Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

World Book Day

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It's world book day, so here we go again.  I blew ~£30 on this.  And I'm not too sure about it being VFM or not.

Let's address the production values bit first:  The Horus Heresy books are being knocked out for anything from £70 to £90ish.  These are high end art.  If you go to a a bookshop which does High End fine arts books and find something with comparable production values then the FW books actually don't seem too bad in terms of cash price.

But the hardbacked mainstream GW Codices, whilst lavishly illustrated on quality paperstock etc do seem to be a slightly cynical way of cashing in.  The older softbacked books were perfectly adequate for a table top wargame.  And quite frankly, if the rate of issue and re-issue is just going to continue to rise then surely going the other way, making the product more accessible as the rate of refresh accelerates would be better for the customer (and hence long term better for the producer ?)

I'll point you to Bolt Action - Admiral Drax recently showed me a book he'd picked up which seemed beautifully produced, illustrated and laid out and was immediately engaging and certainly up to the job of being a wargaming rule book.  Like the older codices.  Go figure.

So from 2003 I reveal this:


So we are supposed to accept that the events in the new book run directly on from the events in the 2003 book.  And to fair, all of the elements are there: the various SM Chapters are represented; the Imperial Guard appear to have been thinned down to a few Cadian formations, which is disappointing.  Name checking different Guard formations always raises a smile here, one of the best bits of EoT is the list of units on each side, which in itself spawned more then one thread of fluff which we all now know and love etc.

In the new book the writing centres around the three new character pieces which, in as much as any 40K character ever can be, are adequately brought to life in furtherance of the narrative.  A diminishing cast of SM Characters are given bit roles.  Which is a subject for a whole new post.  The narrative itself is obviously a scene setter for some future development in the 40K canon (I hope that wasn't a spoiler).

Did I enjoy it ?  Not really - the battles are all huge cataclysmic events where no one on either side ever seems to need to reload, run out of loo roll, catch 40 winks or display any other Maslowian frailty, the like of which we know actually wins and looses wars.  I know that that its just a game and that that game is a piece exchange table top game of over the top heroes and gribbly beasts.  But.  It's contextual basis is a human society, albeit hopelessly distopian.

So one or two lines where the defenders retreat to the under ground, sub pylon catacombs where they rest and re-arm and behave like a beleaguered army would have that little bit of depth - similarly having a line about the vast hordes of renegades scavenging the ruins for food (which the Black Crusade did not bring with them because they don't care that their minions starve) instead of actually assaulting the Imperial positions would also have added depth, character and believablity to what is otherwise quite a dry account of events.

That the Eldar wait until the last Imperial Forces are not a threat to them before effecting a rescue is entirely consistent, bravo !

There is a clear purpose and intent to both of these books - the EoT book introduced the Cadian Shock Troops and Kasarkin AND gave a background and reason d'etre for people to use their existing Imperial, chaos and Eldar armies - it provided a pattern for the few years of 'world campaigns' which followed on from this, Medusa V et al.  What it left out was as important as what it included.  It was clearly inspiration for gamers and hobbyists.  Inspiration derived from a few lists and half a dozen tenuously connected pieces of prose which might not have written specifically for this publication, just include because they were good (?)

The fall of Cadia book does more and different things - it advances the entire 40K narrative - the Eldar get a new god, the Imperium get a Primarch and Chaos actually win something.  Making all of those previously random Black Crusades be about destroying the pylons is an interesting maguffin to explain the apparent waste of the last 10000 years by Abaddon and his homies.  And of course it promotes sales of the three new Character models as well as the armies mentioned therein.  And I think that's how the book reads - it was written with these purposes in mind - if you have a Dark Angel, Imperial Fist or Black Templar army then this book gives you immediate licence to be involved.  If you wanted an excuse to start a Mechanicum army, here it is.  Excetera for the other armies mentioned.

So I think this is reason that the book is a bit flat, ever so slightly missing the viscerality of that piece from EoT where the Commissar is talking about training with a Cadian Youth Army Platoon or the Aspect Warrior goes into the Avatar Chamber and does not come out again.  The 'whole narrative' thingy feels forced in a way that the previously stand alone articles within the older books did not.


  1. Aaah. Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. I was introducing some trainees to it this weekend whilst insisting that they build me a shelter and feed me. After all, my island had just been hit by a tsunami!

  2. I enjoyed this post Zzzzzz. Well written and thoughtful.
    I wanna buy that book... I don't know why, and I know I'll regret it if I do. I guess I wanna buy what that book could or should have been.

  3. I couldn't agree more with your point of view. I've had a read over the book, but not bought it and I don't think I'll be buying it any time soon either. There's been a steady change in the style of GW documents since late 4th edition, moving from Codices and Supplements that were little pieces of fluff text, snippets of conversation, and a brief description to provide a setting, context, and inspiration for an army; to being these overarching, prescriptive, this is exactly how the army is style of documents. Couple that with a much more 2D, stylised writing that seems to mirror the more cartoonish artwork, and I've found their books to be less and less engaging to the point I only ever buy the books for the armies that I actually use on the tabletop as I don't even want to read them for the background.
    The very "biblical" style of this person did this, then this person did that, everyone was the best warrior/monk/eldar/whatever in the world and they always won and its just bland and it gives absolutely no character to the forces.

    Rant over - sorry

    Great and very well written point of view - oh for a return to a more EoT style of book!

  4. Well written article Zzzzzzz. I definately agree with what Andrew is talking about here in the comments section, and with what you definately allude to in the article proper. This sort of writing is exactly the sort of thing that distances me from the AoS setting, i've made several attempts at trying to jump into that and really get to grips with what they are trying to tell me in a lot of this new fluff so that I can disseminate it into something that feels more like how i imagine the conflicts actually occur. The problem is that I've found reading about these battles in which boths sides grind against each other in waves lead by heros without equal, on great plains lit by the fire of god weapons or some such, to just be entirely tiring to read about, to the point that i've had to put the book down and do something else. While by contrast I read the FW and get really excited about the setting again, my hope is the FW team visits the Fall of Cadia on their own terms, and we see some proper attention paid to each of the story points that Gathering Storm puts forward. Im torn in a lot of ways, because i'm happy to see some forward momentum in the plot, but the pace is exhausting. When i heard about the Fall of Cadia, I was really hoping for the entire book trilogy to just be about that single event. Introduce all kinds of neat Cadian and Traitor forces, maybe bring in some weird Inq troops or the Custodes somehow, package that and introduce it to 40k, use the Fall of Cadia as a vehicle to sell 30k models in the core game. I was almost insulted when I learned Cadia blows up in the first book.

  5. I find most official 40K storytelling to be borderline teenage-fanboi nonsense. The last novel I bought was "The Hunt for Vol-whatshisname" cos I'd hoped the Raven Guard would get a fair representation, but per usual I was sorely disappointed.

    A very thorough and engaging review mate. Thanks for taking the time to write and post it.