Warhammer 40k 7th Edition: The First Game

I haven’t bought the new rules yet but my mate has. I have to say that I like the three book format and that although it is a lot of money I can see why. The rules are sharp and crisp on the paper. It is a very easy to read book. The index works too. Believe me that is not always the case in a gaming system. For me the thing I most wanted to test out was the addition of the psychic phase. I used to remember my powers out of phase on a regular basis so this for me is a good thing. What better way to test this than to create a Grey Knights list. Unfortunately after building a fun looking list with nine psychic levels (gotta love psychic pilot) I couldn’t actually get to the case with the figures in without moving three large pieces of furniture. I cursed the building works for a while and then mourning my inability to get Mr Stampy in to the fray. I had a dig around and decided that Eldar would be fun to take on the Imperial Guard army that my mate does so well with.

I had to take a Farseer and I chose to have a single Warlock too. I also had an Autarch on a Jetbike with his bike mounted missile launcher because, well because I like it alright? I’m not going to bore you with the rest of my list. It wasn’t an optimal one and I will be changing it significantly.

The mission type chose was Relic. You get three victory points for having the relic under your control with minor objectives of Slay the Warlord, First Blood and The one where you score for being in the enemy deployment (my memory is failing me). You can win without the relic but with it is the easiest way.

I got first turn so I decided to go for it. I powered the Autarch on a bike with his Windrider guards straight in to contact with the relic and started shuffling back to a hiding place out of visibility. Very important with the number of nasty shots an Imperial Guard army can bring to bear. Then my first psychic phase. It was quicker than I expected and I didn’t once forget about powers on a psyker which is a first. I’m a convert and a fan for sure. The next time I play Eldar I will be adding at least a couple more Warlocks. They can make a huge difference. Not just to the unit they are with but the generated dice to help the Farseer.

I’ve played every version of the rules since Rogue Trader. Yes I am that old. This set of rules has several little changes which took a little while to process but in the first game we didn’t come across any obviously weird ones that made us scratch our heads and wonder how much catnip the designers were on.

I didn’t plan on buying the books. I had hoped for a boxed set with a slimline rules guide but on seeing the rules I want, actually I need a copy. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the other two books yet. It is in my opinion a faster and more flexible rule-set than previous ones and is well worth giving a go. If you are not sure, go and bug your local store for a rules demo game. The one thing that has always been true about GW stores is that the staff are always friendly and helpful. I’m fairly sure you’ll be swayed. It is going to be very hard for me to walk past GW without buying a copy tonight.



Critical Dawn by Wearmouth & Barnes

Critical Dawn by Wearmouth and Barnes

Critical Dawn by Wearmouth and Barnes

Although the cover for this book is not stunning it is a Ronseal cover. It does what it says on the tin. I looked at that cover and I instantly knew it was a post-apocalypse near future science fiction story. Job done. The other thing I instantly thought of when I saw this cover was the film Independence Day. At times it did feel like the plot was mirroring that film. Thankfully it avoided the cheesy parts but did have the action and tension parts in common.

This story starts with the invasion of earth. There is an early twist though. The aliens have been watching and planning this for thousands of years. In fact their advance force burrowed deep in to the earth long ago. On a pre-determined date they rose to the surface and heralded the attack. It was a nice way to start the book.

I’m a big fan of Colin F. Barnes (not a stalker honest) and was a bit worried about reading a collaborative book like this. For me this kind of story needs a consistent voice. I have to admit that other than a few places I couldn’t tell what parts were written by which author. It flowed really well and the tension didn’t get choppy as a result. If it didn’t say so on the cover I’d assume it was written by a single author.

The characters in this book are believable and more importantly I wanted to find out more about them. The main character Charlie Jackson really appealed to me and there is plenty about his back story I still want to know. What exactly happened during the war? What exactly happened with Pippa? How did the nuclear arsenal of the entire world get neutralized? There are others too.

This is a gritty and engaging post-apocalypse novel that will keep you reading until the explosive finale.



Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

A lot of people will be reading this book because it won the Clarke Award. I did in an indirect way. I had not heard of Ann Leckie until after the Clarke award was announced. Then several people I follow started re-tweeting the author’s response to winning the award. In these days of media savvy authors it was refreshing to see an honest and unedited response of pure joy and surprise. I bought this book on the back of that response. It made me smile and feel happy for her at the same time. I am getting soppy in my old age but it proved to be a wise decision.

For me the thing that really stood out in this book was the use of gender. The use of androgyny and overtly masculine or feminine  looks across both genders is really well done. What really made this work though was how an artificial intelligence used to reading gender and the subtle linguistic nuances to determine them would really struggle in other cultures with completely different language rules for gender. It was clever in a way that I am still working through in my head after finishing the novel.

The world-building in this novel provides a rich and varied cast within a civilization that seems to share many traits with ancient Rome but on a planetary scale. Like all empires there is a figurehead pushing and cajoling internecine fighting and competition between factions to keep such a lofty position. What happens when an empire pushes too far? What happens when the leader is a multiplicity of clones split in to warring factions?

