Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Master of Sanctity

Another painting by GW's "Armpit artist."
Master of Sanctity by Gav Thorpe. 

When I reviewed the previous books in this series, Ravenwing and Angels of Darkness, I think I did a pretty decent job conveying my irritation with Ravenwing's pacing and over heaped servings of "warporn".

So, fellow reader, I am satisfied to say here and now that Master of Sanctity is a far better reading experience than Ravenwing was. The pacing was better, the interest level was better, and the story was... well, I will get to that in a minute, but first:


Yes, sadly, in order to review this book it may be possible to reveal more than you might want to know if you're about to read this story soon.

Essentially this book is a sequel to Ravenwing, but really, it's the sequel to Angels of Darkness that Ravenwing failed to be. The story focuses more on Astellan the Fallen angel that was tortured (lots!) by Chaplain Boreas in Angels of Darkness, and the attempts of Sapphon, the Dark Angel's Master of Sanctity, to use Astellan as a means to catch more Fallen. We also catch up with some of the characters that we followed in Ravenwing, Telemenus and Annael, both of whom have heroic moments in this book, although one treads a more tragic path than the other. Another character is also followed, Chaplain Asmodai who some might know as a special character from the table-top game.

The story picks up pretty much where Ravenwing left off, but we get to meet Sapphon right away, and we get to see fairly quickly the friction between him and Asmodai. In fact, throughout the book Asmodai is pretty much a blood thirsty prick, petulant and insolent. I seriously recall remarking to myself that he was like a brat in power armor. But it all makes the tension between these two so much more intense. I really kind of craved Asmodai's demise quite honestly. However, his behavior, and interestingly enough, his fears, are explained and he proves to be a far more complicated character by the book's end. But still, I rarely like asshole interrogator's in any scenario, and wanted to see him lose. Asmodai, throughout the book, is constantly trying to upstage Sapphon and unseat him from his position as Master of Sanctity (he also stated a few times that he would like to torture him too, but Asmodai probably thinks this about everyone). The tension gets really crazy when Sapphon presents the idea to the Dark Angel Inner Circle his plan to use the Fallen, Astellan, in a ploy to root out more Fallen and also as bait. This is also, by the way, where the story gets really good!

Without touching too much on plot points, I would like to say that the pacing of the action scenes felt better in this book as opposed to Ravenwing, especially the description of the events that take place on the daemon world that the Dark Angels assault in an effort to track down another Fallen. That was an insane warzone and Gav does a great job handling this and he doesn't keep us in it longer than necessary, which feels like a lesson learned from his previous works. Also, if you like Nurgle daemons, you'll enjoy this I think.

The book really ramps up the tension and pacing as we get closer to the end, with a battle that is quite epic in scope, especially the space battles. One highlight was when Sapphon leads a Terminator assault onto a Chaos battleship that is just freaking awesome. The description of the Chaos bombardment of the planetary palace was also quite intense and made for a thrilling lead, and it continued right up to the final chase, and the surprise ending.
And now, the 3rd cover that this book has had! But at least it's back in print. 

  • Did I like it? I did! I didn't think the story had the pacing issues or the feeling of mindless warporn as the previous book fell into often. In fact, I very much enjoyed this installment. 
  • Was it hard to put down? Almost, but toward the final 1/4 of the book it very much was. 
  • Could I care about the characters? To a degree, yes. Sapphon mostly, as he seemed to be a very noble, sensible and humane character, unlike Asmodai who was damn near his opposite. Telmenus' story was the one I enjoyed the most in the previous book, and I was glad he had a role in this one as well, as we got to see him go through the rituals and training of being a Deathwing Terminator. His story takes a twist that Gav will no doubt wrap up in the next installment.  
  • Did the writer truly grasp how the 'world' of the 41st millennium works in the sense that it doesn't betray or retcon previously established (as I know it) lore?  It's Gav, so yeah. However Gav's writing can be hit and miss, but this one is surely one of his hits. It was fun to watch him squeeze in the new vehicles from the most recent Dark Angels Codex, (heheh)
  • Was I being talked down too? No. Gav's style usually has a good vibe about it. 
  • How predictable is this story? This one wasn't very predictable, which Ravenwing sort of was, this one was more of a "will this plan work?" intermixed with false paths and unforeseen twists, which makes a 40K book far more enjoyable than just endless scripture describing how a bolter works at killing things. 
  • Do I recommend this book? Yes I do! Sadly, in order to do so I have to recommend Ravenwing as well, as it is important to know who all of our protagonists are, however you could skip that but you must read Angels of Darkness first. In fact, Master of Sanctity is far more satisfying sequel to Angels of Darkness than Ravenwing was, and it greatly factor's into the success of this story. And since this book sums up a lot of what occurred in Ravenwing, yeah, skip it! 

