Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Tyrant of Claws and Fists - IA9 Review

This week I received an email from our illustrious editor-in-chief, Mr. Claws 'n' Fists himself, in which he issued some ideas for articles he'd like from his poor, down-trodden contributors. Mick, Graham and Dave were all given detailed briefs suggesting talking points and themes to expand on, next to my name were two letters a number and a single word - “IA9 Review”. I've read the book, I've researched the internet scuttlebutt and I'm ready to proffer an opinion.

Judging this book by it's Cover.

Lets not beat around the bush here, this book is beautiful. It is the first Forgeworld book I've ever owned but I had some pretty high expectations and on my first flick through I have to say I was a little disappointed, honestly I don't think anything could have lived up to the sort of expectations I had built up around these books.

After sitting down and getting a little perspective, and a few more more read-throughs I came to my senses and realised that I love the way this book is put together. It's presented in beautiful technicolour throughout, the maps are wonderfully rendered, the illustrations are finely detailed and the images from the front line of the action are a triumph of miniature modelling, photography and Photoshop, even the design and lay-out are beyond reproach. The only thing I can compare this book to, in terms of quality of presentation, is the Rogue Trader RPG Rule Book by Fantasy Flight Games, truly a quality product as well.

There are a couple of things about the presentation which aren't to my taste, I'm not a big fan of the cover image, surely this book is about the fall of Lugft Huron while Carab Cullin of the Red Scorpions is a participant in the story I'm not sure he deserves top billing on the cover. In fact there is not a single illustration of Lugft in the entire book. Odd! The other thing which I don't particularly like are the pages of almost identical illustrations of Space Marines in identical poses which just serve to show the different Chapter's colour schemes. I feels like padding to bulk out the book and seems excessive, some people will undoubtedly like these images but for me, not so much!

The only out and out criticism of the presentation of the book I would make is that the grammatical and spelling errors present throughout the text really do detract from the suspension of disbelief required while reading any Sci-Fi story. Given the expense of this book and the quality of the rest of the presentation, I really would expect the proof reading to be of a similarly high standard. Disappointing but certainly not a deal-breaker.

Presentation – 9.5/10 (Proof Readers Required)

A Tragic Tale of a Hero's Fall from Grace

OK fluff-junkies, if you're into the Badab War, chances are that you've done your research, perhaps you've downloaded the BolS mini-dex, could even be that you took part in a campaign based on the setting, maybe you think you've seen it all. I'm here to tell you that you haven't. IA9 is all about the escalation of the “situation” in the Maelstrom Zone.

I don't want to spoil anything, but you may read in the Internet scuttlebutt that there's a lot of politics and that the story can be confusing to follow. To these points I would say that there is a level of “political intrigue” inherent in the story but it in no way drags the story down (unlike certain prequel trilogies I can think of) and it serves to give an empathetic view of the protagonists … in short I like the politics. To the “charge” of over-complexity, it certainly is a complex story but the scope is rather epic and I think if it were dumbed down it would be a disservice to the object of the book. Forgeworld have made some real efforts to help us readers follow this complex series of events (battles) over a vast area of space in the form of some really excellent campaign maps and they do help but I think you are probably going to have to read this one a couple of times to completely wrap your head around it.

The story is not completed in this book as it's part one in the series (which I think we can assume will be just the two books given where it leaves off in part one). As such I can't comment on the whole story of the whole Badab War but the story told in this book is a great tale with plenty of action, intrigue and, unlike parts of even the Black Library's own Horus Heresy series, it tells successfully, sympathetically and plausibly the story of the fall of a charismatic, brilliant leader and the ensuing chaos!

Content: Story – 8/10 (so far so good!)

I've got a fever! and the only cure is more Campaigns (… or possibly Cowbell)

We all know that while Imperial Armour books have great production values and cool fluff, what most of us are really after is the juicy new rules for exotic (and expensive) models and units. In this respect IA 9 does not disappoint! Not only do we get rules for special characters for all of the chapters covered in this book (more to follow for those featured in book 2), not only do we get a really great campaign system which I am chomping at the bit to have a go at (perhaps we can organise something here at Claws and Fists: hint-hint) but we get a whole new game type – Boarding Action.

