You may remember that I’m starting a Deathwatch game soon – next weekend, in fact – with a few of the members of my 40K campaign group. It’ll also be the first field test of the (finally finished) Aaronorium, which is the best name for a games room since Futurama’s “Angry Dome”, “Calamatorium”, or “the Accusing Parlour”.
I’m making an effort to blog a little more this year, especially about hobby stuff, so we’ll start with a teaser. Our GM Mark (who plays Eldar, for the record) is notorious in our gang for going all-out in terms of effort at our 40K campaign weekends. His models are insane. As an example, he pro-painted a Blood Bowl orc team for me for my birthday. But this is above and beyond the call of duty. He had actual props made for when we’re sat around the table.
Check these out…
Holy fucking shit, right? I need a weapons rack for the Aaronorium so, so badly.
The guys in my DW group haven’t even seen these yet, so consider yourself on the bleeding edge of my delicious but ultimately futile existence.
The Traitors (consisting of Eddie, Alan and Ead) have hobbied and lobbied about 16,000,000 times harder than me and John on the Loyalist side, meaning that in the absence of any Blue Team information, here’s a feature-length cavalcade of good juju from the Red Team.
Me and John have got to get into gear, or the Space Wolves and Blood Angels are going to have a pretty poor showing. Part of my problem is that I’m not all that keen on my test Wolves, and I keep wanting to use all their names in a Heresy novel instead of as army background. But mostly, it’s just that Eddie’s upset me because my Marines look shit. I’ll have to man up.
Here’s this update’s Contents List:
- Eddie’s Fallen Angels – including background text: “Caliban’s Wrath”.
- Alan’s Alpha Legion.
- Ead’s Iron Warriors – including background text: “Rakharyz Tactical Squad” and “Zhukar the Unyielding”.
First up, everyone’s favourite disgustingly talented asshole: Eddie Eccles of the First Legion, with his vile Fallen Angels that I’m not jealous of at all, and that don’t make me cry.
— — —
“It’s been a pretty busy month of Dark Angels hobby.
After furious hours of painting, twenty Knight-Legionaries and a Contemptor Dreadnought are complete and ready to kick ass and chew gum (and in the 31st millennium, shipping tithes and warp-storm interference has lead to an acute shortage of Legion approved gum).
“While writing this, I’m not yet sure if the rest of the Heretical Five (that’s a rare Enid Blyton novel BTW) will have finished their pledges. My suspicion is that some of them may not have had such a productive hobby month as myself. Unlike them of course, I do not have the disadvantage of adoring children or a social life. As always, loved ones have proven a huge obstacle to productivity (unless they can be trained to assemble plastic kits and basecoat.)
I have to remember though, with this challenge, the hobby is only half the battle (the other half is knowledge as all good G.I.Joe fans know). I also have to come up with some awesome-cool background for my army, that goes beyond my usual fallback story of “Here are some Space Marines – fuck em up!”.
While in the hobby or gaming sphere, I feel i can hold my my own with the best of them, my writing credentials don’t hold up to much scrutiny (GCSE grade B!). I am, after all, in the company of a New York Times bestselling author, one of BL’s up’n coming stars, the man behind the quite excellent Horus Heresy Betrayal and Ead, who can also write words good.
Still, I will strive to do what I can. My hope is, that through spending considerable time amongst talented authors, some of their skill will have leached into me via osmosis. Much like pig-farmers inevitably smell of manure, and most nuclear scientists are slightly radioactive and sterile. It is, I grant you, a bit of a long shot.
You can read my background below, or you could just skip straight ahead and read Aaron’s much better background (which is kind of like a free HH novelette if you think about it (a novelette is created when a novel and a novella love each other very much))
So what’s next for the First Legion?
I’ve always wanted a Land Raider.
In the many Marine armies I have collected over the years, none of them have had a Land Raider and it’s high time that was rectified.”
“I’m a big fan of the new Dark Angel 40k fighter with the mini-chapel on its back, and I wanted something similar for the Raider. I kind of see the Dark Angel tanks being extensions of their Order monastery-castles back on Caliban, so that’s what I built: a rolling fortress-church with the firepower of half a company.
(I know you can’t actually put the guns that it has on a Land Raider, but so what? you’re not the boss of me, I can do what I like.)
With any luck Arrogance’s Redoubt will be painted ready for the next blog update.
If I get the time, I might even look at doing some Terminator’s by next month as well.
Aaron asked me to slow down a little, but I’m just going to carry on painting even more stuff to make him look bad.(sorry Aaron).
Until next time – Eddie.”
— — —
High Castellan Yvain paced the corridors of his ship. There was nothing else to do. Along the grand avenues of Caliban’s Wrath, his slow footfalls were heavy echoes in the reverential silence.
Three months since the 25th Knights Company of the Dark Angels had last seen battle. If you could call it a battle.
Even pacification was probably to strong a word. The extermination a lost colony of humanity, clinging to an inhospitable rock on the wrong side of nowhere. They had refused to be enlightened, so they had been destroyed. The human inhabitants of Al Baradad had fought bravely, and against most invader’s that might have been enough. But against the Emperor’s Angels, the outcome was never in doubt. They had died to a man. Would he have done differently? If the Lion had opted for war against this new Imperium rather than brotherhood. Would he not have fought and died for his home? for Caliban? he knew the answer, and it did not sit well with him.
Three months since that battle.
Not a bolt fired in anger or a foe to match blade against. The 312 Legionaries aboard Caliban’s Wrath kept busy as best they could: the training cages rang with the clash of black steel and distant echoes of the firing range could be heard across half the ship. Nothing outwardly had changed, but a dark foreboding had settled across the ship during it’s painstaking crawl back towards civilisation. 92 days of blindly stumbling through a turbulent warp until being spat out, time and again into the silent vastness of the void. Freak warp storms had made what should have been a simple trip back to Imperial space into a gruelling ordeal for the ships navigators.
But the journey back from Al Baradad had not been without incident.
