White Dwarf Review – February 2018

I’ve dragged my feet with this month’s review.  I don’t know why, as I can’t imagine it being particularly bothersome to write.  For some unfathomable reason, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been plagued by a serious case of I’ll do it tomorrow.  So, without further meandering, here it is.

It won’t come as a surprise to most people that this month is a big Custodes month and as such there is a mountain of gubbinz in Planet Warhammer relating to them.  The new releases section in this issue is incredibly busy and it’s also worth pointing out that the Orlocks finally join the Eschers and Goliaths in Necromunda, along with the latest Gang War supplement, which allows gangs to take hired guns; spiffy.

There’s also a Thousand Sons Codex, and a bunch of Age of Sigmar stuff, including scenery, a new background and rulebook and a handful of new characters.  It all has a heavy leaning towards the Malign Portents thingy that’s looming, with the book being specifically for that.

Fyreslayers and Skaven both get warbands for Shadespire and there’s a new Eisenhorn book, complete with super spangly new Eisenhorn model, which I believe is on limited release, at least for the time being.

I seem to be less of a crusty old cynic this month, because I quite enjoyed the letters page and there wasn’t really anything that stood out about it, it was just a nice, pleasant read.

August 2001 is the issue covered in Temporal Distort and I remember this one pretty well, although I thought it was a smidge older than it is.  The main events in this one was a bunch of stuff for the Inquisitor game and the Albion campaign for Warhammer.

Inquisitor was one of those games that I always wanted to get into but never quite managed.  I read the rulebook, a weighty tome, packed with background material and I even played a couple of games in the Liverpool Games Workshop, and also at home with my youngest bro Bob, but I never really got any further than that, which is a shame because, complicated though it was, it was good fun.

Following Temporal Distort is a wee Bloodbowl article, which is little more than a two page advert for the game.  This isn’t such a bad thing I suppose and as long as it’s reasonably entertaining, the inclusion of this sort of thing every now and then doesn’t do any harm.

There’s a feature on the Inquisitor Martyr game which is available on the Xbox and Playstation apparently.  I had no clue it was out on console, I genuinely thought it was a PC only thing, like Dawn of War and the Warhammer Total War games.  Well I’ve certainly been disabused of that notion now and have found out some things about a game that I knew little about.

After this is an interview with Phil Kelly about the new Malign Portents book, which gives a decent look at the book and a few hints about what’s to come.  I might finally be starting to warm to Age of Sigmar, at least its background.  In the past I’ve often found the AoS stuff to be a bit of a chore to read, but I’ve not been finding it to be too much of a slog recently and that’s a big step up for me.

The anniversary of the Black Library is upon us and as part of that there is an in-depth piece about the history of it.  How it started, its first books, the rapid expansion and all that good stuff.  There are little chats with several BL authors and it’s a solid, top notch read.

Given the massive amount of Custodes releases this month, the issue wouldn’t be complete without a huge article about them.  It follows the tried and tested formula for new release articles.  That being a detailed look at the models, how they work on the tabletop and a good look at the design process.

The new miniatures look awesome and if the rest of the stuff is as well put together as the Trajann Valoris model that I’m painting at the moment, it’ll be a great army to collect.  Also, gold is a great colour to paint with these days.  Many moons ago gold paint was bloody awful and I avoided it like the plague.

After the introductory article last month, Tale of four Warlords covers the painting of their initial purchases, with everyone managing to get their stuff done in time.  Although all the nascent armies are well painted, I just can’t take to Andy Keddie’s Daughters of Khaine; the colour scheme is far to weird for my liking.

The Battle Report pits Custodes against Necrons and while it initially seemed like a bit of a random choice of foes, they explained their reasoning behind it.  Apparently, it was simply that the two forces have never faced each other before and Necrons haven’t seen a battle report for ages; that’s a good enough reason for me.

As always, it’s kind of difficult to talk about the battle without spoilering the heck out of it, so I’ll simply say it was a good read and it was good to see the two armies being put through their paces.  I will say though that I was left with some questions regarding the Custodes, so I’m going to have a read through the Codex and see what’s what.

After the 40K battle report I certainly wasn’t expecting another one, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see a Blood Bowl match report immediately following the 40K battle report.

The game pits the Elfheim Eagles against the Mongrel Horde (Elven Union and Chaos Renegades, if like me you don’t know a great deal about Blood Bowl).  Although I don’t currently play Blood Bowl, I always enjoy reading about it but not knowing the rules means some of it goes over my head.  Despite this I’m always happy to consume Blood Bowl content, probably a result of the built-in silliness of the game (it makes a nice change from all the unrelenting grimdarkness).

