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7/11/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide: Stromdorf"

I'm a huge fan of "Vermintide". This game helped to rekindle my affection for Warhammer Fantasy. A few weeks ago, the good people from Fatshark released another DLC for this grim and perilous title - "Stromdorf".

I really liked the previous two DLC's for "Vermintide". Both "Drachenfels" and "Karak Azgaraz" brought new content to the game and I did not felt that I've wasted my money on them. So how's "Stromdorf" looking in comparison to them?

Is it worth your money?
The titular town is a miserable, rainy place, which evokes that unique feel of Warhammer Fantasy. It's dark, gritty and generally depressing. I love it. As a side fact, the town of Stromdorf has been futured in "The Gathering Storm" campaign for WFRP 3rd edition. Check it out, if you want to learn more about this wonderful shithole. Anyway, the Skave are up to something, as usual, and Franz Lohner, the not-imperial-intelligence-officer, is sending our delightful party to investigate. Soon our heroes discover a sinister plot, involving human collaborators working with the foul ratmen, which could threaten much more, than just Stromdorf itself.

So here's the general premise of this DLC. I really like it, by the way. The excellent 2nd edition sourcebook "Children of the Horned Rat" has a rather extensive part of it, dedicated to humans, working with the Skaven. We also should not forget about the classic Gotrek & Felix book "Skavenslayer" by William King, which includes similar theme among its pages.

"Stromdorf" is very effective when it comes to visuals. Altough it starts on a sunny day, the weather soon becomes foul and rain begins to pour down from the heavens, threatening to drown both our heroes and the ratmen as well! This DLC was a bit more aggravating for my system, than the previous two, but I'm not surprised really. With all the particle effects, no one can blame performance issues on bad coding, but simply should understand that games like this will require more memory to run smoothly, as well as a better graphics card.

The rains of Stromdorf are constant and unforgiving in their intensity!
The Fatshark team created a true masterpiece when it comes to maps in this DLC. The first one starts outside the city, when the weather is still decent. Later, after a long trek through the hills surrounding the town of Stromdorf, the adventurers finally arrive in the titular place, only to become soaking wet, from the horrible downpour. The atmosphere of fighting Skaven in a heavy rain, during a climactic thunderstorm really is something, let me tell you. Eventually our heroes discover a corpse of the messenger, whom Lohner wanted them to find. After checking for clues, they uncover a possible Skaven plot, which includes a human collaborator, or even a bunch of them! Without hesitation they rush deeper into the rainy town, to intercept a meeting between the vile traitors and a clan Fester emissary. Navigating their way through winding streets of Stromdorf, fighting Stormvermin in tight alleys and using roof to surprise unsuspecting ratmen, were some of the best experiences that I ever had with "Vermintide". The final battle with the emissary, a massive Skaven Warlord, armed with a Warpstone Glaive, was intense and very satisfying. Naturally, after defeating the fiend, I wanted so much more to happen, like finding the collaborators and handing them over to Lohner for interrogation. Sadly, the game decided that enough was enough.

Yeah, that's right - "Stromdorf" consists of only two maps, and that is it's main (only?) weakness. For a price of 7 dollars I really expected more content for my buck. Sure, the maps are great, probably the best out of all DLCs so far. The presence of a new enemy is also really welcome, as well as the new weapon for Markus Kruber - the intimidating and mighty Executioners Sword. There are also a few, new achievements and lore pages, unique to this DLC's titular location. However all of that is just not enough man, plain and simple. They really could've added a third, final map, even a short one, to this DLC. I've managed to beat "Stromdorf" in less than an hour, with extensive roaming in search of tomes and grimoires as well as easter eggs and other goodies. In the end I honestly felt kinda ripped-off. Still, at least my money went to a developer who helps in keeping the Warhammer Fantasy alive, but... I seriously hope that their next, paid DLC will include much, much more meat, because despite my positive feelings, playing "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide: Stromdorf" felt like recieving a light, fit meal, after going hungry for the whole day, in anticipation for a feast. Tasty and satisfying, but leaving a kind of need in one's stomach nonetheless.

At least Kruber finally recieved some love. This sword is awesome!
Until next time...which will also be about food, coincidentally.

