhaps that’s a cultural thing, or a journalist’s bias.  The author’s experience and interests as a magazine editor himself definitely shows through and maybe other editors got more enjoyment from those details spend throughout the book than I did. 
            Overall, not a waste of my valuable reading time, but it sure as hell did not live up to the hype.  Read it if you have time to spare.  If you’re pressed, find something more quality-dense. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Buddy System

I've been mulling over rules for running an ally contingent for 40k armies, a way to include forces from other codices along with your primary army.  So here's what I have so far (feedback and suggestions appreciated)...

There could be two ways of doing it and both players would have to agree to use one or the other, or that "I'm playing straight Codex Marines but sure, you can use an Ally Contingent, but not a Joint Forces army."

(Camera Hog: this pointy guy just appears in all my pics - the camera loves him)

Ally Contingent:  This is a smaller force to be included in your primary army and doing so has little impact on the game.  If one player used an A.C. (with his opponent's approval) it wouldn't imbalance anything.
  • May use up to 25% of total army points. So for a 2000pt force, up to 500pts of it in allies
  • No impact on org chart/slot choices.  Use standard number of choices.  For example, if you have 2 Elites in your primary force you could only have 1 Elite in your allies.
  • No minimum or maximum slot requirements.  So can have 2 fast attack and 1 heavy, no HQ, etc.
  • Allied units cannot count as scoring units, even if they are Troops.  This limits their usefulness and role in the game as simply supporting the main force.
 The Ally Contingent is a handful of units who are there to support.  Examples could be an Imperial guard army with two or three Space Marine units sent in to lend a hand, or a Chaos Marines army with a few units from the Daemons codex (something I'd love to do, say a unit each of fleshhounds, seekers, and daemonettes to go with the models I have?).

One thing I thought of that would be REALLY cool would be to make a Guard/Genestealer Cult army:  I'm envisioning a mostly Imp army, led by a hybrid looking Primaris Psyker (Magus) with command squad, a hybrid Psyker Battle Squad, some rather monstrous looking Ogryns, some stealer-like commissars and ministorum priests that can join various units, random stealer-armed guys here and there, and then an Ally Contingent of 2 or 3 Genestealer broods led by Broodlords, probably infiltrating or outflanking.  THAT would kick ass!  

Joint Forces:  This option is more like two armies having come together toward a common goal, one just being slightly bigger than the other (and probably carrying most of the command responsibility for both).

  • Must use 20% to 45% of total points.   
  • The both forces must have at least 1 HQ and 1 Troop choice.  This covers the standard 2 Troop requirement.  And even though they share that burden, the secondary force must have its own leadership. 
  • The army may have +1 slot of any choice.  Therefore, up to 3 HQs total, or 4 Heavies or 7 Troops, etc.  This bonus slot allows for each aspect of the joint force to have their own stuff.  If one player is using this and the other isn't, it'd be only fair to let that player have +1 choice as well. 
  • All units' rules act as normal, such as scoring units, etc.  This is because this is a full (if small) force of the represented army in its own right, as opposed to a fractional component like in an ally contingent (AC being just a lone IG tank squadron that's come to lend a hand).  
A natural example of this would be two different Space Marine armies joining forces, or Sisters and Eldar joining to fight off Chaos, stuff like that.

So the pic below (besides showing all the guys I was working on adding dry brushed details to today) shows a nice joint forces component of my Crimson Fists: 1 Captain Maverick (see previous blog entry), sternguard unit with plasma gun, dreadnought, big assault squad with badass sergeant lightning claws, and sniper scout squad.  So.... LET'S PLAY!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WOLF’S WRATH: A Battle Narrative, Part Two: Combat

So the Space Wolves, led by Njal and Arjac, tracked Prospero’s Corpse to the remains of another world ravaged by the chaos war band.  But despite their cunning, Thoth, daemon prince of Tzeentch, saw them coming...

