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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

5/23/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "The Thirteenth Wolf" by Gav Thorpe

It's no big secret that I'm a huge audiobook fan. They've helped me escape the boredom of a long bus drive and the tedium of long house chores.

However I would gladly take a year of non-stop toilet cleaning, than listen to "The Thirteenth Wolf" one more time. This is it ladies and gentlemen - the absolute worst audiobook, ever produced by the Black Library.

The cover's pretty nice, tough
I'm not even kidding, this thing fucking sucks. There is not a single, redeeming thing about this book, not one! You may think that I'm biased, because of who the author is but I can assure you that I'm not. Sure, Gav Thorpe singlehandedly made me quit collecting the Raven Guard with "Deliverance Lost", but I honestly don't think that he's a bad author. Even tough his first Raven Guard book was medicore at best, the latter titles, especially "Weregeld", were really enjoyable and he does Dark Angels exceptionally well. So I was actually really surprised at the "The Thirteenth Wolf's" low level of quality.

This audiobook runs for 68 minutes, but it feels at least twice as long, and not in a good way. The story centres around the fabled Thirteenth Great Company of the Space Wolves legion. During the assault on Prospero the warriors of "Dekk-Tra" are tasked by their Primarch with eliminating key officers of the Thousand Sons, mainly their sorcerers. From the very beginning we are introduced to the most boring pack of Vlka Fenryka, ever. Led by Bulveye, the so called "Wolf Brothers" were the old guard of the VIth Legion. They fought at the side of Leman Russ himself, before the coming of the Emperor and were old men, when injected with Canis Helix. Anyway, Bulveye is not the only one of the heroes of this audio drama, but he's... the only memorable one. There were 9 other Wolves present, but neither one of them was interesting or developed in any way, that he could've been remembered. Aside from a small cameo from Geigor Fellhand, known primarily from the "Burning of Prospero" game, the "Thirteenth Wolf" has a bunch od dudes, whose names I couldn't even remember when I was halfway into the story. Really depressing, let me tell you.

On the side of the traitors(?) things are looking similarly shitty. The main villian, altough calling him that is really pushing the term, is Izzakar Orr, a moustache-twirling sorcerer of the Thousand Sons. Orr is a typical saturday morning cartoon villian, straight from a Scooby Doo episode, spewing threats and running away at the last possible moment, before the Wolves can punch his ticket. I always liked good attention to detail, so I was very impressed to learn that the Thousand Sons' Librarians wore blue power armour. It's also worth mentioning that the people of Prospero are apparently gaunt, despite living under a scorching sun and having been presented as dusky skinned in almost all, previous 40K stories. Good job there.

So anyway, the "Wolf Brothers" under Bulveye begin to chase the dastardly Orr through a series of magical portals, and if that sounds fucking stupid, that's because it is. The bluish madman leads them on a merry chase through time and space... literally. The Wolves visit the Planet of the Sorcerers, stand above a sun in the vacuum of space (don't ask), fight some Wulfen and... yeah, no one really cares. No one cares, because their adventures are presented in such a boring, uninspired way, that it is not even funny. When one of them dies, the reader dosen't feel anything, because there's a good chance that he did not even remembered the legionary's name, not to mention his unique traits. Assuming that he had any to begin with.

Badly written characters and atrocious story aside, "The Thirteenth Wolf" is also very poorly produced. The background sounds are way too loud, often making the speech of various characters impossible to understand. I know that Black Library's short stories tend to use ambient sound a lot, but never before have I met with them being such poorly utilised. Not only that, but the actors speaking their lines also don't help. Sometimes they whisper so quietly that even turning the volume up to the maximum level did not helped. Few of the characters slur or speak in a growling voice, that makes it all but impossible to understand what the hell they are saying. However the absolute worst part came, when Bulveye and Orr spoke to each other across a huge chamber. When the old wolf spoke, he could be heard loud and clear, but with the Thousand Son, they've decided to make his voice sound, like he was standing a couple dozen meters away. The final effect was that he couldn't be heard at all, and cranking the volume up did not helped, except having my ears bombarded with decibles, when it was Bulvey's turn to speak and I did not had time to lower the sound. It was really unpleasant, to put it lightly.