Xathrodox86

7/03/2017

Sharing is caring! On the topic of my WH40K RPG's collection

Some time ago I've decided to share a bunch of fan-made materials for WFRP. Now it's time for my 40K RPG's resource collection.

I've played a couple of FFG's role-playing games, set in the grim darkness of the far future. Despite a rocky start (a shitty player was its cause), from the perspective of time I consider them good games. Sure they have a number of flaws, but all in all they're very decent titles and work well in introducing others to the universe of Warhammer 40,00. Not to mention that the Dark Heresy is a perfect way of showing people that the galaxy of 40K is more than just "only war".

It's also about looking fabulous, even in a heavy rain!
But I digress. Even tough the FFG's 40K titles are much younger than WFRP, fans from all around the world still created a lot of quality resources for these games. The now-defunct sites like Dark Reign and Roll for Heresy were a great source of hundreds of various, fan-made files for Rogue Trader, Deathwatch and other 40K games. I was lucky enough to download quite many of them, before their hosting services went down, which is a shame really. WFRP has a lot of cool fan-sites, while role=playing games, set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000, seem to struggle in that department. I hope this will change in near future, providing the fans of WH40K with great, many communities, filled with wonderful people and high quality content.

As with my WFRP collection, I'm only sharing 100% FAN-MADE stuff. So no illegal, scanned shit. Don't ask me for that, as I will simply not reply to anyone, who'd like to get his hands on a shiny Only War rulebook PDF, or any other, official material from Fantasy Flight Games (or Black Industries, for that matter).

I'm also not taking any credit for the stuff that I'm sharing here. I've never created a single, fan-made supplement for 40K (maybe one day, but not yet), so any rights and credits go to the respective creators of these fan-made projects. If any of their authors would like me to remove their content from my collection, please send me a message and I will do this immediately. Remember that I'm posting this stuff so it will not dissapear in the endless waves of the internet, especially now, when there are no 40K RPG fan-sites available, as far as I know.

Here's the link to my collection. Enjoy and share, as that's what this whole stuff is all about - sharing your passion with other people.


Hopefully, I will also manage to upload both of my RPG collections to a FTP server, but that is something for a (near) future.

There has also been a small update, concerning my WFRP data base: I've uploaded lots of new stuff there! So get it, while it's hot and share the wealth with other geeks and freaks. As usual, there will be updates to these data-vaults, probably around early winter. I will keep everyone posted on my blog, so check it out from time to time, and you won't miss anything. I guarantee that.

Next post will take us to a particulary rainy village in Reikland. Stay tuned and praise the Emperor.

Oh, and pass the ammunition!
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

6/23/2017

Role-playing Rants: was Warhammer Fantasy "too dark" for its own good?

Most of the old and middlehammerers know the evolution of Warhammer Fantasy. From the grim and down-to-earth, but also absurd fantasy game, it evolved into... Yeah, into what exactly?

I won't pretend to be one of the "old guard". Sure, in my youth I used to play WFRP 1st edition from time tom time. It was an extremly popular game in Poland, still is really. However these first forays into the Old World are shrouded in the mist of childhood and obscurity. I don't remember too much about these games, except for the fact that I've once played a Zoat. Good times.

Anyway, I had a chance to re-read the 1st edition rulebook, some time ago. Aside from a nostalgia trip, I've noticed how different the arts were, from the latter incarnations of this game system. Skulls were few and in between. People were actually smiling, while those in the 2nd edition books look, like they have a constant constipation. The atmosphere was just... fantastic. In that it resembled a typical fantasy world, but with a historical twist. Meanwhile, the 2nd edition arts are...

Ahhhhh!!!
Yeah, they are almost all like that. Don't get me wrong, I love the 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy, but to be honest, very few artworks really work for me in this game. While some of them are taken straight from WFB's army books, mainly those of 6th editon Fantasy Battle, whith which WFRP 2nd shares a bond, the new arts are just... goofy. Goofy and really boring. There are skulls everywhere. Literally - on the buildings, on the clothing, on weapons. Hell, there are probably skulls within skulls with skulls on them. You think that I'm joking? No way.