While passing through the althorn cluster, the Wrath of Caliban has stumbled upon the crippled Ravenguard battleship Shadowfall. The Dark Angels had naturally offered aid to the stricken vessel. In response, the Ravenguard ship had fired up its warp drive and made an immediate jump. Why the crew of a Legion ship felt that such action was necessary was a serious cause for concern. A concern that several of his officers had voiced. He had no answers for them. Castellan Yvain had a horrible suspicion that not all was well in the Galaxy, but with the apparent inability of his astropaths to contact anyone who wasn’t standing on the same room as themselves, it didn’t look like he would have answers any time soon.
The vox buzzed into discordant activity.
The distorted voice of First Knight-Seargent Caradoc crackled to life in his ear.
Yvain reached a hand to his helmet-mounted receiver.
“I’m in the Librarium. It’s the Archivist. I think you need to get here right away.”
The Archivist was the longest serving member of the First Legion’s Librarian Corps. He was as old as anything could be in this new age, and his body was wearied as much by time as by the ethereal powers that had drained his vitality in exchange for the power of the warp. He seldom wore his armour out of battle, and instead adopted the simple robed attire of a scribe. His hair was long, a silvered main that framed a face as ancient as the rock of Caliban.
All of this, Yvain had seen before.
But the screaming. That was new.
The Archivist pulsed with power. Two Knight-Legionaries were doing their best to hold him, but waves of invisible force buffeted everything around him, it tore books from their shelves, and sent servo skulls clattering across the room.
His eyes were fire. Golden orbs of psychic power that bled pulsar light. His voice was a void cry of despair.
“He’s been like this for ten minutes”
Knight-Seargent Caradoc addressed the Castellan as he entered.
Yvain strode over to the struggling Librarian. Caradoc moved in beside him, a hand wandering to rest on the pommel of his sword.
“Brother, what is happening to you?”
The Archivist turned his head jerkily to regard the Castellan. Slowly, the thrashing stopped and the screaming died away. He held the Yvain’s gaze with eyes that faded slowly from a solar flare to oceanic green.
Then he spoke, and his words were a choir. None of the voices were his.
“Hear me, brother.
Our Imperium is undone.
The Lion will fall, the sword will shatter and we will be lost.
The carrion’s call will bring death to us on wings of bone.
Let all loyal sons of Caliban return to her, and we may yet save her soul, and with it, our own.”
The Archivist’s head slumped and silence reigned, broken only by the ragged breathing of the ancient Librarian.
Knight-Seargent Caradoc was the first to speak.
“What was that about?”
Yvain regarded the unconscious figure of the Archivist.
“I do not know brother, but I think we need to get back to Caliban. Right now.”
— — —
— — —
So, that’s Eddie’s immense contribution. He has a lot more on the go than that Land Raider, but that can wait until next time.
Next in line is Alan, with his Alpha Legion. He’s less of a talker than Eddie. Alan, like me, is knee-deep in the dead, fighting back the Deadline Beast. It makes him terse and, dare I say, more heroic. More authorly.
He also has the fine excuse of screwing his arm up recently, and being busy at work on the next book in the Horus Heresy range, following on from Betrayal.
— — —
And to round things off with yet more shamefully significant progress, the mighty Ead (he of Forge World’s Minotaurs fame). He’s been Iron Warrioring like a boss, using these bad boys in some official playtesting, as well as getting a bunch of shit-hot thematic background text done, too.
Ead and Eddie are plainly kicking all our arses to heck and back.
Rakharyz Tactical Squad: The I Tactical squad of the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company, Rakharyz Tactical Squad has long been a keystone of Warsmith-General Mitras’s battlefield success, and the squad has stormed ramparts and breaches both human and xenos alike in their Crusade to reunite the scattered fiefs of humanity.
Traditionally, the sergeant of Rakharyz eschews the more esoteric weapons of the Iron Warriors in favour of the trusted bolter, and the high-capacity box and drum magazines used by the squad are something of a signature. Their method of war is to obliterate the foe beneath a merciless storm of accurate bolter fire and a punishing advance, and while every shot is made to count, it is not uncommon for the members of the squad to expend thousands of rounds in any given engagement. The squad habitually refuses a Rhino, operating constantly at or close to their full strength of twenty battle-brothers through greatly-expedited implantation and hypno-indoctrination procedures, and the apothecarion’s grafting of augmetic limbs to charred stumps and replacing ravaged nerves with micro-fibre cabling. They embody the IV Legion’s doctrine of unyielding advance and concentrated firepower, breaching strongpoints and redoubts with their dogged stubbornness and brutal volley fire. The unforgiving nature of their chosen role means that few engagements end without injury to the brothers of Rakharyz.
Their bloodiest undertaking was the destruction of the Nozhetarushi, the Technomancers; a human civilisation that unrepentantly made war against the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company and their Crusade fleet. Scattered across a handful of worlds, the Nozhetarushi utilised hideous and blasphemous technologies; machines guided by abhorrent intelligences that did not require symbiosis with man to operate. A long and brutal campaign ensued, and finally only a single world remained in the hands of the misguided Nozhetarushi. The Imperial Army cohorts of the 986th were scattered before the punishing firepower of the terrible sentiences that served as warriors, and with the line beginning to crumble, Rakharyz marched forward, bolters braced tight to shoulders. The massed fire of the Nozhetarushi flailed at them, casting Iron Warriors from their feet, yet Rakharyz took not a backward step; their fallen rose and took up their bolters in bloodied hands. As soon as they entered bolter range, a great volley rang out, many of the battle-brothers firing with a single hand due variously to the loss of their limbs, or the need to bear their wounded fellows. For over a kilometre of shattered ground, the squad advanced, firing a volley with each stride, their shells blasting apart the mechanical warriors that stood against them, until they stood even unto the heart of the last redoubt, the ruin of their foes smote upon the rubble about them in shards and rags both artificial and biological. Sergeant Zhestok himself, one arm torn from his body and his war-plate haning in shreds about him, planted the Aquila through the chest of the last lord of the Nozhetarushi, and declared the Technomancers destroyed. Eighteen members of the squad were rated unfit for combat following their assault into the breach, and it would be seven compliances before Rakharyz stood at full strength once more.