Following this are the concluding parts of the Cinderfall campaign for Warhammer Quest and the final few scenarios showcasing the rules from LotR Battle Companies book.

Tactica Hereticus is a chunky wedge of article, covering Thousand Sons tactics and given that the new codex is released this month, it’s probably of use to new and old players alike.

A Necromunda scenario, The Gauntlet, is slotted in near the back of this month’s issue and whereas it’s not a scenario that’s Orlock specific, I imagine that it’s there, at least in part to give Necromunda players something fresh to do with their sparkly new Orlock gang.

It’s played on the Badzone Delta – 7 board sections, which are particularly deadly, with a fair few special rules attached to them and looks like really good fun.  Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the board took out as many fighters as the opposing gangs did.

This month’s Golden Daemon stuff is from the GD Classic, Blood Bowl and Warhammer 40,000 team and squad entries respectively and all the stuff on show here is truly exceptional.

Picking a favourite from wonderful gatherings of models like these is always incredibly difficult, I can only imagine how hard it must be for the judges at these events.  In this case though, I think the Orc team just about edges it (If Twitter wasn’t fibbing to me, they’re called ‘Da Beastie Boyz, presumably GW wouldn’t name them in print because they wanted to play it safe, from a legal standpoint).  The team, as well as being amazingly painted, gives a look at the zanier, sillier side of the hobby, which is something I’m always happy to see more of.

On the Warhammer 40,000 side of the Golden Daemon fence, I found picking a favourite a smidge easier and that would be the squad of Genestealer Cultists.  It’s a well put together colour scheme; not too bright, or flashy, just a squad of models, well painted in colours that work really well next to each other.

I’ve noticed lately that there has been an increasing amount of talk surrounding colour theory.  I’m not going to lie, although it’s something I’ve always been aware of, I’ve never really paid much attention to it.  I usually just go with whatever feels right when I’m painting.  It’s piqued my interest however and it makes me wonder if maybe I should read up about it.

The Battleforce Challenge, which began last month, reappears in this issue.  I really like this one.  Paint a Battleforce, or similar sized boxed set over the course of a month.  It’s a simple format, but a nifty idea nonetheless.

This month there is a Daemons of Khorne army, Imperial Guard army with a Knight in it and a Cult Mechanicus force.  I must admit though, I struggle to see which Battleforce equivalent box an army with a Knight in it came out of and I wondered much the same with regards to the Mechanicus force.

It’s a good article and I’d like to see more of it, but it’s only two months in and they’re already breaking their own rules for the forces people are painting.

After the awesome scratch-building shenanigans of last month, the modelling article is unfortunately back to its usual format of taking off the shelf kits and doing something a bit different with them.

This is fine I suppose, they have some nifty ideas but I think I was spoilt by the scenery articles of old with awesome scenery built from scratch.

They cover combining the scenery kits with foliage, skulls and the like.  It all undoubtedly looks very nice and the kits do go well together, it just seems a little a little mundane after last month.

I’m not sure how I feel about Paint Splatter covering the basics of painting every month.  Useful as it might be to some folks, surely there are better places for this sort of thing than in a magazine, where space is at a premium (the paint app for example).  It feels like a space waster and they could fit a whole painting guide into the space they squander with this.

I do however like the way the guide is giving folks a minimum amount of painting needed to get their little plastic people onto the table, along with everything you need to know to take your paintjob further; this month the guide covers an Orlock, from Necromunda.

The Readers models feature such a variety of models and painting styles, that I find it virtually impossible to pick a favourite, so I’m not even going to try.  If you get the chance, you should certainly have a look, as there is some truly splendid work on display here.

In the Bunker is the usual melting pot of hobby goodness and seems, if anything, to be more of a riot of stuff this month than is usually the case, which is no bad thing.  There are also some pretty pictures of models, which is always nice to see.

In summary, a good but not a great issue.  There are no bad, or particularly dull articles but there are a couple that are blatant filler material and a couple more that could be better put together.  Also, no feature on Eisenhorn?  He barely even gets a mention in the Black Library article and they could have quite easily had a two-page feature, covering a brief history of the character and a bit of blurb about the previous iteration of the model.  It’s an article that would’ve almost written itself and could’ve taken the place of one of the filler articles; it’s a real missed opportunity.

It was largely a decent issue though, so via my not at all rubbish sounding rating system, the February issue gets seven Guardian Spears out of ten, just about; six felt a little unfair.


Focus, Focus, Focus

I lack focus when it comes to painting my own stuff.  I can be happily painting a model on a Friday and then when I come back to painting on a Saturday, I’ll sit down, pick up a completely different model and start painting that.  My painting area is a wasteland of half finished models and it’s a problem I’d rather like to deal with.

