Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Musings on the Astronomican and Speed Bumps
I've been reading The Book of the Astronomican since it arrived (well, was picked up from the mardy delivery bint) and I have to say I have throroughly enjoyed it. I've had a PDF of said publication for quite some time but haven't read it in much depth. I have now. It's a funny old tome. Half it is pure RT genius and the other half is the thing we have come to fear and loath in 40k, army lists.
The Genius first.
The first part of the book is made up of a campaign called 'The Wolftime' and pitches a force of 50 odd marines against a whole load of Orks. The campaign consists of 4 linked battles, 3 of which are deemed to be happening simultaneously and the 4th is the result of these and it's parameters are effected by the previous games outcomes.
Each battle has it's own unique setting and special rules. The first 3 are raids to knock out the power supplies for the fortress/spaceship in the final game and they each have their risks. The marine commanders must split their forces (10 squads of 5 marines plus 4 characters) between the first 3 battles remembering that they need as many figures to survive as possible for the final game. That's right, you don't get any more marines. Once they're dead, they're dead!
The Wolftime is the only real example of the kind of campaigns that GW used to write so successfully for WFB, Tragedy of Macdeath for example, and is one of the very few published scenarios they ever did for RT. I can only think of 'Skirmish on Rynn's world' and 'Vulture warriors from dimension x meet plenty of cheerful orks with plasmsa canon' as other examples. Obviously the scenario generator in the RT book and one in Siege gives a GM lots of ideas to get stuck into but it would have been nice to have a few more.
There is a question and answers page where one amusing letter describes an encounter with an opponent who would only play against the writers marines if they were painted in the uniforms published in the book. Rick Priestly calmly espouses his principles when writing Rogue Trader were for the universe to be open ended and for people to make stuff up and expand into their own ideas rather than sticking with perceived canon. How ironic?
A painting guide shows off some pics and gives tips on painting Orks, Eldar and Squats but there is nothing we haven't seen before and the middle of the book is full of colour images of all the figures available at the time, a lot of these were repeated on the pages of White Dwarf but it's still nice to see them all together.
A list of imperial characters fill the final bunch of pages. Various Arbites, Administrators, Mechanicus, Assasins, Rogue Traders, Inquisitors and Navigators give the impression of the Imperium as a very nasty place indeed. Lovely little Ian miller portraits of each character really set them off. There are colour illsutrations dispersed through the book as well showing colours and banners and a little bit of backgrounds for some of the races covered (there is one for the squats but they don't have a separate army list and didn't have one till it was published in White Dwarf and then in the Red compilation).
So, the majority of the book is taken up by the dreaded appearance of.....Army lists. Well really, it's not that much of surprise that GW went down this road. It was fairly standard practice for Fantasy so it made sense that they would do it for 40k especially as it was proving so successful. The list cover Marines (in the form of White Scars), Imperial Army (Hylgar's Hell Raisers), Rogue trader (Valerius Borodin), Pirates (Cragnor's Buccaneers), Orks (Luggubs Drop Legion) and Eldar (Eldritch raiders). All of the lists follow a pattern that we all recognise, characters and options followed by sqauds and options. The army, pirates and rouge trader lists are mixed troop type with squats, appearing in all of them. There is nothing outrageous about any of the lists, they are handy ways to organise a competitive game but this is the crux of the matter.
In the intro to the army list, the idea of a 'competitive game' is actually explained as a situation where two matched armies battle it out to find a clear winner. This is presented as an alternative way to play, as opposed to what has been espoused in the scenario driven first half of the book, the 'competitive game' is about finding out who is the winner. And not a lot else. Could this be the point that the rot set in? Could this be where people figured it was easier just to knock seven shades out of each other rather than go to the effort of putting together a scenario and a plan. Is it laziness that killed off the scenario based game?
I'll leave you to think about it but all I'm going to say is that I'll be writing scenario's for the games at BOYL.
Just two months to go till BOYL14 when I get to find out if there really is a community of like minded souls in the world, playing daft games with toy soldiers or if I've been groomed by some elaborate hoax by a sick and depraved individual with fetish for beards and bellies. I'm getting quite excited!
I appear to have hit a bit of a creative speed bump.
After finishing off the Pirates (which I managed to get based at the weekend) and all the work on Ferrograd, I've kind just gone flat on painting. I'm assuming it's just a rest period. From talking to others this seems to happen to lots of people so I'm not particularly worried and I reckon it's also a bit of my hind brain being silly and rebellious, seeing the gangs and the Jalopy (the two main projects I need to get done) as 'work' and wanting to do something a bit more 'fun' instead. Do I have the time to squeeze another group of figures? I've got 10 figures yet to paint for BOYL, 9 gangers and a camera man for Jenny Tong.
They shouldn't take long (fingers crossed). I need to finish 'The Rusty Blaster' and do some doorways and a bit of touching up in Ferrograd but I reckon I can leave that till the summer holidays (just before the big day itself) but before this the board might be getting it's cherry popped by some snotty teens as I've volunteered to do a wargames day during our schools activity week. That should make for an interesting blog-post as, if last year is anything to go by, I'll have a load of kids who have no idea what wargaming or warhammer is and they will spend most of the morning utterly perplexed before getting into it and having fun.
The Jalopy needs finishing touches added to it and painting but I think that'll get done a blurt of activity one weekend (kids not with standing).
Right. That should suffice. I needed a good talking to! Now I just need to get on with it!
Pull yer finger oot!