Zhukar the Unyielding: Brother Zhukhar stood alongside Centurion-Marshall Uborevich in the Emperor’s name, purging heinous agri-cults in the Nordafrik Conclaves and debased data-warlock tribes in the ravaged cities of the Francks, earning a reputation for unerring marksmanship, cold strategy and merciless humours.
When the Wars of Unification became the Great Crusade, the CMLXXXVIth Grand Company voyaged far from Terra and their Legion brothers alike, reclaiming world after world from the clutches of Old Night. They fought xenos predators and tainted petty-fiefdoms alike, and always did Zhukhar form the tip of the Iron Warrior’s spear, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tauromanch; matching his commander’s hammer blows with brutal firepower. Upon the benighted world of 15-986-22, the Iron Warriors stood against a nameless xeno-kind, strange creatures that took the forms of others to disguise their own, armed with beam weapons of an unknown design. The fighting was cruel and constant, and casualties were high, forcing the Iron Warriors to construct long chains of redoubts and fortifications to house their supplies and for their Apothecaries to minister to the wounded.
The largest of these was ringed with many-layered defences; bunkers and trenches in an impenetrable pattern, and it was here that Zhukhar’s command came under an attack in unprecedented strength. The xenos-breed seemingly ignored the defence lines, attacking directly into the central keep and seeking out wounded Space Marines with blasphemous vigour. Zhukhar ordered his brothers to withdraw, personally forming the rearguard and pacing steadily backwards. His rotor cannon burned red-hot with his ceaseless fire, and the alien beam-weapons inflicted terrible wounds upon him.
Zhukhar cared not and despite his torn flesh managed to overload the great antomantic arc-reactor that powered the keep, outnumbered hundreds of times over. The resulting blast engulfed the majority of the xenos force, and Uborevich the Tauromanch was able to isolate and destroy the remainder with ease. Zhukhar’s remains, blind and horribly rent, were recovered in the midst of the shattered keep and by some fluke chance life still burned in him.
The Contemptor-pattern dreadnought Ferrus Pertinax had recently been delivered to the CMLXXXVIth by the Mechanicum Forge-Barque that accompanied the fleet, and Zhukhar – already being called The Unyielding for his stubborn and uncaring defence – was entombed within it. The weapon he so often fielding in life was replaced with an early-pattern Kheres assault cannon, and restored, Zhukhar yet stands alongside his Centurion-Master in war undending.
I can hardly believe it, but I started The Talon of Horus today. The book I’ve been wanting to write since forever.
The rough plan (very, very rough, remember) is to open the Black Legion Series with a trilogy: The Talon of Horus, The Black Legion, and Chaos Ascendant. I’ve been saying it in interviews and on panels for years, and it’s such a rush now it’s finally coming to pass.
The sheer scale of possibility has had me delaying this series a few times, because it’s the story of… everything. It could last for years and years. I originally pitched it as 2-3 novels, but my editors have mentioned that it might work better as a long-running series. “Your ‘Gaunt’s Ghosts‘,” are the words being used.
The scale terrified me, the way it would terrify anyone with at least half an eye towards all the possibilities on the table. It’s the story of the Chaos Marines after the Scouring, from the first years of the Legion Wars in the Eye of Terror, right up to… well, that’s the thing. Right up to wherever I want to take it. It could go anywhere. The story of the Black Legion is the story of the Chaos Marines themselves, the Armies of the Damned, across 10,000 years of spite, sin, and war.
So. Here we go. The story of the last days of the Sons of Horus, driven to extinction by the Traitor Legions, yet reborn from the same bloodlines.
A Tale of Five Heretics: Dramatis Personae
I – IV – VI – IX – XX
After infinite delays, let’s talk some hobby. Specifically, let’s talk Heresy armies.
As my 40K campaign grows ever-larger, I find it’s sprawling into this behemoth that almost defies discussion. Battle reports are tough to write out, because we’ve not played any traditional battles. Instead, the fights are a matter of ad hoc narrative deciding the game. Like 5 Chaos players all using a Lord and one squad as an ambushing strike to ambush the same 1-Commander / 1-retinue counterparts on the Imperial side, representing an assassination attempt as the Blue Team’s commanders gathered on neutral ground. Another of the battles involved the Eldar, Imperials and Chaos forces beating the snot out of each other downtable, while the Adeptus Mechanicus happily shelled all three forces from the objective zone.
So it’s happening – that’s a good thing – but it’s difficult to sum up. I love the new edition. You might think I have to say that, but that’s an assumption which doesn’t take into account how often I’m in trouble with my publisher Black Library (and the powerful, nay, monolithic entity that is Games Workshop behind it). I wasn’t huge on 5th Edition; a lot of its rules reminded me why I’ve always been more of a Warhammer Fantasy player. But I digress. I love 6th Edition.
The next 40K weekend will take us to 1,500pts. Since the last meetup was an icebreaker to get everyone acquainted and learn the rules, that weekend (which will take place in my new games room: The Aaronorium), will be the real deal. I’ll be able to discuss it with a little more coherency closer to the time.
So I’ll backburner all that for a while, and talk some Heresy. I’ve set this up before, with hobby talk and avoiding author bias. No more excuses. Time to get into it.
Here’s my ragged attempt to build a Heresy army with some friends. Katie said no. Her 40K Marines are enough work. Thus, I went hunting beyond the borders of the family unit. If anyone has any mega-inspiring advice, pictures of their own armies, or any general chatter, feel free to chime in with whatever you feel like. Consider this an open book.
We’ll start at the beginning. That seems wise.
So who’s doing this with me, and what armies are we all playing?
This is Eddie. In the future, when Eddie’s writing, I’ll use this delicious green text, right here.
A cursory Google check (or perhaps your own unpleasant memories) will reveal the uncomfortable truth that Eddie is ferociously, ball-achingly good at Warhammer Fantasy. He’s been at a bunch of tournaments where he took home every award (except sportsmanship. Ha!) and my fave story about him illustrates this point nicely. Before I really knew who Eddie was, I knew this about him: At a tournament, there was one award – a measly lone certificate out of about a dozen in total – that his team hadn’t claimed. The tournament organisers wanted to share it in a joint-first-prize situation with another team. Eddie’s team resisted this act of honest and merciful charity, pointing out that they deserved it because they’d won more games and earned more points. The organiser tried one last time, one last vain hope to appeal to the sense of kindness that Eddie had clearly left in his car.