It’s weird really because this hobby malady only effects my own models and when I’m doing commissions, I’m not the fastest painter in the world but I’m pretty relentless and usually meet my targets.  When I started out I’d overrun sometimes but thanks to some incredibly understanding customers I had the time to sort that problem out and it’s probably because of those top-notch dudes that I’m still commission painting today.

I think the reason I’m not as disciplined when it comes to painting my own stuff, is that there are no repercussions if I float away from one of my own models, it’s only myself I’ve got to worry about and it seems I’m a very lax taxmaster when it comes to keeping myself on course with my own models.

This is a problem that I touched on in my Pile of Shame blog a while ago and it seems I didn’t listen to myself then, so here I am revisiting it again.  My Pile of Shame has not diminished.  Some of the models have been plucked out of it and painted but others have been added and although the Pile of Shame is not a literal pile of models, it’s how I’ve come to visualise it and it’s not a pretty picture.

So here we are, still in January and the year is still fresh, so I’m going to attempt to demolish the Pile of Shame and get to a point that I can actually buy some new models without feeling guilty about all the old ones gathering dust.

I’m always going to have unpainted models, I can accept that but I want to get rid of all the part finished stuff.  The cleaned, assembled, undercoated and then forgotten for something new and shiny stuff.  So that’s what I’m going to be targeting this year.  Not the things still on sprues, or nestled comfortably in their packaging but all those other poor sods that are, quite literally in some cases, gathering dust.


Do a White Dwarf review each Month I thought.  It’ll make for an easy blog, I read it anyway.  Unsurprisingly I was wrong, it’s not even slightly easy.

It takes at least double the amount of time to read an issue when notes need to be taken and I hadn’t realised how much of each issue I just skipped over because it didn’t interest me, or I didn’t feel like I needed to read it; I’m looking at you Lord of the Rings articles.

When I’m reading with a review in mind I need to read every last smidgen of content, or it’s just not a proper review.  For example, I’d usually skip over a lot of the Planet Warhammer section, just stopping at the bits that piqued my interest.  Now however, I need to take it all in.

It does have its advantages though, as well as drawbacks.  Some of the articles may be ones that I would’ve jumped past previously, but now I read them for review purposes and I find them to be thoroughly decent reads.  It makes me wonder what good stuff I’ve missed out on in the past, due to prejudging an article.  It doesn’t always work out that way.  Sometimes I’ll read an article and it’s about as much fun as going to the dentist. *  Still, I can’t write a review without taking in the good and the bad.

One thing that has come of this is the realisation that my handwriting is bloody awful.  I’m making my notes in a nice, swanky pleather journal that I’ve had for a year or two, as it’s easier than doing it in a Word document while I’m reading a magazine.  My writing is incredibly messy and has a lot of scribbled out words.  Being left handed probably doesn’t help, pens and whatnot, but that’s a blog for another time.

I mentioned up at the top of this blog that it takes a fair bit more time to read White Dwarf when I’m reviewing it.  The current issue is a prime example of that.  I was expecting to have my review ready sometime over the weekend, but it’s far more likely to be Monday, or Tuesday.  I seem to be making more notes this time, hopefully that’s a good thing.

I packed in for the night to write this because I couldn’t face the next two articles without a break (Age of Sigmar and Lord of the Rings respectively) and I realise that I should’ve pressed on because now they’re the first things I’m going to have to read in the morning, but I just couldn’t do it.

The review should be here in a couple of days.  Until next time take care of yourselves, and each other. **


*My Dentist is a hecka nice guy, but it’s still a trip to the dentist.

**Channeling my inner Jerry Springer.

Dark Imperium Starter Set Review


Warhammer 40,000 eighth edition was released yesterday (17th of June for those of you reading this in the future) and I got the Dark Imperium starter box and I’m bloody chuffed with it.

The box itself is really nice and particularly well put together; opening it is almost an experience in itself.  Whereas previously it’s been a matter of just popping the lid off and rummaging through the contents, this one has a slip cover before you even get to the main box.

Once the cover’s off, there’s a box in a box that contains the models, which you lift out to get to the rest of the stuff.  I particularly like that they’re in their own box; breaking a little purity seal to get to the miniatures is a nice touch.  There’s certainly thought gone into how it’s all been put together.

I haven’t done anything with the miniatures yet, that exciting prospect is looming large though and I expect to be getting stuck in to the Death Guard over the next couple of weeks.  One thing I can say, after poring over the sprues at great length, is how awesome they all look.  Taken at face value, they look like they’re all going to be a treat to work with.