The battlefield was well balanced with ruins in the corners, a couple craters in the mid-field, and scattered terrain, rubble, and razor wire barricades.  The scout snipers were set up opposite the obliterators in ruined buildings; chaos troops were prepared in rhinos mounted with havoc launchers, their monstrous dreadnought and defiler ready to advance; and the grey hunters, wolf pack, and blood claws, led by a wolf priest, approached on foot, taking cover behind obstacles and running through craters.  The elite chaos chosen waited to outflank their foe, while the mutant spawn were held in reserve and daemons watched from beyond the veil of the Warp waiting for their chance to enter the material realm and claim mortal victims.  

The first move fell to the Fallen, who were ready for the Wolves’ advance.  The defiler belched an explosive shell from its battlecannon and the obliterators fired huge bursts of super-heated plasma across the field, claiming fewer lives than they’d hoped.  The chaos dreadnought became instantly impatient: at the first sign of the enemy, still too far out of reach, it turned on the spot and fired its autocannons and heavy flamer into the rhino full of chaotic berserkers.  Fortunately the mass of firepower only managed to destroy the twin-linked bolter mounted at the vehicle’s hatch.  (Rolled a 1 for dread’s “Crazed” check and he immediately fired his guns on the nearest model, TWICE.  I got lucky on the results, could have been much worse.)  

(taken from GW main pages)

When the smoke cleared it was the Space Wolves’ turn.  The winds howled and snows began to blow.  Njal called on the lightning to be his ally, streaks of electricity arcing off the Thousand Son’s rhino with little effect.  (Njal, unfortunately, was never quite close enough for any of his special weather control effects to reach the enemy troops.)  All heroic infantry advanced, as did the pack of Fenrisian wolves.  The snipers fired at the daemon prince from their ruined building but failed to inflict a wound.  Then something roared from the sky, scattering the cloud cover and slamming into the earth mere meters from the daemonic commander.  A Space Wolf drop pod impacted the ground and burst open.  Five wolf guard in terminator armor exited the craft, led by Arjac Rockfist.  One terminator’s cyclone missile launcher let loose a burst of twin krak missiles that left twisting trails of smoke as they streaked directly into the monstrous chaos defiler.  BOOM!  The metallic creature’s head erupted into flames and the beast slumped to the ground (wrecked result—I never get to use that thing!).  The drop pod’s deathwind launcher fired a huge burst of rockets into the Son’s rhino but only blackened its hull. 

On the far west side of the field was one objective, a tall column of arcane technology, a slumbering, intelligent machine waiting to be awakened.  One unit of grey hunters came to fight for this prize.  The chaos chosen appeared from the mists and joined the chaos dreadnought and rhino of berserkers.  The dreadnought moved and fired its autocannon, causing only one or two casualties over the next two turns.  The chosen came on and tried to stay out of charging range of the Space Wolves, which also left them out of effective weapons range (wasting their melta and plasma guns).  The grey hunters, spared from such fire, moved forward and unleashed their guns, including their own melta and plasma guns, which reduced the unit of 5 chosen to a single model.  This was the chaotic icon bearer, who stood firm to provide a beacon to the Warp.  Renegade wolf lord Thorbolg Wolfsbane and his savage berserker wolves jumped out of the rhino but were not yet able to charge.  Thorbolg, having learned the wicked ways of magic from his daemon prince master, cast warp time on himself, enveloping him in a blur of temporal distortion, and cast a fire ball on the grey hunters (heavy flamer, per huron blackheart).  The flame burst, volley of berserker bolt pistols and a plasma pistol inflicted a few wounds on the hunters.  Then the daemons appeared: seven daemonettes materialized in a puff of purple perfume and danced into close combat with the grey hunters.  Amazingly the hunters dispatched the daemons completely in that one round of combat without taking a single casualty!  (Next time spend less time painting your nails and more time sharpening them, ladies!)  The game would end with Thorbolg and his men, plus a single chosen and untrustworthy dreadnought staring down a rather badass unit of grey hunters (probably 7 or 8 of the 10 hunters still standing). 