I’m not going to spoil your fun. Buy the book and find out. You will not regret it. This is an enthralling and engaging book with just a single fault. The second part of this trilogy does not come out until October and I’m too impatient to wait that long.

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell

A cigar chewing, gun toting talking money laying waste to nazi ninjas. More cheese than cheddar gorge right? Surprisingly not. The exciting and energetic opening to this book goes well with the retro pulp cover. More importantly it sets the scene nicely. All is not what it seems and the author somehow manages to twist the fanciful aspects through the plot in such an accomplished manner that somehow a monkey with a grenade launcher doesn’t seem at all strange.

Putting the monkey aside for a minute (not an easy thing to do) there is a lot more to this book. The alternate history aspects of this book really caught my imagination. What if Britain and France joined together in the post-war ear to become a European super power. The EU because the European Commonwealth under the rule of the crown. There are also cyberpunk some unusual elements to this book. Usually there is a mature technology base but in this story the cybernetic implants are a new and secret experiment used for nefarious means.

I tried not to but I need to mention the monkey some more. If you want to sum up his character try shouting his name out loud. Somehow for me it evokes a simian treetop battle. There is more to Ack-Ack than a violent monkey. How would enhanced language and reasoning abilities impact a monkey? Would it become more human or would the natural inclinations of a monkey just be more effectively carried out? These are the questions I couldn’t help thinking about as I read this book. I loved the way the author portrayed this character.

This book sounds silly but isn’t. It is character driven and this is backed up in the extras at the end of the book. I’ll be buying more books by Mr Powell and you should too.

Martian Sands by Lavie Tidhar

Like just about everything in this book even the title is not what it seems. Yes it does refer to the surface of the planet Mars, but it also refers to an important character in the book. I made a mistake in my timing of reading this book. I should not have chosen a week with only small reading windows. This is the kind of book that benefits from taking the time to read it in large chunks. An ideal holiday read. I found myself having to read back several pages before carrying on. There is a lot going on in this book and if you are not paying attention it can be easy to lose the thread. This book is well worth making time for so go sit in the quiet shade for a few hours.

science fiction stories with time travel aspects can seem like utter tosh unless there is some backbone to how causality is addressed. My head hurts from trying to follow the logic through across several time frames. Sometimes characters bleed across in subtle ways and at others you get a slap in the face from a wet fish.

I really enjoyed how Mr Tidhar took some Israeli political views and extended them in to the future. Of course they’d want their own state on the red planet and even more obviously of course they’d make a statement and use time travel to impact the genocide of their people in World War II.

There are too many clever references to list and I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun. I do have to mention the noir style fictional elements which are also personifications of real (in as much as anything in this story can be called real) characters.


Guardians edited by Adele Wearing

This is the third in the Fox Pockets series. I have to talk about the cover. I love what Sarah Anne Langton has done with the covers for this series. They look so simple and bright yet there is so much more to them. This one in particular is a bit like eating ice cream with salted caramel in it. At first it seems to be exactly what expected but the longer you leave it the more levels there are. I could ramble on for ages about this cover (yeah I know I already have) and would recommend going to have a look yourself.

This book feels very different from the other Fox Pockets. It starts out quite slow and cerebral and then picks up pace in the second half. The really odd thing for me was that the pace seemed to gather more like a novel than an anthology. It took me a little while to get used to this as I was expecting it to be a little more spiky (in more than one way).

I have a clear favourite in this book. My Guardian’s Guardian by Catherine Hill is just stunningly well done. I don’t want to say too much about it as that will give away the really clever part. There is a single three letter word in this story that ensure that most people will get it. I’d buy this book for this story alone and would suggest you do too.

The other story that really stood out for me was Defiant by Christian D’Amico. I have always loved stories about heroic sacrifice. Something about giving your own life for the greater good strikes a chord with me. Add powered melee weapons, space ships and advanced guns and I am sold. I want to read some longer fiction by this author.

I felt that I shouldn’t like Fat Angels by Alasdair Stuart in these times of promoting positive body image but I couldn’t dislike it. There is no negativity only a sense of humour and a disregard for what anyone else thinks. It was much better than I expected.

This is a fun little book and I fully intend to have all ten on my book shelf.

Apex Cypher by Colin F. Barnes

Mr Barnes has rapidly become one of my favourite authors and his Techxorcist series is in my opinion his finest work. This novella is a prequel to the series and adds some extra back story for Gabe and Petal. This is good for me because I love the character Gabe. Not only is he intelligent and able to kick ass in many ways, but that isn’t what I like the most about him. I can hear every line of Gabe’s dialogue as if he’s standing next to me and the depth of his character has kept me interested throughout the series.

This story is set before Gabe and Petal get to the dome. Instead of a mission to free thousands of people this is a story about the less than pleasant things that are required to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world. Gabe and Petal take on a simple mission to get paid in food and water. Or course nothing is that simple, especially when even the rain can kill.  There has been a lot of thought in to how a nuclear holocaust would impact everything and everybody even fifty years in the future. Nothing is nice and nothing is easy. Every choice is difficult and comes with consequences.