Both the WFB 6th and WFRP 2nd were trying too hard to become like 40K, which started to eclipse its older brother at the time of their popularity. In 40K there are skulls and cherubs and weird shit everywhere, but that is something to be expected of that setting. Cathedrals in space? Sure, why not? Now imagine if in Warhammer Fantasy there'd be galleons with cathedrals on them. That would just be silly now, wouldn't it? Still, Games Workshop might not have put churches on ships, but they tried. Oh, how they've tried to do things like that...

Actually both the WFB 6th and WFRP 2nd editions recieved quite a mild treatment in the whole
"grimdark wannabe" process. Sure the omnipresent skulls were kinda annoying and character's faces were looking kinda silly, as well as the decrepit look of almost every building and dress in the Empire, but here and there one could still see the old Warhammer look, the down-to-earth fantasy game, without any pretence and with just the right ammount of dark humor.

Then the 8th edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle came. Oh sweet Sigmar...

Where do I start? How about here?

is he riding through the Warp?
Or here?

Meanwhile in World of Warcraft...
Or maybe here?

"One cannot fire rockets, when the floor is chaos" - ancient sigmarite proverb
This is not gritty. This is not dark nor is it grim. This simply looks dumb and not "so bad that it's actually fun" kinda dumb. It looks dumb. It looks as if a 6-year old, who just read his first, "serious book", decided to sculpt a wargame terrain piece. There is nothing funny about it, there is nothing intimidating or scary about it. It looks like a shitty, cheap-ass toy and the worst part is that all of the 8th edition looked like that. Fake as hell, trying too hard to imitate 40K, a completly different game with a different atmosphere and style. Give me a break.

When the WFRP 3rd edition came to stores, it generally carried on the style of the wargame on its pages. While the artwork was nice and of a much higher quality, then in the previous two iterations of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, it also lacked... something. Perhaps it was the continous absence of smiles on character's faces, or the ever present doom and gloom, presented on every art piece, I don't know. Certainly the portrayal of the Old World by FFG didn't managed to help in halting the decline of interest of its fans, and in bringing new, fresh blood into the fandom. I recall a story from the 3rd edition about a village struck by a nurglite sickness which forced them to dance until death claimed their exhausted bodies. Sisters of Shallya came to help the poor people, by enacting a powerful ritual that cleansed them from the plague. Their joy from helping others soon vanished, as an Empire army, led by a zealous Warrior Priest, arrived and decimated the village, killing every one of its inhabitants. Grim and dark, right? No, not really - just very poorly written. There were more stories like this one, presented on the pages of many of 3rd editions sourcebooks and adventures, poorly imitating Dark Heresy's and other 40K RPG's style. None of it really worked, none was at the literary level of Dan Abnett's introductory short piece in WFRP 2nd Edition's rulebook, which was dark, gritty but also believable and excellently written. Shame, really.

Back when we could feast our eyes on awesome art pieces, like this one...
I know that I've written about it already, but I'm going to say it one more time - at one point, both the Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, have lost their identities. They've tried to mimick or imitate, however you want to call it, a vastly different game, with a very unique style and presentation - the Warhammer 40,000. They've failed spectaculary and now, aside from a few, successful video game adaptations, they're dead. Age of Sigmar has replaced them and while it is still struggling with its own style and sense of identity, it is getting somewhere. I might not like the game, but I do have to acknowledge that it is changing and evolving, while also not falling blindly into the "ctrl+c, ctrl+v" territory, that old Warhammer Fantasy games did. Very soon we'll get our hands on the 4th edition of WFRP. I just hope that Cubicle 7 won't make the same mistakes, as their predecessors, for all of our sakes. It would be tragic, to see a potential rebirth of Warhammer Fantasy and the rekindling of old flames of passion, die before they'll even get a chance to spread throughout the RPG fandom.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

6/14/2017

Role-playing Rants: why I can't wait to read the Age of Sigmar RPG

I'm still in the camp for AoS haters. I think that the Age of Sigmar is boring, uninspiring and generally a crappy legacy for the venerable Warhammer Fantasy. That's why I can't wait to read the upcoming role-playing game, set in this universe.