ORGANISER: “How about we share this prize? Look, you’ve won all the others. Some of these guys just came here to play games with their collections.”
EDDIE: “I collect trophies.”
Given my utter disinterest in the whole concept of tournaments, you’d think I’d despise Eddie for this attitude. I don’t despise him. I fear him. That’s a crucial difference.
Eddie works in Black Library, as some of marketing overlord. I’m not even sure what he does anymore, to be honest. That place is like the Webway when it comes to who’s doing what, why, and where. All I can reliably say about my publisher is that I have a dinosaur picture I need to send to Rachel, Princess of eBooks.
Eddie is fated – nay, destined isn’t too strong a word – to make the rest of us look like absolute hacks in this project. His conversions are irritatingly masterful; his painting is frustratingly superb (“Ooooh, I’m Eddie, I can fucking wet blend, lah-di-dah”), and he also paints shockingly quick compared to, say, me. But then, so does everyone in full possession of at least one limb. As we’ve discussed, I’m really slow.
Eddie’s Legion: The Dark Angels.
His first month’s pledge is absolutely ludicrous compared to the rest of us (I’ve begged him to slow down). Here’s what he had to say about choosing an army, and the first month’s pledge:
“Picking a Space Marine army is tough.
There’s a lot of choice, and they’re all awesome in their own way, (even the yellow ones). It’s not a decision to rush. Colour schemes must be considered, tactics, play style, background.
Its not like the olden days when all you had to do was pick your favourite primary colour. These days, the legions and chapters have their own identities and heroes, histories and tragedies.
When all said and done though, it still comes down to the same basic male calculus that you use to pick you favourite super hero: who would win in a fight. (its batman by the way)
The Dark Angels were the first Warhammer 40,000 army I ever collected back in the Age of Strife(second edition). To me, the sons of Caliban embody 40k like no other Legion, proper Space Marines: knights in space. Anyone who chooses to go to battle wielding a sword when perfectly functioning guns are available, must be the ultimate badass (see also, Optimus Prime and Jedi).
Also, they have those stylish robes – the Dark Angels are a legion that isn’t willing to compromise fashion for battlefield utility.
At the time of the Horus Heresy, the Dark Angels went to battle in stylish black.
Armies composed of entirely black miniatures can sometimes look less than awe inspiring on the tabletop, so I have covered my warriors in a Blessed Load-out of Imperial Neo-classical Gadgets (BLING). The Dark Angel plastic kits are amazingly generous when it comes to spare components, and I supplemented these with ForgeWorld MKIII marines, mainly for the techno-knightly look of the Iron Armour helmets.
My main inspiration for the paint scheme is going to be this awesome looking piece of Horus Heresy art by Neil Roberts. I’m going to try for some chequered shoulder pads on the units (we’ll see how that turns out).
as well as the power armoured Marines, I built a dreadnought.
I love dreadnoughts. To me, nothing sums up the gothic tragedy of 40k like a half dead hero of legend in a walking tank. This ancient champion has refused to let his near-death stop him going to battle with a sword, and now strides to war swinging a 4m long blade of calibanite steel. A weapon whose awesomeness is matched only by it’s impracticality.
The next addition to the army will likely be some vehicles (because the First Legion isn’t going to walk to battle!) and maybe some kind of character to lead the force.
Watch this space!
(the space in question being Segmentum Obscurus)”
This is John French. The man who inevitably ends up chairmanning and overseeing every games weekend we have, because… well, just because. You may know him as an author for Black Library (and if you don’t, you really should), and every time I go over to Nottingham for Heresy meetings or BL events, I have dinner and drinks with John to chew over the complicated chaos of fatherhood, writing, gaming, and being married. It should be noted that he always blows the candle out on our restaurant table, in case it looks romantic and/or gay.
Or maybe he’s scared of fire? I don’t know. It could be.
John has a hand in the Forge World side of things, too – he writes material for the Horus Heresy rulebooks. When he writes here, I’ll use this rather attractive dark red font. Like so.
John’s Legion: The Blood Angels.
He has to play the Blood Angels, since I bought him a bunch of Blood Angel bitz for his birthday, effectively guilting him into a corner.
Having seen the first WIP pics of John’s Blood Angel Destroyers, I look forward to the uproar of “WHY ARE THEY WEARING SANGUINARY GUARD DEATH MASKS?” and so on. Also, John was the first to mention the sacred words: “I’m going to use bits of Mk7 and 8 armour without giving a shit in the slightest. I’m also going to convert a Storm Talon and Nephilim.”
The purist in me shudders just a little at that. On one hand, I know that an Armour Mark is something built with a thousand variations on a thousand forge worlds. The Marks we see are a template, and individual forges, foundries, manufactories and artisans will design their own versions and equivalents. I know the Space Marine Legions had hundreds of vehicles we’ve still not seen, and never will, and that in 40K that scale is magnified a hundredfold. Yeah. I get it, I really do. I love that. Scale, people. Scale.
But if I see something that’s clearly an Errant-pattern collar without some fantastic unit description and cool lore behind it, then I’ll pop his eyes out with an ice cream scoop, and ask Phil Kelly if he wants to join, over John’s twitching corpse.
If you’re reading this here, you probably know who I am, already. If you don’t, no worries, you’re not missing much. I drink, I write, I scowl. This is life.
My Legion: The Space Wolves.
I chose the Space Wolves for several reasons. Firstly, most importantly, tribal/clan fantasy races are my absolute Number One joy. I love the primal archetypes and shamanic mysticism of it all, as well as the deviations and variants between the noble/ignorant savage tropes. Think of the Cimmerians and Vanir in Robert E. Howard’s works. Orcs, trolls and tauren in WarCraft. The Aztecs. The Vikings. The Mongols. Slaine, the Celtic Fantasy series. The Thirteen Tribes of Werewolf: the Apocalypse. The list goes on and on, and I’m trying to be at least relatively brief. I don’t assume these cultures are better, deeper or more profound than any other, just that I find them fascinating to read and write about.
