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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WIP Interdictor Class Cruiser

I've promised for a while to start posting some X-wing articles, so here is a quick one about my current big project, I'm building an Interdictor Cruiser for use in Epic play.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Book review: Star Wars: Aftermath

Well now that I've finished it I can attest that Star Wars: Aftermath was pretty much a waste of money. Maybe 1% of the whole book actually mattered for explaining what happened between ep 6 and 7.

The storyline was terrible and challenging to follow. Things which should have been described or explained were glazed over while minutia was explained in painful detail. I now know the behavior patterns of about a dozen animals on different planets, exactly how a lot of alcoholic drinks taste, and details regarding the histories of various worlds.

Yet I learned almost nothing about the overarching story or what happened between movies. Battles were slapstick and poorly described. So many Storm Troopers died and the whole thing felt like a kids show. Overall it was a remarkably disappointing story.

The one strong point was the actual conference of Imperial officials trying to devise a plan for what to do post battle of Endor. It was interesting to see the different elements of the Empire's government all laid out and explained, but it too suffered. Characters were poorly developed and with the exception of Admiral Sloan were petty incompetent caricatures.

There were so many kids in this book, and miraculously they all were great at opposing the Empire, and none of them ever died opposing an organized military. The main story arc revolved completely around a rebel pilot coming home from the war and having challenges rebuilding her relationship with her son. That could have been a good storyline, but again the characters were whiny caricatures instead and was just really annoying and long.

Overall the whole book came off as forced and it was a challenge of endurance to get through it.

Overall rating: 1.5 out of 5 Star Destroyers

*********SPOILER ALERT*********

If you don't want to know any spoilers don't read this part.

As the purpose of reading the book was to explain events between episodes 6 and 7 here are the 2 key take aways from it:

1. The New Republic IS a thing and had just been established. It is also doomed...

The seeds of its collapse are already apparent though and are sadly very believable.

The political leadership (Mon Mothma) has decided that the New Republic needs to disband its military to prevent anyone from viewing them as tyrannical. Note the Empire is still in a state of open war with them and holds at least HALF its total territory and 1/3-2/3 of its military might. The suicide plan for the republic is to keep only a token force to help train local system militaries to be self sufficient. I'm not kidding, this is the plan.

The case against this plan is made very loudly by everyone with a brain in their head, an understanding of history, and a working knowledge of what power vacuums are and why they are bad for maintaining galactic peace. It's actually very eloquently and succinctly put by a general early in the book as the republic military reels from being informed that they will soon all be unemployed because the still ongoing war is over and we won! This was actually the single best chapter in the book, it's the interlude at the end of chapter 9 and I'd honestly advise just reading this part of the book and the epilogue.

Naturally the military is being ignored because politicians always know best. Honestly it makes me think of the early Iraq War when the U.S. Government decided to disband the Iraqi army because it had been a tool of oppression and we wanted to start things over with a fresh slate. Of course without any force maintaining order all the simmering discontent boiled over and the different factions in the country started killing each other, as always happens when a power vacuum occurs and no one faction is strong enough to take power.

2. The Empire is crumbling from its own corruption and ineptness. It also may just happen to have a certain dude with blue skin and a white uniform to build something new from the ashes...

This is really well shown through the Imperial Council on Akeeva. The different factions don't agree of get along at all, and most of the top brass have either surrendered to the republic, stolen money and run, or are only thinking of how to use the chaos to advance their own positions. There are a few people who actually are trying to put things back together but they are in the minority.

By the end of the book though most of the chafe is culled by either being killed by the "give a damn" crowd or being allowed to be captured by the republic. So in the end it does seem that the Empire will pick itself back up, particularly because the republic is determined to give them the space and time necessary to do so. It will just be a changed and reformed version of the Empire that emerges from the ashes.

Cool news, the Empire still has 1 super star destroyer left, The Ravager, and it is under the command of a brilliant ADMIRAL who we never get the name of, but who shows an interest in musical ARTS, has spent a seemingly very long time out in the outer rim, and knows exactly what both his allies and enemies will do way in advance. You learn this in the epilogue, and honestly it was the most exciting bit dropped on the book. They don't give you the Admiral's name, but there are so many hints that it's Grand Admiral Thrawn that despite how disappointing this book was I'd be willing to buy the sequel just to see him in it.

Thrawn is a crowd favorite and it would be really cool to see him get a second chance at rebuilding the Empire, and if he makes a film debut I'd be giddy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Europe trip pt 1 and why I haven't been posting anything

It's been a while since I've posted. Bunch of stuff has happened, I had my summer training with the National Guard, had to do a lot of stuff to prepare for my first semester of grad school, and got hired to work for a really top end personal training service closer to where I live with better pay then my current job. I'm currently in France with my girlfriend for a romantic excursion and to attend a wedding for her French friend.

Here are some pictures from the trip so far:

Me and Caitlin.

Found a Game Shop by accident in Paris, but it was closed (Damn you 35 hour work week!).

I really love Gothic architecture, so I'm enjoying all the ancient churches here. Very cool stuff.

All of this stuff has contributed do the long radio silence here, but there is one real reason I've not posted anything for a while. Can you guess what it is?

This summer Age of Sigmar came in and shat on my dreams. I've been playing 40k for 23 years, and as that game's quality (rules wise) started to decline mid-fifth edition I migrated back to Fantasy at the beginning of 8th edition. I'd tried fantasy before back in 5/6th edition and found it to be an infuriating game of "gotcha" (One player does something the opponent just has to suffer through and says "Gotcha!" Only fun for one player, kind of like 6th & 7th edition 40k...). 8th edition changed that entirely and while there were a number of minor flaws the game itself was great, fun, and both players had a good chance to win most games.