  • Saturday, March 21, 2015

    "Psychic phase?! We don't need no psychic phase!"

    Had a game recently with Screech. It was a pick-up game, and only my 2nd 7th edition game and I was fearing I was going to face a psyker (at least one, right?). So, I figured I would try out a Culuxus Assassin to got along with my Ultramarines. When Screech and I decided to get a game going he gave me a choice between facing his Tyranid army or his Imperial Guard. Foolishly, I chose the IG. This was foolish of me because unlike the 'nids, there were no psykers to be found in his guard army.

    LOL, and it all goes down hill from here!

    Our table set up.

    Ultramarines deployment.
    The Imperial Guard (or Astra Millivanili) deploy.
    After the usual mission selection, etc, I deployed first. It was a objectives mission, and I was poised to pounce on them and do as much damage as I could do my first turn. This "plan" was dashed when Screech rolled a '6' to steal initiative. And he managed to alpha-strike me into near oblivion! The two 6-man squads in the pic below were both reduced to 2 guys each, with the unit on the ground pulling back when they failed their break test. 

     On the other side of the table, my two 5-man squads were reduced down to 2 survivors each and my whirlwind was 'stunned', The whirlwind was a key element in my plan reduce his infantry numbers that were bunched together on the other side of the missile site.

    But, I wasn't going to let Screech's awesome round, or my cardboard power armor, stop my assassin from having some fun, even if he didn't have any psykers to hunt down. Realizing his limited functionality, I dove him headlong into the nearest guard unit, where I managed to avoid being overwatched to death and took out a few of Screech's groundpounders.

    "I'll blow your minds with my fists!!!"
     Turn two, and the punishment continued. My landraider scared a few of his tanks in the last round, but nothing that netted any lasting results. However the IG managed to immobilize my venerable tank and forced my Captain and his Command Section to bail out.

    A unit of Scions arrived via Deep Strike and pasted one of my squads. The Assassin, who, despite his awesome stat-line, just botched it in the following assault phases before falling to the IG. It was really looking like the Ultramarines needed a new hope...

    Impossible shots R us.
     And on my turn, the hope arrived.  My Terminators arrived via Deep Strike and slaughtered a squad that was hiding behind the tanks that were giving my Landraider hell. Most of the unit were set ablaze by the heavy flamer terminator (note the props in the pic below!).

    A few more Imperial Guard were immolated by the sole survivor of one of the squads near the missile site. That Scions took some losses from the whirlwind and some fire from the Command Section and some of my straggling units. But it wasn't enough...

    Top of Turn 3, and the might of the Imperial Guard rained death on my Terminators, and by some miracle, two guys lived!

    On my turn, they charged the IG tanks, and I hope, nay, expected them to rip those fricking tanks to scrap, but they either failed to hit the damn things or they failed to penetrate them enough to take them out of the game.
    "I thought you said these things opened like sardine cans?!"
     My end of my my turn 3, all I had left, except for those two hapless Terminators, are as they appeared below.

    A functioning Dreadnought and my Captain and Command section. And not a lot of options.

    We decided to call the game, and just for kicks we tallied the VPs: Ultramarines 4, IG 9. And it surprises me that I did that well! LOL

    Mistakes? Well, the obvious one from the start was taking an army based around a psyker hunter and electing to fight the army least likely to have one! I think I should've been more aggressive with deploying the Captain and his unit, but other than that, there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I had sufficient cover, but his dice were hot and mine were not. It became a goal of trying to milk as much fun out of the situation as I could, so we did, and it was good time as always!

    Thursday, March 19, 2015

    PIAT team

    While continuing to assemble my British Infantry units for Bolt Action, I decided to create a few support teams. This one in particular required a bit of research however, as I didn't know how the PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank) was held and fired in combat. Behold: Youtube.

    I think it's obvious that the weapon can be fired from a laying down position, as shown effortlessly in this war-time propaganda clip . However I wanted to see evidence of it being held over the shoulder, as this seemed to be the only way to model it with this kit.

    This clip from Weaponology truly explains how the thing worked, as well as explains the truth of the PIAT's battlefield effectiveness. (sorry old propaganda clip, you've been set straight!) Loading one of these things looks like a true pain in the ass, and I was tempted to convert this particular action on a model, but decided against it... after all there are a few ways to ready a PIAT.

    What really convinced me to model this team the way I did however was this clip from the old war movie Theirs is the Glory. Arguably propaganda, like most of these old movies, but you got to let it go when faced with the pure warporn awesomeness of this scene. Dixon just strolls out, PIAT in one hand, ammo case in the other, and annihilates a Panzer like it was no more bothersome than checking the mail. I am utterly convinced that the chap who sculpted these models was a fan of this flick, right down to the details on the ammo case!