Secondly, I love the Space Wolves, because I love pretty much every Legion. The Space Wolves will have a longer wait than most Legions when it comes to bitz from Forge World, given that the next rulebook looks like Isstvan V, but they have some awesome bitz already available from GW in the basic Space Wolf pack. So we’ll see how that goes.
Speaking of packs, that’s what comes next. One of my favourite themes in fantasy and sci-fi is the feeling of a pack of characters. A coterie, a brotherhood, a warband. They don’t have to get on well, but they have to be close. it has to be them against the world.
You see it done to perfection in Robin Hobb’s writing, where FitzChivalry and Nighteyes are their own pack: it’s them back to back, against the whole world. Bernard Cornwell does it, too – Derfel Cadarn’s warband of wandering spearmen, with their shields marked by the Star of Powys in reflection of Derfel’s bride. They even have the little traditions that make these things actually matter: the warriors of the warband that went with Merlin on the hunt for one of the Treasures of Britain have five-pointed stars painted on their shields, but those who remained behind to guard their farms only have four-pointed stars. That’s what I love: the notion of a pack having its own rituals and rights of passage, unknown to most outsiders. It was a vibe I wanted to show with First Claw, and I hope to show with Abaddon and Khayon’s inner circle, in The Talon of Horus.
I really want that feeling with my Space Wolves. Every squad will be its own pack, with its own legends, heroes, traditions, markings, and rituals. I hope I can have it reflect in the models, as well as the background I’ll do for them.
Admittedly, I hesitated with the Space Wolves because – as I’ve said before – I try to avoid playing anything I write about. That’s pretty cowardly, so it’s time to knuckle up and ignore anyone who’s ignorant enough to genuinely think that implies bias one way or the other. People will always, always generate their own reasons for why other people do things, and no matter how wrong they are, reasonable discussion rarely changes anything.
I was tempted by several other Legions.
- The Salamanders, because I think they look seriously lovely on the tabletop. A dead attractive green, and I love writing about fire.
- The Blood Angels, because red is one of the few colours I can paint to an acceptable standard. And, as I’ve confessed before, they’re my favourite Legion. First among equals, at least.
- The Dark Angels, because… so many bitz. So very many awesome bitz. Also, because of Lynn Dunlop – a reader we met at the Black Library Weeeknder – who made Alexander this freaking incredible Dark Angel Chapter jumpsuit:
On the other shoulder, it says AD-B II.
Which is, objectively, just too awesome.
For my first month’s work, I’ll stick to a modest single squad. Given that it’s Heresy-style and squads are 10-20 guys, it might actually be a quarter of a squad. But, y’know, leave me alone.
This is Alan.
For Alan, choosing a Legion was something of a nightmare, because avoiding spoilers is an absolute bitch. He was originally going to do [LEGION NAME HIDDEN TO PRESERVE MY PRECIOUS CAREER], but wouldn’t even be able to show his models, because of… well, because of spoilers. In the end, he settled on a Legion that I think he’s got quite a bit to say about. I’m not sure how much will make it out of super-secret emails, but bear with me – our jobs make opening up about the hobby pretty difficult.
Alan’s Legion: The Alpha Legion.
As a point of interest, Alan ends up sharing dual campaign management roles at 40K weekends, assigned the onerous task of saying “You need 3s to hit” and “Roll anything but a 1″ about eight-hundred-and-seventy-four times a day. He shoulders this burden with a patient smile and a mug of tea close at hand (even when Katie makes him and John build three (yes, three) Rhinos and Razorbacks the night before we’re all supposed to play).
I suspect his models will come out looking second-best after Eddie’s, because Alan has a John Blanche-style of painting going on with his 40K Adeptus Mechanicus, and it looks absolutely killer.
And here’s Ead, rounding out the batch. I’ve seen Ead’s Minotaurs a billion times (and if you’ve got the Badab War books, so have you), even going up to see a bunch of them in the Citadel Miniatures Gallery at HQ. Ead’s always a sane and stable presence in my professional life, which I appreciate immensely, but he also drinks the most random shit at the Games Day after-party – and gets me to drink it, too – which I appreciate a great deal more.
He’s also informally a member of my test reader circle, and rolls his eyes every time I try to be cool and call a heavy bolter a “bolter cannon”. It’s slang, you Forge World son of a bitch.
Anyway, Ead’s basically lovely. Getting him into this was a bit of a trial, as Ead does Minotaurs, Minotaurs, and nothing but Minotaurs. I expected him to say no, so I added him to the secret Facebook group without his permission and started acting like he’d already agreed to join in.
Guilt. A potent weapon. Works every time.
Ead’s Legion: The Iron Warriors.
So here’s Ead, in his glorious blue-grey font, saying why he chose the Iron Warriors:
I just knew he’d bring up the Minotaurs somewhere in that.
So there we go. That’s the introductions done.
— — — — — —
— — — — — —
- Every month, a minimum of 5 models, or one Codex unit entry from Horus Heresy Legion Army List.
- Every unit and character has to come with at least 300 words of history, personalisation, and background.
- No spoilers from future Heresy releases, despite our spoilertastic jobs.
- No crying more than once a week over Eddie’s progress photos.
- Eddie: 10-20 Dark Angels, 1 Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought.
- John: Blood Angel Destroyer Squad.
- Aaron: Space Wolf Tactical Squad.
- Alan: Alpha Legion Veteran Squad.
- Ead: Iron Warriors Contemptor-pattern Dreadnought.
Deadline Date / Next Post:
- Monday the 11th of February.
- Potential Theme for Next Month’s Task: “Dreadnought Month”. Other suggestions are totally welcome.
I mentioned this in my Facebook/Twitter splurging a few days back, but If I don’t get another chance to say it before the Big Day when 2012 becomes 2013, then Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and a Happy New Year to everyone whose eyes fall over these words.
