Sunday 29 January 2012

The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill

The Outcast Dead is the seventeenth and most recent book in the Black Library’s epic Horus Heresy series that relates how the enlightened human empire of the 30th century collapsed into a grim dark age of war and hopelessness.  Considering that Graham McNeill wrote my favourite entry in the series so far, The Thousand Sons, I went into this book with high hopes.
Four hundred and fifty-nine pages later, I was left a little bit disappointed. The Outcast Dead isn’t a bad book, but it does suffer from a number of flaws.  The main plot involves a psyker who unwittingly gains a critically important vision of the future, and thus becomes a pawn in the Civil War tearing the galaxy apart.  Unfortunately, our little psyker is essentially powerless and thus spends the entire book being dragged around, captured, abused, recaptured, etc. He rarely gets the chance to make any meaningful decisions.  To make matters worse, the big secret that he carries around in his head is no secret at all. We are teased with it throughout the book, only to finally discover that it is something any reader interested in the series would know before they picked up the book!
I also feel it my duty to report that the book was riddled with typos. I know enough about editing to realize that a few mistakes will creep into any work, but the number that appeared in this novel made me wonder if it had been edited at all.
But it wasn’t all bad. There are some good action sequences, and it was fun to finally see a book set on earth, in the heart of the empire. We also get a few brief glimpses of the Emperor himself (although I’m not convinced that what we see makes his a more endearing figure). 
So, if you are enjoying the series, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. However, if you wanted to skip this one, I don’t think you’d be missing anything important.

Thursday 26 January 2012


Bad news for 28mm miniatures everywhere...

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Four-Sided Dice

I can’t remember when I first fell in love with dice. Perhaps it was when I opened my first Dungeons and Dragons box set and was exposed to the weird polyhedral varieties. Maybe it was the first time I went to a real gaming store and bought my first set of glitter dice.  Either way it was a long time ago, and since then I have collected more dice than one person could ever possibly need. I have some dice that I use with specific miniature armies.  I have others that contain eldritch symbols that are only useful in specific circumstances. I even have dice that serve no purpose whatsoever...why do I have a d30?
But there is one die I have never loved, the four-sided die.  The four-sider is the true dud of dicedom. Not only does it offer a very small possibility field, but it is shaped like a small pyramid that has no roll potential.  You don’t roll four-siders, you just drop them onto a table and watch with hopeless inevitability as they land on a sad little number. To make matters worse, in their early incarnations you had to read the number presented on the bottom of each of the visible sides to get a result. Seriously, it took the industry decades before it realized that it could put the resultant number on the top point of the pyramid instead.
Too many great games have used the four-sider for them to be expunged from our dice bags (AD&D and Deadlands spring to mind), but I have begun to hear rumours of eight and even twelve-sided dice numbered 1-4 that can be used as substitutes. If true, the days of the little pyramids are numbered.

Thursday 12 January 2012

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

There was a time when it seemed that Christmas and Sherlock Holmes went hand-in-hand in my life. Every year Santa would bring me a new Holmes hardback written by some up-and-coming new mystery writer, and I would devour it during the quiet days before New Year.  In fact, one of my favourite Christmas gifts ever was a book of Holmesian Christmas stories.

At some point, I guess my interests moved on, and Holmes and I grew apart. Santa brought me other treasures. But this year, during my post-Christmas trip to London, I spied The House of Silk, shining on a bookseller’s shelf, proudly proclaiming itself to be ‘The New Sherlock Holmes Novel’. I immediately decided to pay full-price. An uneconomical, but very good decision.  The next day, I was back in the foggy streets of Victorian London with my favourite detective.