All the things you’d expect in a starter set are present and correct.  The little getting you started books for the Primaris Marines and the Death Guard, dice and whatnot.

One thing that does deserve a mention is the death of the range-rulers of doom.  They’ve been replaced with a flexible see through ruler thingy, which is probably for the best, given how much trouble those deadly, red sods have caused over the years.

The rulebook is one of the full size, hardback beasts and as far as I know, the same sort you’d buy if you were to purchase it separately and on that alone is a mark in Games Workshop’s favour.

It has loads of lovely looking artwork, both old and new.  A good deal of it is the sort you can spend time looking at, soaking up the multitude of things going on.  There’s a particularly nice Imperial Fists piece that deserves special mention, which I think I would have to say is one of my favourites.

As far as the background is concerned, there is loads of it.  This is great if you’re new to the hobby.  Unfortunately, an awful lot of it covers the same ground as previous editions and if like me you got in at the ground floor as far as 40K is concerned, you will have seen a lot of it before.  Whereas this is inevitable up to a point; history of the Imperium and such, there are what I would consider to be missed opportunities.

The section detailing the races of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe is an example of this.  The description of each race is generic and apart from a few instances, doesn’t contain much in the way of new material.  It would have been nice to know how each race is dealing with the changes wrought by the Cicatrix Maladictum, Gorks Grin, or whatever the chosen name of it is for each race, for example.

Also, unless I’m being particularly dense, there is a large continuity error regarding Roboute and the Blood Angels.  I won’t say anything more with regards to that, as it would be spoilertastic for those yet to read it.  Suffice to say, as somebody who likes the background material as much as I do, mistakes of this sort bother me.  As I said, I might be missing something, but I don’t think so.

Something else they need to work on, as far as the background is concerned is their obsession with the Ultramarines in general and Roboute in particular.  I’m not an Ultramarine hater, I have an army of them that I’ve been collecting on and off for close to thirty years now.  But I can understand where a lot of the resentment comes from and some of the stuff in here is likely to exacerbate the strength of feeling against them.

They’ve been pushed hard for a long time now and with the return of Roboute it seems to be getting worse.  Some of the stuff they’ve done is so overblown and cringeworthy that it can read like fan-fiction at times.

I won’t say more about the background, otherwise I might end up coming across as a grumpy old sod who doesn’t like anything and I’m not, honest.  The truth is, the background isn’t awful, but it is, as I said earlier, in part at least, a missed opportunity.

I’ve already touched on the artwork, but the photography also deserves a mention.  There are some fabulous models on show in the book, both in terms of sculpt and paint job and as somebody who has taken lots of pictures of my own models, I can safely say that Games Workshops photographers deserve a pat on the back too.

As far as the rules are concerned, I can’t really go into much detail about them yet.  I’ve read the core rules and cast an eye over the advanced stuff and the scenarios and I like what I’ve seen.

It seems like they’ve removed a lot of the clutter and whereas the core rules are wee, I wouldn’t say they’ve been dumbed down, more streamlined.

Matched, narrative and open play are something I’m happy to see.  A lot of my games will probably be matched play, but I can certainly think of instances where I will play using narrative, or open play as well.

All in all, it seems to be a solid release.  A great starter box with ruleset that seems ripe with potential.  The issues with the background are a little problematic, and whereas it does mar the finished product for me a bit, it’s not a deal-breaker.

This, however is just how feel about it as a crusty old 40K dude and the background certainly won’t be an issue for a newcomer to the game, which is arguably who the starter set is aimed at.  It’s a good box for anyone into Warhammer 40,000, but perfect for newcomers.

The Golden Age and back … And back again?

I’ve been pretty heavily invested in the worlds that Games Workshop create for over twenty five years now and I love their background.  It’s one of the things that stopped me from jumping ship to another company during the too long period when they seemed to be going out of their way to alienate everybody over the age of fifteen.

They’ve had some pretty strange ideas over the years, ideas that often seemed to run pretty contrary to common sense, but the one that always boggled my mind the most was their attitude to the internet.

Before I get stuck into this, I would like to say that Games Workshop over the past year or two has felt like almost an entirely different company and for the most part I’m pretty happy with the direction things seem to be going in.  There was a substantial slice of time though when this was not the case.

The internet; I think we can all agree that short of a Mad Max type Apocalypse, it’s not going anywhere and that most of us probably wouldn’t want it to.  No internet would certainly make blogging a bit tricky.

There was a fairly substantial slice of time when Games Workshop treated the internet like it was a passing fad that was going to fade away if they ignored it long enough.  This all seemed to stem from a forum they ran for a while some time ago.