The last 12 months have been tough, enlightening, and amazing. Alexander came along, and is already walking (as long as he has something nearby to grab onto). I wrote my second Horus Heresy novel over the course of 9 months, which was “the hardest one to write yet”, just like I say about everything I write. Every novel is the hardest while I’m writing it, and the one I hate the most once it’s released. I think that’s just a hazard of the job. When you spend ages making something and that many people are staring at it, it doesn’t matter what they say. All you see are the holes and imperfections.
In other news, I constructed my games room (not on my own, obviously), so now I can say “Gentlemen, to the Aaronorium” with a straight face. I might even start saying it to strangers in the street. I’ll do it without blinking, for maximum effect.
This is the first year I’ve ever been in a position not to be freaking out that I’ll end up in the gutter come tax month, and you might think that finding my feet financially (along with being married for a year, and having a baby boy) would encourage me to actually get some writing done much faster than usual. Nice theory.
However, if you thought that, you’d be wrong. I’m still as slow as ever.
I’m currently getting close to finishing Blood & Fire, which is a little (well, a quite long, actually) tale featuring the words Season of Fire, Armageddon, Celestial Lions, Grimaldus, as well as the name of a certain Chapter that dresses in a blackish templarish way, and – of course – the name of a certain stormtrooper has been mentioned more than once.
After Blood & Fire, I’m starting The Talon of Horus, and I couldn’t be more psyched about it. Not much to say at this stage, except that the main character will be at the right hand of Abaddon through the fall of the Sons of Horus and the rise of the Black Legion, over the course of 10,000 years. Yeah, unless I get killed or banned from touching the IP, this series threatens to be a long one. If you’ve read Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles (about “King” Arthur) or Steven Pressfield’s novels of Ancient Greece (Gates of Fire; Tides of War; The Afghan Campaign, etc.) then you’ll know the atmosphere.
The main character’s name is Inaros Khayon, though he has many, many, many titles by 999.M41, and hardly anyone knows his real name by then.
I’m dimly aware that I owe a few updates about my Heresy and 40K armies, so that’ll be inbound in January.
But thank you for enjoying what I do – evidently enough for me to have done it for another year. Thanks for all the feedback, and for taking time to review anything you’ve reviewed on blogs, on Amazon, on Goodreads, or wherever else. Best wishes (along with the blessing of your deity of choice, if appropriate) from the newly forged Dembski-Bowden family, on this Christmas morning.
I get a lot of images (and often the models themselves, as gifts) of First Claw conversions. It’s always flattering, always awesome, and always a surprise. I keep every single one for my office (and soon, for the Aaronorium).
But… Jesus Christ. Here’s the newest one. Just look at these guys.
People ask me, at least a dozen times a week, what armies I play. It’s one of the Top Ten questions I get, along with “When will you do more about Sevatar?” and “When is Betrayer released?”
I’ll answer those two now, so I have something to link to.
1. I don’t know. Soon by my standards, but not soon by publishing (or the public’s) standards. The second half of 2013 will likely be dedicated to writing my next Horus Heresy novel, but because of timelines and schedules, it’s looking to be more likely it won’t be a Night Lords novel. The Night Lords have had a lot written about them now, and there’s a risk of sustained violence to dead horses being done. They’ve been in several short stories and novellas, and have had more said about their primarch’s backstory in the series than anyone else, in Shadows of Treachery. So they’re not in any urgent need of attention. Since the gang have a habit of saying what their next book(s) are gonna be even a bajillion years ahead of schedule, I’ll throw you a bone in the same way. My next Horus Heresy novel is likely to be called The Master of Mankind. No points for guessing what that’ll be about. Even the title gives me goosebumps.
Don’t ask me if the Emperor is going to be a point-of-view character. I’m not an idiot.
2. Betrayer is released very, very soon. There’s a new system for announcements and preorders and stuff for the hardbacks… I won’t go into it, it’s not my end of the process, really. I’m just a hired gun, not a scheduling servitor. Suffice to say, we’re talking a handful of days, so look to the skies.
But, yeah. “What armies do you play?” is right up there.
I can answer that, but it requires some context.
I paint really, really slowly. That’s partly why I played Necromunda and Gorkamorka so much - 11 House Cawdor gangers was within my sphere of realistic ability, but my 4,000 points of High Elves just… weren’t. For a start, Christ, did I ever hate painting cavalry. A Bretonnian army would slaughter me. I’ve always been more of a Warhammer player than a 40K one (something about the aesthetics of the Fantasy armies has always clanged all my bells) but they were never painted. At best, one fellow in each regiment would get a test scheme, and I’d declare “Sure, I like that, I’ll do the rest at some point.”
At Some Point never came. I had 2 painted Necromunda gangs back in the day (Cawdor & Delaque), but only 1 painted High Elf model in a 4,000 point army, and 3 painted Wood Elves in a 2,000 point army. Incidentally, there’s not a single Fantasy army I don’t love. Beastmen, Wood Elves, High Elves, Dwarfs, Lizardmen, Bretonnia and the Empire just about beat the others, but I love them all. I just dread painting them, even while I know it’s an essential part of the process to make an army feel like it’s “yours”.
Hobby-wise, I was always more interested in the campaign’s narrative – the pre-game stories, the battle itself, and the post-game fiction – as well as kitbashing with my attempts at basic converting. Building models? Sure. Army lists? Yeah, insofar as every unit needed a name, a backstory, a reason to be there, a mission/flavour/grudge/rivalry/debt/whatever that coloured their personality and outlook. I had a unit of Glade Guard with banners made from dwarf shields lashed together with vines, and a Wardancer unit with beastmen skulls on the bases, and red tattoos instead of blue, to represent the months they left Athel Loren in pursuit of a particular bray-shaman they had a blood-oath to slay. Half the Wardancer troupe – the veterans who survived that hunt – wear red tattoos to show they fulfilled their oath, while the newer members, who weren’t part of the troupe at the time, still have blue-green tattoos.
Stuff like that. I’d write it out, or convert it, then never get around to painting it.
