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3/21/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Call To Arms" by Mitchel Scanlon

Continuing my reviews of the "Empire Army" series, I give you the "Call To Arms" by Mitchel Scanlon.

After the excellent "Warrior Priest", I had quite high expectations of other books from the "Empire Army" series. As a long time fan of the Empire of Man, there's very little that can force me from reading and liking anything, that futures lots of normal dudes, with fabulous mustaches, packing black poweder weapons. "Call To Arms" is no exception, but there are things, that really irked me, during my experience with this particular book.

The cover is pretty sweet, gotta be honest here
The main hero, one Dieter Lanz, is a young soldier, who joins the elite Hochland regiment, the Scarlets. Soon he must cope with the harsh reality of war, as a huge Greenskin invasion threatens the entire province, and perhaps the Empire itself.

Dieter is someone, who can easily be called a wonder child. He's only 18 years old, but already his mastery of the blade is phenomenal. Schooled by his retired foster father, Helmut Schau, who was once a member of the Scarlets, and taught the ethos of honor and duty, Dieter is a prime example of a fine soldier - obedient, honorable and one that can be reilied upon to do what's right.

That's why he wasn't able to work for me.

I don't have anything against "so good that they're impossible" characters in fiction. On the contrary, sometimes I like reading about guys and gals who are paragons of virtue and nobility, but in Lanz's case this simply does not work. He's too young and too inexperienced as a soldier, to be taken seriously, but at the same time, there's nothing that can touch him. Beastmen, Orcs, even his fellow soldiers - Dieter dosen't give a crap. He'll wade right through them, without breaking a sweat. Now, if he'd been his foster dad, Helmut, I wouldn't have a problem with that. However he's just a snot nosed kid, without any combat experience, making him effectively a soldier-virgin. I can't accept someone like that to go toe to toe with an Orc or a Bestigor, without a good explanation on why he is able to do it. Simple as that really.

All right, so with that out of the way we can move on to the main plot itself. As mentioned before, a huge force of Greenskins is making its way through the province of Hochland, and soon it becomes clear that their leader is not your ordinary, dumb Orc. Through some impressive examples of tactical genius and a lot of tactical ineptitude on the humies part, the armies of the Emperor are routed. It falls to the retired general Ludwig Von Grahl to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but is it even possible at this point? After all, the humans are few, but their enemy are legion.

Now this is simply the best part of "Call To Arms" - presenting Greenskins as a legitimate threat. Way too often they've been portrayed as punching bags or comic relief villians in Warhammer fiction, but no in this book. Here, Orcs and Goblins are truly terrifying, and we see first hand how big a threat they can pose, when there's a competent leader at their head. From the ambushes of Goblin Wolf Riders, to rampaging Trolls, every Greenskins fan will find something statisfying here, while the dutiful servants of Karl Franz, will surely learn to respect the ancient enemies of Sigmar, a bit more.

Give them the respect they deserve!
This is an "Empire Army" novel, so any reader should expect a lot of hardcore, brutal fighting and visceral battles. Scanlon dosen't dissapoint. The engagements between soldiers of the Emperor and Greenskins are visceral and merciless. No quarter is asked, nor given and that's how I like my fantasy fiction. While the supporting cast is a bit bland, we soon learn to care about these men, viewed by the eyes of Dieter Lanz. However there's another thing that really irked me in this book, and now I'll have to enter the mild spoiler territory, in order to talk about it.

The Scarlets are a professional, swordsmen regiment, comprised of many, fine soldiers. However, there are also a couple of rotten apples, present in its ranks. Of course it is Dieter that they have a beef with, since the young man catches them on looting the dead. A dead, old lady to be more precise, one that, it is strongly implied, the dastardly duo have murdered in cold blood. Later, when the Scarlets are forced to abandon field, after the army of Hochland gets routed, Lanz catches one of the bastards, as he's trying to choke a heavily wounded comrade in his sleep! The best part is, that he takes it to the rest of the regiment (who, by the way, know how much of a sleazebag that particular soldier is), who decide that... nothing really happened. Oh sure, Dieter dosen't exactly have a photographic evidence, but the soldier in question even propsoed to mercy kill the wounded man, some time before, as to not get slowed down. Seriously, how stupid are these people?