I really enjoyed this book and am really hoping that Mr Barnes isn’t making this his last Techxorcist story. Please buy this book so I can read another one.

Death Angel Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games

I can remember playing the original Space Hulk when it first came out. It blew our minds. I’d never played a board game with tension like that before. For me it is about being Sigourney Weaver sneaking furtive glance at the air-conditioning ducts. Surprisingly Fantasy Flight have managed to get some of that feeling across.

If you haven’t played Space Hulk before and haven’t seen Aliens then most of my descriptions are going to be pointless. In basic terms a Hulk is a collection of ships that has massed together in the warp (a horrid place where physics is option and nasty demons come out to play). You get to play a Space Marine (two actually) which makes you a god amongst men and one of the greatest warriors in the galaxy. You have been sent to cleanse the nasty Genestealers from the Hulk before they reach a populated planet and start to subvert and control their population.The fate of billions of lives depends on your small squad. Game on!

This is the first time I’ve ever played a co-operative card game. I have to say that it was a genius idea. We played with four players and it is a difficult game. In four attempts last night we didn’t manage to win. We came close once before failing five rolls in a row and the remaining four characters all dying. I can’t wait to play it again. The interaction between the various characters is very interesting. We’ve found that all attacking in the same round tends to be somewhat of a bad idea. Also the support tokens are often best used on a character other than yourself. The game forces you to use tactics that are not usual in board or card games. I’m used to spending hours preventing my mates win games of Talisman even if I know I can’t win.

If you manage to do better than us and manage to beat the game you can make it even harder with some upgrade packs. It sounds like a bad idea to me but I’m fairly sure we’ll be getting hold of a pack or two.

I would recommend 4-5 players as any less and it can be quite complicated and confusing, not to mention significantly slower.

I can’t wait to play this game again.

Tales of the Fox and Fae Collected By Adele Wearing

This is the second book in the Bushy Tails series. I really enjoyed Tales Of The Nun & Dragon and had high hopes for this book. The cover has the some distinctive style as N&D. Vincent Holland-Keen has done another stunning job on this cover. There really is life in the eyes of the fox. I also really like the cover wrapping around the spine as a continuous image. The Bushy tales will all look great on the shelf. The aesthetics don’t stop with the cover. Between each story there is a pretty little picture to give you pause. Although these look good in an ebook I would really recommend buying this as a physical book if you can.

Looking at the list of authors in this anthology I had an idea about which ones I would enjoy the most. As usual I was surprised. My favourite was They are the Dead by T.F.Grant. There are so many great touches in this story. Somehow it seems like the story is a lot longer than it is without seeming rushed or crammed in. The way the author uses allegory to show different aspects of the fox in different characters is quite inspired. Just about everything about this story worked for me. I  also really enjoyed A Cackling Fart by Chloe Yates but for very different reasons. I did think it was a bizarre title so I did a bit of research. Apparently it was an 18th century thieves cant term for an egg that spread (pun intended). There is a base humour that suffuses this author’s work and yet somehow doesn’t have an impact on the build up of tension. It is a very sensory story and for some reason that really appealed to me.

I enjoyed all the stories in this anthology. They are very different. In one story the foxes are ridden to war by the Spriggan, in another they walk upright. In some things are obvious in others they are hinted at or revealed at the end. Every story had a different point of view or looked at a different aspect of the vulpine nature. I was pleased to see at least one anti-hunting story in this collection and it really set the scene for the other stories.

This book is a thing of beauty and that theme is continued by the imaginative writing. It is well worth a read.

Annihilation Point (Book 3 of The Techxorcist) by Colin F. Barnes

This is the third part of the Techxorcist series. If you haven’t read the first two yet (you really should) then I strongly suggest you do before reading this book. Although this story does stand alone as a story you lose some of the richness of character that only comes from knowing the characters. The story carries on from where Assembly Code finished. Unlike some trilogies I didn’t find myself skimming through the final one just to get to the end. If anything this book was more gripping than the first two. There is a definite feeling of hopelessness and despair through much of this book. Thankfully the author didn’t spoil the book with a joyous ending. The end of the book works perfectly. It wraps things up without getting all sweetness and light. There are a few unanswered questions at the end but for me the major one is what will happen to Gerry? I don’t think things have ended as they seem where Gerry is concerned and I can’t help thinking there will be some kind of Gerry spin-off to follow at some point (pretty please Mr Barnes).

My favourite part of this story is when Petal finds a book. A real book. A novel. She had not heard such a thing existed. A story for the sake of entertainment. That scene pretty much sums up how much of a dystopia the world has become in this story. The fact that the book in question is a seminal (not that type you weirdo) work in the cyberpunk genre only adds to it. The way that scene makes certain choices about how things work in this series click in to place. I’m not going to spoil the fun by saying any more but that scene stands out for me as a really talented piece of writing.

I think I’ve read all of Colin’s published works and this is his best work so far. I would highly recommend buying and reading this series. At the moment you can get the electronic versions of the whole series for under £5 so why delay. Go buy them all now. Start your 2014 by reading some excellent cyberpunk.