I’ve never played any tabletop wargame without it being part of a wider narrative, because that’s just how I enjoy playing them. Pick-up games with strangers and tournaments hold absolutely no interest – no vitality – to me. I get that they rock for other people, but for me the hobby has always been about long campaigns with a bunch of friends, and the stories that rise from those games. The unlucky moments that shape a character, regiment, or battle make for amazing moments of personal history attached to that regiment. The one man that stands up to the dragon. The one cavalry charge that turns the tide. The thirty soldiers locked against another regiment for the whole battle, in the thickest, most savage fighting. The grudges from losing territory, and the exaltation of stealing it back. Me rolling 5 “Slag” territories in Necromunda, making my gang’s turf the most useless, income-less wasteland of industrial run-off imaginable, and the strangely fierce pride that comes from defending glorious, worthless “Slaghaven”.
I play for that, with armies me and my friends have raised and infused with whatever creativity we could cobble together. And yet, despite that attitude of needing it all to be intimate and intensely personal, the painting has never really mattered that much. In hobby terms, the actual painting never fired my guns, so to speak. I was a slow painter as a kid; slow as a teenager; and even slower now. It’s the one step of the hobby I look at with dread. I’m not even that bad, just slow and inexperienced. When I bother to do a model, they’re at least neat, even if not visually inspiring.
But that’s changing. Katie paints now. Her 40K army is more painted than mine. We have a campaign now, and something to focus on. The painting will come.
Choosing a 40K army in recent years has been a pretty frustrating deal. That’s partly because of my own insecurities, and partly because… Okay, it’s entirely my own insecurities. But one of the things I loathe most in any fandom is the accusation of bias. That somehow because Author X likes Faction Y, that’s why Event Z happens in their novels. Or, vice versa, because they hate Faction A, that’s why Faction A loses to Faction B. I hate that because it’s ignorant, and it implies a staggering (and stupid) lack of integrity. Notice I don’t say professionalism. I’m not professional. I’m tactless and naive and overly emotional. But I have integrity about my work. The Blood Angels don’t die at the end of Soul Hunter because I hate the Blood Angels. The Blood Angels die at the end of Soul Hunter because the fight’s not in their favour, and the Night Lords have home court advantage. I love the Blood Angels, as it happens. I’ve refrained from admitting it in the past, but I’m getting braver about it these days, especially in all my interviews and panels where I flat-out admit they’re the one Heresy Legion I’d love to write about above any other. Ask any of the HH team, and you’ll find half of them probably say the same thing.
The Blood Angels are my favourite Legion, but it’s relative, because – just like ice cream – I love pretty much every flavour of ice cream there is. I like Raspberry Ripple slightly more than the others, but it’s all relative. Similarly, the Orks don’t die in Helsreach because I hate the Orks, and the Ultramarines don’t suffer in Betrayer because I hate the Ultramarines. Again, I love the Ultramarines. Just because you like something doesn’t mean they have to win all the time. If they did, well, that’s pretty fucking childish, if you’ll excuse the blunt honesty. That’s not a story. That’s masturbation.
There’s only one Heresy-era Legion I don’t like as much as the others, and since I’ll never write about them, it doesn’t matter at all. I’m not a biased author, and nothing boils my piss more than getting accused of it. It’s such a petty, meaningless, knee-jerk bullshit internet comment that sounds great as an insult because it requires no evidence, and is intimately insulting, attacking personal opinion and professional integrity all at once. That makes it juicy. That makes it stick.
But I’ve talked about this before. It’s the art of walking the line between fan service (making the novel’s chosen faction unrealistically The Best to please its fans), and unfair bias (making a faction look terrible because the author hates them). The former is a pretty popular trope in tie-in fiction, and is a good way to grab many solid reviews and hugely positive fan feedback, even if it’s sort of lame. The latter is something I’m willing to bet almost never happens in real life.
The key is to go between those extremes. Take something you like and understand, and make it realistic, compelling, and interesting. Not better. Just in-depth. If they win, they need realistic reasons why. If they lose, they need realistic reasons why for that, too. In this regard, I’m always kinda amazed when people want me to write about their favourite faction, because my immediate answer is always the same: “You know if I do it, they’ll probably lose, right?”
Which is fair enough. The Grey Knights and Space Wolves come to a political, tradition-bound deadlock in The Emperor’s Gift – both sides have wins and losses, and while both sides “lose”, no one looks stupid or unrealistic. It’s a clash of ideologies in a galaxy-spanning tyrannical dictatorship, not a game of who has the bigger dick. The Grey Knights suffer embarrassing losses once in a while, and the Wolves have to compromise on their principles. It evens out, come the last day. In the Night Lords Trilogy, not only was it always supposed to be a tale about the deterioration of 10th company, their best victories always come from either huge sacrifices, or just running away like the cowards they are. In The First Heretic, I told the tale of the one primarch who hadn’t found his place, and didn’t live up to his brothers’ legacies at that point in time. It was about Lorgar’s first steps (and his Legion’s) to finding themselves by the Heresy’s end, and becoming their 40K incarnations. Helsreach has every main character except Grimaldus dying to a man (and woman), and isn’t the tale of the badass, invulnerable Codex character: it’s the story of how he becomes that character, through doubt and the self-discovery that leads from abandonment. Being denied the death he felt he’d earned made him feel his own Chapter held no value of his deeds, partly because of his own arrogance in the midst of his doubt. He also had to come to terms with his mentor’s primary lesson not being as universally true as he’d thought, which altered his worldview considerably, making him into the Codex character we’re all familiar with. He grew as a character, but the Black Templars lost, and lost hard. That’s what I mean. Me writing a book about a faction you like will hopefully bring some light and depth and realism to it, but if you’re after an actual overwhelming victory, you may wanna ask one of the other folks putting fingers to keys under the watchful eye of Black Library.
You can probably see why I get so riled up by accusations of author bias. And I’m lucky: to be honest I very rarely get any of those accusations, but I see it in half a dozen fandoms with insane frequency. It gives me The Fear. So I’ve resisted playing anything I write about, which has clashed with also not playing anything I can’t paint, shrinking the window of opportunity enough that it became not playing 40K at all. Complicated or cool colour schemes are usually beyond me, and I’ve avoided playing anything I write because I didn’t want idiotic accusations like “He only made the Night Lords awesome because they’re his army.”