Now it's time for the spoiler part, so take that into consideration. In the final battle, the two ne'er-do-wells are ordered by their commander to effectively sacrifice themselves, as to buy more time for Von Grahl's plan to work. They oblige, which is bullshit, since these two have been consistently shown as not caring one bit, about anyone else, but themselves. What's worse however, is that when they die heroically, Dieter gives them a sendoff in his mind, thinking of them as true heroes, depiste witenssing them robbing the corpse of an old lady (whom they might've murdered) and trying to kill a wounded comrade in his sleep. Bull-fucking-shit. In fact, now that I think about it, it's not Lanz's character that pissed me off so much in "Call To Arms". No, it was the poorly written, "we are all soldiers, able to do what's right at the right time" story arc. It's like discovering that Archaon was really a good guy, because he helped to get a kitty down from a tree, that one time.

In all fairness, he probably skinned it alive afterwards
Oh and Kurt Helborg makes a cameo, something that's always welcome. I have an unashamed man crush on the Reiksmarshall, so seeing him act all badass, automatically redeems almost anything bad, that he stars in.

Not that "Call To Arms" is bad, mind you. It's a decently written, military novel about duty, honor, sacrifice and how a single cretin can doom a whole province's army, due to his ineptitude. I've honestly enjoyed reading about Greenskins being a legitimate threat, and combat scenes were expertly written. While I couldn't force myself to take Dieter Lanz as a master swordsman, his evolution as a soldier, being forced to mature very quickly, was genuienly interesting and believable.

Except that part, when he thought that two grave robbing murderers, were not so bad after all. Yeah, that part kinda sucked.

All in all, give the "Call To Arms" a try. It's not bad, and for anyone collecting a Hochland army, this one is a must.

Pros:

- Great combat and battle scenes.
- Orcs and Goblins as credible villians.
- Interesting view into the heart of an elite, Empire regiment.
- Kurt Helborg!

Cons:

- Wonder child protagonists, please go and don't come back.
- The redemption arc truly sucked. Like really, really bad.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

3/03/2017

Role-playing Rants: do we really need another edition of WFRP?

For a few weeks now we know that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay will return. GW sold the rights to their venerable RPG, and it looks like Cubicle7 will be the distributer of all things grim and perilous. But is it really a good thing?

There's no doubt that WFRP is a timeless classic, no matter how you look at it. From the ancient, but still viable 1st edition, to the controversial, almost-like-a-board-game 3rd - this game raised thousands of avid roleplayers, over the course of a couple decades. Sadly, as its parent franchise got killed off, it too fell into oblivion. Long before the End Times, Fantasy Flight Games, which held the rights to the franchise, after Black Industries, ended their developement of the controversial 3rd edition. A few books and card decks (sigh) were only available on demand. Some time later, Games Workshop decided to withdraw their license from FFG and... it all went quiet. Until Licensing Expo 2016 in Las Vegas, where they were spotted, while they were offering a bunch of their licenses. Back then, there wasn't a 100% confirmation if the license for WFRP has been sold, but now it seems that indeed such was the case. Cubicle 7 Entertainment, a publisher for Doctor Who card games and the One Ring RPG, among other things, has reportedly acquired the rights to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Is it really a good thing?

I'm not so sure...
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that WFRP will continue to exist on the market. At this moment, it's harder and harder to buy even basic 2nd edition books, not to mention those from the older days of the 1st. There have been rumours that Cubicle 7 may do some reprinting of older Warhammer Fantasy material, and that's a really cool thing. I know that many people, myself included, would love to fill their collection with missing sourcebooks (Realm of the Ice Queen, I need you!) and adventures. However I'm worried. You see, there's this nagging doubt that I have, which just won't go away. It's telling me that they will fuck it up, just like FFG did. Oh, don't get me wrong, I think that the third edition of WFRP wasn't a complete disaster. In fact it was a pretty decent game in itself, if kind of a test pattern for FFG's later titles, but the thing is, it was not what most people wanted. After the 2nd edition, which brought many, positive changes to seriously outdated Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, we recieved... a board game. Worse, it was a board game, dressed as a roleplaying game, which forced you to buy seriously overpriced addons, if you wanted to play it. Without the dice and the markers, there was no way in hell, that the game could be played in any way. Player's Vault, one of the last books for the 3rd edition, adressed that issue, but it was released too late. People were already pissed off, and more and more of them were abandoning this sinking ship, leaving it to rot at the bottom of the Sea of Claws.