    And finally, this is a great piece of reference Sons of Guns, as it firmly illustrates some of the problems that the PIAT was known for, although I question whether or not the explosions in this piece hasn't been augmented with the assistance of more flammable substances (gasoline in the old truck perhaps?). Check it out.

    I am getting to the point now where soon I will work on the bases for my British Infantry, and then apply the primer before starting the challenging task of painting these blighters.

    Sunday, March 08, 2015

    A Runt, a Squig and a Gobo

    Left to right: The Runt, the Squig and the Gobo
    Pretty simple title to this post, as it was a pretty simple undertaking. While working on my Orcs, I came across these three models that were still just half painted, and with the way I have my painting station organized now, it's  a lot easier to focus on getting models like this done. So I dedicated myself to getting these 3 models completed. It also helped that there might've been a few snow days with little else to do.

    The RUNT
     An ammo runt more specifically. This was the first model like this ever produced by GW, and he is exactly as the name implies: an overworked gun caddy. I am unsure what possessed me to single him our for a paint job back in the late spring of 2012, but on that day I based coated him along with a box set of Fenrisian Wolves whose paws you can spot in the pic below.
    The day of base-coating: 6/3/2012
    The boss
     I got him from Warfrog along with an assortment of random Rogue Trader era Orks he simply didn't have the time or patience to ebay off.  This model was sold in a blister along with an Ork Warboss (the tab simply says 'the boss') model. He was a big Ork back then, but not too terribly inspiring even back then. I do like that Marine helmet that his foot's on though. Anyway, the pic is included over on the right.

    The backside, showing the ammo clips that are adding to his weight
    I always thought the best part of this pair was the over worked gretchin, He's miserable in his unyielding loyalty to his cruel master, he carries on no matter how encumbered The Boss makes him. He has a chain dangling from his throat, perhaps used more as a leash than as a means to keep him in place. Seriously, GW, this little sculpt deserves to be in the 'Hall of Fame' that you do in White Dwarf. This model clearly inspired a line of Gretchin Assistants during Warhammer 40,000's 2nd edition, and carries on to this day as add-on bitz on select ork sprues. I feel this grot, out shines and out lasts the master he was sculpted to serve.

    In fact just last week I used him in a game!
    My finished paint job.

    The SQUIG. 
    This is the attack squig that goes to the metal (currently "finecast") Ork Warlord. I removed him from my Warboss so I could convert a Power Klaw on to him. But I wasn't about to toss out the Squig! I was very careful at the time to slowly remove the attack squig. Eventually I attached him to a base and started dabbling on him some time in 2013. And now, with a bit of focus, he is done!

    Say Awwww!

    The GOBBO.
    This single night goblin came free in White Dwarf when Warhammer Fantasy 7th edition came out. I painted him as a test model for the rest of my Goblin army. He painted up super quick (as far as actual time painting is concerned) and I like the results.

    Night Goblin
     Here's hoping there is more to come on the Night Goblin front. The sheer number of them though is a bit daunting to say the least. Still, it's cool to have this one guy to lead the proverbial charge.

    Wednesday, March 04, 2015

    "Did you remember to roll your 1?"

    For the first time since last April, I got to play a game of Warhammer 40,000! I was able to arrange a game with Da Masta Cheef , Wolfy and the mysterious...JIM! We agreed to do a team game of 500 points each. With Da Masta Cheef and I both bringing Orks, while Wolfy would bring her Fem' FaTau in a (desperate) alliance with Jim's Space Marines.

    Waaaargh! Ror-Ruk gather's a small force

    Ror-Ruk's Ravagers
    • Ror Ruk (Ork Warboss) with a Power Klaw and an Ammo Runt
    • Painboy
    • Boyz Squad with Nob armed with a Powerklaw and a boy armed with a Big Shoota with a Trukk with a rokkit launcha
    • Boyz Squad with Nob armed with a Powerklaw and a boy armed with a Big Shoota with a Trukk with a rokkit launcha
    • Mek Gun with Kustom Mega Kannon and an Ammo Runt

    Da Eleet Grot Mountin Duvishun

    Da Eleet Grot Mountin Duvishun
    • Warboss with Da Lucky Stikk, eavy armor, and a big choppa
    • Painboy
    • Mek w/KMB
    • 17 slugga boyz, w/big shoota, Nob, & eavy armor for the whole squad
    • 10 grots and Runtherd
    • Looted wagon w/Kill Kannon and big shoota
    • Kannon w/ammo runt

    The Fem Fa'Tau ...looking very fem indeed. 
    The Fem Fa'Tau consisted of:

    • Darkstrider
    • Firewarrior team with Devilfish
    • Firewarrior team
    • Pathfinder Team with Pulse Accelerator Drone
    • Piranha

    A gathering Dark Angels. Seen here tripping on hallucinogen gas. 
    Dark Angels

    • Space Marine Captain with a Power Sword
    • Terminator Squad with just stormbolters
    • Marine Squad (5 man)
    • Marine Squad (5 man)
    • Ravenwing bikers (3)

    Deployment: Kannon positioned defensively at the shrine, Trukk Boyz rev'n the engines!