Here is a quick run down of the problems 8th had:
• 3 of the initial magic lores were truly game breaking. All of the army book lores were fine to underpowered, and the actual magic rules worked great.
• Improbable charge redirection shenanigans where a lone model would hold up dozens of enemies and force them to lose turns of movement or run away from the battle. Some armies could do this ridiculously well, looking at you Ogre Kingdoms, and it was infuriating and broken when combine with the fact that these armies had lots of potent shooting.
• Holy shit were most monstrous cavalry ever overpowered, again looking at you Ogre Kingdoms
• Several army books were just bad, namely Orcs and Goblins and Beastmen and according to many tomb kings (mostly because tomb kings had more "bad match ups" then most other armies)
• Heavy Cavalry was VERY weak in 8th edition, such that it was rare to see it outside of some ETC builds.
• Incredible if uneven power creep. Ogre Kingdoms broke the game's back unless you comped them hard. Any book that has a two paragraph apology from the author in the FAQ for doing a poor job considering how the rules could be abused is a bad book.
• Everything in the Orge Kingdoms book. They are the most powerful shooting army in the game with the most advanced weapons in the game. Everything in that sentence should be wrong, but it's not.
• Monster Characters should not be allowed to challenge. It's broken game mechanic wise, counterintuitive, and it's anti-cinematic for a big monster to make people stand in a long line to get killed. 40k's current challenge system works much better, although in 40k it usually doesn't impact the game at all.
• The last major one was how there seemed to be absolutely no common system for points costing units across armies. Chaos Mauraders were freakishly expensive for what they did, basic crap infantry for 10-12 points with upgrades. My Empire Great Cannons cost the same as Khorne Cannon Chariot things. All monsters the same size as a giant have the same points cost despite being wildly different. Seriously these choices were made at random and each book had to be written in total isolation.

So yeah, those were the main flaws to the game. All of those would be easily fixed, instead we have this pile of shit that is AoS. The new game actually has some good points to it, notably it's that while every army is quite bland with most units being largely identical now across the various armies units DO fill the roles they were designed for (kind of at least) and the fact that they had to redesign everything at the same time actually helped to level the playing field a lot. That's really it though, despite its tiny rulebook the new game really isn't simplified, it's actually more complicated.

They have eliminated the concept of USRs and standardized wargear for AoS. Sure every unit's rules are on its free to download sheet, but in the "whatever-The-Empire-is-called-now" there are at least 4 different explanations of how shields work. The item is called "shield" for every unit which has them by they have different rules for most of them. What?!? This means that I have almost no chance of actually understanding what my opponent's (or my) units do or how they work just by looking at the model.

You have to move every model, charge with every model, and consolidate every model each turn you move. Good luck with that horde of models (For anyone who claims that the game isn't meant to be played with large units anymore if refer you to the "whatever-The-Empire-is-called-now" book where many units have special rules which only work if they have 20-50 models!). People complained that the 8th edition movement rules were complicated and took too much time. Really? A unit of 40 models moved 1 time a turn all at once in a movement tray. Sure it had annoying counterintuitive moments, but it took far less time then the new system.

I actually didn't intend for this to be just a rant about the AoS release. Aside from it having in MANY people's views a very inferior rules system (random turn order only works in alternating activation systems...) it's release was a big kick in the nuts surprise from GW. After a year of support for fantasy and a lot of inferring that the game would have a new edition which would improve it a lot our game suddenly was destroyed. It's like taking a toy from a little kid, breaking it right in front of him, and then giving it back and demanding that he say thank you.

Needless to say I'm more than a little pissed off at GW at the moment. I've stomached the abuse and neglect for over 2 decades because I've loved their products and enjoyed playing their games. I largely stopped actually having fun playing 40k about 4 years ago, though 7th can be fun with the right opponent. Fantasy is gone forever, so unless Kings of War actually takes its place locally I've now got a few hundred models taking up space. I haven't been able to bring myself to work on any 40k stuff since AoS came out, and that's the reason there have been no posts here.

I hadn't realized just how much money I spend on bits. Seriously I've actually saved quick a bit of money over the last few months from now spending money on new models. Instead I've been playing a ton of X-wing, the rules are tight and the game is very fun to play. Tournaments and cons abound and FFG actually wants you to play their games. The only thing it's missing is model projects.

I've converted one or two ships but I've mostly been working on terrain. I've got a big space station mostly built, though I need to take it back almost to the drawing board sadly.

Most recently I've started building a to scale Interdictor Cruiser, here is an early shot of it.

I'll get back to posting thugs once knew back from France, though I can't say how long it will be before I can touch my GW stuff again.

At this point I earnestly expect that 40k will receive the exact same treatment fantasy has within the next 2 years. The reasons people say it won't happen are pretty much the exact same ones we said in defense of fantasy and the same people are at the head of the company. That means the same decision making matrix is in place, so expecting a different outcome would be rather foolish. My one hope is that they finally give up writing rules entirely and license FFG to do it for them. They've already done this a lot and FFG's reliably turned out great 40k products.

If that doesn't happen it's only downhill from here. And on top of it all Forgeworld is becoming more "integrated" into GW's larger business model. It's only a matter of time until FW loses its creative license and freedom and loses its quality.

Again sorry for being so down on GW in this post. I honestly love the games and their story lines. The mythos is amazing, the models are amazing, and the games USED to be amazing. I'm 30 and its taken playing X-wing for me to rediscover the feeling I had when I was playing 3rd edition 40k as a teenager. I WANT to be able to feel that way about 40k again, Fantasy too. I just can't fake it anymore, the games have lost something and don't feel like we're building a mutual story anymore when I play. Honestly I'm not sure exactly when this change happened, but I need a break from the game until it improves.