Of course the fault was entirely on the publishers' side. FFG is a company which mainly produces board games, and they've never even pretended to do otherwise. Good for them, but when you develop RPG's, you need something more than just a few, funky dice and weird counters. FFG adressed this by treating their RPG's like a scientist or an engineer, treats his work: if at first you won't succeed...

WFRP 3rd edition was a testing ground, which helped in the creation of the excellent Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. A test subject, if you will, used to see which rules will work in a roleplaying game, and which should be avoided. Similarilly, Dark Heresy 1st edition, and the following 40K RPG's were ultimately used to develop Only War, which was the best title of them all, with the least ammount of bugs, bad rules and balance issues. Then again, FFG shot itself in the foot once again, when they've developed Dark Heresy 2nd edition, a complete and utter shitfest, which, thankfully, died pretty quickly. Some people never learn, I guess...

Pictured: a big mistake
Nowadays, roleplaying games are generally made in such a way, that you don't need two weeks of learning the rules, memorising tables and stats columns. Most of the modern RPG's are quick to master, both for gamemasters and players alike, which is a godsend, and actually helps in bringing up new people to the hobby. We are living in a time, where everything has to be done fast and without delay, which means that our entertainment also needs to adapt, if it wants to stay relevant. FFG did not understood that, and ultimately they have failed. Altough some of their games, like Dark Heresy 1st edition and Only War, can be considered successful, most of their RPG's were bloated with rules, tables and charts, not to mention overcomplicated rulesets. I honestly believe that these were the main factors which made them lose their license, for making more GW games as well as continue publishing those already developed. I hope that Cubicle 7 Entertainment won't make similar mistakes, when creating another edition of WFRP, if they'll make one at all. I don't want the potential 4th edition of this game, to be a rules-heavy monster, which'll drive potential players away, with too much stuff, cramped into it. Simples as that, really.

Honestly, I'd just be happy if they'll make a full-scale reprint of the previous Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay games, and I think I'm not the only one. Sure, a new version of this venerable classic would be nice, but ultimately not necessary. At least in my opinion.

That's all I really need, if I want to hunt some Beastmen
Until next time!

Xathrodox86

2/17/2017

Xathrodox86 goes on a rant: go WAAC yourself

Yup, it's gonna be one of those articles. Where I spew a lot vitriol and impotent rage on a completely unimportant thing, concerning little, plastic men and their big, fleshy owners.

I think we can all agree that most people play tabletop to just have a bit of fun. You know, after a whole week of hard work, paying the bills, visiting a doctor and so on, there are few better things that let you relax, than a few dice rolls, a cold one with your opponent and maybe grabbing an unexpected victory. You know, just having a jolly good time and making sure that your sparring partner also had fun.

Or is it? Because lately, it seems to me that more and more people don't play for fun, or at least not for the healthy sort of fun, that is normally assosciated with tabletop gaming. No, they're playing to win. At all costs.

Tabletop gaming is serious buisness
Hence the dreaded term "WAAC". Which I hate with a burning passion.

Now, I'm going to speak purely from my own experience in playing 40K for many years, but also from reading people's posts on almost every, single 30K/40K Facebook group, that I have subscribed over the years. Of course it's only my opinion, but from my observations and personal experience, I think that this trend is becoming increasingly worse. Nowadays you can rarely see a battle report, where one, or both sides, decided not to deploy their strongest, often times downright broken forces. I think that this trend began fully during the time of 6th and 7th editions formation spam. Suddendly every army, or at least most of them, recieved a bunch of specific formations, with unique rules. Some of them were mildly useful, while others were downright game breaking. Of course Space Marines got most of them, as well as some of the best ones, while Eldar and Tau also got their xenos paws on some tasty options. Riptide wing, for example, is downright nasty. Other factions got a few fomations as well, some of them good, others not so much, but that's not what I want to talk about really. At least not now.