    As much as I would like to write about my thoughts on the army selection process, the current Ork Codex and 7th edition, I will post about that separately, as this report will be long enough.

    We rolled 'Relic' for our mission, and the Orks deployed first.

    Grots and 2nd Trukk with Warboss and boyz . 
    The Eleet Grots deploy along with the Looted Wagon.

    We went first, not much in the way of action, other than that we moved, fired a bunch of shots but didn't really do any significant damage that I recall. Other than the looted wagon rocking the heck out the Dark Angles that were laying low in the ruins of the far end of the table.

    End of Ork turn 1. The Relic is that flag/banner thing next to the glowing orb on the right.

    The Marines see the red Trukk through the windows, but fail to bring it down. 
    The Ravenwing redirect, trying to avoid the trukk boyz. They take a hull point off of the red trukk. 
    Around this time the grots get shot up really good by a Firewarrior team and route.

    Turn 2

    The grots rally,

    Things get a bit vicious as the kannons open up and kill two of the Ravenwing bikers. A single biker remains.

    The Looted Wagon scores a vicious blow on the marines as well, killing someone.

    Deathwings. Now in Buffalo Sauce!
    The last Ravenwing biker dies, and would've died well if when I fired my Mega Kannon my so called ally, Da Masta Cheef, didn't say, as a reminder of my 'Get Hot' rule, "Did you remember to roll your 1?" Which I then promptly did, negating my wonderful shot. *sigh*.

    End of Ork turn 2
    The Tau wreck the Ork Trukk!
    "Time to slog it boyz!"
    Turn 3
    The Warboss and his boyz dismount. Ror Ruk had the Prophet of the Waargh! Warlord Trait, and I called it this turn. My boyz declared charges on the Devilfish, while the Orks of the Da Mountin Duvhsin charged the drones.

    After the overwatch/snapfires, we still had a lot of orks left, and we successfully charges and destroyed our targets.

    My other Boyz squad wanted revenged for their pretty trukk getting blown to hell, and declared a charge on the defended Tau, who promptly shoot and killed a few boyz before stepping back far enough to take them beyond my rolled charge range.

    I hate the Tau. *sigh*.

    "Oi! Come back!"
    A moral victory, in the eyes of Da Masta Cheef anyway, occurred when he charged the deathwing with his Grots and tied them up in combat!

    The grots were slaughtered! 

    But Shultz! The Runtherd tied them up in combat with his Insane Courage!
    Withstanding the withering hale of shooting, my ork boyz and the Ror Ruk managed to charge Darkstrider and her Fem Fa'Tau Firewarriors, and promptly murdered them all propa' like.
    Challenges are still fun. 
    Coming out to play, the 5 man squad of Dark Angel bashed through a wall and shot up a few of my orks. Seeing that the boss was taking care of the Tau, the Painboy redirected his boyz to deal with these Dark Angels, and they killed them down to final guy.

    "Screw you xenos filth! I take you all down with my knife!"
    The same thing occurred on the other side of the table, with the Space Marine Captain's unit being killed off and only he left standing in a ring of orks!

    He's the green one with the sword. ;)
    The Deathwing killed off Schultz! and were desperately moving in to assist their imperiled leader.

    Turn 5
    A unit of Pathfinders was making a run for the objective!

    The field of battle at the top of Turn 5

    Ror Ruk and Boyz kill off the Pathfinders. 
    The Piranha makes a move to stop the grots from taking the banner!

    I am unsure as to the fate of the Dark Angel Captain. He may have survived... oh yeah, I think I remember: the Ork Mob failed a morale test and killed themselves due to Mob Rules or something. I recall Da Cheef ranting about that around this point.

    "I said stay back you filthy xenos!"
    Meanwhile the Painboy and his boyz failed to kill the final marine, but the Powerklawed Nob splattered him good!
    "I wonder if 'is helmet will fill up with blood and guts if I 'oldz him like dis?"
    And at the end of Turn 5, the game ends.
    We decided to call it a draw due to the secondary objectives, but it felt to me like another round and we might have managed to table or foes. it was possible, but with those terminators running around still, it's tough to say. And that Piranha just didn't want to die.

    All-in-all, we had a good time!

    Face down: Grots vs. Piranha. I appreciate their moxy, but I would bet on the Piranha.