I'm not going to say too much about the special characters here because I haven't had the opportunity to try any in anger, looking at them they look pretty well balanced and pointed, nothing particularly game-breaking jumps out at me. They represent the Chapters covered in the book: The Astral Claws, the Fire Hawks, the Marines Errant, the Red Scorpions, the Raptors, the Nova Marines, the Fire Angels, the Howling Griffons and the Lamenters. Each of these chapters is also afforded a significant portion of text going into their background which is nice if you are thinking about starting one of these armies, or if you have any interest in any of them as the detail is much greater than has been previously made available for any of the Chapters, with the exception of the Red Scorpions who have been extensively covered in previous IA books. The book makes it easy to use these special characters with the current Codex: Space Marines so you can play one of these Chapters on the battlefield with a nod to what makes that Chapter unique. Looks like a good start for the gamers amongst us.

Next we come to the mysterious Blood in the Void – Boarding Action missions. These look like a lot of fun with some interesting rules which look to replicate the dangers of fighting in the hazardous environment of a starship's inner structure and even it's external hull. The rules really look to have done a good job of capturing the theme of fighting a boarding action. The “Cold Void” special rule is particularly thematic where S4+ weapons cause rending if you are fighting while exposed to the Void to represent the danger of even a small chink in your armour being fatal.

Other rules cover explosions blowing you off the surface of the ship and out into space, the ship being effected by the pace battle going on outside, the danger of fighting amongst key structures within and without of the ship and even the dangers of using a jump pack indoors. There are a lot of rules and actually playing a game may be a slow process for the first few games while you get your head around the rules but I think once you get it down this is going to be an extremely fun way of playing a game of 40k and I'm looking forward to getting a few games in myself.

Lastly we'll look at the campaign system included which I think if a stroke of genius. Firstly the book contains advice for playing it faithfully with the chapters involved in the Badab Wars story, it also has advice for playing with any Space Marine Armies and goes on to give advice for playing the campaign with any mix of 40k armies. So it's a fully featured campaign system not just limited to the fluff presented in the book – NICE! The system is designed to be played by two teams representing the “good guys” and the “bad guys” consists of players from the opposing teams playing games against each-other through a series of five phases each lasting for a set period of time. Phases 1-4 award Campaign Points (CP) for 40k, Apocalypse, Cities of Death, Planet Strike, Battlefleet Gothic and the new Boarding Action games and Phase 5 is a large Apocalypse mission with specific rules detailed in the book.

During phases 1-4 the number of Campaign Points awarded to victorious players and their team varies depending on what Phase you are in, what types of games you play and how many points you play in those games. Each phase also has a special mission which may only be played once but is worth big CPs so strategy come into play because; what do Campaign Points make? PRIZES! At the end of each phase CPs are totalled up and the winning side is awarded an advantage for games of a certain system played in the following phases.

That's basically it, and my prose above really does not do the elegance of the system justice, it looks like a lot of fun and I'm really keen to try it out!

Overall I cannot fault the new rules that accompany this book, I can't imagine what more they could have added and I'm excited to try them out as soon as possible

Content: Rules – 10/10 (Really Explore the Space)

In summary this book is a worthwhile investment but probably only if you are a Space Marine player – but then again who isn't? Even if only a little!

Overall – 9/10 (Must Buy – if you play Space Marines)

1 comment:

  1. Down-trodden? Bah! Humbug! I don't care how sick Tiny Tim is, I'll see you at work on Christmas day Cratchit! This blog seam won't mine itself!

    Gold star for being the first to finish your assignment. Detention for inventing new labels though.

    Good job on the write-up. What do you think of the new characters/units? Is Huron the evil killing machine we'd expect or just an overpriced Chapter Master?


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