You see, with the inclusion of so many, new army options, it quickly became clear that Games Workshop did not perform and excessive cross-testing between those new formations and their codices. That meant basically, that people started to search for the most game-breaking combos possible. A good example is the infamous Gorgon Chain-wielding SM Chapter Master on a bike, a.k.a. Smashfucker. Stick him into a command squad with a few Stormshields and an Apothecary, and he's nigh on unkillable by almost anything, save a Primarch. Even then, few of the Emperor's Sons will strugle to bring down that monstrosity. Yeah, someone found a way to bring something like that to the table. Why? I think I know the answer. Keep reading, and you'll find it.

This is the first, glaring problem - essentialy finding a legitimate way to deploy the most overpowered shit, possible on the table, while defending one's actions as "legal" and using arguments, such as "well I did it, so you could have done it as well". I don't really have to comment on that type of rethoric, but fear not, I will. In due time.

Next we have the GW's alarming trend of strengthening certain armies, while leaving others in the cold. So you want to tell me that I can't deploy my CSM Alpha Legion, using Iron Warriors tactics, but it's ok for Vanilla Space Marines from the White Scars, to utilize Iron Hands formations? What about the infamous "Angels of Death" supplement, that instantly turned Astartes into the best and, in the opinion of many, myself included, one of the most broken armies in the current meta? Suddendly they recieve their own psychic powers, which again, compared to the "new and unique" powers available to their traitorous cousins, are downright insane. Oh and no other imperial faction may use them, because fuck you. As to not be monothematic however, the brand new "Fracture of Biel-Tan" turned the Eldar, which were already one of the top tier armies in 7th edition, into literal rape train without any brakes. By the way, I see a very nice symmetry between the "Gathering Storm" campaign and the "End Times" for the deceased WFB. By that I mean that the rules for armies, well certain armies, are completely over the top, while the actual writing sucks horribly. I will certainly raise this topic in the future, fear not.

Above examples show us, rather clearly, that GW turned their marketing strategy towards a "pay to win" sort of direction. You want to be competitive? You need to have a super heavy walker. Imperial Knights are a must, nowadays, just like any other huge walker. It's a shame that Tyranids don't really have one, but their codex sucks anyways, so whatever, right? Oh and the Dark Eldar don't have one, as well... Well, if anyone plays them, it's their own, damn fault. I think you know where I'm going with this. Together with the selecitve formation spam, GW is clearly showing us that some of their armies are more worthy of collecting them, than the others. Worse, they clearly show that you should play as strongest and taylored army as possible. This, coupled with a clear favortism for the select few factions, getting exclusive, incredibly good stuff (Custodians for the Imperium players come to mind), not only destabilises the game, but also raises a generation of spoiled, self-entitled, egoistical and uncaring twats. Which is horrible.

Not for said twats, of course
And many people are buying it, in every sense of the word, becoming said twats. Worse, they feel that it's a natural thing, having a formation that allows a better Jink save, together with a bucket of Grav weapons (all with re-rolls for wounding!) and a Knight. If they can find a way to deploy some balls to the wall insane combo, they will do it and justify it in their own way. Usually in a very, very poor manner like: "but your army has this and this" or "but that other army is stronger", and so on. Of course they will not want to hear about their faction being especially strong ("army x is stronger!") or that their list is not fun to play against ("you could make a strong one as well!"), That's what WAAC mentality does to a person - it turns them into a self entitled douchebag, who forgets the principal rule of any game: that it should be fun for both players, not just one. You're not playing alone, you're playing with another person. It is your duty to make sure that he or she, also enjoys the game. If you want to play with yourself, well... tabletop just isn't for you.

It should be mentioned at this point, that this kind of mentality and play style is not GW's fault. Sure, they're promoting this kind of gameplay and behavior, but it's the player himself, who decided to follow it. People don't become WAAC's, because they were forced to. They're doing that because they want to do that. Why? Beats me. Maybe they're obsessed with winning, maybe they want to recompense their, otherwise, mundane, boring lives. Maybe they're frustrated at the world around them, at their lives, who knows? But you know what? Fuck them.