The main battle was about to take place on the other side of the field.  Thoth flew over the drop pod and cast a few spells of his own: warp time and wind of chaos.  Rays of multicolored light shone from his clawed hand, warping all that lay in its path.  Two of the five wolf guard succumbed to the spell, their armor and flesh becoming one and twisting into a fatal art form.  The Thousand Sons and their sorcerer disembarked from the rhino and unloaded their inferno bolts on the terminators, but ammo that would shred powered armor had no effect on the termies.  Two monstrous mutant wolves (spawn) came howling from the back field and charged Arjac.  At the same time, Thoth engaged another of the wolf guard terminators, attacking the remaining heroes from two sides.  The daemon prince killed two Space Wolves before they could react and the spawns’ multitude of teeth and claws scratched every inch of Arjac’s armor, but failed to hurt him.  Instead the titanic Space Wolf swung his mighty hammer and killed both wolf spawn in a single blow!  (Arjac took 4 of their collective 6 wounds but his S10 hits caused instant death.  When the combat ended only Arjac and the daemon prince remained but they were more than 2 inches apart and so we decided they were no longer engaged.)  The wolf priest brought his raging unit ever closer, one blood claw snapping off a plasma shot that wounded the daemon prince (I think the only wound he took all game).  The obliterators punished the blood claws with retaliation plasma, and the sniper scouts avenged that volley by wounding one oblit.  Arjac flung his hammer at Thoth but the daemon prince’s immaterial nature resisted even the deadly Foehammer (passed his invuln save).  Then the Space Wolf champion charged Thoth along with the pack of Fenrisian wolves (which I believe had been slightly diminished by the obliterators by this time).  Thoth’s preternatural speed and warp time aura enabled him to strike the fatal blow to Arjac and two wolves before the champion could bring his hammer to bear.  The wolf pack routed and never recovered (was under half strength). 

(also taken from GW main pages)

The wolf priest and his blood claws continued to advance, spurred on by seeing Arjac’s death.  Njals’ storm raged at the rear of the field, deadly lightning striking.... somebody (i know he threw more lightning but can’t remember at what).  Then a different kind of lightning hit the field: a greater daemon decided to enter play.  The Tzeentch sorcerer of the Thousand Sons became a beacon of purple and blue electricity and was torn asunder as the terrible daemon used his body as a means of entry into this world.  (At the time, I screwed up and had the GD run and then assault the blood claws, but later realized he could not have done this.  Didn’t really matter as the game ended right about this time.)  The blood claws suffered wounds from the Sons’ inferno bolts, which ignored their armor, and then were attacked by the daemon prince Thoth, who blew a terrible kiss in the form of wind of chaos and then assaulted.  In the end only the wolf priest remained (who, fortunately, had picked Monstrous creatures as his favored enemy). 

The game ended halfway through Turn Three due to the store closing up earlier than expected.  At the finish Thorbolg and his berserkers were facing off with the grey hunters, along with the absent minded dreadnought who seemed to attack random targets; Njal and his grey hunters were on their way but not within range to do much by this time; the snipers and oblits continued to harass targets from afar; and the daemon prince (joined or soon to be joined by the greater daemon) was locked in combat with the wolf priest.  It looked bleak for the Space Wolves but who knows what Fate had in mind for Turn Five?  Too bad we didn’t get to find out.    

(taken from Warhammer Fantasy pages - model I use for Thoth)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

WOLF’S WRATH: A Battle Narrative, Part One: The Set-Up

I say a “battle narrative” because I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “battle report”.  This was a friendly game more about learning the rules and having fun than playing to win.  In fact, we played a game with three objectives and pretty much ignored those objectives!  Actually, by Turn 5 I’m sure we would have gotten back to the objectives but the game only made it part way through Turn 3 when the store closed up and kicked us out, so it was an incomplete game anyway. 

My opponent was still learning the game (I believe this was his 4th time playing) and it was only my second game in about eight months, and longer than that since I’ve used my Chaos guys, so it was a learning experience more than a competition.  It was also the first time he and I had played together and the first hour or so was as much a BS session as a game set-up.