It's almost as fun as listening to one of  those guys in a small room, with good interior acoustics
It is really a testament to the shittiness of this book, that the author managed to make a story about jumping through time and space, not to mention the origins of the 13th Great Company's long hunt for the traitors, boring. I mean, how is it even possible? I don't know, but I hope never to read/listen to anything as bad as "The Thirteenth Wolf" ever again. I don't recommend this audio drama to anyone. Save your money and give this one a pass.

Pros:

- It ends... eventually.

Cons:

- Boring story.
- Heroes are bland and uninteresting.
- The villian is ridiculous and completely non-threatening.
- Very poor production quality.
- It's 68 minutes too long.
- You have to actually pay money for this thing. This should be illegal in itself.
- Hell, the fact that it exists at all is bad enough to warrant an Exterminatus on the whole Black Library.

I need a fantasy fix, which is why my next post will contain a good portion of the good, Old World. Stay tuned.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

5/04/2017

My hopes and fears, concerning the 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000

It's no big secret that I don't exactly enjoy the current iteration of WH40K. The rules are overbloated, needlessly convoluted and are favoring certain factions to the point of absurdity.

Fortunately Games Workshop has announced that the 8th edition will soon hit the stores. Not only that, but a huge ammount of info has been released to the general public, including new rules and the contents of starter box. I must commend GW on their social media skills, they've really made a huge improvement in their online marketing department. Warhammer Community, answering people's questions on Facebook, Duncan's painting tips - all of these and more, are good indicators that our favorite plastic (and resin) crack dealer finally made a leap in the right direction.

You magnificent bastard!
Anyway, the 8th is coming and I'm super hyped for the complete rules overhaul, that it'll bring to the table. Not only they'll be easier to use, but from what we've seen, the power creep will be severly limited and most factions will, at least in theory, become equally strong on the tabletop. Now I know that it'll be probably just a matter of time, before some asshole, sitting in his dank basement, surrounded by empty Cheetos packs and Mountain Dew bottles, will come with another iteration of Iron Hands Chapter Master on a bike. Powergamers are a fact, sadly, but I'm still having hope that turning 40K in the direction of Age of Sigmar, when it comes to rules, will help to mitigate their cancerous presence.

Movement stats, new weapon rules and huge changes to morale are awesome. I also like the activation approach to close combat, and the fact that pistols are once again relevant! The formation nerf is also very welcome, since many of them are downright broken and not really fun to play against. If 8th will indeed put a price tag on each of them and also not make them OP, then I'll be very, very happy.

Now many people expressed concern about the lack of future codexes, in that 40K will use a system of AoS-like battle scrolls. I honestly think it's a very cool idea. Sure, printed codexes, supplement books and such are very nice, but more often than not, they're cluttered with unnecessary info and badly structured. Case in point, in my last game, during which we've spent quite a lot of time searching for different rules, even tough we've been playing 7th edition for years. Our frustration was coming from how the book has been written, with one rule, requiring an immediate searching for another. I know that AoS is largely free of this problem, which is a good thing. I still think that Age of Sigmar is a failed abortion, when it comes to lore and presentation, but their ruleset isn't bad, since the release of General's Handbook. If 40K will go similar way, I won't mind.

I'm with Team Pooh on that one!
So yeah, overall I'm really, really glad about the upcoming 8th edition. Well, mostly. You see, while I admire the change of rules, simplified combat, digital codexes etc., there is one thing that irks me greatly. No, not even that - it pisses me off to no end. The direction that Games Workshop is taking 40K's lore.

So I've read the War Zone Fenris and Gathering Storm supplements. While the former was pretty good, bar the ending, which I've found to be a bit anticlimactic, the latter was pure shit. Seriously, it's that bad. I don't want to go into too much detail here, since there will probably be a separate post, regarding that crappy campaign. However I wanted you, my dear readers, to know one thing - with the release of those two campaigns, especially the Gathering Storm, GW finally showed what kind of future they're envisioning for Warhammer 40,000. Essentialy they'll go the way of WFB's The End Times, where everything had to be EPIC and AWESOME and EXPLOSIONS! This, combined with a complete demythologization of the entire setting, which, I'd like to remind everyone, is based on fucking myths, will make for a very poor experience.