Remember to use protection. Don't get infected by the WAAC virus, and for the love of Throne, don't let them breed!
Yeah, fuck them hard. If anyone wants to play with you, solely to Win At All Costs, to beat you, because it'll make them feel better, while spewing some self-excuse bullshit, he or she is not worth playing with. Simple as that. Why should anyone put up with this shit? Why should anyone tolerate someone who brings a bucket of fliers to the table, while also saying that "be thankful, because I could've bring more"? Why should anyone tolerate someone, who deploys a most broken, barely legal army list, which is impossible to defeat, because they have a brand new, favored codex, while yours is 3 years old, and was never that good to begin with? If I'd be playing against someone like that, I would not bring a Knight to the table, together with a bunch of OP formations, cause I actually value my opponent's fun. I don't want to be that guy! However, currently, 40K is full of Those Guys. It's like a dam broke, and assholes begun to flood the hobby. Hell, I used to remember a time, when people gave you grief, for bringing stupid, broken shit to a game, outside of grand tournaments. Now it's impossible to have a friendly, casual game, without bumping into someone who thinks that WAAC is the only true way.

What's worse, is that this mentality started to leak into 30K as well. Long believed a much more balanced game, with a better player base, than that of 40K, it has begun to show the first, true signs of WAAC with the premiere of "Inferno". Undoubtedly the Thousand Sons are one of the strongest legion right now, and people all over the internet have been discussing the "Magnus Deathstar", which basically combines the Big Red, Ahriman and a squad of Sekhmet. I've read a battle report between the Salamanders and the XVth Legio, during which Vulkand and his Firedrakes clashed with that specific unit. The Sally's managed to kill... one Terminator. In 3 rounds they were all dead. Yeah, that must've been fun, right?

Now, it must be said that for every WAAC asshat, there are probably few normal peeps out there, and that's certainly true. However the percentage of players, who think that Winning At All Costs is a way to go, steadily raises. There are more of them coming, with each passing month, and releases like "The Gathering Storm" only speed up the process. Meanwhile many players who either don't play an army, that could go toe to toe with one of the favortised, heavily tailored factions, or simply want to experience fun, casual games, feel more and more disilussioned and resigned. Not to mention it's no fun to spar against someone who not only brings maximum cheese to the table, but also gloats, thinking himself entitled to act like a prick. I understand that. I'm one of those people. I don't play 40K often, but when I do, I want to have fun and I want my opponent to have fun. It's a normal approach to gaming, and it baffles my mind, why so many people don't understand that and actively try to be as assholish as possible. Well, for those people I have 3 things to say:

1) Making yourself feel better by winning in a game of little, plastic men is downright pathetic. At the same time, making sure that your opponent will have a bad time, watching helplessly as you steamroll your Gorgon Chain-wielding Chapter Master, through his army, with him not being able to do anything about it, is also disgusting and seriously uncool.

2) Your problems won't magically dissapear, after you sick your 3 Riptides against someone, who just wants a light, casual game. Maybe you'll feel better for a few hours, but after some time the sad reality of your life will kick back in. The only difference is, that then you'll also have a player, who may not be too keen on facing you again. Which brings us to...

3) Losing gaming buddies. You will quickly loose people, willing to play with you. Outside of tournaments and heavily competitive games (agreed on by all the participants, of course), there's little chance that many, casual players will want to stick around you. Especially if you also act like a dick during matches. Of course, you may think then that they are simply salty and can't take a failure like real men. In that case it's probably better, if you play with "real" players. Better for your casual opponents, that is.

Not that a WAAC player cares for filthy casuals. Unless he's busy grinding them to dust, being pleased with himself and enlargening his (probably very small) genitals. Bravo!
At this point I don't really have anything else to add. It saddens me to see 40K, getting more and more infested with WAAC mentality. It's just a game, and as such, it's supposed to be fun and make you and your friends, have a good time. I'd think that this is rather obvious, really. Being a powergamer, rationalising your WAAC tendencies in any way possible (usually a very poor way, I might add) and acting like a tit is, for me, both very sad and unnaceptable. I've decided some time ago, that I won't play against such people anymore. I want to relax during my games and to have fun, while also making sure that my opponent is also having a good time. Maybe the upcoming 8th edition will trim this WAAC craze, and make people remember that a tabletop experience is primarly about fun, not Winning At All Costs.

To paraphrase Pee Wee Herman: WAAC Is wack. Make no mistake about that.