Anthony Horowtiz is a pretty big name in Britain, both as a writer of childrens fiction and as the creator of several television detective series, but this is his first attempt at a mainstream Holmes novel. As one might expect of someone of his writing calibre, he turns in a very strong debut.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot to potential readers, but there are a couple of points that I believe are worth mentioning, and both relate to the tone of the novel. First, while the story is set during the height of Holmes’ career, it is being written down by an aged Watson during the First World War. Although Watson still writes with his usual flair, he occasionally digresses to the state of the country or the fates of his friends and family. Sometimes this lends the novel a sad tone that is slightly at odds with most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but it will also likely bring a few smiles to old-time Holmes fans. Related to that idea is the central crime of the story, which some readers may find distasteful. While I’m sure it isn’t out of place in Victorian England, it feels very modern and topical.  Horowitz rides a very thin line in trying to bring something new to the genre, while keeping it a true Holmes story. For the most part, I think he succeeds admirably.

The novel opens with an interesting mystery which soon leads to a bigger one, and if Horowtiz perhaps offers a few too many clues early on, the reader is soon trailing well behind Holmes with regards to the bigger picture, which is as it should be.  There is a bit of a sag in the middle of the book, including one chapter that has no bearing on the greater story and only seems included to tick a box, but the novel quickly pulls itself up and goes charging into the end.  Also, the book includes some very witty dialog, including one Holmes and Watson exchange that had me laughing out loud.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and not afraid to looking beyond the original stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, then you will quite likely enjoy The House of Silk.

Note: Amazon currently has the hardback for the eye-opening price of £7.60!

Note to self: Pay more attention to new Holmes stories.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Victory is Mine!

It has taken over two months, but I'm finally fully wired up in the new cave.  After weeks of arguing and waiting with the phone company to get the internet turned on, I discovered that my computer had compatibility issues with the wireless router. After another week of frustration with that, I finally downloaded a new driver, and everything now seems to be running smoothly.  My new plan is not to touch anything!

So, hopefully, the blogs will come a little more frequently in the days to come. 

What does all of this have to do with a beastman with advanced plasma weaponry? Nothing, I just finished painting him up and think he looks cool.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Lego Shelob! (I am overthrown)

Well, it looks like all of the whispered rumours are true.  Sometime in 2012, the first Lord of the Rings Lego sets will hit the shelves.  I was able to scrounge up a blurry, unofficial shot of the Shelob set.  I was just barely holding my own against the Star Wars Legos; how am I supposed to resist the temptation of the one ring?

I probably won’t. Hopefully I will be able to contain the damage.  Of course, rumours also say that this year will see the release of Lego Avengers as well.  The greatest toy ever, now with some of the greatest licenses ever.  Kids today have no idea how good they have got it.

On a more serious note, there is some really good thinking going on at Lego headquarters. Although I don’t know the ends and outs, it is obvious that Lego has the lost the patent to their bricks as several knock-off, but fully compatible sets have appeared in the last few years.  By leveraging their position and financial power to get the biggest licenses, they are insuring that they remain on top.

Monday 2 January 2012

Army for Sale or Rent (15mm Sci-fi)

A couple of years ago, I joined in the rush of miniature enthusiasm for 15mm science-fiction. As a scale, 15mm has a lot going for it. Compared to 28mm the miniatures are cheap, quick to paint, and you can easily field platoon and even company-sized forces on a table-top.  There are also a lot of good new rules sets that have come out in last couple of years that cater for the scale.

But in the end, the scale just wasn't for me.  These days I'm primarily a miniatures painter and painting 15mm figures just doesn't give me the same sense of satisfaction as 28mm. So, after a lot of thought, I've decided to sell-out of 15mm and focus on other projects.  To that end, I'm now offering my largest force up for sale.

The army includes the following:

3 Squads of infantry, each with 8 troopers, including an officer and special weapons.
6 Heavy APCs
2 Wheeled Main-Battle Tanks
2 Heavy Supply Trucks
1 Drop Ship
1 Tracked Gun Drone
2 Aerial Drones
1 Missile Defense Emplacement
2 Automatic Guns
2 Heavy Motars

I'm asking for £100 plus shipping or nearest offer.  Let me know if you are interested.

Miniatures are a mixture of GZG, Brigade, Battlefront, Games Workshop, and Matchbox.