Why am I raising the myth problem? Because Warhammer, both of them in fact, are build on the premise of myths and legends. In the late Fantasy game we had Sigmar, creating the Empire with sheer determination and force of will, not to mention a huge ammount of heroism and righteous asskicking. However it was 2500 years before the "current" times. His once great nation, has fallen into decline and decadence, worshipping him as a god, and whose name and deeds were used as a excuse for every, single act that Empire's ruling castes commited, no matter how vile and cruel it was.

In 40K it's basically the same, but with added technological regression, greatest heroes of the Imperium either dying, or leaving it in disgust or disillusion and a bigger time gap. Which works in favor of myths even more, building on a sense of lost greatness and dreams about a bright and better future. This is what made Warhammer 40,000 so endearing to so many people, myself included. It was the notion that altough the Primarchs and their Father ultimately failed, the common man is still fighting on, still trying to make a difference in a cruel and uncaring galaxy. No longer were the majority of wars fought by the superhuman Astartes, but by the endless, fragile masses of Imperial Guardsmen. The Inquisition was acting in a horrible, inhuman ways, but they did it, because there really was no alternative. After the horrors of the Horus Heresy, makind had to be coralled and put in check, with few, chosen souls, knowing the truth, which weighed heavily on them. This is what made this setting so special - losing so much of our past, letting that one chance for glory and salvation slip away into the night, coupled with humanity's will to push forward and never give up. Sure, there are fictional setting that did it before the existence of Warhammer, but it was 40K that did it so well and so completely on nearly every level.

So of course, they had to fuck it all up, by bringing the Primarchs back in the name of story progression. Now I'm fully in the "progress is bad" camp, when it comes to 40K, or should I say, when it comes to fictional settings. The story of Warhammer 40,000 has been told and we know how it ends. Basically the Chaos Gods win, that's it. The Emperor and mankind in general, had their chance, but because of daddy issues and general human weakness, they've screwed things up. Just as planned. However GW saw the popularity and cash that the Horus Heresy was generating, and decided that 40K needs to follow similar path. They've thought: "why not shit on nearly 30 years of established lore and bring back a Primarch? And if he sells really well, we'll bring more of them!". Of course, from a strictly buisness standpoint this is a good idea, but an author should remain true to the nature of his creation. In this case, GW is clearly showing the exact, same mindset, which they've employed in 2015, when they've decided to axe Warhammer Fantasy. Sure, WFB was in a bad shape and probably wasn't generating enough to warrant its future existence. This is not the case with 40K and we all know it.

It's still going strong!
This game is doing good, maybe not as good as it used to, but good nonetheless. I personally think that pushing the story forward with that whole Indomitus Crusade and Guilliman creating new and better Space Marines, is just not right. It's not needed, since there is still so much to explore about the history of the Imperium. The Unification Wars, the Astropath Wars, creating a campaign book, based on the War of the Beast - the possibilities are many and varied. We don't need a Primarch returning, nor a Daemon Primarch (it was stated that once you become a Daemon Prince, you don't give two shits about material universe). We don't need new and improved Space Marines, we already have enough of them. Instead show some love to xenos like Orks or Tyranids, or flesh out more regiments of Imperial Guard. John French is working on a new series for Black Library, which will tell the story of the Horusian Wars. Why not make a tie-in supplement for 40K, giving the scions of Malcador more attention?

You didn't had to resort to stripping down the mythos of Warhammer 40,000. It was literally the one thing that made this universe so unique, and now you've took it all away. I hoppe that you have a good plan for the future of this setting, because I can already see the exact, similar mistakes that you've made with the End Times. Don't make the same errors twice, I beg you. You'll just lose more of your fans, including those who've been with you for a very long time. A few extra quid is not worth it, trust me.

I'm trying to remain optimistic, but Games Workshop is doing everything to make me stop believing in them. I hope that they won't succeed, I really do.

Until next time...

Xathrodox86