Pictured: Pee Wee Herman holding a vial of pure, destilled WAAC. Even a single drop can turn you into a douchebag
Sometimes it's good to make a lighter, perhaps more fluffy list, than a rape-train without any brakes. That way you'll not only be seen as a cool, friendly gamer, but it'll also assure that your opponent will think of you positively. Trust me, it is very important, and a worthy thing to achieve. Tommorow I'll be playing a game against my friend's Tyranids. I won't be bringing any superheavies, flyers or even heavy ordnance. We've decided that this match will be infantry heavy, and I plan to make sure, that this foul xeno scum will leave my house, feeling happy and with a sense of a time, that's been well spent. For me, any tabletop experience should be about that and not counting how many of his units I'll be able to slot every turn, with my super tailored, formation heavy, OP army. It's a game. Make sure that everyone enjoys it, not just you.

Also if I've offended anyone with this article, then I'm not sorry at all. It simply means that you are a WAAC player and should be ashamed of your gaming habits. Save yourself some time (mine as well), and don't try to convince me that I'm a "bad gamer who can't win, and now his taking it out on the real players". I don't mind losing, as long as my opponent is a decent, friendly person, who treats others in the right way, and not a gigantic cunt with a WAAC complex. Thank you.

Until next time, when we return to the Old World! Because it's a place, worthy of further exploration, don't you think?

Xathrodox86

1/29/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Warrior Priest" by Darius Hinks

I always liked Warrior Priests. Funny, since personally I'm not a very religious or spiritual man, but for some reason, in almost every fictional universe, the idea of holy men and women fighting evil in the name of their gods, appeals to me.

That's why I have 4 Warrior Priests of Sigmar in my Warhammer Army, alongside a priest of Morr and a of Myrmidia. Like I've said, there's something undeniably cool about those type of heroes, so I did not hesitate in picking up the "Warrior Priest" novel, written by Darius Hinks, which also granted him the Morningstar 2011 award (David Gemmell Legend Awards). Fortunately, once again my choice has been a right one, as "Warrior Priest" was easily one of the best Warhammer Fantasy books that I've ever read.

A great piece of fantasy fiction indeed
The main protagonist of this story is Jakob Wolff, a holy man in the service to Sigmar, the founder of the Empire and its chief deity. He's on a dire mission to track his erstwhile brother, who decided to sell his soul to Ruinous Powers. Accompanying him is Ratboy, his faithful servant, who owns his life to the Warrior Priest. We are first introduced to the them, when the holy duo stops a mad wannabe Witch Hunter, Otto Sürman, from burning Anna, a young priestess of Shallya. Wolff has a personal score to settle down with Surman, who was responsible for the deaths of his parents, many years ago. As it turns out, they weren't guilty of the heresy that got them sent to the stake. It was Jakob's brother, Fabian, who was guilty of the ultimate sin of chaos worshipping. Shocked and appalled, Wolff vows to find his sibling and bring him to justice for his crimes. But the villian is both resourcefull and cunning, as is expected from the follower of the Great Changer, and soon Jakob and his allies realise, that Fabian possesses huge amount of power in the province of Ostland. Will they be able to stop his heresy from spreading further?

"Warrior Priest" is written in a very interesting manner, which combines the elements of both an investigation-type story with a military fiction. Fitting, since it is a part of the Empire Army novel series, but while other books from this range are more focused on battles and combat, this mixes in personal struggle, family drama and questions about blind faith and the damage that it can do. There's no denying the blind zeal, that pushes Wolff forward, to confront his evil brother, but Hinks also shows just how much harm, can a blind faith actually cause. "Sigmarite dogma does not preach forgiveness" growls young Jacob to his brother, in a retrospective part of the book, and that single line shows just how little different, the servants of Order truly are from their sworn enemies. Darius Hinks perfectly encapsulated the dangers of fanaticism, whether it comes from serving the Dark Gods of Chaos, or the First Emperor. Without spoiling anything, I just want to say this - after reading this novel, I've begun to look on the Warrior Priests of the Empire in a slightly different way. Not always wading in with a huge hammer, while shouting prayers to Sigmar, can be a good thing, as Wolff finds out the hard way, during the course of his story.