It was a reasonably interesting place for a time.  If you’ve been into the hobby for a while you may even have experience of it yourself, but it started to become overloaded with people who were going there to launch personal attacks on the company.  Did the company deserve this and did a lot of these people’s opinions have merit?  Up to a point, yes.  However the forum was there to discuss the hobby side of the hobby and not the business side, so it was never going to end well.

Instead of attempting to address the situation rationally, they threw their toys out of the pram, closed the forum and almost entirely withdrew from the internet.  Sure, they still had the webstore, but I imagine even they could see that closing that would have been akin to company suicide.

Over the next few years they rolled back their online presence more and more, even abandoning a pretty popular Twitter feed.  I don’t pretend to know a great deal about business and the only thing I know about their profits is what I’ve read on hobby forums.  For a while at least making a profit seemed to be problematic for them and part of the reason for this may well have been as a result of them closing themselves off from their fanbase and taking us for granted.

As a company they had been in a bit of a downward spiral for quite a while, at least as far as their reputation was concerned and the internet thing was by no means the first bad decision they made; nor was it their last.

You’d probably get a hundred different answers from a hundred different people if you asked them to tell you what their problem was with the company a few years ago, but most of them probably would have agreed on two points.  The Finecast debacle and the botched Age of Sigmar launch.

Finecast.  It was a cool idea in principal.  Replace the range of metal miniatures with the same models, but cast in resin.  Lighter, cheaper and more detailed.  They were definitely lighter.

There was no difference in price people paid between the metal models and their resin counterparts and in some cases the prices even went up.  As far as the detail was concerned; it was indeed better, if you could get one that wasn’t faulty and that was the problem.

I don’t know how true this is but I heard of independent retailers who found more than half of their stock to be faulty, at least in the initial run.  I have no way of knowing how accurate this is, but from my experience with the early Finecast range, it certainly feels right.

The range must have been rushed out before it was ready and Games Workshop as a company must surely have paid a high price for their haste.  I will say that as far as I know, they accepted returns from people and offered refunds, or replacements to anyone who got in touch with regarding a faulty model.  In my experience, this is one area that they have always excelled in.

Finecast as a brand is so toxic that even Games Workshop have ditched the name now.  They still sell resin models and they seem to be, whilst still not perfect, at least usable in most cases now.  I’ve painted a few on commission, but for my own collection, unless there’s no alternative I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole.  This is no comment on Forgeworld’s resin, they have a pretty splendid reputation as far as I’m aware.

As far as Age of Sigmar is concerned, I believe it’s quite an enjoyable game, with a well-rounded ruleset now and it certainly has a lot of beautiful miniatures.  Although I’ve perused the rules, I’ve never played it; I just haven’t been able to work up the enthusiasm for it so far.

When it was released, it replaced the much-loved Warhammer Fantasy Battle; a game that had been around for an epic amount of time.  It offered an entirely different experience to Warhammer 40,000 gameplay wise and had a rich, well developed background.

While it is true that it wasn’t selling as well as it had, this could have been addressed without killing the whole system and all the background.

Part of the problem with regards to the decline of Warhammer Fantasy, is the uneven coverage it got in White Dwarf, Games Workshop’s hobby magazine.  The coverage often seemed skewed towards the more popular Warhammer 40,000 and while this is my favourite system, it always seemed a little unfair.

Also, as unintentional as it presumably was, when they acquired the licence for Lord of the Rings, from a fantasy perspective they went into competition with themselves.  By having two totally different fantasy ranges competing for the same slice of the pie, they were setting one of them up for a fall.

Whereas Warhammer Fantasy kept a lot of the gamers it already had, Games Workshop didn’t really give itself an outlet to pick up very many new gamers for the system.

It seemed to me though, that Games Workshop grabbed the wrong end of the stick and decided that the reason Warhammer Fantasy wasn’t selling, was that it wasn’t enough like Warhammer 40,000, so along came Age of Sigmar.

As I said earlier Age of Sigmar seems to be perfectly fine now it’s bedded in and things have been rounded off.  On release however, it seemed very bare bones and everything that was there was entirely new.  Quite simply, it may not have been that there was anything particularly wrong with it, but that it had big shoes to fill and on release it struggled to do so.

Despite all the turbulent times, they really seem to have turned over a new leaf.  While I don’t think they’re quite at the stage they were at in what I consider to be the glory days, they do seem to be trying; it’s also a little bit possible that to some extent I may be looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

They’ve even got their sense of humour back and the ability to have a laugh at your own expense is never a bad thing.