But I digress.  So the back story on my Chaos warband is this: Following the assault on Prospero by the Space Wolves 10,000 years ago, Thoth, daemon prince of Tzeentch, visited the ruined planet and recruited the battle’s broken survivors.  So ten millenia later, his warband Prospero’s Corpse, lead by veterans of that epic battle and joined by daemons and renegades the galaxy over, now roams known and unknown space to carry out Tzeentch’s will.  The core of the warband is made up of traitorous Space Wolves and Thousand Sons.  For this battle, I’m calling it WOLF’S WRATH, an attack force of modern Space Wolves has caught up with a pack from Prospero’s Corpse intent on killing the tainted sons of Russ, thus restoring any tarnished honor of the Space Wolves chapter.

This was a 1750 point game, deploying from opposite long-sides.  All three objectives were outside the deployment zones, making them all risky in the taking. 

Roughly speaking, the Wolves brought: two 10-man units of grey hunters, one led by Njal; a 15-man unit of blood claws led by a wolf priest; 5 sniper scouts; 10 fenrisian wolves (which looked really cool speeding around the board on the hunt); and a drop pod housing 5 wolf guard in termie armor, including Arjac Rockfist. (I think that was it.)

Chaos was fielding: Thoth, daemon prince bearing the mark of Tzeentch and two spells; renegade wolf lord Thorbolg Wolfsbane (I use Huron Blackheart stats with a customized model) leading 7 khorne berzerkers (chaotic space wolves) in a rhino; 8 thousand sons plus sorcerer in rhino; a greater daemon; chaos dreadnought; 7 lesser daemons; 5 chosen; 2 spawn (mutant wolves using chaos warhound models); 2 obliterators; and a defiler.

(a yet to be painted Thorbolg)

Again, we only got through 2.5 turns so the game was incomplete, though there was a surprising amount of carnage for such a short time.  By that end no one held any objectives, though Chaos seemed to be spilling more blood than the Wolves and predictions from both sides figured Chaos was likely to win in the end, though it really could have gone either way.

NOTE: In writing this I will bounce around time a bit and not fully explore all facets of what happened (thus a narrative not an actual game report).  Please forgive any discrepancies or misrememberings.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I like to make up my own characters and rules and such for 40k.  Maybe someday someone will let me play them...

Gemini: Romulus and Remis (or Tomax and Xamot, copyright lawsuit pending)

Twin brothers recruited, reborn and tempered together to become Crimson Fists veterans, this pair of sergeants fight side by side.  Those who have seen them perform miracles in battle swear there’s a strange bond between them that borders on the psychic realm.

Wargear: power armor, f & k grenades, Twin Blades, combi-plas (Rom), combi-melta (Rem)
Brain Trust:  The Twins are bought as a sergeant upgrade for one Tactical or Sternguard squad at the cost of +50pts.  They replace the squad Sgt and one additional model.  Both have Sergeant stats (as above) and share responsibility for leading.  If the unit is broken into Combat Squads the twins must each lead one smaller squad. 
Wonder Twins (copyright lawsuit pending):  As long as both twins are alive both may reroll everything, including to hit, to wound, saves, and Ld and ability checks.  If one brother is killed this power is immediately lost and the other twin must make a Ld check (no reroll allowed, of course).  If he fails, that brother goes catatonic and is also removed as a casualty.        
Twin Blades:  These combat blades were forged by Salamander Master He’stan while he was still a company captain and given as a reward for assistance during the anti-Tau campaign on Rura-Pente (copyright lawsuit pending).  These are CCW with the Rending special rule.    

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I am pretty damn excited and I don't get excited easily.  But today it was a beautiful day and after a walk around the block Junior laid down for a nap and I sat out back with my paints.  I completed my Crimson Fist sniper sergeant yesterday (or was it the day before?), and thought I'd see how far I could get with the rest of the squad.  To my own amazement in two hours I as nearly done with FOUR guys!  Granted they already had the base colors on them from a month ago (or two or three months ago), but the rest went quickly.  I chalk it up to (1) having the sarge done so I had a template to go by, and (2) making an effort to keep my guys simple -- not that many colors, little to no extra accessories to mess around with, etc, and (3) having a simple system in place to get the painting done.  First I went through all four and get the base colors all lined up again (first coat ran over each other, only a few clean edges, which I decided is what makes them look good, having definite crisp edges to your colors like where boot meets pants, holster meets pants, etc).  After I had all the base colors looking pretty and solid (step 1), and ran some washes over the pants and a few other details (step 2), and then dry brushed everything that needed it (step 3).  One model after the next, same color assembly line style.