It should also be noted that Fabian, Jakob's younger brother, is probably one of the better written vilians in any Warhammer story. Around the middle of "Warrior Priest's" plot, we recieve a huge retrospection, taking us to the times of both brothers youth in the harsh and unforgiving province of Ostland. We see that Jakob, a highly pious and spiritual youg man, is clealry favortised by his equally religious father. Fabian, the other sibling, is seens as weak and useless, spending whole days reading books about legends and folk tales, while Jakob makes his way up the structures of sigmarite clergy. By a pure, blind chance, the Wolffs travel to Altdorf, to meet with high priests of the Temple of Sigmar, and drop Fabian off at the place of his eccentric uncle. Soon, the young man discoveres that the old man harbors many secrets, which he's willing to share with him. The road to damnation begins with Fabian accompanying his uncle on the streets of the Empire's capital, learning about secret societies, hidden libraries and things, that should remain hidden. The author presents this slow decline into heresy in a truly excellent manner. It is never explained if Fabian's uncle and his friends are cultists, or are they only fascinated by the unknown. The author leaves a few clues here and there, but it's up to the reader to make the final verdict. Hinks also shows just how often a man can become corrupted, just by pure chance or accident. Fabian wasn't a malevolent, daemon-worshipper from his earliest days. No, he became one by pure chance and the fact that his family was cold and distant towards him. Not often are servants of Chaos presented in such a way, and it is a testament to Darius Hinks talent, that he managed to write an antagonist, that's not only human, but also relatable. Good job Mr. Hinks.

Usually the Old World bad guys are less... subtle about being evil a-holes
The fight scenes, where they finally happen, are tough, brutal and visceral. Jakob Wolff, despite being a Warrior Priest, is still only a man, and an older one at that. It really shows how much he's fuelled on by his righteous fury, rather than his fading stamina and old muscles, to win the day. Not often do we see a simple human, in his latter days, who wins by the skin of his teeth, rather than by wielding a magical sword, while also sporting a set of impressive abs. Likewise Ratboy, who is a de facto narrator of this story, is also a very down-to-earth character. He's just a young kid, trying to survive day after day, in a province ravaged by war. While Wolff chases after his accursed brother, a huge Chaos army rampages through Ostland, burning everything in its path and killing all they encounter. The armies of the Emperor are hard pressed to contain the danger, which the Ruinous Powers bring to their borders, and the victory over the hated enemy seems less likely, with each passing day.

Also worth noting is the character of Anna. As a priestess of the Goddess of Mercy, her observations and insights on Wolff's methods and motivations, present a really nice contrast to the Warrior Priest's harsh and unforgiving philosophy. The banter between those two provided some of the most interesting points of this book.

The ending, when it comes, is both satisfying and highly melancholic, just like the ending to any Warhammer Fantasy book should be, in my opinion. However there's a sort of "after the credits" scene, and it is... weird. Without spoiling anything, I don't really think that this one was completely necessary and looked more like an eventual sequel hook. Given that the book was released back in 2010, and in the meantime the Old World was blown up by a bad case of shitty writing, any continuation of Jakob Wolff's adventure seems unlikely. Shame, because a lot of time has passed, since I've read a Warhammer novel that got me so interested in its plot and heroes. I know that Darius Hinks also wrote a couple of other stories for the Black Library, including a book about Sigvald the Magnificent, the Orion trilogy and some Space Marine action. After finishing "Warrior Priest", I can safely say that it is fully worth it to check his other works.

Great job Mr. Hinks!
Pros:

- A set of interesting, fleshed out heroes.
- The main villain is interesting, well written and relatable.
- Teaches about the dangers of blind faith and fanaticism.
- Combat is brutal and visceral.

Cons:

- That one ending scene was completely unnecessary. You'll know which one I'm talking about, once you'll finish the book.
- While the combat scenes were really good, there were not that many of them. For some that can be dissapointing, especially since this is an Empire Army novel.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

1/19/2017

A new year, a new plan. 2017 is going to be hot! Plus a reblog.

Wow, it's the middle of january 2017 and only now I'm actually posting something here. No excuses of course, but I just wanted to say that I'm very happy to kick off another year on my little slice of internet.




I think that most of us can agree on one thing: 2016 sucked major ass. Not to get into many details, but for me, it was especially bad. Personal stuff was bad, my mindset was bad, job tensions and social contacts - it was all bad, bad, bad. That said, I don't think that giving up is the way to go, at least, not yet and hopefully not ever. That's why I've decided to make 2017 a year to remember for all time, for all the good reasons, of course.