Which is another thing I don’t understand. Just liking one army above all others. I can understand collecting one above all others, because money and time is finite. But my 40K Chaos Marine army doesn’t mean I love Chaos Marines more than any other faction. (Again, between you and me, my favourite 40K faction is Dark Eldar, and has been since they first showed up years ago with the vaguest allusions to Space Fleet, that game of old). But I kind of love… all of it. That’s the point. That’s why I work in the setting. Different parts of it appeal to different parts of my skulljunk. I have a 40K Chaos Marine army because I have some good ideas for them, and I love the lore and the models are easy to kitbash. Not because all other races suck. Not because I like Chaos best.
Anyway! There’s been a lot of interest in my 40K dealings lately, and I promised some answers.
Check back tomorrow, and I’ll spill the beans on my Heresy army (with its Tale of Four Gamers project), as well as the details of my 40K army (and its pretty massive campaign in the opening stages this weekend, as it happens). Spoilers: it’s the Hydras and the Wolves. Details to come.
This all times quite nicely with both projects, which I’ll be (infrequently…) blogging about a bit in the future (campaign fluff, army stories, progress pics, gaming weekend write-ups, etc.)
Good luck with Betrayer. Hope you like it.
So here’s a photo of me touching Chris Wraight’s balls:
I was in Canada for a while, with a bunch of the other Black Library authors. Here’s Dan, Nik, Jim, Chris, me, Gav and Graham. Gemma, who actually organised the event, isn’t here for some reason. But many thanks to her for playing hostess with aplomb. As I’ve said before, I don’t travel well, but this was a pretty magnificent week away.
I had my usual pre-event (and indeed, during-event) discomfort that nothing short of growing a backbone will ever stop, but no one died. I consider that a net gain for humanity. I also got to meet the Chestermere town mayor dressed as a Sister of Battle (no, really) and ate Vietnamese food for the first time ever, which was life-changingly good. (Thanks, Nathan and his Lilliputian bride, Theresa.)
As always, I took no decent photos. You may recall my trip to Chicago? Yeah, where this pic from the Lego store was the only photo that made it back with me:
My photos from Canada are similarly useless and/or meaningless to anyone who isn’t me.
Here’s one of the Rockies that’s actually real and not fake:
And here’s one at Banff, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life:
And as you can see, I used it to be mean to Houston, for beating the Suns in the 1993 playoffs. No, I won’t get over it. No, you shut up.
Also, Katie and Jim Swallow jazzed up my Chaps Raptors by introducing this… this Disco Madness or whatever:
And for some reason, I have this photo of me in a restaurant:
And (true story) that was taken by a Marines Errant player by the name of Jason, whose Chapter I killed off in Blood Reaver.
He was very forgiving.
There was also this guy:
…who looked crazy-similar to my friend Nik. So much so, that I made him stand there while I texted Nik this very photo. “STAY THERE, MAN. OH MY FUCK, YOU LOOK JUST LIKE MY FRIEND NIK. HE HAS TO SEE THIS SHIT.”
My friends Nik and Rob (who I have, on occasion, been known to call my brothers in the most exquisite moments of bromance) came over to see me, Katie and Alexander while we were at my mum’s place for one night, pre-Canada:
…and as you can see, I was totally justified in my claims of clonehood. That guy looked just like Nik, man. I kept staring at The Clone for the rest of the day, which I hope he didn’t notice, as in a strictly legal sense, I was probably stalking him.
Also, here’s one of Rob and Alexander:
I’m pretty shit at taking photos, but the two ones above really touched me. They were great moments – but then, I cry at the end of How to Train Your Dragon, so I’m not really an emotionally stable human being. My word simply cannot be trusted.
For some reason, totally out of order, there’s also one I took on my last jog:
…which I stopped, breathless and disgusted, to take. Rural Ireland is a very rainy place, and it pulls shit like this on the countryside lanes all the time. It’s like it has a gentle grudge against the people that live here. Sometimes there are trees in the road, because Ireland just thought that would jazz the place up a bit. Sometimes the diesel freezes in your car, putting you at very real risk of death unless your father-in-law has a pimpingly huge 4×4 to get groceries. It’s the sort of place that resents human intrusion, and isn’t shy to let it show.
I ran through that puddle a moment later, and it was almost Geneva Conventions-breakingly cold. As I did it, I thought of all the soldiers who read my work, and all the cross-country training they do. I’d like to say I had a moment of unselfish perspective and realised my problems weren’t all that great after all, but that would be a lie. My feet were wet, cold, and fuck you because that was bad enough.
But I have no idea why that photo is there, completely out of order.
While we were gone, Alexander was playing at my mum’s house for the week. Every day, she’d update her Facebook with pictures and a blog of what he’d been up to that day, and some absolutely beautiful shots came out of it.
Here’s a couple with his great-granddad:
I want to get the second one blown up and framed for the hallway wall.
And, perhaps most importantly, Mum was good enough to start grooming my replacement. She says he was updating his blog, but I’m intensely sucky at that, so this casts his entire lineage into question.
Also, it’s finally, finally done. Betrayer went to the wire, being just as late as The First Heretic, Blood Reaver, and The Emperor’s Gift. Let it never be said that I’m not consistent, even if it’s consistency in the very worst ways.
But since none of you care about any of that, here’s a new infrequent feature that I’m sure to forget about. Desktop Watch! What I’m working on right now:
The Underworld War is my Gal Vorbak story in the Mark of Calth anthology, detailing the ins and outs of daemonic possession, and the Word Bearers left to die on Calth, hoping for reinforcements that aren’t coming.
The Lord Inquisitor, quite obviously, is WIP document for The Lord Inquisitor. I’ll restate for the bajillionth time: me and Erasmus are redoing the whole story, and the voice actor in the proof of concept trailer is long, long gone.
The Talon of Horus is the synopsis for, uh, a novel with the working title of The Talon of Horus. It’s the first in my (hopefully long-running) Sons of Horus / Black Legion series. But we’ll see. It’s just in the first tentative stages right now, and I’m a changeable creature.
So now you’re up to date.
Leave me alone.
I was reliably informed that some of you might be interested in seeing the new teaser trailer for The Lord Inquisitor.