So that got me through about three hours, including completing the missile launcher marine, who is a metal model and not of the same manufacture, so his head was already there, no camo cloak on him (thinking about maybe trying to make one out of greenstuff for him).  All that was left was the three plastic heads and the goggles and scopes.  That little bit, the most minute details, took another hour alone.  I kept screwing up my skin tones and my paints are getting old and dry and thick so my teeny tiny brushes don't work well with those thick ones, and smply being a perfectionist when it comes to faces and colors and things.  At this point I was also getting EXHAUSTED.  My eyes weren't focusing as well, my hands were starting to shake a bit, and my patience was wearing thin.  I didn't realize how much stamina this took anymore!  I also made a last minute choice on the mohawk head, and so glad I did!

So once all done (though I might hit the mohawk with some orange highlights yet, and do that cloak...), I got a little camera happy.  I always do with these new-fangled digital jobbies.  You can take as many as you want and then weed out the bad ones!  Trouble is I don't end up weeding that many out.  I also sometimes name the pics, so these are: "group", "one shot, one kill", "camo"  "badass", and "questioing orders". (notice the pose doesn't really change, just the view.  yes, i know it's a bit much.)  So here they are, my new badass sniper squad!  (I'm so proud.  They ain't 'Eavy Metal matieral or anything but they're way better than I expected.  And without doing any tedious line highlighting, just dry brushing!)

Friday, March 9, 2012


I was kind of afraid to paint anything because it had been so long I didn't think I knew how to anymore.  But I managed!  Pretty happy with the results too.

This is the sergeant for my sniper scout squad.  My Crimson Fists usually operate with two scout squads, five snipers infiltrated in and sitting on an objective, and five assault scouts who outflank on a landspeeder storm.   When painting a squad I will usually paint one first to plan out and see how the rest will look. I put the base colors on all five months ago and just now (the last day of my 4 day vacation period) got around to painting the sarg, partially thanks to the crappy, rainy weather.

I have been trying to find a personal style, something quick but satisfying in the results.  I don't do well with the super-thin highlights added with a surgeon's hands (I'm not as young and steady as I used to be).  So I'v discovered dry brushing recently and have been trying to make the most of that.  So basically, applying base colors, then washing then dry brushing, though it's never that simple.  I'm a perfectionist and will come back to the same spots over and over again.  Plus, with this guy being the first, there was a lot of trial and error, mostly error.  But my dry brushing gave me the realistic non-monochromatic look I was hoping for.  I'm most impressed with my lenses on the goggles.  I painted 4 sets while still on the sprue, doing different things with each one.  This one I laid down pure Skull White and then thinned out Dark Angels Green with a generous amount of water and laid that on the white.  Gave me a better shiny look than I'm used to getting so I'm happy with that.  I also experimented with different camo patterns, all with a black cloak using Shadow Grey and then dry brushing Fenris Grey on the edges.  After blacking everything out twice I ended up with this, which is kind of a cold rainy and sleeting night look.  It looks better on one of the other guys.

With all the folds in this cloak it's kind of hard to get a pattern, and I don't like the big central grey streak there, but...  after three tries, i'm going with what I have.  I'd like to stick a cigarette between those fingers but I can't imagine how I'd find something small enough!  Not very stealthy to be smoking there, but he'd look cool! (not that smoking is cool, kids...)

I also have the scouts special character, Sergeant Talion, which is a cool model but not sure i'll pump the extra 50pts into a mere 100pt squad that often.  But he'll look cool as a Crimson Fist!

So I may be on the right track for my Holy Grail of painting then with the quick and easy dry brushing.  I have a lot of guys to paint and at least for the marines, it's basically a dark blue with red hands, should be easy to crank out!