It's gonna be epic!
So for starters I just want to present you with a post from one of my players, Sean, who decided to upload his notes from our last session. You see, when I run any RPG, I urge people to take notes about different stuff: locations, people they've met, strange occurences, etc. That way, no important information will be lost by the party. However Sean really upped the quality of note-taking. His writing was crisp, interesting, dramatic and simply wonderful. Far from being a dry recollection of events, it read like a good drama. So here is a link  to his blog, Sean's Wargames Corner, where you can read the whole thing. I hope you'll like it, just like I did, and many other people on the Oldhammer in The New World Facebook group. In all honesty, for me as a long time GM, this is very humbling, to see my players wanting to share their experiences with the whole world. It is a really, really great thing to see.

However that's not all. Another of my players, Jason, made a few, awesome sketches, portraying the player characters. He now muses about drawing scenes from the party's adventures, and I honestly can't wait to see them done. His style reminds me of the old, 1st edition WFRP drawings, which I like tremendously. I'll take the liberty of posting them here, with author's permission of  course.

Genaro Vesuvio and Salvatore "Sally Balls" Sabatino. An unlikely pair of Tilean ne'er-do-wells (picture by J.Brisken)
I've decided to make 2017 a year, when I'll finally run all the stuff, that I always wanted. Among all the campaigns and adventures is, of course, the venerable "The Enemy Within", a legendary module for WFRP 1st edition (that I'll be running, using the rules for the 2nd one). At the beginning of the month I've begun looking for a team to run it for and... ended up with two! Yup, 2017 is the year when I'm going to run "The Enemy Within" twice. Can I handle it and manage my timetable with my Roll20 group and my old team, now playing the cWoD's Vampire: The Masquerade? Sure I can, it's all a case of planning your time and being determined to achieve success.

Oh, for one of the groups, I will also run the "Lichemaster" campaign, another gem from the times of 1st edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. In fact we've already had our first session yesterday evening, and it was good to know that after almost 3 year hiatus from running WFRP "in real life", I still have what it takes to make my players happy.

Lukas Kohler, Talabeclander and Charcoal-Burner. One of the most resilent bastards, this side of the Reik (picture by J.Brisken)
I should also add that my Roll20 group will no longer enjoy any more, one-shot adventures. It's finally time, after playing for more than 1,5 year together, to test them against a real challenge. That's right - it's time for yet another campaign! Which one? I cannot say that just yet, for it is a mystery and a surprise, and my players frequent this blog from time to time. I don't want to ruin the suspense for them.

So that's it for my RPG plans for this year, running 4 campaigns. Some might call it overly ambitious, I just think and hope that they will turn out to be heaps of fun. I also hope to play a bit more tabletop games, including new ones like Malifaux and Frostgrave. If everything goes right, I will attend the Eurobash event, organised by the wonderful Warhammer-Empire community in may.

Vincent Deriosh. On a first glane, a simple servant. During combat, however, he turns into a whirlwind of death and fury. Man of duty and a servant of Morr, the god of dreams and death (picture by J.Brisken)
Aside from that, I plan to make this blog more Warhammer Fantasy-centric, so to speak. I honestly think that now, after all the fuss with End Times and the Age of Sigmar, good, old WFB/WFRP deserve to get some love and be kept afloat, if you excuse the metaphor. Sure, they're not perfect, and yes, I will post more about what irks me with both of these games in the future, but the thing is... they just work for me. Despite all their flaws and problems, they are THE titles that I love and cherish the most, when it comes to both role-playing and tabletop games, and I certainly plan to help in keeping their flames alive.

That, and the fact that 40K is apparently going down the shitter. But that's a rant for another time, after I'll finish "The Fall of Cadia". Already halfway through it and... well, let's just say that I have a bad case of deja vu. Like I've seen a similar thing, done by this company, a while back. It didn't end well.

Leopold Boselmann. Once a dirty grave robber, he recently found a new purpose in life. However, old habits die hard... (picture by J.Brisken)
Next post will contain a review of the novel "Warrior Priest" by the Gemmel Award-recepient, Darius Hinks. I've read it last year and I think it's... oh, you know how it works. Just tune in next week, to read about my opinion on this title. Also it will be the first ever review of a Warhammer Fantasy book on this blog. About damn time, eh?

Until next time!

Xathrodox86