I know that Age of Sigmar has come a long way, since its premiere in 2015. New models, new rules and new books from the Black Library are definetly helping in the developement of this setting. For me however, AoS still lacks that one thing, which could it actually make it interesting and worth checking out – the everyday factor. What I mean by that, is that I don't want to constantly read about Stormcast Eternals battling generic Khornate dudes in crimson armour, or Aelfs (sigh) duking it out with servants of Nurgle. I want to know how everyday life looks in this universe. I want to know how people live their lives in every one of the kingdoms that comprise the world of this game. I want to know what they're eating, what are their favorite drinks, how does the judical system work in every one of the "planes", and many other, mundane things, that help in creating a relatable and fascinating world.

Can you do this for me, game?
Warhammer Fantasy put huge emphasis on day to day lives of its people, and not just the Imperials. Hundreds of stories described everyday struggles of humans, elves, dwarves and more, and that, more then the huge and epic battles, made this world feel alive to me. WFRP made particulary good job in that department by offering titles like the "Old World Armoury" and "Shades of the Empire". The legendary "Gotrek & Felix" saga taught me a lot about day-to-day lives of Karl Franz's subjects, and even lesser known titles did a great job for bringing the Old World to life. I personally feel that the Age of Sigmar lacks this "mortal" part of its world, and by extensions, feels less interesting and relatable.

This is where the AoS RPG comes into play. Cubicle 7 announced that they will release this title, sometime next year, after the premiere of the 4th edition of WFRP. When I first heard about this, I laughed. I was thinking: how in the hell can anyone make a game about a bunch of golden dudes, beating a bunch of red dudes, interesting. Then it dawned on me, that this is actually the one chance that Age of Sigmar has, to show itself in a more positive way to people like me. People who still remember Warhammer Fantasy with fondness, who still play WFRP and older editions of Fantasy Battle tabletop game. Who can't wait for Total War: Warhammer 2 and the sequel to Warhammer Quest (even if it'll take place during the End Times).

Newer generations of players don't have a problem with the Age of Sigmar, and I understand that, just like I understand people who jumped into this system, being tired of playing the poorly written 8th edition or just wanting something new. Some of us, however, still can't get over the fact that WFB is gone and are a tad bitter about that whole deal with the Mortal Realms and Ground Marines. I must admit that I'm slowly trying to change my view on AoS. I've discovered a fantastic group on Facebook, called the The Dark Age of Sigmar, which is full of great looking models, made in a dark and gritty style, much more in the spirit of the old Warhammer world. There is also the "City of Secrets" by Nick Horth, which shows the world through mortal eyes, rather then a pair, belonging to one of Sigmar's chosen. I've heard that it is very good and plan to read it, when I'll get the chance.

I think AoS might have a potential to become a complex, intriguing setting, going beyond the "only war" aspect, which is currently its main selling appeal. I'm not beyond admitting that something, which started off badly, can become a thing of beauty and who knows - if Cubicle 7 will do their job right, I might start collecting a small force of Stormcasts one day. Of course they'd be very grim and dark, since the spit and polish look of most of them is extremly boring to me. For that, however, I need to sink my teeth into the meat of this world, and so far the meat is very thin and not that tasty. Come on Cubicle 7, send a big, fat steak my way. I want to taste the full flavor of the Age of Sigmar, and the upcoming RPG might just help me with that.

I'll skip the face-bashing dessert, tough
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

5/25/2017

Happy birthday! Kalevala Hammer is now 10 years old!

How time flies! The great Kalevala Hammer website is now decade old!

I still remember the first time, when I discovered Jackday's awesome website. His various timelines (including the one from Gotrek & Felix series), creature PDF's and the wonderful Norsca sourcebook, have helped me many times, during my time as a WFRP Gamemaster. After the end of the controversial 3rd edition, Kalevalahammer was one of the lone islands of light in the void, keeping the flame alive.

Happy birthday!
When I myself felt that Warhammer Fantasy was not for me anymore, it was Kalevala Hammer, among other things, that helped me find my passion, once again. For that alone, Jackdays will have my everlasting gratitude.

Anyway - check out his website, download his stuff and enjoy endless hours of hard work that he poured into Kalevala Hammer. He deserves it, as well you, for there's a ton of grade A, fan-made material there, perfect for Gamemasters and players alike. As the man himself had said: keep the hammer high!

Until next time!

Xathrodox86